Grammar in poetry

In this podcast, I talk to Dan Smith, Donall Dempsey, and Janice Windle about grammar in poetry. We have a nice little ramble about reading, writing, and feeling poetry.

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New grammar test for 10-11 year-olds; at last!

This May, year 6 pupils across the UK will be introduced to a new grammar, punctuation, and spelling test. The test, created by the Standards and Testing Agency (STA), will be taken at the end of Key Stage 2 in order to assess children’s grammar and spelling before starting secondary school.

The test has been faced with disagreement from some teachers since so much emphasis is put on creative writing, but many, like Louise Moore think it’s a change long overdue; and I couldn’t agree more.

While there is conflicting evidence that grammar and spelling are actually important to teenagers online (more so than older internet users), the general consensus is that our grammar and spelling is poor.

This article by Emphasis, a business writing training site, reports that University students have poor writing skills, from incorrect grammar and spelling mistakes to poor style choices. This is concerning news when considering the thousands of graduated hopefuls turned away from their dream jobs because of a poorly written CV.

Job search site created a survey on the importance of correct grammar and spelling when applying for jobs, and sent it out to employers. They reported that:

“More than half (57.9%) of recruiters who responded said spelling proficiency was ‘vital’ for candidates employed within the industry they represent, while only 1.6% said it was not an important factor at all.

In a later question, a significant 69.9% of respondents said CVs should “not contain a single spelling mistake”.
72.2% said they had discarded CVs as a result of seeing one or more spelling mistakes included. Additionally, 71.3% said they would think twice about employing an applicant if their CV contained incorrectly spelt words, even if the candidate fulfilled all other desired credentials.

You might be an expert in your industry but you should not simply assume your experience alone will secure you a job. You need to prove you can communicate well with others, and spelling is a significant part of this.”

Louise Moore says in her article that she believes the education system has become slack with grammar because new teachers were not taught correct grammar in school, or at least not with the emphasis the new test will give. She had met a newly qualified teacher that did not know the difference between “your” and “you’re”.

Some people blame the internet and mobile phones for the persistence of “chat speak” in people’s writing. The Daily Mail reported that Drew Cingel, a doctoral candidate in media, technology and society in America, assessed the spelling and grammar of middle school students and found that they used common texting abbreviations such as “gr8” and single letters to replace whole words (“c u 2moz”). Text speak has been prevalent since mobile phones become a common possession, and as pay-as-you-go phones charge per text space is limited. That children and teenagers cannot separate their professional and social writing is concerning indeed.

Hopefully the new test will bring a greater respect for grammar and spelling, and ensure that future university students get the jobs they otherwise deserve. William Cobbett gave brilliant advice in his book Advice to Young Men and (Incidentally) to Young Women, in the Middle and Higher Ranks of Life on studying grammar:

“It is true, that we do (God knows!) but too often see men have great wealth, high titles, and boundless power, heaped upon them, who can hardly write ten lines together correctly; but, remember, it is not merit that has been the cause of their advancement; the cause has been, in almost every such case, the subserviency of the party to the will of some government, and the baseness of some nation who have quietly submitted to be governed by brazen fools. Do not you imagine, that you will have luck of this sort: do not you hope to be rewarded and honoured for that ignorance which shall prove a scourge to your country, and which will earn you the curses of the children yet unborn. Rely you upon your merit, and upon nothing else. Without a knowledge of grammar, it is impossible for you to write correctly, and, it is by mere accident if you speak correctly; and, pray bear in mind, that all well-informed persons judge of a man’s mind (until they have other means of judging) by his writing or speaking.”

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Word of the week, 10th April

Today’s word was suggested by a friend for its superb pronunciation.


Thr-awl-dom; noun; serving or enslaved.

Rolling the “r” on this word makes it very satisfying to say. They also use it in the US TV adaptation of the Game of Thrones novel series when talking about their enslaved salt wives, and everyone loves a salt wife in thrall.

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Word of the week, 3rd April


Pek-sni-fee-un; adjective; affecting one’s moral principles or benevolence.

This wonderfully theatrical word originates from Dickens’ Martin Chuzzlewit, after the character Seth Pecksniff. I don’t think it serves quite as well in conversation as it does written down; it’s the kind of word you read and can only enjoy after double checking in your head that you really understand its meaning and context. Pausing for this long in conversation would be at least a little awkward.

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Word of the week, 28th March

This week’s word isn’t particularly uncommon, but it’s one I love the sound of.


Soo-per-floo-us; adjective; excessive and unecessary.

I think I like the sound of this word for the emphasis on the “per” bit, because when you say “super” you emphasise the “soo” bit, and that reminds me of soup. Not that I don’t like soup, but it’s not really super. And it’s fun to say “floo-us”.

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Word of the week, 20th March

Today I asked the editor at my work placement what her favourite word is.


Ver-ih-sih-mih-lih-tyood; noun; the appearance of truth.

Sometimes you just like a word and have no explanation why, but I like this word because it has many syllables. I think having too many syllables is why some words go out of use, people are too lazy to say all of it. Just look at how “t”‘s have been dropped across the English language. Thank goodness for words like verisimilitude.

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Word of the week, 13th March

This week’s word is the complete antithesis of this website:


Ad-oks-oh-gr-fee; noun; Detailed and in-depth writing on an unimportant topic.

This word has much potential for everyday use; just look through newspapers after an uneventful week. Because pages need to be filled, all sorts of rubbish gets thrown in. Some might say that a lot of what is studied in school is adoxography.
So there we have it: Adoxography, a very useful word for the modern world.

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Word of the week, 6th March

A post on time! I’ve found a neat little site, Wordnik, that lists pretty much every word ever and allows you to make lists of your favourite words. The downside is that there are a lot of American spellings, and I’m pretty sure a few made-up words have gotten in. But I found this today:


Per-ruh-heel-yee-un; noun; The shortest distance from the sun a planet or comet has in orbit to it.

There’s not a lot of room for everyday use (unless your work involves talking about space and planets of course, in which case you probably use it anyway. Sorry.) but it’s got a great sound, especially if you can roll your R’s. Perrrrrrrihelion. Lovely.

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Word of the week, 2nd March

Firstly, my sincerest apologies for this delayed post. I’ve been getting myself all psyched for my placement at Life Media Group, and as such have been forgetting to check the site as regularly as I should. But enough of my personal ramblings.

BBC Radio 4 broadcast a show on Thursday about “The Meaning of Liff”, a book by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd. It lists words, usually place names, for things most people (especially in Britain) experience and have no words for. It’s a very humourous little book, and finding this word reminded of it:


Fah-see-shee; noun; witty writings or remarks.

It’s a nice short word, is useful, and includes that lovely “tiae” spelling.

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Grammar and spelling online: An interview with Laurence Stark

At last, another podcast! This time I spoke to my friend and fellow language nut Laurence Stark, who runs a niche interest website called Minorzine.

We discuss grammar and spelling and why people love or hate it, the movement of books from paper to screen, and how exactly to go about correcting people online without sounding like a douchebag.

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