There have been some great pictures of signs with rogue apostrophes and appalling grammar in the papers lately. With the new school year just starting, the government has produced a document as part of the National Literacy Strategy to tell teachers when to use a full stop. Apparently, up to a third of trainee teachers needed two or more goes to pass the test which assesses spelling, grammar, punctuation and comprehension.
I’ve also had my Mum bending my ear about poor grammar in a book she’s reading – “The author keeps saying ‘bored of’,” she said. “Surely they should know it is always ‘bored with’. I maintain that sometimes ‘bored of’ sounds better, but did look it up in Fowler’s Modern English Usage: She’s right, (it can also be ‘bored by’, as any fule kno). That one’s not a major crime of grammar in my book.
Although I do try not to be a pedant about it, I do particularly hate it when people get your and you’re wrong though, and those rogue apostrophes are irritating, (but can be funny). I admit that my grammar and punctuation are far from perfect too.
We were talking about this round the dinner table last night. I grabbed some little books on grammar, writing and punctuation that came free with the Sunday Times newspaper many years ago. While looking for quizzes in them, we found this super poem – everything is wonderfully clear and simple when you look at it like this …
A Victorian Schoolmistress’s Rules of Punctuation
Sentences begin with a Capital letter,
So as to make your writing better.
Use a full stop to mark the end.
It closes every sentence penned.
The comma is for short pauses and breaks,
And also for lists the writer makes.
Dashes – like these – are for thoughts by the way,
They give extra information (so do brackets, we may say).
These two dots are colons: they pause to compare.
They also do this: list, explain and prepare.
The semicolon makes a break; followed by a clause.
It does the job of words that link; it’s also a short pause.
An apostrophe shows the owner of anyone’s things,
And it’s also useful for shortenings.
I’m so glad! He’s so mad! We’re having such a lark!
To show strong feelings use an exclamation mark!
A question mark follows What? When? Where? Why? and How?
Do you? Can I? Shall We? Give us your answer now!
“Quotation marks” enclose what is said,
Which is why they’re sometimes called “speech marks” instead.