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How Good Is Your Grammar?

May 13th, 2016

books10a-768x156-blogI’m rather tired of all the hoo-hah about sats exams. They were interviewing some children on BBC’s One Show last Monday and the majority of them didn’t seem half as ‘stressed’ or up-tight about the issue as their parents and teachers.  Plus, when they asked parents, grandparents and children to sit a mock exam the children romped into the lead.

But the most interesting part was the fact that the person conducting the report for the BBC only achieved 43% (the average for the children was 74%)but when the studio guest, German comedian Henning When, took the test his mark was 73%. Does this show that the Germans are ahead of us in the league tables? Or does it just go to prove that having to learn a foreign language (in his case English) helps you to get to grips with grammar?

I’m a great believer in good grammar and went to a school that put plenty of emphasis on its importance. But I must admit that I learned more about the finer points when I started to learn Latin than I ever did in English classes. If you’d asked me, aged nine, what the ‘subjunctive’ was I wouldn’t have had a clue. And if anyone was relying on the current Wikipedia description, they probably wouldn’t be much wiser:

The subjunctive is an irrealis mood (one that does not refer directly to what is necessarily real) – it is often contrasted with the indicative, which is a realis mood. Subjunctives occur most often, although not exclusively, in subordinate clauses, particularly that-clauses.  Well, that makes that clear!

Ask me what a conjunction is and I can tell you, but ask me the difference between co-ordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions and I hadn’t a clue until I looked it up.

Yes, our kids do need good grammar. Here at the Writers Bureau we know only too well that you need firm foundations if you’re to build something worthwhile and you can only break the rules of writing if you know what they are in the first place.  But there’s a difference between what our children need to know and pedantry. They need skills that work for them outside the classroom, not stuff that they’ll never use and will probably forget the minute they walk out of the exam.

OK, down from the soap-box.

Our Flash Fiction Competition closed last Sunday. We had a huge number of entries and we’ve just got to the shortlist stage. We should be able to announce the winners and get our next competition rolling before too long. So next week, I’ll be talking you through some of the themes you might want to avoid in future as we did see quite a lot of entries based on them, and they are rather hackneyed.

As there’s a gap in our competition schedule I thought you might like to know about the International Welsh Poetry Competition, which is now in its tenth year. The closing date is 29th May and prizes are: 1st, £500; 2nd, £250 and 3rd, £100 – plus winners will be published in a future anthology.

Poems can be up to 50 lines, should be in English, in any style and on any subject. The fee is £5 for postal entries and £6 if you enter online. Full details are available at their website.

Finally, don’t forget there’s £25 off our How to Write Biographies, Memoirs and Family Histories writing course if you enrol before Sunday.

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Until next week…

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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