Dear Grown ups!
Previously I’ve written to your kids about the grammar that awaits them when they get to junior school (see here for that letter). I’ve subsequently started following Michael Rosen on Facebook along with lots of ‘save the libraries’ sites and I’m now so whipped up into a frenzy about the whole thing I feel I should do something crazy like join the Labour party. I’ve looked – it’s only £3.95 per month.
For now I’m going to stick to writing my musings on this blog and hoping that this particular blog tops my currently most read blog which is about how I cried because I was given the wrong coloured handbag (click here now if this sounds more appealing!)
I’ve read alot this week about SPaG which appear to be grammar tests in primary schools. Apparently they teach kids that to put Fronted Adverbials, Subordinate Conjunctions and Expanded Noun Phrases into their writing not only makes their writing better but makes it more interesting to read too.
So let’s test that shall we on one of the best selling books of this century which is famous for being badly written – 50 shades of Grey.
He returns the attention of his fingers to my fronted adverbials, pulling, twisting, kneading. I grind my Subordinate Conjunctions against him…moving side to side.
I feel his Expanded Noun Phrases against my neck as his hands move down to my subjunctive clause. His fingers hook into my determiners at the back, stretching them, and he pushes his thumbs through the material, shredding them and tossing them in front of me so I can see…holy shit. His hands move down to my possessive pronouns, and from behind, he slowly inserts his finger.
Actually it does seem to make the book more readable. That said the sales for this novel were through the roof. Women’s lives everywhere were changed by it’s ramblings on Anastasia’s Fronted Adverbials. Perhaps, as with beauty, the decision on whether it is good or not is with the beholder. Perhaps it’s about writing for your audience? Nah – scrap that. It’s about grammar.
Let us continue. Will the same principles make more normal text more interesting?
Let’s try my husband’s favourite book – the Argos Catalogue.
Designed specifically to deal with present perfect pet hair, high possesive pronoun performance lithium Ion battery technology and SensorBagless parenthesis TM parenthesis Technology that constantly monitors airflow for great performance on all floors. Up to 60 mins of run-time from one determiner battery.
I think we can all agree it might not be working quite so well here. All professional writing has an objective, either to inform, entertain or maybe even sell, and perhaps grammar should aid the achievement of the objective? Nah – scrap that. Correct grammar is more important.
Let’s try it on one of my favourite classics, Oliver Twist.
Among other public buildings in a certain town, which for many reasons it will be prudent to refrain from mentioning, and to which I will assign no fictitious name, there is one anciently common to most towns, great or small – to wit, a workhouse; and in this workhouse was, born, on a day and date which I need not trouble myself to repeat, inasmuch as it can be of no possible consequence to the reader, in this stage of the business at all, events, the item of mortality whose name is prefixed to the head of the chapter.
Actually I don’t think I can get anymore good old fashioned descriptive grammar techniques in there if I tried. People had more time to read in the olden days, hence you could take 5 chapters to get to the characters and the story which are the crux of why the work of Dickens is timeless. Nowadays it’s all about deadlines. Is that why grammar has slipped?!?! I don’t know the answer – just throwing it out there.
So fellow parents, I think the lesson is clear. Get yourself a book on crazy bad ass grammar and get reading. Don’t wait for the kids to go to primary school – start now. You need to start using this yourself. How on earth have you ever written a cheque without knowing that fronted adverbials are more than what women keep in their bras!
Love and hugs
AND NOW A SERIOUS NOTE
I’m something of an expert now on early years and preparing kids for reading but writing in primary schools is not in my field of expertise. In this area I’m just a parent, but I’m also a woman who makes her living from creative writing and I worry for the next generation.
In trying to raise standards it would seem that the politicians have left out the most important thing – inspiration. Writing isn’t creative because somebody used a fronted adverbial. The fronted adverbial makes the writing interesting because it was inspired to put it there. It fitted. It stopped the words from just being words and it made a sentence which touched the reader in some way, even if the result of the touching sentence was to go out and buy a vacuum cleaner that is specially designed for pet hair.
Drama and the arts provide inspiration which crosses over to children’s writing. These are being cut. Reading for pleasure enhances children’s literacy – libraries are being closed. School libraries are being turned into classrooms because there are too many kids and not enough schools being built.
At some point we will lose this generation to badly written status updates and nothing more if we don’t act.
So share this post with your friends. Then sit down with your kids, find out what inspires them, and show them a way to write about it. They love stories – help them write one. They love dinosaurs – put together a scrap book of facts. They like You Tube – help them to write a script and shoot the video with them. Make it fun. Have a laugh. Inspire them.
The academic outcomes of children have always depended on how much support they’ve had at home but in these times it’s more important than ever. Let’s take the fate of this generation away from the politicians and put in back into the hands of the kids.