Monthly Archives: April 2013

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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