Graham’s World 3/5/2014

Hi, this is Graham R. Gnome bringing you another blog article for the Grammar 4 Writers website.

This blog includes tips for getting the most bang for your buck with the website along with other items of interest to writers.

Great Sentences – Break Down

“And the newcomers, particularly the beggars from the front of the church who were great experts in financial analysis, looked quickly at Juana’s old blue skirt, saw the tears in her shawl, appraised the green ribbon on her braids, read the age of Kino’s blanket and the thousand washings of his clothes, and set them down as poverty people and went along to see what kind of drama might develop.”  (The Pearl, by John Steinbeck)

Grammar breakdown

  • Independent clause = subject + compound verb
    • Newcomers looked…,saw…,appraised…,read…,set… and went…
    • Each verb has various complements and  modifiers
  • Subject (newcomers) renamed by appositive phrase
    • Newcomers = …beggars from… who…
  • Technically a complex sentence because of the dependent clause, who…analysis

Rhetorical breakdown – irony (outcome in contrast to expectations)

It seems ironic to portray beggars as financial experts, but then Steinbeck explains that beggars must size up the financial status of the people from whom they hope to get money.  Beggars do so by evaluating the clothes that people wear; this is their financial analysis.

Discussion – Would this long sentence be nearly as interesting without the detailed appositive with its ironic renaming of the newcomers?

Website Writing Spotlight: Appositives –Composition Activity

Perfect for meeting Speaking and Listening Standards (initiate discussion, integrate sources, and evaluate point of view) in addition to writing and language arts standards

The composition activity (an argument) delves into the use of appositives as advertising slogans.  The prewriting activities involve general research on a company and discussion about its advertising tagline.  The whole assignment is called “Reverse Advertising.”  It is modeled on the concept of reverse engineering where a product is disassembled to determine how it was made.  The advertising slogan is taken apart word by word to discover why it was created and what it hopes to convey about the company.

Your students will be engaged with such well-known taglines as “BMW. The Ultimate Driving Machine.”   This assignment makes clear to students that grammar is as important as words to convey meaning.

Really tricky grammar issues:  Elliptical clauses: Correct or Not?  If you have students who are grammar gurus, give them this question to research on the Internet and see what they come up with.  Here is AN answer.

Background on elliptical clauses.

What is this underlined portion?  It is another subject and verb but not the subject and verb of the sentence.

The movie she is attending begins at 7:00 PM.

What is this underlined portion? It begins with a subordinate conjunction but has no subject.

While attending the movie, she ate a large bag of popcorn.

The answer is that they are both dependent clauses with parts omitted.  These are called elliptical clauses.  THAT has been omitted from the first example and SHE WAS has been omitted from the second.

The movie THAT she is attending begins at 7:00 PM.

While SHE WAS attending the movie, she ate a large bag of popcorn.

Different sources will site different advice about when it is appropriate to drop these words.   Purdue OWL says never to drop a relative pronoun in formal English.  Other sources recognize these elliptical constructions as valid and sometimes preferable in formal English.

For students who are writing to an unknown and possibly judgmental audience it is best to avoid elliptical clauses.  However, when writing for oneself or for a less formal audience these constructs are acceptable and widespread.

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