Grammar and More, Sponsored by Portico Books Sample Icons To Represent Parts of Speech: Spring - Action Verb, Screw - Subordinating Conjunction, Glue - Conjunction, and N-Cube - Noun

Advanced Search
  Grammar and More on Facebook Fran Hamilton on LinkedIn

Portico Books
P.O. Box 6094
Chesterfield, MO 63006
Email Us

2000-2011 Portico Books
All rights reserved.

We Rated with RSAC!
Labeled with ICRA


LinguaPhile, April 2003

A monthly e-mail newsletter nurturing the development and enjoyment of English language arts at home and at school.


Poetry Month

Although many teachers prefer to integrate poetry with the language arts curriculum throughout the school year rather than to relegate it to one month, April is designated as "poetry month." Much of this newsletter, therefore, is about poetry.

The April 2001 "LinguaPhile" was likewise devoted to poetry, particularly writing poetry:

Back to Top

April Fool's Day Rules for Writers

More than twenty years ago, William Safire, longtime language columnist for The New York Times, solicited "perverse rules of grammar" such as these from his readers. In this way he acquired a great many of them, some of which he published in his column as "Fumblerules of Grammar." Some of the rules below are from Safire's list or its addendum. Others were generated by various people over the years. You can find more "fumblerules" in Safire's book On Language, pages 99-101.

 1. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.

 2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.

 3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

 4. The adverb always follows the verb.

 5. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

 6. Writing carefully, dangling participles must be avoided.

 7. Avoid clichés like the plague. (They're old hat.)

 8. One should never generalize.

 9. Be more or less specific.

10. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

11. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies.

12. No sentence fragments.

13. Always avoid annoying alliteration.

14. Don't use no double negatives.

15. Never use a long word when a diminutive one will suffice.

16. Contractions aren't necessary and shouldn't be used.

17. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Who needs rhetorical questions?

20. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."

21. The passive voice is to be avoided.

22. A writer must not shift your point of view.

23. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.

24. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

25. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

26. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.

27. Avoid trendy locutions that sound flaky.

28. Don't overuse exclamation marks!!!!!!!

29. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

Back to Top

New Tax Deduction for Teachers

Effective on 2002 taxes, an educator (K-12) working in a school for at least 900 hours during a school year may deduct up to $250 per year for money spent on classroom materials. This deduction is taken on line 23 of form 1040. No foolin' here!

Teachers, this makes Hands-On English materials even more economical!

Back to Top

Upcoming Exhibits: Book Arts Fair, IAHE, NCEA

Taproots School of the Arts is sponsoring its second annual Book Arts Fair Saturday and Sunday, April 5 and 6. The Book Arts Fair will feature exhibits of professional and student work in the book and paper arts -- including papermaking, letterpress, calligraphy, bookbinding, and artists' books -- as well as an artists' market. The fair will also feature music, poetry readings, storytelling, and hands-on art activities for children and adults. Food will be available for purchase.

This is a wonderful opportunity to introduce your children to the ancient arts of bookmaking that have now become mechanized. Be sure to stop by the Portico Books table to say hello to Fran and take a look at Hands-On English. The fair, which will be held at the Taproots facility at 4021 Iowa Avenue, will be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday and from noon to 4:00 p.m. on Sunday. Admission is $5.00 for anyone over 11 years of age. Admission for children age 5 to 11 is $2.00. There is no charge for children under 5.

For more information about Taproots and the Book Arts Fair (including a map to the site) see


Conferences are a great place to
 • get a firsthand look at Hands-On English products
 • introduce your colleagues to Hands-On English products
 • give feedback on products you're using (including suggestions!)
 • get your questions answered
 • avoid shipping costs on Hands-On English purchases

If you will be attending one of these conferences, be sure to stop by the Portico Books booth to say hello to Fran. Take your friends along!

• April 11-12: IAHE (Indiana Association of Home Educators), Indianapolis (Booth 528)
  • Fran will present a workshop about Hands-On English Friday at 11:00 in Room 115.

• April 23-25: NCEA (National Catholic Educational Association) 100th Annual Convention, St. Louis (Booth 1424)

If you will not be attending these conferences but know people who will be, please encourage them to stop by the Portico Books booth.

Becoming familiar with Hands-On English products on the website can give you a good background for seeing the products in person:

Back to Top

Workshop: St. Louis

On Saturday, May 3, Fran will present a workshop sponsored by the St. Louis Writers Guild. Titled "Writing Strong Sentences," the two-hour interactive workshop will focus on using sentence structure and conciseness to express ideas effectively.

