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Fun > The Lies your Teachers told you.

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message 1: by M.A. (new)

M.A. Corliss | 11 comments Over the years I have notice quite a few things when it comes to writing and proper use of the english language that my teachers were incorrect about. The biggest being that you "cannot start a sentence with a conjunction"

So I ask! What other lies have you been told by the people who were supposedly teaching you the correct way?


message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Bott (iansbott) | 263 comments And not ending with a preposition.

But the biggest "lie" for me was the emphasis on colorful, descriptive language replete with adjectives, adverbs, and dripping with metaphor. I say "lie" in quotes because the purpose was to teach vocabulary and to practice full use of the language - and to pass English exams. The "lie" was failing to say that this is not how language is used in real life, and is not a good model for clear communication.


message 3: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) I feel like I should change my name to Ian before posting... ;p

The biggest lie I grew up with was 'ain't ain't a word.'

Yes, yes it is, it's just slang and perhaps not the best if you're trying to sound edu-ma-cated, but otherwise, it's a perfectly cromulent* word.

*Kudos to those who know where this word originates. In a similar vein, I told my husband the other day that within fifteen to twenty years, 'I can has (noun)?' will be a perfectly acceptable way of requesting an item, not just cheeseburgers.


message 4: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
Christina wrote: "I feel like I should change my name to Ian before posting... ;p

The biggest lie I grew up with was 'ain't ain't a word.'


You took mine. Blast!

Yeah, nothing I've published would be published if I had to worry about correct grammar. Proper English just does not fit my stories.

Pretty sure I had at least one teacher try to tell us not to use the word "said". *rolls eyes*


message 5: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Jensen (kdragon) | 468 comments Okay, not a "lie" I was taught, but for my senior English class, we had to memorize the names of certain types of sentence structures. Like if it was an if/then sentence - if you drive on the ice, then your car will slip off the road - that type of sentence was called something, I don't remember what. Not sure what the point of it all was, especially since I can't remember a single one of the names we learned except for "gerund" and that it's a word ending in "ing.". Did learning the names of sentence structures improve our writing in any way? Nope. But apparently it was incredibly important, most likely because it was going to be on the test :P


message 6: by Rachael (last edited Jun 13, 2016 10:49PM) (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments I'm more bothered by the restrictive rules placed on kids in the UK now, with an overemphasis on grammatical perfection and a blanket ban on exclamation marks. They even had the nerve to tell a published children's author off for using the word "big"! They seem to have completely forgotten the joy of creative writing and experimentation.

As someone who moved schools a lot, the difference between what was correct and what wasn't became confusing. Perhaps the most glaring example was how quotation marks were represented: one school advised they looked like "66 and 99" while another crossed them out whenever they made an appearance.

Oh, and "poems always rhyme!" Trying telling TS Eliot or Sylvia Plath that.


message 7: by Matt (new)

Matt Parker | 38 comments I distinctly remember asking my teacher how to spell 'that's', and he replied, rather curtly, 'that is'.
I still maintain that I learnt to write correctly, not by being taught, but by reading people who could write.

Christina wrote: "...if you're trying to sound edu-ma-cated, but otherwise, it's a perfectly cromulent* word..."

Wasn't cromulent one of the many words that Dr Samuel Johnson missed out of his famous dictionary? I think 'sausage' was another one :)


message 8: by Rachael (new)

Rachael Eyre (rachaeleyre) | 194 comments Most infamously: thanks to a misprint in one copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, a whole generation grew up spelling "dilemma" as "dilemna"!


message 9: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Clark (tlcauthor) | 727 comments Never ever use (what's the proper names for words like can't?).
I was told to always use the full 'cannot'. It's just clunky and gets in the way of flowing speech.
So poo you, teachers! I will not write sentences which cannot be read easily by normal people just because you cannot understand the artistry of writing.

And yes, I love exclamation marks (but do have to try to limit them in my books; it has been noted by reviewers; oops)!!!!!!!! ;-p

xx


message 10: by Ashley (new)

Ashley Capes | 90 comments Christina wrote: "cromulent."

You've embiggended the vocab there ;)


message 11: by Dylan (new)

Dylan Callens | 193 comments In defense of English teachers, partly because I am known to teach it from time to time, we are told to teach these things. But more importantly, writing is no different than art. Artists learn various styles and techniques, then go and break those rules -- but they still know the rules.

As a growing writer, it's important to learn some basic rules about the language and then adapt it as you see fit when you have some mastery over the skill.

