8 Nov 2007
In high school my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Stephens. She was strict, demanded quality writing, and rarely gave A's. And I still remember many of the little usage rules that she insisted on. In my maturity, however, I realize that she taught us many arbitrary rules that have little foundation in reality.
24 Oct 2007

Another College Board Error

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I haven't written more installments in my series lambasting the College Board recently, but the following may prompt me to continue sooner rather than later. (I have a lot more to say about useless explanations.) I have discovered what appears to be an error on an operational test question. In other words, this question counted towards the scores of all students who took this particular test.

The May 2007 SAT. Section 6, question 24 has the following question:

After the uprising of October 10, 1911, that has led to the establishment of a Chinese republic, many Chinese Americans decided to return to China in hopes of a bright future there. No error

Do you see the problem?

4 Oct 2007

The diagram as an aesthetic object

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Here are my answers to the question I set in this post.

The constituency problem, as Jangari correctly noted, concerns the prepositional phrase "with the solemn precision of scientists articulating chemical equations." The original diagramming indicates that the "we" of the sentence are learning with precision, but it seems much more natural to assume that it is the diagramming that occurs with precision. In other words, the PP modifies diagram, not learned.

2 Oct 2007

What's wrong with this diagram?

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I just finished reading Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey, a book that purports to tell the history of sentence diagramming. It's not as bad as I had imagined it would be. I had braced myself for an old-fashioned paean to the virtues of diagramming, but in fact Florey is honest about the limitations of diagrams and skeptical about claims that diagramming helps improve one's writing.

That said, there are irritating errors in the book.

26 Aug 2007

Won't fixing

Submitted by Karl Hagen
The title is not an instance of editorial error, nor the start of a question (e.g., "Won't fixing one thing break something else?" but evidence of a new compound verb with a very unusual structure. I first saw it on a developer's issue board. "Clearing my issue queue. I don't think these fixes are going to go in anyway - won't fixing."
19 Jul 2007
This is part 3 of a series analyzing the College Board's view of English grammar. In part 1 I reviewed the general standards for the SAT writing test and argued that they were vague. In part 2, I began to reverse-engineer the grammatical framework used by the test makers and found numerous errors in the explanatory answers that the College Board provides with its practice tests.


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