Category Archives: Writing Tip

Grammar Fun with Censure vs. Censor

Censure vs. Censor

Censure: express severe disapproval of (someone or something), typically in a formal statement.

Censor: an official who examines material that is about to be released, such as books, movies, news, and art, and suppresses any parts that are considered obscene, politically unacceptable, or a threat to security

Not quite homonyms, not quite synonyms. These two words are interestingly similar yet different. Often if something is to be censored from text or viewing purposes it is often pen to censure. Of course there is a considerable about of subjective thought involved but still, they’re interesting.

Grammar Punk Sentence Example: L I 5 censor, censure

 While they had been concerned about ticking off the school censor with their slightly off-color skit, the drama class had not been prepared for the scathingly scornful censure received from the librarian, in triplicate no less.

Give it a try. Write a Grammar Punk Sentence with at least 5 words that contain the letters L and I and the words censor and censure.

Teachers, discuss these two similar but different words with your students. Ask for definitions, discuss their similarities and differences. Be careful asking for examples… Then get them writing! Preferably without the need for either censoring or censuring.

Then go to to find more ways to make writing—and grammar—fun.

Make Grammar Memorable with Grammar Punk


There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with the concept of core requirements, we have to start somewhere—and hopefully all end up in the same place: with students who are retaining what is being taught. It’s from that point that things can become complicated.

Just look at the evolution of the computer age washing over us like a tidal wave. Magically, even the youngest kids pick up the vagaries of keyboards and apps nearly without effort. Why? Because it means something to them, does something for them, or entertains them. That’s what we have to do with grammar.

I noticed a description for a search for Grammar Punk the other day that read, “Do we really need to teach grammar?” And I shouted at my computer, “Of course we do! Grammar is language! Grammar is communication! Grammar is writing! EVERYBODY needs to be able to write well!”

At least it should be all those things. What grammar is too often is…boring, seemingly pointlessly boring at that. Do students really need to know how a participle works? What splits an infinitive? What a gerund really does? The answer for the majority of students is no, they don’t. And they won’t remember those rules if you try to teach them.

This does not mean giving up on the whole idea of grammar teaching. Just ask the first math teacher you see how that argument works for them. We’re already in a heat for last place with math and science, reading and writing aren’t far behind. The grammar basics need to be drilled and practiced and applied through writing every day, every single day. Teaching those two concepts hand in hand will not only make the grammar rules make sense, they will gel with your students and they will remember them.

Whether you agree with Common Core not, grammar instruction is necessary, even vital.

What students HAVE to learn is strong writing skills. And they’re not. We’re failing them. And we can try to blame it on the truncated communication of texting, Twitter and Instagram but they are only partly to blame. Kids are writing, they just aren’t doing it well. Worse, they aren’t doing it enough.

The absolute best way to teach—and instill—the rules of grammar is through student’s writing. Period. They need to apply the rules and adapt to the rubrics by doing not by being lectured to. This is exactly why we created Grammar Punk. We think strong grammar knowledge can be instilled one sentence at a time and we think that strong writing skills will follow. Applying those strong writing skills will spill over into their other subjects and create a well-rounded learning experience. Their future college instructors will thank those Grammar Punk teachers. As will their future employers. To think it all started with a roll of the dice…


Create Grammar Fun with Summertime

Summertime, Summertime, Sum-Sum-Summertime!

Summer, ah summer. I used to literally live for summer’s coming. As a kid. From January 2 on it was a countdown to summer and namely, summer vacation. Because of course that was the double whammy of it all, SUMMER VACATION. Not just beautiful warm hot days lazing around a pool, hiking in the mountains, riding bikes, playing hopscotch (one of my all-time favorites) and on and on and on, summer was endless, summer was freedom, summer was there waiting. And altogether too short.

I didn’t realize it then but that idyll called summer was indeed destined to be short-lived. Who knew that as I grew older summer would lose that magical, ethereal feel? Who knew that I would even come to resent (if only slightly) the idea of summer? Who knew, as a kid, counting the school days as they crept closer to the end of May, that there would come a time, all too soon, that would end the concept of a summer stretching before you? What kid knows (in the front of their head) that summer happens without you?