Just my two cents. :)


message 12: by Ken (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) I know that five years of required English classes in high school didn't teach me a thing because I was too bored to pay attention. When I decided to seriously get into writing many years ago, I bought a used English book (boring) and a copy of The Elements of Style (not boring). And I was careful to research and get it right when I came across something not covered specifically by those books. Self-taught works for me.


message 13: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor Ken wrote: "I know that five years of required English classes in high school didn't teach me a thing because I was too bored to pay attention. When I decided to seriously get into writing many years ago, I bo..."

I'm convinced my English teachers were out to destroy everyone's love of reading by forcing us to read the most boring "classics" they could find, or those we couldn't relate to.


message 14: by Charles (new)

Charles Hash | 1054 comments A shorter discussion would be "The truths teachers told you".


message 15: by Grace (new)

Grace Crandall | 79 comments @Christina apparently, "ain't" was actually a perfectly acceptable contraction of 'am not' during the Victorian age, and wasn't considered uneducated or slangish at all. Not sure where I read that, but interesting nonetheless :)


message 16: by Joe (new)

Joe Jackson (shoelessauthor) My 11th grade English teacher once told me, "You couldn't write if your life depended on it." Does that count?


message 17: by Morris (new)

Morris Graham (morris_g) My favorite quote from Grammar Girl. "The “put a comma everywhere you’d pause” idea is unfortunately a common myth."

This myth was taught me by a grammar school teacher.


message 18: by Angelmovingonup (new)

Angelmovingonup Wjesus | 33 comments There are too many to list here, but the one I loved was, "you can't use he or she more than three times in one paragraph", well...she told me that lie and then she turned around and use it more than three times when she was explaining it to me. She couldn't have come across as more confusing at the time. Haha, just did it.


message 19: by Joe (new)

Joe Jackson (shoelessauthor) Angelmovingonup wrote: "There are too many to list here, but the one I loved was, "you can't use he or she more than three times in one paragraph", well...she told me that lie and then she turned around and use it more th..."

That one's interesting. I remember reading one of Feist's books where he kept saying "Jimmy" over and over in a long paragraph instead of using "he" at all. Seems too much one way or the other is grating. ;)


message 20: by J.D. (new)

J.D. Cunegan (jdcunegan) | 240 comments My journalism professors in college were adamant that the Oxford comma was not a thing and our articles were not to ever make use of it. Use of the Oxford comma was incorrect and flew in the face of proper AP style, they said, and any journalist worth a damn would never use one.


message 21: by Angelmovingonup (new)

Angelmovingonup Wjesus | 33 comments Joe wrote: "Angelmovingonup wrote: "There are too many to list here, but the one I loved was, "you can't use he or she more than three times in one paragraph", well...she told me that lie and then she turned a..."
I agree, but a college prof once told me that you should write the way the language is spoken in general conversation, I can't recall one conversation where I paused to narrate myself with an extra proper noun. So he and she get used quite often when I speak and in my writing.


message 22: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) Angelmovingonup wrote: "There are too many to list here, but the one I loved was, "you can't use he or she more than three times in one paragraph", well...she told me that lie and then she turned around and use it more th..."

Gah!!! I'm always fussing with my sentences and rearraging where a name vs a pronoun would work. I'm sure I put way the heck more than three he or shes per paragraph.


message 23: by Christina (new)

Christina McMullen (cmcmullen) J.D. wrote: "My journalism professors in college were adamant that the Oxford comma was not a thing and our articles were not to ever make use of it. Use of the Oxford comma was incorrect and flew in the face o..."

Journalism is actually where a lot of the 'rules' that get thrown around come from. Given the itty bitty columns in newspapers, yes, the Oxford comma was dropped and fonts were made skinnier, but that should have no bearing on fiction. Actually, the removal of commas in Morris' example above is the same. It's not intended for fiction but technical writing. In fiction, pause away. Your reader will thank you.


message 24: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Seriously ... they have teachers for this?


message 25: by Joe (new)

Joe Jackson (shoelessauthor) Angelmovingonup wrote: " a college prof once told me that you should write the way the language is spoken in general conversation"

That's how I write my books. Technically perfect? Nope. But they should be easy for people to read, so that's what I shoot for.


message 26: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Lightfoot (goodreadscomandrea17) | 67 comments My primary school teacher used to say that you couldn't start a sentence with the word "and"


message 27: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "My primary school teacher used to say that you couldn't start a sentence with the word "and""

And, yet, I do it all the time.


message 28: by Ken (last edited Jun 14, 2016 08:15AM) (new)

Ken Doggett (kendoggett) J.J. wrote: "I'm convinced my English teachers were out to destroy everyone's love of reading by forcing us to read the most boring "classics" they could find, or those we couldn't relate to..."

