[Edprof] You say polysyndetic coordination; I say huh?

Gene Foreman gene.foreman at verizon.net
Thu Aug 14 07:52:04 PDT 2008

        Gerald raises a good question. I think his premise is sound:
Journalists don't need the "full complement" of grammatical terms, but they
need to be able to explain why they changed copy for grammatical reasons.
        I'm currently finishing a textbook on journalism ethics (to be
published next summer by Wiley-Blackwell), but when it's finished, I would
like to give you a more thoughtful answer. But here are some ideas for now: 
        --The parts of speech.
        --Active and passive verbs.
        --The tenses of verbs, including the "perfect" tenses.
        --Verbals: infinitives, gerunds and participles.
        --Restrictive and nonrestrictive phrases and clauses.
        --Singular and plural, with all the variations.
        --Basic punctuation rules.
        --Predicate adjectives and predicate nominatives.
        It occurs to me that "When Words Collide" by the Oregon professors
is a pretty realistic resource on grammar for journalists. Instruction in
the editing course should equip the students to identify and correct the
common mistakes that writers make. For example, if a student understands
agreement in number, that student could eliminate close to half the
mechanical errors in copy he or she edits.
                   Regards, Gene



From: edprof-bounces at editteach.org [mailto:edprof-bounces at editteach.org] On
Behalf Of Deborah Gump
Sent: Thursday, August 14, 2008 9:45 AM
To: edprof
Subject: [Edprof] You say polysyndetic coordination; I say huh?


Dear Edprofers,

Gerald Grow has thrown upon the academic waters several ideas that came to
him during last week's AEJMC convention. His full list of ideas is here -
http://www.longleaf.net/ggrow/ideas2008/ - and one of them seemed ideal for
our list: 
How many grammatical terms do students need to know?

I'm from the KISS school, so when I taught I considered myself lucky to get
the basics down: the parts of speech - mostly so I could wave off too many
adverbs and adjectives - along with subject, object and, when I felt frisky,
a clause type or two.

I'm sure there are other grammar terms I used, but I'm curious what your
answers are to Gerald's question, which is below:

Anyone teaching a language skills course for journalism students faces this
question: How many grammatical terms do students need to know in order to
use grammar correctly?

Clearly, students do not need the full complement of terms taught in a
textbook of advanced grammar. Most copy editors have happily applied their
skills without this terminology, and they have clearly explained to others
why they change certain sentences.

It might be interesting to conduct a couple of surveys to ask

    * Which grammatical terms teachers insist on in their language skills
    * Which grammatical terms copy editors find essential to their tasks.

Naturally, you would be curious how answers from these two groups compare.

It might also be interesting to ask teachers (and editors) to identify the
minimum number of grammatical terms someone needs to know to write and edit
well. Perhaps you could get at this by having respondents rank a list of
such terms in order of importance. Again, it could be interesting to compare
responses from the two groups.

Is there anyone else whose opinion matters? It just might be worthwhile to
see if you could get a few highly successful reporters to respond, to be
able to compare their answers. This would help in thinking about whether all
students need to know the same things about grammar in order to be

Deborah Gump, Ph.D.

Director, Print/Online
Committee of Concerned Journalists
529 14th St., N.W., Suite 425
Washington, D.C.  20045
202-662-7159 | dgump at concernedjournalists.org

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