Teaching the importance of knowing your grammar


Trump sent a retired teacher a letter about gun policy. She fixed the grammar and sent it back.

I just read this article in The Washington Post and thought I’d share it with my students. You never know if you one day become the President of the United States, or perhaps more likely, the Prime Minister, if you live in Norway. Either way, wouldn’t it be embarrassing if you wrote a letter to a teacher who then sent the letter back to you with corrections? We use Peer review in class to practice correcting the mistakes students usually do when writing. And I often tell my students that when they start working they most likely will be able to have someone look over their work before publishing, or sharing it. Guess I was wrong. Or perhaps the President just has too much confidence.

When Yvonne Mason first opened the letter, she read it all the way through. It did, after all, have the president’s seal at the top and his signature at the bottom.

But sometime around the third read, something began to irk the retired teacher, who had spent 17 years of her life refining the English skills of middle and high school students:

Look at all these unnecessarily capitalized letters, she thought.  

“Federal” and “Nation” and “State” and “States” — common nouns capitalized as if they were proper nouns. And too many of the sentences began with the ninth letter of the alphabet:  “I signed into law” and “I also directed.”

The letter, with her name on it, was written on heavy, official-feeling paper. Some would see such a letter from the president as suitable for framing. But for Mason, there was an itch that could not go unscratched.

She took out a purple pen and did something she had done countless times with countless papers.

She started circling. The constant small mistakes — which have dogged the Trump White House since the president’s official Inauguration Day poster boasted that ‘no challenge is to great’ — have become, critics say, symbolic of the larger problems with Trump’s management style, in particular his lack of attention to detail and the carelessness with which he makes policy decisions.”

It’s a message Mason tried to drill into the minds of public school students for nearly two decades: How you speak, the words you choose and your mastery of the English language all convey something about you, whether you’re a high school sophomore or a junior senator.

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