Thursday, October 3, 2013

english 101

Thanks Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Townsend

Both women taught me English when I was in 4th grade and 9th grade, respectively

Mrs. Harris was my all time favorite teacher. 

These two women came to mind as I thought about what to write on this blog. They both had a huge impact on my education. I'm not sure if they knew it or not. Mrs. Townsend would often say..."English is a beautiful but extremely complex language. Don't mess it up." Those words always stuck with me. 

I was reviewing Brandon's homework a few days ago and I was looking at some words that he was using in his sentences. He was using the words...THEIR and THERE ; YOUR and YOU'RE. Surprisingly, he was using them correctly. He's in the first grade. I was baffled at how he knows which words to use at the age of 6 when there are people much older than him who can't do the same thing.

There is not a day that goes by when I get on Facebook or Twitter and see people using words incorrectly. These 4 words are often misused. It's understandable when people are using slang. I get it. More often than not, this isn't the case. Sometimes I read Facebook posts and I wonder aloud if some of these people even WENT to an English class. I'm not saying that you should proof read your posts or tweets. Can a word be misspelled from time to time? Sure! I'm sure I've misspelled more than a few words on this blog because I normally write late at night before I go to bed. But when it's clear that you don't know the difference between THEIR and THERE...then that's a problem. 

I remember Mrs. Harris used to always fuss at us about writing our names in cursive. I hated to write in cursive then and I still do now. But she explained to us that it was important to write your name neatly because it was your signature. She said you'd be using your signature for the rest of your life. If we turned in a paper and our signature was sloppy, then she'd make us write it over again. Little did we know then that she was teaching us to have pride in our names. I don't even know if schools teach kids how to write in cursive anymore. My cursive writing was terrible back then and is still terrible to this day. But my signature isn't. I remember asking her if I could put a star above the "I" in my last name instead of a dot. She asked me why did I want to do that. I told her that I wanted it to look different from any other signature. She said it was fine and I've been doing it since that day. It's funny how these things stick with you.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I read my sons' writings. None of them write like me. They all write well for their age. But not like me. Then, I remind myself that they aren't me. They don't have Mrs. Harris nor Mrs. Townsend. I try my best to show them what I learned. Being able to write well starts with being able to speak well. You have to know which words to use. You also have to read extensively and retain what you read. I've always done that. I'm not saying that you can't use slang because I use it every day. But if that's all that you know then that's all that you'll use. No matter the profession that you are in, it will involve writing and you have to be able to effectively communicate what you want people to know. When you write something...much like with this are taking people on a journey. It's your job as a writer to get them from the beginning to the end their destination. 

Mrs. Townsend was correct. English is beautiful and complex. Learn it. Master it. Don't mess it up. 

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