Sunday, November 13, 2011

Yet Another English Teacher Spelling and Grammar Frenzy

You know I hate to nag....Well, just pretend I hate to nag then. I just like to give spelling and grammar tips. I'm generous that way. Anyway, while we're all pretending I hate to nag, let's clear up a few Adventures in Spelling Confusion that I've seen lately. (I almost said "which I've seen," and my daughter who is pickier than even I am would have had a fit.)

So anyway, here's one I've seen more than once this week alone: "right of passage."  While I'm sure we all have a right of passage (this is America, and we have all sorts of rights), the correct term is actually "rite of passage." Rite refers to a ceremony or action; a rite of passage is one that designates a new stage in someone's life. In other words, there are certain actions that most of us go through that indicate we have passed from childhood to adulthood (not adultery, but that's a distinction for another post). Some rites of passage are formal, such as a Bar Mitzvah for a 13-year-old Jewish boy or a QuinceaƱera for a 15-year-old Latin American girl. Others are informal such as acquiring a driver's license or one's first kiss.

Another favorite source of confusion I see a lot in 8th-grade writing is "all of the sudden." And I  mean A LOT! Ask a junior high kid to write a story, and every third sentence starts with "all of the sudden." In reality (a place my students seldom visit), the term is "all of a sudden."  Something that happens without warning happens all of a sudden. If you can't remember that, use suddenly. Or without warning. Or leave it out altogether and just let it happen! Instead of, "Suddenly a cat jumped out from behind the bushes," just say, "From behind the bushes, a snarling cat sprang into Hermione's path."

Speaking of A LOT, it's two (2) words y'all. Two. Words. A and lot. Just like a little. Two words.  As in, "A lot of people mess this up, and I can't figure out why."

Okay, friends, go forth (Not fourth. Who would go first, second, and third?), and practice. And get it right so my head can quit hurting. Please!

Oh! Don't forget to submit questions either on this post or on the Ask the English Teacher page on this site. I LOVE answering English teacher questions!


  1. Why would you have used which instead of that? I'm having a fit just imagining it.

  2. You know "which or that" is my one mental grammar block. I have to think about it every time even though I know the difference.

  3. So, what is the difference between them. this is not a rule that I remember.

  4. Alisa, if it's something the sentence can't do without, use "that." If the sentence can do without it, use "which." For example: The blog that I write is called Commonplace Crazy. Alyssa's blog, which is called Near Normalcy, is very funny. See?


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