Category Archives: Writing Tip

Make Grammar Fun with Headlines

Oregon Man Accused of Killing Parents, Found in Freezer

Okay, who exactly was in the freezer? Seriously, I read this headline and fully expected to find the suspected killer in the freezer. Instead it was of course the victims who were in the freezer. I’m sure the headline author thought that comma would explain everything—I guess. Otherwise why put the silly thing in?

In any case they are wrong! It’s a nonsensical sentence. Worse, it’s needlessly nonsensical. If you’re just looking at sheer number or words Oregon Man Accused of Killing Parents, Putting Them In Freezer is only one extra word—except that way it actually makes sense—and they get to keep the comma.

Teachers, discuss this headline with your students. Ask them to create their own headlines—good and bad. Then get them writing the story hinted at by the headline.

Go to to find more ways to get them writing.

Get Them Writing with Grammar Punk

That particular piece of advice always sounds good, but the fact is, it doesn’t really help all that much when one is staring at a blank page. The key is to narrow things down to more manageable topics.

Try writing what you…

  • What do you like?
  • What interests you?
  • What piques your curiosity?
  • What scares you, makes you laugh, makes you cry, makes you wonder why?
  • What kind of things do you like to read?
  • What kind of movies/television do you like?
  • What genres are your favorites? Mystery, horror, romance, fantasy, sci-fi?
  • Look to your own life. Pets, siblings, uncles, aunts, neighbors, friends can all provide fictional (or non-fictional) fodder. A funny thing happened when…
  • I was so scared when…
  • I have always wanted to (fill in the blank)
  • Change the ending. The wonderful thing about fiction is…it doesn’t have to be real
  • Once you find a topic that intrigues do some research. Finding out more about the topic can launch you on an angle for the story.

What they are writing about matters less than the fact that they are writing. Making writing something that comes easily through sheer repetition will be an invaluable skill, one they can look back and blame on their favorite teacher.

Get Them Writing with Grammar Punk

Get Scary with Grammar Punk

I’ve often heard how hard it is to write funny. It’s true that funny can be difficult to pin down. There are things like timing, word choice, necessary imagery; funny can definitely be hard to capture or even define. Scary, on the other hand, seems to take many shapes and forms. Scary can even be funny.

Nevertheless, scary can be just as tricky because it is so easy to get carried away. Over the top gore, flying body parts and viscous goo leaking everywhere can certainly be frightful, unfortunately, it can just as easily be just…disgusting, revolting and nauseating, and in the end, not all
that scary.

For a lot of people, young and not so young, the thought of writing a short story is nothing short of terrifying. Certainly daunting, unnerving and even seemingly impossible. Pshaw! I say. Writing short stories is a blast. And it is easier than you think.

Short stories contain three basic elements: a beginning, a middle and an end. I know that sounds simplistic but really, doesn’t every story, no matter its length? Another way to look at is that the story tells you that something happened. It then goes on to tell you what happened, who it
happened to, how, where, when and why and what happened because of what happened. Clear as mud, right? Let’s break it down a bit more.

Using the prompts from the (8th Annual) GP Creeper Short Story Contest prompts, let’s give it a try.

A terrified writer who is hiding something finds herself in an empty town. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

Okay, so what is she terrified of? Why is the town empty? Where is it? When is it? What is she hiding? What wasn’t supposed to happen?
The story will answer those questions.

The writer is terrified she’s caused the town to be suddenly empty, she just can’t remember why—or what she might have done. She’s hiding
shadowy, hideous memories of…wishing them all away so she could have quiet to finish her novel. She had never meant things to go so far. And now that she’s alone, what will happen to her? What if they all come back? What if they are very, very angry at her? What will happen next? How will it all turn out?

Just like that you have the fixings for a story. Challenging students to write short stories is the ultimate fun grammar lesson. Offering them a competition, even better. Writing with a purpose is the difference between writing because you have to and writing because you want to. You may be surprised at how addicting it can be.  Create fun grammar lessons by giving them a reason to write.

Get Batty with Grammar Punk

Vampire, Shmampires! It’s vampire bats that freak me out! It’s quite creepy enough to know that there are insects whose sole source of food is blood, but a mammal? Ewww!

According to National Geographic, Vampire bats sleep during the day in total darkness, suspended upside down from the roofs of caves. They typically gather in colonies of about 100 animals, but sometimes live in groups of 1,000 or more. In one year, a 100-bat colony can drink the blood of 25 cows.

