What if I’m Not a Grammarian or a Particularly Good Writer?

By Rosette Liberman, co-author of The Cooperhill Style Book, http://cooperhillstylebook.com/

All parents ask themselves this question when they try to help their high schoolers revise their writing. After all, for most of us it’s been a long time since high school English. We ask ourselves should this be:

  • who or whom?
  • lie or lay?
  • me or I?
  • like or as?
  • bring or take?
  • different than or different from?

On a more advanced level, we want to help our children repair needless repetition, boring sentences, and heavy language that sounds as if it’s written by a humorless bureaucrat in some official cubicle. We know that an explanation doesn’t quite make sense, but we can’t exactly pinpoint the logical error. We can tell that something is not right in the way a piece of writing sounds, but we’re not sure how to identify the flaw and fix it.  The Cooper Hill Stylebook solves these problems easily and effectively by providing instant road maps not only to the book, but also to the student errors.

At the top of every page is the icon (3 parallel lines) for the Table of Contents. Click on the icon, and right in front of you are Shortcuts to Correcting. A click on the Quick Key to Marginal Comments gets you started with nearly 50 of some of the most common mistakes made by students. Click on misplaced modifier, for example, and you’ll find a quick definition of the term, and an example of the mistake as well as a correction. Even more importantly, you will also see a hyperlinked cross-reference to an in-depth study of this problem in §9 Placement of Modifiers. One click on that cross-reference brings you to a complete discussion of various types of modification problems, examples and explanations of each type, and 20 practice exercises, each of which has an instant answer and an explanation of why that’s a reasonable answer.

Another Shortcut to Correcting is the Correction Key at a Glance which is a 1-page summary of the Table of Contents. All the possible errors are grouped by units:

Grammar, Usage, Structure and Sense, Rhetorical Fallacies (logic), Rhetorical Figures, Spelling/Capitalization/Abbreviations, Punctuation, Quotations/Citations/Documentation. Use the names of the errors in each unit to find the ones that seem to fit the errors on the paper you’re correcting. It’s that simple.

To use The Stylebook as a textbook, employ the Correction Key at a Glance as a convenient overview of the text, that lets you plan out each area of study that you want to focus on. The Stylebook is an ideal textbook, in which every chapter is a complete lesson. Each chapter begins with a frequently-asked-question (faq) that defines the topic in language that’s classroom-tested for accessibility. Each topic is divided into subtopics that are discussed and illustrated by examples. The book contains over 1500 examples, all assessed for appropriate content. Every chapter concludes with from 5 to 50 practice exercises, each with an instant answer and explanation. The subjects, often humorous, are drawn from literature, history, pop culture, sports, mechanics, etc. All the topics are directly related to writing skills.

For parents who want to be sure that their children are mastering Common Core Language Standards, a list of the Standards on page 1 is cross-referenced to the relevant Stylebook chapters.

So, if you’re not a grammarian or a particularly good writer, don’t despair. The Cooper Hill Stylebook can make you one. RL

Author: Michael Leppert

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