A couple of terms ago, no longer able to bear the constant deluge of misspellings, mutilated grammar and general crimes against the English language that we saw daily, streaming off the printer, the library started offering a proof-reading service to the boys.
The idea was that we would proof-read, mark up, and then discuss the vagaries of English with the boys, showing them the error of their ways. What we would not do was to correct any factual mistakes, misapprehensions and so on. If a boy thought that WWII was started by Henry VIII, due to falling out with the Pope about relativity theory, we would not comment. So long as it was well expressed, correctly spelt, and free from grammatical mistakes.
Two terms later, what have we learnt?
Apostrophes. Apostrophes are the devil’s work, at least to the teenage mind.
Complicated language that you don’t quite understand (and can’t quite use correctly) – but it sounds good. Shorter sentences are always better, as is simpler language. To quote one of our long-suffering proof-readers “Don’t use immense words and convoluted syntax when an interminably unpretentious succession of miniscule words would suffice. Therefore and nevertheless, and in all other ways henceforth, keep it simple”.
Almost the right word, but not quite – draws instead of drawers
American usage – ize instead of ise – just no. Last time we checked, we’re not the 51st state, thank Donald.
Tricky sound-alikes – stationery/stationary. Practice/practise. Affect/effect. * See below for some handy hints on which one to use.
And finally, consistency. If you started a sentence or paragraph using the past tense, keep using it. If you’ve capitalised something once, continue to do so. If you started using bullet points, keep going.
We’ll continue to offer the service, and hopefully pass on some semblance of spelling, grammar, structure and so on. The other thing we’ve gained is a wide knowledge of subject areas we’d never considered – things to bear in mind when making a workbench; how the temperature of a photo-voltaic cell affects its power output; various studies on ball throwing, racquet hitting and more.
And my personal favourite? The boy whose workbench was to include a handy tool slot. Except he added an “h” to the final word.
*Stationery – has an “e” just like “pen” which is a type of stationery. Affect is the verb – both have one “e”. Practice is a noun, just like “ice”. You’re welcome.