Cranky Writing Teacher Rant (and Some Helpful Resources) for #NationalPunctuationDay

file0001694774604Yes, I’m one of those people who mutters judgmental things like, “Doesn’t anyone learn proper English anymore?” while reading some of my students’ work. (And I teach mostly adults who are smart, so it’s not just kids today.) In my calmer moments I simply think that everyone should be required to take basic grammar and punctuation (or test out of it) before embarking on any more advanced writing classes in specific genres. Gotham Writers Workshop, where I teach, has a nice one-day class on the basics.

If you fear you’re at all shaky on punctuation or grammar, you can also check out the following:

The classic, Elements of Style (a.k.a. “Strunk & White”)

One Direction member Harry Styles (just kidding … except not)’s adorable interactive punctuation guide

Purdue University’s Online Writing Lab Guide to Punctuation

Steven Pinker’s The Sense of Style (for an advanced, meaty read)


  1. Thanks for posting the resources… I think one of the issues here is the emphasis on STEM at the sacrifice of language arts. But it’s also not that simple because I end up dealing with work from all ages including Senior Citizens who brag, “When I went to school…” I sometimes am tempted to add, “…you didn’t pay attention in English class.” A secondary issue is apathy. People don’t care about the rules. I do wonder what impact grammar and spelling checkers will have over the long term… although a lot of people clearly aren’t using either! One of the ways my high school English Teacher taught us to care about the rules was by convincing us that a good writer knows when to break them. How will you know when to break them if you don’t know what they are?

  2. If you teach adolescents, or if you’re an adult who likes sophomoric humor, try the website GRAMMAR BYTES! at for grammar rules and practice. P.S. You aren’t cranky–I recently heard someone opining about punctuation, saying that all future grammar rules in our “living language” are currently being set by a teenager who is texting every five minutes!

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