What is grammar?

So, what is grammar?  One of the best definitions of grammar that I have heard comes from a book called The Practice of English Language Teaching (link opens book on Scribd), which defines grammar as:

the description of the ways in which words can change their forms and be combined to form sentences.

For example, “I pie eated” is not grammatically correct, because the word “To eat” has not been formed ‘correctly’, and the order of the words is ‘incorrect’.  The grammatically correct form is “I ate pie.”

Grammar has two aspects:

  1. Morphology : the forms a word can take (how words change: eat/eats/ate/eaten or city/cities/city’s/cities’ or do/doable/done/undone/did/redo).
  2. Syntax : the order that words go in (how words are ordered in a sentence: I ate pie–subject/verb/object).  See Wikipedia or the Practice of English Language Teaching, for more info. Continue reading

25 Reasons to Read William Gibson’s Neuromancer

For the writers (and readers) out there who have not read (or who have not finished reading) William Gibson’s Neuromancer

NEUROMANCER!  Well, I don’t want to come across as a book snob, but I do have to ask: How can you call yourself a well-read fictionado without having read Neuromancer?  (In classic Lily-style) I’m going to give you at least 25 reasons why Neuromancer is an amazing book, and a must-read for anyone delving into the finer points of fiction-writing (and reading). Continue reading

7 Types of Sentence Fragments and How to Use Them

This article is for beginner to advanced native and second-language English speakers and teachers. For a shortened version of this lesson, download my lesson, Advanced Sentences, and feel free to use or adapt it, without copyright.

This article contains the following sections, feel free to jump down to any of them:

  • The Importance of Grammar
  • Types of Sentences
  • What is a Sentence Fragment
  • The 7 Sentence Fragments
  • Examples of the 7 Sentence Fragments
  • Examples of Long Sentences Using Many Fragments
  • Sentence Fragment Lessons for English/ESL Teachers

The Importance of Grammar

Run! by Glenn~ on flickr

As an ESL teacher, I found that my own writing drastically improved once I started teaching grammar to my students–especially the 7 different types of sentence fragments. I had learned English grammar in high-school, but those classes were boring; I had more important things to concentrate on, such as the outfit I was wearing, or how dreamy Cory Haim was in License to Drive. When I started teaching grammar as an ESL teacher, I was actually re-teaching myself, and the most valuable aspect of grammar that I re-learned was the 7 sentence fragments.

Understanding how to use these fragments properly will help you:

  • Write sentences that are grammatically correct, because you will finally understand grammar
  • Write longer sentences
  • Write sentences that have different structures, which is important for rhythm and flow (the musical aspects of language)
  • Use commas properly, because you will finally know where to put them!

I am convinced that most writers–beginner and advanced–need more practice in understanding and using sentence fragments properly, and I hope this lesson will help you learn to write more eloquent and grammatically correct sentences.

Continue reading

It’s Time for Accountable Content on Blogs

Frustration, by Sybren A Stuvel

Frustration, by Sybren A Stuvel

Information Overload

We live in what is called the ‘information age’ and the world has been called the ‘Content Nation‘; people are now able to create content at rates that were truly unreachable even 20 years ago, and share that with people on the other side of the world.  It’s amazing–and very overwhelming.  Pete Cashmore (of Mashable) predicted that ‘content curation’–organization and sharing of the ‘best’ content online–would be one of the biggest web trends of 2010. Continue reading

Twitter for Beginners: Exploring your Interests & Making Connections

Learning & trying new things can be intimidating

Oh the Places You'll Go, by Bandita, on Flickr

Late last year, my friend Rebecca, an artist in Vancouver, told me that I needed to join Twitter because it would connect me with all sorts of people who are passionate about the things that I’m passionate about.  I had been a user of Facebook since 2007 and I enjoyed it, but I looked at Twitter as an application for 18 year olds, and ‘online addicts’.

It was around that time that I discovered Alex Samuel–one of BC’s most influential women in 2010–through some research I was doing on social media for work.  Her blog-post “10 Reasons to Stop Apologizing for your Online Life” was a breakthrough for me, and it helped me to stop criticizing myself and others for being active online and to view my online life as real, meaningful and empowering. Continue reading

The single biggest predictor of obesity is low income

This evening I watched the documentary, Food, Inc., which exposes huge flaws in our food system and explains why unhealthy food is cheaper than healthy food (see this in-depth post).

Fast Food for Fast Living, by Imaging Dissent, on flickr

Somewhere near the middle of the documentary, they flashed the statement, “the largest predictor of obesity is low income” and it made a lightbulb go on in my head.  Was it true?  I immediately logged onto my university library website and did some research to confirm if there was evidence to support this theory. There is and, in fact, there is so much and it is so conclusive that it is disturbing I hadn’t heard of it before (see here for lots of links). Continue reading

Most frequently used words in English

Vocabulary notepad, by Streetfly JZ on Flickr

Did you know that the average person uses only 2000-5000 words on a daily basis? One of the most important tools I use as an English, ESL & Literacy teacher is a most frequently-used-words list.

It is possible to make countless vocabulary exercises & games from the crucial 2000 most frequently used words, and they are also the key words for learning the long and short vowels & spelling rules, for children grades 2-6, but also for adult English speakers that suffer from lower levels of literacy (80% of Canadians score 3 or lower out of 5 on the literacy scale, see here). Continue reading

Collaborative self-publishing?

Collaborative self publishing within a social network

I recently read an interesting blog post about the pros and cons of self-publishing vs. regular publishing that really made me think long and hard about how self-publishing could be made more successful.   The answer that I came up with is a collaborative publishing platform.  I don’t think it has really been done yet, and definitely not in a truly collaborative way.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Story of B, by Daniel Quinn

During my research on spiritual fiction, I was recommended to read Daniel Quinn’s books, Ishmael and The Story of B.  At my local new-and-used bookstore, Companion Book, I found a cheap copy of The Story of B and I was pleasantly surprised while reading it.  Continue reading