It wasn't so much the classics as it was the technical stuff that seemed beyond what you actually needed to know to write a good sentence. Diagram a sentence? Why? I haven't diagrammed a single sentence since I left school. I think if they stuck to basics, and shoveled out more of the boring stuff, more people could write better as adults.


message 29: by Andrea (new)

Andrea Lightfoot (goodreadscomandrea17) | 67 comments Dwayne wrote: "Andrea wrote: "My primary school teacher used to say that you couldn't start a sentence with the word "and""

And, yet, I do it all the time."


"and get away with it"


message 30: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
To be fair the "cannot start a sentence with a conjunction" rule is not that horrible in the grand scheme of things. You can do it occasionally without problems, and I see why it is taught. Given how my 6 year old niece talks, pretty much every sentence that doesn't start with a noun starts with one, so I can see why they want to put a stop to it.

'Never' was a bit harsh though. You can do it. I mostly do for impact. But, sweet Maker if you do it every second sentence for an entire book I am going to hit you with it!


message 31: by Jane (new)

Jane Jago | 888 comments I made a living for a lot of years sub-editing.

And I will tell you a secret.

Most of what your teachers will have told you is bull crap. As is that book about shoots and leaves....

Readability is all. That doesn't mean you don't need to have a passing knowledge of grammar and a good relationship with spelling. You do. You need both. But if your writing clearly indicates what you mean and has a style that is consistent then you are doing something right.

*nips back under rock marked middle-aged woman (with degree in English) do not disturb before the grammar police come after her with a double-barrelled semi-colon*


message 32: by C.B., Beach Body Moderator (new)

C.B. Archer | 1090 comments Mod
Andrea wrote: "and get away with it""

If it hadn't been for you meddling kids!


message 33: by G.G. (new)

G.G. (ggatcheson) | 2491 comments Rachael wrote: "Most infamously: thanks to a misprint in one copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, a whole generation grew up spelling "dilemma" as "dilemna"!"

haha NOW I know why I have so much trouble with that word. My fingers always want to type dilemna instead of dilemma.


message 34: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) I must have had exceptionally good English teachers.

Or else I was too busy reading and writing my own stuff to pay attention.


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments Rachael wrote: "Most infamously: thanks to a misprint in one copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, a whole generation grew up spelling "dilemma" as "dilemna"!"

I'm also part of this generation. Yikes! Jane, is there room under that rock for me too?


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments Joe wrote: "My 11th grade English teacher once told me, "You couldn't write if your life depended on it." Does that count?"

Uhm... Joe, do you have that teacher's address so whoever lives closest to them and whack them upside the head with your published and highly-rated novels?


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments C.B. wrote: "If it hadn't been for you meddling kids!"

Ah, hah! Your secret is out! Are you Fred or Shaggy? : )


message 38: by Joe (new)

Joe Jackson (shoelessauthor) Sue (Dog Mom) wrote: "Uhm... Joe, do you have that teacher's address so whoever lives closest to them and whack them upside the head with your published and highly-rated novels?"

I toyed with the idea of dedicating one to her, but fortunately, good sense prevailed (for once).


message 39: by Steve (new)

Steve Aaron | 2 comments The biggest lie to me wasn't a lie at all, but rather focusing on the wrong things. My teachers all focused on learning the mechanics without delving into what's really important. All through k-12, I never had a teacher with any passion for their subject. I was a reader because I found and loved sci fi and fantasy through my mother, but I HATED my English classes because the old, tired, and distant teachers made it so BORING! It wasn't until I was in college in a Lit class for non-English majors that I had a professor who was excited and passionate and he--Dr. Paul Pelikka, I thank you wherever you are!--made me see things differently and change my major to English. I'm a high school English teacher now, so I understand how hard it is to maintain a sense of wonder and build intellectual curiosity through 6 periods of kids who'd rather be doing anything else, but I've learned to be very demanding and passionate about whatever we're reading. The kids all think I'm crazy, but I'm fairly certain I have more kids who end up loving literature than your average teacher because I'm such a crazy person. I get teary eyed and emotional every time I read the last chapter of To Kill a Mockingbird with my kids. The balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet is so powerful and beautiful that it deserves better than to be read blandly and woodenly. I read like I think I'm an actor on the stage and I consistently focus in building wonder and curiosity, and NOT the mechanics of iambic pentameter and blank verse. I do mention them, but they're not the focus! The literature is the star and everything else is secondary to that. Because I focus our lessons that way many of my students follow my lead and do the same when we read. Who cares if a kid knows what a gerund is! If they don't leave school with at least a sense of the power of literature, then we've failed as teachers regardless of how many vocabulary words they can regurgitate for a test.


message 40: by Zoltán (new)

Zoltán (witchhunter) | 267 comments C.B. wrote: "To be fair the "cannot start a sentence with a conjunction" rule is not that horrible in the grand scheme of things. You can do it occasionally without problems, and I see why it is taught."

