Red Pen Tidbits 1: Introduction to Grammar and Usage

Welcome to my first post in the “Red Pen Tidbits” series where we will make mistakes and break the rules! Sort of.

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What are you talking about?

I have taught English for several years from 6th grade up to 12th grade, and I love it. One of the moments I enjoy the most are when my students get excited about finding and fixing their own mistakes without my help.

These young writers display a skill that all writers should: growth. In this series, we are trying for just that. We, as writers, are always looking at ways to improve, and taking out that red pen will help us on that journey through the writing process.

Who: Me! I am open to guest posts for the series, too.

What: “Red Pen Tidbits” will be an ongoing series about common (and some not so common) mistakes we make when writing. When appropriate, I’ll even add in when you can break the rules!

When: There will be a new post on the first and third Thursday of every month.

Where: On this site!

Why: As writers, it’s important for us to grow. We all make mistakes, but the challenge comes with learning how to recognize those mistakes and learning when to break the rules.

How: Each post will include five things:

1. a quick review of the rule
2. examples of proper use
3. examples of improper use
4. whether or not it’s ever okay to break the rule
5. a challenge for you

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The name: Red Pen Tidbits

First, as the title suggests, each post will be condensed into a tidbit of information. I’ll try my best to keep my “teacher voice” to a minimum, which will allow for short editions!

I chose “Red Pen” because several other words didn’t work: grammar, usage, punctuation, etc. Each of those are separate in the English world, but they all experience the same scrutiny under the infamous red pen.

Grammar references the structure of a sentence: word order, parts of speech, and clauses versus phrases.

Usage references the words in the sentence: commonly confused words, subject-verb agreement, incomplete comparisons, etc. 

Punctuation references the symbols in a sentence: end punctuation, commas, colons, semicolons, hyphens, apostrophes, etc.

In all honesty, I often use a pencil or purple pen to mark changes in my own writing. It doesn’t matter what color utensil we use to correct our work as long as we are focused on making it better.

Coming up next…

The next edition of Red Pen Tidbits will feature apostrophes (per request by Nathan Diebenow in our lovely group, Bosque Valley Writers).

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Table of Contents

As I go, I’ll keep a table of contents here for reference.

  1. 4/26/18: Introduction to Grammar and Usage (this post!)
  2. 5/3/18: Apostrophes
  3. 5/17/18: Who vs. Whom
  4. 6/7/18: One Word or Two Words — 7 of the Trickiest Combos
  5. 6/21/18: Me, Myself, and I
  6. 7/5/18: Pronouns and Antecedents, 3 steps for getting them right
  7. 7/16/18: Three Ways to Use Coordinating Conjunctions
  8. 8/2/18: Commonly Confused Words
  9. 8/14/18: Verb Tenses — 2 Tips for Errors

Challenge

Your challenge this edition is to make a list of your writing struggles. You can write your list in your writer’s notebook or wherever is the most accessible.

Next, pick your top struggle and find a resource or two that you can reference in order to practice and improve.

Resources

Here are a couple resources about the differences between grammar, usage, and punctuation (in case you want a more detailed view).

Are you as excited about this series as I am? Share with me in the comments below your biggest struggles when it comes to using your red pen.

10 thoughts on “Red Pen Tidbits 1: Introduction to Grammar and Usage

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