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LinguaPhile, November 2004

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

We welcome new subscribers from the IBIDA conference, the INPEC conference, the IDA conference, and the Meet Me in St. Louis Book Festival.


About These "Monthly" Newsletters

For several months now I've been thinking that "next month" I'd be back on my regular publishing schedule. I have now accepted the reality that that isn't likely to happen. For the foreseeable future LinguaPhile will continue to be published sporadically. I appreciate your patience and encouragement.

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Upcoming Conferences: NABE in San Antonio, CABE in Los Angeles

Hands-On English is currently being piloted with intermediate English learners in the Orange (CA) Unified School District. Teachers' initial response is enthusiastic.

In order to introduce these materials to more educators who work with people learning English as a subsequent language, Fran will be exhibiting at the following conferences:

National Association of Bilingual Educators (NABE), Booth #141, San Antonio, January 19-22, 2005

California Association of Bilingual Educators (CABE), Booth #906, Los Angeles, February 23-26, 2005

If you know people who are involved in bilingual education, please suggest that they consider Hands-On English for their students.

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Happy Holidays to You and Your Family

Best wishes to you and your family for happy holidays. For suggestions of ways to share family stories when you're together, see

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Help with Your Holiday Shopping

Consider doing some of your holiday shopping at the GrammarAndMore website. Not only can you order Hands-On English and its companion products, you can also read about seventy-five of Fran's favorite books and -- for most of them -- link immediately with the page on where you can make your purchase:

* * *

Hands-On English products (especially the handbook, the card game, the "Package," and the T-shirt) make wonderful holiday gifts for any of the following:

• any student 4th grade or older
• anyone who teaches English at any level
• an education student, student teacher, or beginning teacher (in any subject)
• a homeschooling family
• any family with school-age children
• people learning English as an additional language
• people trying to strengthen basic skills in order to improve their employment options
• anyone wanting quick access to English fundamentals

Think of your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, friends, neighbors, employees, baby-sitters, dog walkers. The list is endless!

Orders are generally filled within twenty-four hours of their receipt, so a prompt order should guarantee holiday delivery. You could even have your gift sent directly to the recipient. You can order directly from or call  1-888-641-5353.

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Quote of the Month: Sentence Length

A sentence may be as long as the writer pleases, provided that he confines it to a single connected range of ideas, and by careful punctuation prevents the reader from finding it either tedious or confusing.        

--Robert Graves and Alan Hodge, British writers

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Sharpen Your Vocabulary:  ellipsis

Sometimes people wonder what to call the "three dots" or "three periods" that indicate an omission of words, as in the following example:
Original: TV, though sometimes informative, can reduce a person's ability to think.
Quoted: "TV . . . can reduce a person's ability to think."

These "dots" are called an ellipsis, more precisely ellipsis points or points of ellipsis since other punctuation marks, such as a dash, can also indicate an omission.

Sometimes people use an indefinite number of points in an ellipsis. This is incorrect. Three points indicate the omission; if the omission occurs at the end of a grammatically complete sentence, a fourth point should be added immediately after the last word:
Original: (the Quote of the Month above)
Quoted: "A sentence may be as long as the writer pleases. . . ."
(This abridgment distorts the meaning of the original, a practice that should be avoided.)

The term ellipsis can also refer to words that are implied in a grammatical construction even though they are not stated:
He likes Tom better than me.
The ellipsis in the previous sentence is he likes (between than and me).
Hands-On English includes more than 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:  Those Weird Underlines

Question: Why do you put an underline before and after book and newsletter titles, such as _LinguaPhile_? It looks so weird.

Answer: Yes, it does look weird. I don't really like it and at first resisted using it. When considering the alternatives, however, it seems like the best choice. Here is the rationale:
1. Titles of major works (books, magazines, newspapers, movies, etc.) should be italicized or underlined.
2. Many people are unable to receive e-mail messages with underscoring or italic type.
3. Titles could be set off by using all caps. However, e-mail convention says that is the equivalent of shouting.
4. We, therefore are forced to choose between using the "weird underlines" or not setting the titles off at all. The former seems preferable.  

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: Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss

Eats, Shoots & Leaves is delightful -- and it seems to have drawn an audience far beyond the "sticklers," the "punctuation vigilantes," for whom it was originally written.

The voice of author Lynne Truss resounds on every page -- lively, witty, unmistakably British. (I’m grateful that she acknowledges that always tucking commas and periods inside closing quotation marks is an American convention. Even so, having an abundance of examples to the contrary in an authoritative volume such as this will almost certainly increase the threat to a sorely endangered punctuation rule.)

Truss recognizes punctuation marks -- beginning with the overburdened apostrophe -- as living entities. They were created centuries ago by printers, and their roles are constantly

Truss explains correct (and incorrect) uses of punctuation marks, even venturing into "murky" areas and interpreting differences of meaning that occur with the addition of an optional comma. Eats, Shoots & Leaves is not primarily a punctuation handbook, however.

In addition to Truss’s wit, one of the things I like best about her book is the history it includes: the origin of punctuation marks, excerpts from famous writers’ essays on punctuation, illustrations of punctuation use from literature of previous centuries. Truss includes an extensive bibliography for readers who want to venture further into the realm of punctuation.

As Lynne Truss says, "If there is one lesson to be learned from this book, it is that there is never a dull moment in the world of punctuation." And that is a lesson that most of the world can well stand to learn.

2004 McGraw-Hill. 235 pages.

Available from Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation

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Cat Punctuation by Janet M. Goldstein

                       into the room
                       sits up
                       an exclamation point                      
                       of imperious
                       with a lazy stretch
                       a series of commas
                       to rest
                       against my knees
                       and curl
                       into a period
                       of sleep.
Originally published in Cats magazine, July 1975. Reprinted with permission of the author. In addition to being a poet, cat lover, and former English teacher, Janet M. Goldstein is Executive Editor at Townsend Press in New Jersey and the lead author of Voices and Values: A Reader for Writers.

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Puzzler: An Escher-esque Paragraph

You've probably seen ambiguous drawings that can be two different things, depending on how you look at them. The following paragraph, part of the opener of the Mechanics section in Hands-On English, is the verbal equivalent. Can you find two different ways to punctuate the following paragraph -- so that you have two completely different meanings? (Hint: A sentence needn't begin with the subject.)

                        Memorable Students
they are the memorable students in any class they participate fully in any mischief they see no point in volunteering for extra jobs they delight in distracting their classmates they take no pleasure in learning they are never satisfied
Answer to September Puzzler (Common Bonds)

 1. motion  poke  down  [slow]
 2. made  cuff  left  [hand]
 3. painting  bowl  nail  [finger]
 4. house  village  golf  [green]
 5. man  wheel  high  [chair]
 6. blue  cake  cottage  [cheese]
 7. stool  powder  ball  [foot]
 8. card  knee  rope  [trick]
 9. snow  hole  police  [man]
10. spelling  line  busy  [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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