I agree. It's a stylistic issue and not a hard rule. You may occasionally use it without problems and you are free in dialogues. Still, it should be used too often in non-dialogue sections.

V.M. wrote: "One of the good ones I got in grade school was: 'if you make it too violent, you will scare people'."

What if you are a horror writer? What if you are describing the hardships of war, catastrophes, traumatology etc. What if? What if?

Unless you follow the style of the original Grimm tales you do well to avoid it in child stories, but going out against it in general...


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments V.M. wrote: "One of the good ones I got in grade school was: "if you make it too violent, you will scare people..."

Can you imagine if Stephen King had followed that advice?


message 42: by Dwayne, Head of Lettuce (new)

Dwayne Fry | 4310 comments Mod
Sue (Dog Mom) wrote: "Can you imagine if Stephen King had followed that advice?"

Cujo - A heartwarming tale of a dog who doesn't realize he's too large to be a lapdog.

Children of the Corn - Daddy needs help at harvest time and the children are all too happy to chip in.

Misery - Paul was feeling all oogie until his biggest fan showed up at his doorstep and cheered him up by showing him all the ways his books have helped her in her life.

Christine - Sometimes it takes a few tries to get her started, she doesn't run well in the cold and sometimes she'll die on you if you take corners too fast. It's like she has a mind of her own!

The Shining - Life in the hotel was dull for Jack and his family, until one fun Saturday when they spent the day polishing the place top to bottom. Boy, did it ever shine!

The Body - Four boys go camping and, oh, the mischief those rascals get into.


Sam (Rescue Dog Mom, Writer, Hugger) (sammydogs) | 968 comments Dwayne wrote: "Sue (Dog Mom) wrote: "Can you imagine if Stephen King had followed that advice?"

Cujo - A heartwarming tale of a dog who doesn't realize he's too large to be a lapdog...."


LOL! Your brief summaries of these movies make them sound so light and uplifting. They should be shown on The Hallmark Chanel. : D

Oh! Let's not forget Cat's Eye, a movie about an affectionate little kitty cat who likes to lie on your chest when you're sleeping.

The only movie I haven't seen is Cujo. I'd never be able to look at our dogs the same way again.


message 44: by J.J. (new)

J.J. Mainor Zoltán wrote: "Unless you follow the style of the original Grimm tales you do well to avoid it in child stories, but going out against it in general... ..."

Never mind Grimm, what about children's movies? Watership Down anyone? That movie terrified me when the bunnies started killing each other.


message 45: by T.L. (new)

T.L. Clark (tlcauthor) | 727 comments The Brothers Grimm were horrific, and not actually intended for children. It was a collection of folk tales, traditionally passed down through told stories. They just wrote them down.
Remember Rapunzel? There's thorns stabbing through eyes, and all sorts :O

btw, I like to think of myself as a modern day Shakespeare. He made up words, and if he can I should be allowed to ;-P


message 46: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments T.L. wrote: "The Brothers Grimm were horrific, and not actually intended for children. It was a collection of folk tales, traditionally passed down through told stories. They just wrote them down.
Remember Rapu..."


And then Disney came along ...


message 47: by Micah (new)

Micah Sisk (micahrsisk) | 1042 comments Angelmovingonup wrote: "a college prof once told me that you should write the way the language is spoken in general conversation..."

That would probably be, I think, you know people don't, that is, most people when they, uh, speak...uh, I just don't...people say things in conversation really not understandable when you read them written down. You know? I mean, like, politicians and stuff like what you read in the newspapers have probably been edited mostly or not maybe.


message 48: by P.D. (new)

P.D. Workman (pdworkman) Have you ever read a court transcript or had to transcribe a phone call or conversation word for word? It's crazy.

And the amount of time it actually takes to discuss things? My characters can have a cogent conversation and make a life-changing decision in three minutes. But in my house it takes twice that just to find the mustard.


message 49: by Jane (new)

Jane Blythe | 112 comments Not about grammar and maybe not a lie perhaps more of an odd teacher . . . but in eighth grade we had to write our own short novel, mine was meant to be dark and dramatic and emotional, well I got an A for the assignment but my teacher told me that my writing style was very amusing and she laughed a lot while reading my book, well in all the reviews of my books I've never gotten a this was funny review but I've got plenty dark ones!


message 50: by Angelmovingonup (new)

Angelmovingonup Wjesus | 33 comments Christina wrote: "Angelmovingonup wrote: "There are too many to list here, but the one I loved was, "you can't use he or she more than three times in one paragraph", well...she told me that lie and then she turned a..."

Me too, but I do try to catch it when I realize they start to come up too often. I'm just picky anyway I guess.


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