For the next few months, the Tuesday morning Writing Smartly posts will present an orderly review of the major topics of English grammar. The plan will be to coordinate these Tuesday morning posts with the ongoing Tuesday evening seminars, which will now have a new name: Tuesday Evening Grammar Class. If you find that a particular morning post addresses a topic you have been curious about, the discussion that same evening will explain the subject in more detail, amplify it with examples, and place it within the larger scheme of English grammar by reviewing topics connected with it. You will be able to enroll for the one-hour evening class through a registration link at the end of each Tuesday morning post; tuition is $25.

Three previous posts, The Essential Minimum, The Parts of Speech and Thought, and Verbs and the Verb, mark, in effect, the beginning of this new series, and they will give you a good foundation for the coming weeks. Next week’s post gets the series going in earnest with an explanation of how traditional grammar regards action, what we normally think of when we think about verbs. Grammar is a complex subject, but it can be made unnecessarily complicated when we don’t give enough attention at first to its theory, that is to say to the reasons behind its rules. We can certainly overdo theory, but we can also underdo it, and without knowing the principles of grammatical structure, our compositions, what we write in order to have a voice and be understood, risk remaining shapeless.

Shape, design, form—all of these words point to something that has meaning, something we can understand, something significant. Grammar does not have the exactitude of arithmetic, nor should we ever hope that it comes to that. In the hands of good writers, language retains a margin of the wild, a twist of unconventional, the unexpected. But the unexpected can take us by surprise and show us a new side to an idea just because we were expecting the expected, just because in the main language organizes itself by an accepted convention in order to get on efficiently with the regular work of the world. The rule-makers must companion themselves with the practitioners, and the two must realize that they work best, and best work, cooperatively. Then we may have some hope that our attempt to grasp and hold and share our understanding of things in words, thousands upon millions of words, will succeed in bringing some modicum of meaning to ourselves and others.

Here, then, is the schedule of topics for Tuesday morning posts and evening classes over the next few weeks as we approach our long-awaited spring:

March 16: Verbs of Action
March 23: Verbs of State
March 30: Personal Pronouns
April 6: Case Forms
April 13: Case Rules
April 20: Relative Pronouns
April 27: The Three Types of Sentences
May 4: Review to Date

If you would like to register now for all eight of these upcoming Tuesday evening classes, you may do so through this registration link. Also, please email me directly ( if you have questions, or if you would like to arrange for private instruction. Working with someone else, voicing our difficulties and frustrations about writing, can work wonders and renew our resolve to complete a project that has been looming over us, like winter, much too long.








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