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From bane to boon

Readers ask me how I manage to construct complex sentences without grammatical errors. My answer is always the same: ‘Warriner’s English Grammar and Composition’.

In Junior High, I had two great English teachers. They were night and day when it came to their teaching style and curriculum. The only constant was the cursed Warriner’s grammar book.

“Today we’re diagramming sentences.” The class would give a collective groan. What was the point of breaking apart sentences and sticking every part of speech into a uniquely placed branch off the main clause? So what if “clause” is the object of the preposition “off”, and “main” is an adjective modifying “clause”? So what if “the” is the article of the object of the preposition? Why will I ever care?

That’s a question that answered itself over the years.

Is this why I’m so good at creating flowcharts in Visio?

There is another facet to my savant-like knowledge of grammar. I studied two foreign languages in Junior High. Learning Spanish and French forced me to return to grammar in order to understand the difference between adjectives and adverbs. The subjunctive tense left me baffled at first, but grammar helped me identify the exact place in the sentence where doubt or will shaded the sentence. Articles and prepositions were familiar friends.

5150 and the other books in that series were written in the first person present tense. There is no way I would have navigated the challenges of such a creative choice without my understanding of foreign grammar. Nothing makes you more aware of verb tense and person than a pop quiz in Spanish class!

I know now why our great teachers forced us to endure mental torture on beautiful spring days when we should have been outside playing. It was so I could write that previous sentence with confidence.