Saturday, 5 December 2015

Top 5 Grammar Resources

When I'm asked a grammar question, or even in my editing work, I often have to turn to other sources for advice. People often ask "What's the rule for...?" but there's no official book listing rules. In fact, English doesn't have an official body setting rules for the language. If it did, the language wouldn't be the lively, ever-changing tool that it is. Often grammarians will disagree. Nonetheless, there are generally agreed-upon conventions.

In fact, there are two distinct approaches to grammar: prescriptivist and descriptivist. Prescriptivism is the idea that the rules are set and we must follow them. Descriptivism is the idea that grammar is simply the description of how words convey meaning. For example, verbs change to convey whether an action is in the present, past or future. The general rule is to add -ed to make a verb in the past tense. But everyone understands when that rule is broken and someone says "Yesterday I carry heavy load." However, without the marker "yesterday" it gets harder to understand. So the more grammatical errors in a statement, the more likely the person receiving the message will be confused.

People learn to speak their native language without even being aware of the rules. And many speakers use non-standard variations of both grammar and pronunciation. Despite these facts, it is still necessary for people to be able to write standard English, especially in academic writing. Thus we often need to consult reliable sources.

1. Grammar Girl. Mignon Fogarty has to be the smartest grammarian out there. I've been listening to her podcasts since I got my first iPod 10 years ago. What I love about Grammar Girl is that she's so thorough. If she gets a grammar question, she researches the history of the usage, she consults Google ngram, and she has access to a wide variety of sources. If I search for a grammar question on line and Grammar Girl comes up in the search results, I usually go there first. Plus, last year in Poetry Month, I won her grammar poetry contest with my Ode to the Adverb, which she read on her podcast. You can buy her book as well.

 2. The Blue Book of Grammar. This site is in support of a book by the same name authored by Jane Strauss, who sadly has passed away. With free quizzes and lots of resources, it's a great place to determine the correct usage. Technically, grammar only refers to how words convey meaning. But frequently we include punctuation and capitalization and other issues of writing. The Blue Book of Grammar includes resources for all these language issues. If you really want a book on your bookshelf for reference, you can buy the Blue Book of Grammar at Amazon.

3. Grammar Monster. With daily tips, glossaries, common mistakes and a twitter feed, you'll find a lot of grammar resources at Grammar Monster. I like how thorough it is. There are a huge number of resources here, all gathered together on the homepage, so you can simply click through to the topic you are looking for. In addition to grammar, it provides tips on common mistakes, homophone errors and punctuation issues. This would be a great place to explore if you are learning English and simply want to learn.

4. English Page. Speaking of learning English, this site is designed for people learning English as a second language, but I like it too because it is so well organized and thorough. It contains plenty of tutorials and quizzes to help you reinforce your understanding. I highly recommend it.

5. English Grammar Online. This site has a real focus on verbs. Verbs are one of the most important areas of knowledge when learning English since they change into so many forms to convey meaning. This site also includes games and riddles, so it's a great place to play to improve your English skills. Try chatting with Egon the dragon-bot.

I hope you find these sites useful. Use the comments below to suggest other sites for grammar help. However, as always, spam will be deleted, so if it's not a grammar site forget it.

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at