National Grammar Day, observed on March 4 each year, was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. The day’s motto is: “It’s not only a date, it’s an imperative: March forth on March 4 to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!” In celebration of my birthday the following day, I’m combining the two because as a writer, I constantly struggle with proper grammar. What grammar issues are most difficult for me? The proper placement of punctuation particularly knowing when to use a hyphen, dash, ellipsis, and semicolon. I have a punctuation poster framed in my office, and I am looking at it constantly.
Some Grammar Day activities to consider:
- Learn a new grammar rule
Is there a particular grammar rule you always feel like you have to double check? For me, there are more than one unfortunately! As an example: one grammar rule that trips up a lot of people, including writers: Lay versus Lie. How to remember it: you lie down on the sofa, but you lay the book on the table.
- Get out that red pen
Newspapers and magazines go through several rounds of copy edits, but mistakes nearly always make it through. Celebrate National Grammar Day by acknowledging that no one is perfect with grammar, even the professionals! One thing I’ve noticed, especially with the daily paper, is the number of grammar mistakes I encounter. This probably has much to do with the cutbacks in copy editing and editorial staffs.
- Have a grammar party
Invite your friends over for grammar games! Play pin the apostrophe on the “it’s”; read out examples of the most hilarious grammar mistakes from the Internet; and stage a discussion on one of the greatest debates in the English language: the oxford comma – yay or nay? I’ll weigh in with a definite yay. Commas or lack thereof change the meaning of a sentence. Example: Let’s eat grandma. Yikes! Let’s eat, grandma. Much better. There is a funny poster of this with the fun slogan: Commas Save Lives. You see newspapers omitting the final comma in a series in an effort to save ink and cut costs. I might not be a grammar guru, but this is a personal pet peeve.
What Good Grammar Teaches
- Grammar is useful
Grammar helps us be totally clear when sharing our thoughts. It’s the difference between enjoying cooking and also enjoying your pets (“I enjoy cooking, my cat, and my dog”) and cooking your pets (“I enjoy cooking my cat and my dog”). As the example above, a very grizzly difference.
- Correct grammar is satisfying
Proofreading feels great. Finding a typo, misspelled word, or misused there, their, or they’re is incredibly satisfying. One of the best principles of good proofreading is to have a fresh set of eyes review a piece, no matter how many times it’s been looked at. Some co-workers thought I was the proofreader extraordinaire because I could catch typos, like a business listing an incorrect phone number on invitations for RSVP. It was simply because I was reading the document for the first time.
- Grammar makes us nostalgic
I’m too old to have benefited from Schoolhouse Rock or Sesame Street, which teach kids the fundamental rules, so I’m not sure it makes me nostalgic. As an author, what grammar does do is make me work harder to perfect my writing.
Finish off the day watching the hilarious “Weird Al” Yankovic video, Word Crimes.