Grammatical Horrors. Custom Essay Writing

   

Grammatical Horrors

What can I say about spelling except "Get it right!"

Poor Dan Quayle will forever serve, whatever else he does, as an example of the ridicule that might someday be heaped upon you too if you never learn to spell "potatoes."

As one of the worst spellers in Christiandom, I warn my students not to relax therefore but to worry more, for if even I recognize a misspelling on their papers, they are really in trouble. Nothing makes you look stupider than not knowing how to spell. Many common mistakes need to be dealt with individually, and the grammar handbooks often list pages of these. Remember, for instance, that there is "a rat" in "separate." You will then be less tempted to spell the word "seperate." Beware of depending upon spell checkers. They cannot sea misspellings that our other words and thus can't save you're hide.

Students all too often do not know what they are saying, literally. They use the wrong word and make themselves look even sillier than they are. If you are writing about a fraternity that will not accept black members, be sure not to spell it "except." To accept is to include; to except is to exclude. They sound the same but mean the opposite. Likewise, to be "a part" is to be included; to be "apart" is to be separated. "Conscience" and "conscious" are not interchangeable spellings of the same word. I could go on, but time and space are finite.

Beware also of malapropisms, words that sound right but are slightly off. These can be clever if intentional, but we teachers cannot always tell that, and we rarely give you the benefit of the doubt. The word refers to Mrs. Malaprop, a character in a play by Richard Sheridan, who kept using the wrong word to hilarious effect. It is important to know the right word and not guess at one that merely sounds close to it. Otherwise, you can appear ridiculous. Recently, a student wrote on a paper that he felt like "a pond on a chest board." I couldn't tell if he had the right image in mind and could not spell, or whether he merely had heard the phrase "pawn on a chess board" and had some idea what it meant as a generality but no idea what specific image it referred to. Then there was the reference to the "close nit family," but nits are the eggs, not the lice, so I wonder about that clan. Another student spelled hypocrisy "hippocracy." I defined that as government by hippos. Another student wrote of some people "conjugating" in the corner of the room. She meant "congregating," I think. Recently a Republican congressman from Florida put out a press release attacking Clinton for "cow towing to Cuba" in the Elian Gonzalez affair. The image of the president towing a cow across the Florida straits is bizarre, even for Clinton. I once received a paper on Malcolm X in which the student said Malcolm X was angry and eloquent "because of the manor in which he was raised" and was discriminated against "for the soul reason of race." The class howled; the student, although unnamed, blushed and slunk under his chair. Don't let it happen to you.

With the decline of literacy and the dominance of television and cinema, fewer and fewer students come to college having read more than a few assigned books. Hence, this kind of mistake is becoming increasingly common. If you do not know for sure what you are saying, take the time to look it up. That is what dictionaries are for. If you don't know anyone who owns a dictionary, you can find one on the Net.

Added to this collection should be unintended double entendres, and not limited to the risqué type either. Make sure that what you are writing cannot easily be read in some other way. I say "easily" because every teacher knows no way exists to write an exam question that some poor befuddled student won't completely misread. The hope is to avoid as much confusion as possible. I have, for instance, a legal pamphlet that calls on "All Criminal Practitioners" to attend a lecture on the practice of criminal law. An antilitter and antismoking memo passed out by my school instructed students: "Keep your butts off the sidewalks and other places where people can see them." A student once brought me a leaflet stuck under her apartment door notifying her of an upcoming insect extermination program with the sentence "Each individual will be exterminated on your floor in rotation."

 
   
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