Anatomy of a book launch: Grammar Choices is proofed!

The verb proof refers to the process of “activating yeast” so that your bread will rise. I won’t torture the analogy too much, but I’ve just finishing proofing my textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers, which in its own way activates the final stages of the publishing process. Now, I just need to let it rise … OK, never mind.

Since I last wrote, a very patient typesetter has decoded the multiple layers of corrections and changes made by the editor, development editor, and myself to the “copy” (the marked-up version of the manuscript) and set the text as it will look in the printed book. I then read through everything to make sure nothing had slipped through and everything still made sense. Independently, a proofreader checked for typos, inconsistencies, and other oddities. Then, the editor–the wonderful Kelly Sippell, ESL manager for the University of Michigan Press–reconciled the two sets of proofs and scoured the whole book with her eagle eyes. That led to a bunch of gently worded questions like “are you sure this reference to section 4.11 is correct?” (there is no section 4.11). With those resolved, the book marches on towards final editing and printing, appearing on the shelves some time in September, we expect.

The strangest error we found was in a table of statistics that I’ve used in a data commentary exercise. The table shows how different generations use social media for job hunting. It’s from an authentic source, but I mistyped the labels so that the generations covered were X (18-29), Y (40-47), and boomers (48-65). Yep, I created a missing generation … which includes me! For the record, Generation Y is defined in the report as 30-47. That’s why we have proofreaders to make sure our bread doesn’t fall flat.

Update (9/10/12): Grammar Choices is now available, fully proofed!

(Image credit: Flikr, Creative Commons License)

It’s that time again …

It must be nearly Father’s Day because there’s been a spike of activity on the blog this week as readers find our annual discussion of the apostrophe (2010 and 2011).

Now it seems that the British government has heard our plea and is reinforcing the teaching of the apostrophe in the soon-to-be-revised National Curriculum for English. Perhaps future generations of English schoolchildren will be able to correct us all. The latest draft for primary (elementary) English includes:

There will be a focus on grammar – for instance, children will be expected to understand how to use the subjunctive and correct use of the apostrophe – for example, not using it to indicate plurals such as “I went to buy some apple’s” or using “it’s” as a possessive.

This raises the question of what the writers think they mean by the subjunctive: presumably the unreal conditional form if I were the Prime Minister unless they are trying to bring back the present subjunctive, We insist that apostrophes be taught better, which has all but vanished from British English.

From one grammar dad to another, happy Father’s Day!

Grammar Choices takes another step forward!

My new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers is one step closer to publication! This a picture of the copyedited manuscript (about a ream of paper!), which I have reviewed, revised, rewritten in places, and am now ready to put in a big box and send it to Ann Arbor.

This has been a really fascinating step in the development of the book because it involved a development editor who was not familiar with the project checking every word I wrote and making suggestions and corrections. Quite a lot has been changed at this stage – we found examples that didn’t make sense, exercises which were too hard, and explanations which were rather strange! My students have helped by pointing out questions they couldn’t answer and answers that didn’t fit the questions.

Now, the managing editor will review my comments and make final decisions, and then a typesetter will figure out how to interpret the multiple layers of notes to turn the manuscript into “pages” (basically a PDF proof of the book), which will be checked and revised again before we go to print. And good luck to the typesetter, as you can see!

Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers will be published by the University of Michigan Press, expected in August 2012.

TESOL 2012: Making Grammar Choices in Academic Writing

http://youtu.be/_EsMHFwJ5kM

This is a recording of my session at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia introducing my forthcoming textbook, “Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Students.” Thanks to the ELI’s videographer, Lowell Riethmuller!

This is a recording of my session at TESOL 2012 in Philadelphia introducing my forthcoming textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers from the University of Michigan Press (UPDATE: published, September 2012). Thanks to the ELI’s videographer, Lowell Riethmuller! You can also download the handout and other materials.

(Yes, I know the still image in the video frame looks like I’m performing a one-man show of Animal Farm, but I can’t seem to change it!  I’m surprisingly normal in the rest of it.)

Graduate Writing Sessions at TESOL 2012

If you’re in the great city of Philadelphia for TESOL 2012, please join me for two presentations on teaching graduate writing:

  • Making Grammar Choices in Advanced Academic Writing (introducing my new textbook, Grammar Choices for Graduate and Professional Writers from the University of Michigan Press). Thursday, 4pm, room 118B.
  • Preparing for Excellence: Strategies for Teaching Graduate Writing with Chris Feak, Grace Canseco, and Jennifer Greer. Friday, 10am, Marriot Independence Ballroom I.

Handouts, PowerPoints, and bibliographies available here.

Happy Valentine-apostrophe-s Day

I noticed that one of the most popular posts on the blog this week is our protracted discussion of the apostrophe in Fathers’/Father’s Day (continued here) because tomorrow is … drum roll, please …Valentine’s Day.

