, , ,

My writing gigs have fallen off, so I decided to use my free time to improve my grammar. I felt a little silly registering for the Grammar Refresher class, but I took the plunge. Even though it is an online course and I am therefore invisible, it seemed a little strange circling back to an elementary school subject. But (yes, you can start a sentence with a coordinating conjunction – who knew?) I do enjoy learning, and maybe refreshing my skills will help me out of my writing slump. I’ve been thinking about it for a while.

Textbroker, one of the online sites I write for, held a workshop a couple of years ago. I had a great time meeting the staff – the live editors and administrators from behind the curtain of the virtual world. In one session, one of the staff gave a short grammar lesson. The way those participial phrase and compound predicate terms gently rolled off his tongue was both impressive and intimidating. Since then, I’ve been thinking I should go back to basics, but never did until I decided I wanted to ace the grammar test on Elance, another writing haunt of mine. Testing is optional, but high scores reap bragging rights and a display on your profile.

Surprisingly, re-learning not as easy as it sounds. I know how to construct a sentence, can spot a phrase or fragment a mile away, and have a clear recollection of nouns and verbs. It seems that’s part of the problem though. We get so used to self-editing on the basis that something just doesn’t sound or look right, that we forget why it’s right or wrong and lack the terminology to explain it. What are the eight parts of speech? What must a pronoun agree with? How do you transform a prepositional phrase into a complete sentence? What’s the difference between an infinitive and a gerund? Oh my!

Hopefully, by the end of the class these terms will no longer sound like an alien language and remain forever affixed to my memory bank. I have a collection of grammar sites to help me practice, including Grammar Girl, FunBrain, Online Writing Lab and Purdue Owl. If nothing else, my brain cells will not atrophy and all my future posts will be grammatically correct!