How many of us adults find ourselves peering wistfully out of our office windows at the deep blue sky, cotton candy clouds and endless days? And aren’t those days just longer than they rightfully should be? So if you’re still young enough for summer vacation to mean SUMMER VACATION, don’t squander it. Relish it, be cognizant of it, enjoy every minute of it because adulthood is calling. And it lasts an awfully long time.

Teachers, ask your kids about summer. Then ask your fellow teachers how they feel about it. Then write about it. Go to to find more ways to make teaching grammar fun.

Grammar Fun with Minutiae

Texting—what are you talking about? Excruciating minutiae.

Excruciating minutiae—as entertainment. Or entertainment as excruciating minutiae.

Seinfeld (among others) perfected this particular form of entertainment. This concept is certainly not new (what is?) but I must say it’s getting to be perfected to a new level. Disturbingly so. I’m talking about texting, this counterfeit communication that has elevated the mundane to a sort of art form. Creating a new language (of sorts) aside, this is not a good thing.

I’ve griped about this before, the dumbing down of the language for the sake of expediency and quicker typing, but that’s hardly the point. Or the danger. Banality is the problem. The waste of gray matter is the problem. The sheer misuse of time is the problem. What are you all talking about?

Or not talking about? The other problem with this form of communication is a kind of love affair with the gadgets themselves, and the process itself. This is not an unforeseen phenomenon of course, it’s all part of the package. It’s fun to punch all those little buttons as quickly as you can and watch the words—or at least a semblance thereof—scroll across that tiny screen, it’s even addictive. And the technology just keeps getting better and easier to use and more tempting. Unfortunately, the communication itself is not keeping pace.

The truly worrisome thing as far as I’m concerned is that face-to-face communication will begin to deteriorate—more than it already is. Have you noticed the group of folk who, though gaggled together, are all glued to their little screens instead of actually talking to one another. I know in my own experience I have people in my life who can’t hold a conversation, simple or no, without checking almost constantly for incoming…whatever’s from their little gizmos. It is addictive. And it shouldn’t be. Because it’s not important, it’s not edifying, and it’s not necessary.

Now, I’m aware that my opinion may be on the controversial side, even, in some quarters, heretical. Having said that I will also go on to say I am in no ways, means, or stretches of the imagination a Luddite (define ) I am thrilled, participatory and widely applaud the onset of technology. I just think we’re wasting a lot of this cool stuff on…nothing. So stop it. Stop texting and try talking. Or writing in complete sentences. Or better yet, reading a book.

Teachers of English, grammar and writing, this is a great prompt sort of thing for your students. Have them argue their position (against mine if they want) but defend it—if they can.

Then go to to find more ways to make teaching grammar fun.

Teaching Grammar with Syllables and Grammar Punk

Syll | ab | les

Part of word with one vowel sound; a word or a part of a word that has only one vowel sound. For example “son” has one syllable and “father” has two syllables.

And ONOMATOPOEIA has six! I love long words as I believe has already been established. Part of what I love about long words—besides the fact that they usually have a lot of definition to them—is all those syllables. Syllables are our friends, honest. Think about it, breaking a word into syllables makes you more aware of one of my other favorite things: prefixes, roots, and suffixes, which gives you a heads up on the definition of said word. Being aware of syllables also helps with that pesky pronunciation thing.

We’ll get into inflection later since it’s another of my favorite and not so favorite things.

In the meantime, have fun with syllables. Teachers, challenge your students to push the syllables. List words offered on the board, shortest to longest. Then ask students to break the words down into their components and define them. Go for long words, short words, medium words. Everyday words (you’ll be surprised at how many regular words can get right up there as far as syllable count goes) exotic words, even foreign words (which will get your ELL kids involved!) and see how cool you can make your list.

Syllables rock!

Teaching English is fun with Grammar Punk.