And this apostrophe isn’t controversial at all, thankfully. This pseudo-holiday is named for Saint Valentine (the History Channel has a very nice page on the unfortunate lover), and since the day belongs to him, grammatically it’s a straightforward possessive. So, stick the apostrophe before the -s and worry about more important things. Like giving your English teacher chocolate.

Of course, I could muddy the waters by reminding you that there is a countable common noun “valentine” (the card that you might send/receive), and thus a plural noun “valentines,” so if the day were actually re-named for the cards … well, never mind. If you hit on this page looking for the correct spelling, I doubt very much you’ll appreciate that line of thought.

Which reminds me to send a public v/Valentine to my lovely wife. Who said I’m not a romantic?

The Father’s/Fathers’ Day Apostrophe Debate Continues

In honor of yesterday’s celebration of fellow fathers, I am reposting a link to the post I wrote last year about the puzzling apostrophe in Father’s Day. Or is it Fathers’ day? This page is the most visited on my blog with over 200 hits this week alone (a record for me!), and has sparked a lively set of comments. Do add yours!

For the record, I spent a wonderful Father’s Day (my preference) playing with my son at the shore (not the “beach” or the “coast,” by the way in these parts) and I am now busy revising my new grammar textbook, due out some time next year. More blog posts coming soon, I hope.

The subjunctive is (just) alive and living in London

A colleague asked me the other day about the use of the subjunctive in British English. The subjunctive mood is a fairly infrequent feature of American English that finds its way into advanced grammar books and classes. It is used following certain verbs and adjectives that express demands or suggestions, for example:

  • We demand that taxes be lowered
  • The teacher recommended that she study harder.
  • It is essential that the class finish on time.

In the (projected) noun clauses, the verb in the subjunctive mood appears in its base form (like an infinitive without to). This means the subjunctive is only actually visible after third person singular subjects in certain tenses, as well as all passive verbs (be lowered). In other contexts, the subjunctive looks exactly like the indicative (the “normal” mood), so you could use the subjunctive without ever realizing it.

Most grammar books point to an interesting difference between British and American English here: British English no longer uses the subjunctive in this structure. Typically, students are told to use should instead:

  • We recommend that everyone should drink more water.

The question was whether should is always used, especially when the core meaning of this modal verb conflicts with the meaning of the main (introductory) clause. That is, can you require (=insist) that someone should (=ought to, but not essential) do something?

I’ve been playing with the BYU interface to the  British National Corpus to answer this, and the results are a little surprising. These searches were limited to the written section of the BNC. Continue reading “The subjunctive is (just) alive and living in London”

Happy Father’s Day. Or Fathers’ Day?

Update (5/15/16): Six years after posting, this remains the most popular entry on my blog, largely because once a year it starts to get hundreds of hits for about 3 days! I’m refreshing the content this year and removing some dubious Google search data. 

My two-year-old son gave me this great father’s day card this morning (I think mummy helped …), but the wording on the front got me wondering about a small grammar point: is it Father’s Day or Fathers’ Day? (That is, the day for daddy, or for all fathers?)

Pronunciation doesn’t help (the apostrophe is seen by very rarely heard), I still can’t figure out the correct syntax for COCA, and even using quotation marks on Google doesn’t distinguish between the two positions of the apostrophe.

So, I went to the source of it all: Hallmark, the greetings card company that has become an eponym for named days (Hallmark holidays). And sure enough, their standard phrasing is Father’s Day, which hasn’t changed since 2010 when I first looked.

But on the other side, there’s a Robin Williams movie from 1997 called Fathers’ Day.

A quick search reveals a lot of advice about the position of the apostrophe in this phrase — apostrophes are a common source of obsession for grammar pedants. Here’s the note from a fairly reliable site:

A number of American Holidays have possessive forms, and are peculiarly inconsistent. “Mother’s Day” and “Father’s Day” are easy enough, one parent at a time, and “Parents’ Day” is nicely pluralized, as is “Presidents’ Day” which celebrates the birthdays of both Washington and Lincoln. “All Souls’ Day (Halloween),” of course, takes a plural possessive. “Veterans Day” is plural but not possessive, for historical reasons shrouded in mystery. Martin Luther King Jr. Day has no possessive. “New Year’s Day,” “St. Valentine’s Day,” St. Patrick’s Day,” and “April Fool’s Day” all have their singular possessive form, and so, while we’re at it, does “Season’s Greetings.” Note that “Daylight Saving Time” is neither possessive nor plural.

I’m not sure it is this simple, though. In French, today is la fête des pères (Fathers’ Day), presumably because while a person may have only one father, it is all dads who are being fêted today.

Plus, more importantly, the assumption of “one parent at a time” falls somewhere between outdated and discriminatory: with divorce and remarriage widespread (thus, dads and stepdads), marriage equality the law of several lands (thus, two to four dads), and growing sensitivity to gender non-conformism (thus, transparent dad), I now feel that the most inclusive solution is to take out a marker and a bottle of Wite-Out (Tippex for fellow Brits) and change Father’s to Fathers’ Day.

Still, however you write it, happy holiday to my dad and all dads out there!