The workshop will be held at 10:00 a.m. at Barnes & Noble, 9618 Watson Road in Crestwood, Missouri. Admission is free for members of the St. Louis Writers Guild; the charge for others is $5.00.

Back to Top

Quote of the Month: Poetry

"Like a piece of ice on a hot stove, the poem must ride on its own melting."
--Robert Frost, U.S. poet (1874-1963)

Back to Top

Sharpen Your Vocabulary: juxtapose

Although this word is likely to be familiar to you, it is worth considering in the context of poetry -- or any literature, even any art. Juxtapose means "to place side by side for purposes of comparison or contrast." The noun form is juxtaposition. An artist can make a powerful statement simply by juxtaposing items (or ideas) that do not usually occur together. For an example of juxtaposition, see the example of the found poem near the end of this newsletter.

Hands-On English includes nearly 200 morphemes, along with their meanings and examples. Knowing the meanings of morphemes can help you unlock hundreds of words the first time you encounter them. Reviewers of Hands-On English have said that the vocabulary section alone is worth the book's modest purchase price. Learn more -- and place your order -- at

Back to Top

Q and A: An Author or a Writer?

Question: I recently met someone who introduced himself as an author. Exactly what is the difference between an author and a writer?

Answer: Writer and author have very similar denotations; the two words could easily designate the same person. Writer is defined as "one who writes books, articles, stories, etc., especially as a profession." Author is defined as "one who writes a novel, poem, essay, etc."

To me, author more closely identifies the person with the work; it implies publication. A "writer" may engage in the writing process for a lifetime and never publish anything -- or even finish anything. To explore the connotative differences between the words (the different responses they evoke), consider your thoughts and feelings when the person introduced himself as an "author." How would they have been different if he had introduced himself as a "writer"?

Hands-On English will put a wealth of information at your fingertips so that you can quickly find what you need to know about grammar, usage, capitalization, punctuation, spelling, and more. Get details -- and place your order -- at

We invite your questions for this feature:

Back to Top

A New Book About Reading Poetry

My plan for this month was to review a book about reading poetry. I will spare you the saga of my quest for this rarity.

The great news, however, is that a new book by Paul Janeczko is being released today! The book is titled Opening a Door: Reading Poetry in the Middle School Classroom. Having admired many of Janeczko's anthologies, as well as his excellent How to Write Poetry (reviewed in the April 2001 LinguaPhile), I would recommend this new book sight unseen. I hope to review it soon.

Published by Scholastic Teaching Resources, 2003.
Available from Opening a Door: Reading Poetry in the Middle School Classroom

Back to Top

"Found" Poetry

"Found" poetry can be an effective bridge between reading poetry and writing it. Annie Dillard, extraordinary writer and teacher of writing, has called found poetry "editing at its extreme." Found poetry begins with the serendipitous discovery of poetic language in some type of prose -- in the newspaper, perhaps, in an ad, on a menu, anywhere.

In a pure found poem, none of the discovered words are changed; their sequence remains intact, and no words are added. The "poet" simply selects the words he or she wishes to use and arranges them with appropriate line breaks. Ultimate editing indeed! Sometimes the message of the found poem may be very different from that of the original. The poet, after all, has altered the landscape. Even the addition of a title can give the poem a new slant or a new level of meaning.

Most found poems are of the impure variety, however. While one still begins with discovered language, the sequence of words can be changed, and words can be added to smooth out the connections between the fragments.

In Teaching 10 Fabulous Forms of Poetry Paul Janeczko offers these suggestions for creating found poems:

1. To jump-start this process for students, you might supply them with prose passages that are likely to yield found poems.

2. After students have found the words they want to use, have them write each one on a separate piece of paper. This expedites the rearrangement of the words. Once a pleasing arrangement has been found, the student should write it down, and then see if another pleasing arrangement is possible.

3. Another way to create a found poem is to cut words and phrases from headlines and arrange them in a way that "delights and surprises" the reader. It is most effective if the words (no more than fifty) relate to a topic or theme.

Found poetry heightens the poet's awareness of language -- its sound, its imagery, the juxtaposition of ideas -- and encourages the economy of words that is characteristic of poetry. Focusing attention on arrangement of words helps to create a sense of "the line" as a unit in poetry. It frees students from the notion that all poems must rhyme, and it helps them to find good ending points for lines when they do not have rhyme as a cue. Last -- but certainly not least -- found poetry can show students that editing can be fun and rewarding.

