Thursday, September 16, 2010

Verbs and adverbs

And while I'm plugging Visual Thesaurus (and using coordinating conjunctions to start my sentences, just to spite Simon Heffer and his chums), here's a link to a good article about teaching descriptive writing strategies. We're often told that good writing should be descriptive, but that good writers shouldn't automatically reach for an adverb to a modify a verb, when a well-chosen verb will work better, but here are some really good ideas for making that advice a bit more practical.

Grammar and vocabulary extension

Morphology - the study of the form of words - is an area of grammar that sometimes gets forgotten. This brief article on the Visual Thesaurus site talks about using morphology to help students develop their understanding of words with similar morphemes. In this case, the examples are the Greek roots -crat and -cracy.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Clamour for Grammar

Following on from our successful Glamour of Grammar day in July 2010, we are pleased to announce a second dubiously-titled day of grammar. The Clamour for Grammar will take place on Wednesday 10th November at UCL. Presented by Bas Aarts and Dan Clayton, the day will start with a crash course on word classes, phrases and clauses before moving on to focus on practical approaches for using grammar to analyse texts.

The day is aimed at teachers of Key Stages 3 and 4, but would also be suitable for people new to teaching A level English Language. The practical approaches sessions will focus on the spoken word, language and literature, and we're hoping to provide a range of lesson resources that can be used straight away as introductory materials in the classroom.
The price for the full day (including lunch and refreshments during the day) will be £95.

For more details, email Dan Clayton through this link on the Survey of English Usage webpages.

The link to the most recently updated plan for the day is here.

What grammar shouldn't be about

Simon Heffer has a new book out and it's called Strictly English. It's a title that, with its twin whiffs of prescriptivism and punishment, calls to mind Lynne Truss's "zero tolerance approach to punctuation" which David Crystal so systematically debunked here.

Heffer sets himself up as an authority on language and then sets about telling us what's right or wrong in English grammar. In fact, he's on record as saying that "English grammar shouldn’t be a matter for debate". This is, for want of a better word, cobblers. One of the key aims of our project here at UCL is to investigate grammar, to open it up for debate and exploration, not to close it down into a set of rights and wrongs. Such a prescriptive view of language doesn't really help anyone.

Language Log have already laid into him here and here, and I've blogged about his appearance on Radio 4 here.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


The MacMillan Dictionary blog is always a good source of material on language and there's a recent piece on there by Jonathan Marks about the process of conversion (sometimes called verbing) when you change the word class of a word and use it in a new and original way.

Monday, September 6, 2010

New grammar day planned

We're planning to put on a second grammar day for teachers on Wednesday November 10th at the Department of English Language and Literature at UCL.

This time, we're hoping to focus very much on the basics of grammar and aim the day at teachers who either want to go right back to basics, or those that feel they need a refresher course. Therefore, this day is really for Key Stage 3 and 4 teachers, and those who are new to A level English Language.

There'll be more details on here and the project page next week.