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LinguaPhile, February 2004

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


Valentine's Day Special: A Poem of Love and Grammar

This poem, written by Janet M. Goldstein,* appeared in English Journal in February 1973. I have treasured it for more than three decades.

                          Life Sentence                             
                    In the English language,
                    word order
                    determines meaning.
                    I love you
                    is not the same as
                    You love me --
                    and so,
                    although you are the object
                    of my affections,
                    I am not the subject
                    of your thoughts;
                    and not even
                    fifty governors
                    could commute
                    this sentence.
1973 Janet M. Goldstein. Used with permission.

*Janet M. Goldstein, a former English teacher, is an editor at Townsend Press in New Jersey. She is the co-author of A Basic Reader for College Writers (Townsend Press, 1995) and English Brushup, 3/e (McGraw-Hill, 2003). Her most recent new book is Voices and Values: A Reader for Writers (Townsend Press, 2002). For more information visit

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Other February Resources

Past issues of LinguaPhile include articles that relate to February topics:

The origin of Valentine's Day

A book to help you write powerful, personal messages

February literary calendar

Presidents' Day anagrams

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Upcoming Conferences: Pathways to Student Success; IAHE

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!

March 1: Pathways to Student Success. Tan-Tar-A, Lake of the Ozarks, MO.                   

March 5-6: Indiana Association of Home Educators Convention. Indiana Convention Center, Indianapolis. Booth #104.
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:

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Looking Ahead to the 2004-2005 School Year

Although this school year is only about half over, educators are already planning for next year. As you select English books for your students, be sure to consider Hands-On English. While this is a valuable resource for teachers, it is even more effective when it is directly in the hands of the students. Having the information at their fingertips helps students develop independence and confidence with English.

A copy of Hands-On English for each student makes the teacher's job easier as well. When students can quickly find and understand the information they need, teachers can more easily meet the diverse needs of students in their classes.

Why not start by ordering a "Package," including Hands-On English, The Activity Book (reproducible practice pages), and Hands-On Sentences (a card game that provides practice with parts of speech and sentence construction)? You could use it as a supplement for the rest of this school year and think about ordering the handbook for your students for next year. Substantial discounts are available on quantity purchases.

You can order by phone, fax, snail mail, or on the Internet. MasterCard and Visa are accepted, and purchase orders are accepted from institutions.

If you have questions, or call (toll free) 1-888-641-5353. This number will also accept fax orders.

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The LinguaPhile Archive

If you've tried to access the November and January issues of LinguaPhile on the GrammarAndMore website, you've probably noticed that they aren't yet posted. I'm sorry for this delay. I hope to have the site brought up to date later this month.

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Quote of the Month: Revision

Natalie discovered that the editing process wasn't glamorous, and it wasn't a lot of fun, but at least it was creative. It was work -- slow, steady work. It was a careful look at every word, every sentence, paragraph, and chapter. It was a methodical tracing of each character, each storyline, each rise and fall of the action, each of the points along the path that led to the end of the book. And always, everything had to be judged to see if it supported the overall theme and the deeper ideas that made her book more than just a story.

--Andrew Clements in The School Story

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Sharpen Your Vocabulary: bellwether

In today's Super Tuesday election, there is much talk about "bellwether states." From the context, we can tell that a bellwether serves as a leader or an indicator of future trends. But where did this term originate?

Bellwether comes from Middle English. A "wether" is a type of male sheep. A wether or another sheep -- usually with a bell around its neck -- leads a flock.

Here is a quotation from Word Watch (1995) about language as a bellwether:
Language . . . is a bellwether of the times in which [people] reside. The stories behind key words of our era together constitute a sociolinguistic chronicle of the time of our lives.  For better or for worse, the dictionary editor is a chronicler of the people's beliefs, thoughts, actions, and behaviors.
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

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Q and A:  "Thank You in Advance"

Question: Many people write "Thank you in advance for . . . " Do we really need to have "in advance" in the sentence? What is your professional opinion?

Answer: Including "in advance" does not affect the grammatical correctness of the sentence. These commonly used words are unnecessary, however, and unnecessary words weaken writing.

Often we may thank someone in advance simply because it is more convenient for us to deliver the thank you with the request. It saves having to write a note in which the person is properly thanked after the favor is performed.

For smaller requests that may not require a separate note of appreciation, including a word of thanks with the request seems fine. We needn't say "in advance," which detracts from the "thank you" in that it reminds the person that the task needs to be done.

I believe that appreciation, like an apology, is most effectively expressed in a complete sentence. I was happy to see that in your original question you included the reason that you were thanking the person. Did you ever notice that the expression "thank you" omits a subject? Isn't appreciation more completely expressed when a subject is included: "I thank you for . . . " or "I appreciate your . . ."

Likewise, a common apology has become "Sorry." I believe that an apology should include a subject and a statement of what you are sorry for: "I'm sorry that I . . . " or "I'm sorry for . . . "

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:

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Review: The School Story by Andrew Clements

The School Story by Andrew Clements is a delightful book about a gifted sixth grader who writes a "great" middle school novel and gets it published by a major publisher.

The story is well paced, and the dialogue rings true. In Chapter 2, titled "A Portrait of the Author as a Young Girl," we learn the keys to this gifted writer's development. We get a child's perspective on reading aloud -- the security of her mother's calm voice versus the adventure of her father's embellishment. And always young Natalie imagined the author of the story and knew that someday she would be one herself.

The School Story provides an intimate look at the agonies and ecstasies of both writing and publishing. Natalie's mother works as an editor of children's books, affording Natalie knowledge of the system she must beat. Natalie wants her book to be accepted on its own merits, however. Her best friend, Zoe, decides that Natalie should use a pseudonym and that she herself should act as Natalie's agent. A little help from the girls' English teacher lends plausibility to their scheme.

We receive a couple of glimpses of The Cheater, Natalie's novel. This presents an opportunity to introduce young readers to the literary device of a story within a story. Natalie and Zoe sometimes grapple with the ethics of their plan and wonder if they themselves are cheaters.

In addition to sheer enjoyment and a behind-the-scenes look at how a book gets published, The School Story offers several lessons. It shows how research and persistence can lead to the realization of one's goals. It shows how revision can turn a good book into a great book. Above all, perhaps, it provides an example of encouragement. Without encouragement, Natalie wouldn't even have finished her novel, let alone pursued its publication.  Moreover, each of the major characters gains courage in the course of the story so that she is a braver person at the end than she was at the beginning.

The School Story is especially appropriate for fourth- to sixth-grade linguaphiles.

Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers in 2001; 197 pages.

Available from The School Story

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Puzzler: Word Riddle

Can you find a 15-letter word that suggests a good deal of anxiety and contains no ascenders (parts of letters sticking up, such as b) and no descenders (parts of letters hanging down, such as g)? (Hint: You might start by assembling the 14 letters that have no ascenders or descenders.)

Answers to January Puzzler

 1. high _____ man [chair; (highchair, chairman)]
 2. cottage _____ cake [cheese]
 3. golf _____ house [club]
 4. news _____ doll [paper]
 5. left _____ cuff [hand]
 6. precious _____ wall [stone]
 7. hi _____ knife [jack]
 8. police _____ hole [man]
 9. side _____ pet [car]
10. busy _____ line [bee]

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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. Those receiving this forwarded message can subscribe at . People who have e-mail but do not have Internet access can subscribe by clicking on this link and requesting to subscribe: .

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!

© 2004 Fran Santoro Hamilton


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