Make Writing a Process with Grammar Punk

The beginning, middle and end of it all

Writing is a process. What a ghastly thought. Processes aren’t fun. Processes are tedious and cumbersome and I reiterate, not fun. Then again…

Process: a series of actions directed toward a specific aim

a series of natural occurrences that produce change or development

I know that sounds dry but it really shouldn’t. After all, most things in life involve a process of one kind or another. Creating something, anything is just another kind of process. The fun is in the getting there. Maybe that’s why writing can seem like such a chore, we’re not teaching kids how to enjoy the journey.

Our annual short story contest, The GP Creeper is just around the corner and we want stories! Lots and lots of stories. We always get lots and lots of stories, of course, but we just can’t get enough. Because we get to watch the process in action. There are story writers who have obviously been practicing the craft for a while, the journey is part of their repertoire. However, there are just as many stories from writers who are just beginning the journey, their path less smooth, their command less sure, but make the journey they have. How? By beginning their story, expanding the middle, and creating an ending. And as we read the entries we can clearly feel the satisfaction of reaching that journey’s end. They created a story that never existed before they wrote it! That’s power. And that’s powerful.

The best part of our contest is that we provide plenty of material to make the journey smoother, easier, and more fun. A lot more fun.

We want to encourage you to begin that journey. Begin at the beginning, flesh out the middle with the bones of a good voyage, and aspire to the end. And let us read.

Teaching Grammar with Listening

Good Listener—Good Listening

I’ve been told fairly often that I am a good listener. I thought of this the other day as I was on the receiving end of a rather long—semi-amusing—story concerning a missing sock and a stubborn preschooler—and I realized in the front of my head that I am indeed a good listener. Which of course means I am often on the other side of discourses that Which also means I am often the person who hears more than one side of the same stories—from different points of view. And while this can be interesting and even enlightening, it can also be quite awkward when you find yourself in the middle of a battle which you have no interest in—nor the wish to be wounded in said battle.

Anyway, I got to thinking about what makes me a good listener and I realized that you have to be good at listening to be a good listener. Not as easy as it sounds. It helps to find some little nugget of interest in the talker, empathy is a must, fascination with the human condition is a given, and being able to mentally balance your checkbook or complete the Times Crossword Puzzle while listening is helpful as well.

What was that? Did you say something?

Teachers of English, grammar and writing, talk to us. Ask your students what they think makes for a good listener—or good listening. What do you think? Write it down. Then go to to find more ways to make grammar fun.

Teaching Grammar with Funny Words

Heavens To Murgatroyd!

I work with a very nice lady who has a delightfully quirky way of exhibiting pique that does not involve profanity. Among my favorite of her expressions that include gems like “Geezo-Beezo”, “Cheese and Rice” and “Good grief”, is the inimitable “Heavens to Murgartroyd.”

Now this is an expression I think I’ve been aware of since I was a child and once I began researching it, it seems I was right.

‘Heavens to Murgatroyd’ is American in origin and dates from the mid 20th century. The expression was popularized by the cartoon character Snagglepuss – a regular on the Yogi Bear Show in the 1960s, and is a variant of the earlier ‘heavens to Betsy’.

The first use of the phrase wasn’t by Snagglepuss, (a pink mountain lion!) but actually comes from the 1944 film Meet the People. It was spoken by Bert Lahr, best remembered for his role as the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz. Snagglepuss’s voice was patterned on Lahr’s, along with the ‘heavens to Murgatroyd’ line.

Which is certainly more than you necessarily needed to know about this obscure expression. And I couldn’t find the etymology of murgatroyd and have no clue where or what or who it might be referring to. Which doesn’t really matter because it’s a catchy, if goofy little phrase that must not be absented from our lexicons.

So the next time you slam your finger in a drawer don’t let fly with a more mundane expletive, let loose with a hearty, “Heavens to Murgatroyd!” You’ll feel better for it, I promise.

Teachers of English, grammar, and writing, try this exercise on your students. Challenge them to make up their own unprofanities. Then insert them into a sentence. Then share!

Then go to to find more ways to get creative with grammar.