Back to Top

A Found Poem in Progress: "In the Comfort of Our Homes"

The following will give you an idea of what is possible with a found poem. The excerpted chunks, however, are larger than in most found poems. Usually the poet would cull words or phrases rather than whole sentences. A second difference is that the idea for this poem originated before the text was even generated. Therefore, I had to seek out the text rather than stumble across it.

All of the words included in this poem were broadcast on CBS during a recent game in the NCAA tournament; they have simply been rearranged. While I could have come up with my own words to express the idea, using the actual words seemed to add a dimension of realism to the poem. The language is not especially poetic; the entire poem hinges on juxtaposition.

                   In the Comfort of Our Homes

They’re playing
just two hours from campus,
          Fifty miles south of Baghdad,
Looking for a return trip
to college basketball’s Holy Land --
Two teams competing for the same dream.

Is there a homefield advantage?
Cast your vote.

          U.S. ground troops are resupplying
          and maneuvering
          in front of Republican Guard divisions
          south of Baghdad
          but have not yet fully engaged them
          and may not for a while.

This zone has them absolutely baffled.
They’re not getting the ball inside
where they need to.
They have to step up the penetration.

          The aerial attack
          in and around the capital
          is intensifying
          with big explosions
          again rocking the city and beyond.

They have to balance being patient
with being passive.
They’re in for a long day.

          Iraqi forces
          are setting fires in the city
          to create a smoke screen.

They have to disrupt their rhythm
and run off their defense.

          The driver,
          cool as could be,
          opened the trunk,
          detonating the bomb,
          killing himself,
          the four soldiers,
          and a bicyclist,
          who was riding by.

He has to cover the shooter.

          U.S. soldiers
          now have shoot-to-kill orders
          for any driver
          who ignores instructions
          to stop at a check point.

Talk about being physical --
normally you think of it
down in the trenches.

          A UH-1 Huey helicopter
          has crashed in southern Iraq.
          Reports are that three are dead.

    No man is an island.
    No man stands alone.
    Each man’s joy is joy to me.
    Each man’s grief is my own.

They executed their strategic plan.

          The most dangerous days
          for U.S. forces
          are still ahead.

Back to Top

Puzzler: Terse Verse

A. Express each of the following ideas as a two-word rhyming phrase. For example, "a minor car accident" could be called a "fender bender." The number in parentheses indicates the number of syllables in each word.

1. obese piece of headgear (1)
2. devoted, enthusiastic domestic (2)
3. Trojan horse (2)
4. flea with bad manners (3)
5. rural areas adorned with flowers (3)
6. belligerent cactus (3)
7. unimaginative glass collage (3)
8. one who is both artistic and austere (3)
9. law governing air travel (4)

B. Now make up some "terse verses" of your own. First get the pair of rhyming words. Then come up with the clue. Send your favorites to include in next month's LinguaPhile:

Answers to Part A next month.

Answer to March Puzzler

(Can you find the word described here? The first two letters mean a man, the first three letters mean a woman, the first four letters mean a great man, and all of the letters mean a great woman.) heroine

Back to Top

Thank you for reading. If you find LinguaPhile helpful and interesting, don't keep it a secret! Consider which of your friends would also enjoy it, and send them information about subscribing. We welcome your comments and suggestions:

The index to LinguaPhile, which is updated monthly, is now available in either a text or .doc format on the GrammarAndMore Web site:
This makes the information from previous issues readily accessible. You are encouraged to print the index for your convenience or to share it with friends. Why not send them the URL of the text version?
It's a gift you can give, yet still have for yourself!

© 2003 Fran Santoro Hamilton


FREE Newsletters

Subscribe to LinguaPhile
Subscribe to Acu-Write

View Cart/Checkout


Package Deal!
Add to Cart

Buy Hands-On English, the Activity Book (Reproducible Edition), and Hands-On Sentences for $50.00

Hands-On English, Second Edition (Handbook)
Add to Cart

The Activity Book (Practice Pages)
Reproducible Edition:
Add to Cart

Consumable Edition:
Add to Cart

Student Workbook:
Add to Cart

Hands-On Sentences (Card Game)
Add to Cart

Wild Card from Hands-On Sentences

Hands-On Icons (Visual Aids)
Add to Cart

Icon for Compound Sentence
Email this page to a friend!

About Portico Books



View Cart/Checkout