Why Johnny Can't Write

My daughter brought home some school work from her sixth grade grammar class. As a victim of the public schools myself, I have seen a fair amount of stupidity in my time; however, this piece has to be the stupidest thing I’ve ever read outside the New York Times.

Poorly written questions from my sixth grade daughter's grammar test

I’ve made the point before that Words Matter. I’ve taken professional writers to task for abominable writing. Obviously, we all make mistakes from time to time from haste, exhaustion, occasional carelessness or, as in the case of this post, the combination of amusement and anger that makes it impossible to see straight. Clearly there are lots of silly “never” rules that aren’t actually rules, whether it’s Churchill’s favorite regarding prepositions or my own favorite regarding starting a sentence with a conjunction. But, there is one rule that is “always” true, that trumps all the others and that this example of poor writing completely violates – write so that your meaning is clear.

If I see an adverb directly in front of a verb, I don’t say anything. If I read parts of the predicate in the subject part of a sentence, I don’t say anything. Apparently the writer of this test on good writing intended to ask something along the lines of “What is an adverb directly in front of a verb called?” and “What is a predicate in the subject part of a sentence called?”, because the correct answer to the questions she actually asked is “Nothing.”

Education,writing,Words Matter

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