During the darkest part of the night, common vampire bats emerge to hunt. Sleeping cattle and horses are their usual victims, but they have been known to feed on people as well. The bats drink their victim’s blood for about 30 minutes. They don’t remove enough blood to harm their host, but their bites can cause nasty infections and disease.

Vampire bats strike their victims from the ground. They land near their prey and approach it on all fours. The bats have few teeth because of their liquid diet, but those they have are razor sharp. Each bat has a heat sensor on its nose that points it toward a spot where warm blood is flowing just beneath its victim’s skin. After putting the bite on an animal, the vampire bat laps up the flowing blood with its tongue. Its saliva prevents the blood from clotting.

I repeat, Eeeew!

It’s obvious where the blood-sucking vampire thing comes from but for the creepy factor some hairy winged rat-thing sucking on my neck is worse. Or at least as bad.

Teachers, this is a great Halloween-type discussion to have with your students. Especially the squeamish ones.

Grammar Fun with School Mascots

Let’s face it, school mascots are just a little bit odd—and sometimes even a tiny bit creepy, especially when life-sized and animated, bouncing across a gymnasium floor. Some mascots need not be animated by an outside force but come complete that way. Such critters as dogs, goats, donkeys, even monkeys and the occasional lion cub may   appear at a sporting event all in the name of camaraderie and team spirit. And they don’t always belong to the animal kingdom. There are pirates, cavemen, cowboys, Vikings, and warriors of all shapes and sizes.

Mascots are not just for the upper grades, older students, the lower grades often favor bunnies,               hamsters, the occasional goldfish, possibly a garter snake, finding a home in the classroom and being taken care of by the students.

Mascots have been around a long time, a very long time. Cavemen used masks and costumes to gather strength for hunts and battles.       According to Ruth           Alexander, Professor at the University of Florida, the history of the school mascot, began in early intercollegiate sports. Schools needed a way to set apart their school, develop an air of uniqueness. The very first mascots appear at Ivy League schools, such as Yale, Harvard, and Brown. The phenomenon grew and schools mascots quickly   became household names and proud identifiers. The mascot signifies a proud heritage and continual identification by students well past graduation, embodying the spirit of the school. Did you know it is considered bad luck to unmask a school mascot? In news photographs, a mascot’s face is often blurred if they’ve removed their costume’s head to say, take a drink of     water.

Which is all well and good and we’re all for school spirit, but seriously, have you really looked at some of the mascots adorning school marquis? I guess if your intent is to intimidate opposing schools during sporting events a snarling crocodile, a ferocious lion, a menacing warrior is a nice choice but I’m not sure I’d want to wear one on a T-shirt.


Make Grammar Fun with Lonely

It’s Lonely Out There!

Is there anything better than a Shakespearean word? Especially ones he’s coined himself! I ran across a list of words that the Bard is thought to have reinvented or at least adapted and is purported to be the first to actually write them down. Close enough for me.

Here’s a wonderful one:

Definition: Sad from being apart from other people
Origin: “Alone” was first shortened to “lone” in the 1400s.
Quote: “Believe’t not lightly – though I go alone / Like to a lonely dragon that his fen –Coriolanus

It doesn’t seem possible that lonely was so late in coming. How did people express angst pre Shakespeare? Apparently, it was possible to just be alone without necessarily feeling lonely.

Just like that we have yet another descriptive adjective that has stood us in good stead. Thanks, Willy!

Teachers, make a fun grammar lesson out of this evocative word. Discuss with your class the differences between alone and lonely. Have them use the two words in sentences. Talk about why Shakespeare might have felt the need to make the change. Discuss the impulses needed to go from alone to lone to lonely. Talk about dragons! Relish the gall of the man! Go to for more fun ideas to make grammar the best part of the day.

Make Grammar Fun with A Word With You

Emendations: to correct or alter a text in order to improve it; correct mistakes in writing before printing. To correct mistakes in something, especially a piece of writing before it is printed

Not to be confused with the word amend—though they are similar in sound and very similar in definition. Amend: to make changes to something, especially a piece of text, in order to improve or correct it.

Emend is a transitive verb where amend is merely a verb. A transitive verb requires one or more objects in a sentence. Amend also has other meanings. All in all, this is one of those words that don’t see a lot of use but it’s still a good one to have on hand. Especially if you want to vex someone in your next Scrabble match.

Grammar Punk Sentence: N E 5 emend

Against her vehement objections, Clementine’s text was emended in the second draft.

Give it a try. Write a Grammar Punk sentence that includes at least 5 words that contain the letters N and E and the word emend.