Grammar and writing are tricky because you most likely use correct grammar and writing everyday but without quite knowing why.
It would be jarring to read ‘I saw a duck jump into a pond and he dove under the water for a wash’ – but your first explanation as to why probably won’t be that ‘it’s a compound sentence without a comma separating two independent clauses’.
Likewise, when describing something, you’re going to use an order of adjectives that looks something like this:
‘I have a magnificent, large, new, square, brown, Norwegian-oak bookshelf.’
Because describing it as ‘a square, Norwegian, brown, magnificent, large, oak, new bookshelf’ sounds insane, and confusing.
The ‘order of adjectives’ is another rule we often use without quite knowing why and it follows a set pattern:
Opinion > size > age > shape > colour > origin > material > purpose
Knowing the whys behind grammar and writing intuition is a great way to help your students understand grammar and writing. If you want to keep some books handy around the teacher’s staffroom or the lounge to brush up on these why’s, we’ve got some suggestions for you!
The Little Green Grammar Book
Mark Tredinnick, 2008
Now a classic, and one our favourites.
The Little Green Grammar book is more than a simple guide to the rules of grammar – it’s actually enjoyable to read.
Tredinnick incorporates humour, stories and examples of usage that are relatable and memorable. His approach to learning and using grammar is to understand it, ignore the ‘cardigan-wearing pedants’, and to discard the rules where it’s felt necessary.
Genuinely insightful and, at times, inspirational, it’s a fun romp through the world of grammar for teachers and students.
The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century
Steven Pinker, 2014
Pinker takes readers through a huge spectrum of writing and its structure and performance; from the whimsical all the way through to the intensely challenging.
Incorporating current events in education, culture, and the wider development of writing around the world, The Sense of Style feels like a guided tour on how to write and understanding the context around it.
If you’re looking for a new way to visualise and understand the current ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of writing, The Sense of Style is sure to tickle your senses.
Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase
Mark Forsyth, 2013
Here’s where the wisdom of adjective order is derived, and it’s just a taste of the work as a whole.
Elements of Eloquence examines the works of some of the greatest writers in history, analyzing their technique and approaches to show how you can get more impact, meaning and poetry out of writing.
Covering the use of alliteration, merism, hyperbaton and other terminology you might have forgotten after earning your degree, Elements of Eloquence is a powerful reminder of what language can be.
The Greatest Gatsby, A Visual Book of Grammar
Tohby Riddle, 2015
We know that pictures are remembered better than words, and in this one-of-a-kind book, renowned cartoonist Tohby Riddle has conceived an engaging, visual way of presenting grammar.
The Greatest Gatsby uses Ridddle’s characteristically gorgeous artwork with relatable— and often humorous— visual grammar examples that are suitable for adults and children alike.
Riddle also tackles many of the misunderstandings and common misuses of grammar in a way that is clear, concise, and precise.
The Greatest Gatsby is is loved by teachers, great for visual learners and for anyone who wants to see how the mechanics of language works.
Several short sentences about writing
In the spirit of doing one thing and doing it well, we couldn’t leave out Several short sentences.
Klinkenborg’s work is part instruction, part practice, illuminating the importance of the simple sentence as the basis off which all written work is comprised of, and how to concentrate on one sentence at a time.
Unlike other suggestions in this list, Several short sentences elegantly sidesteps prescription in favour of experience and insight. Working as a teacher in a University, Klinkenborg’s work follows a unique pedagogical styling that any educator can appreciate.
We’d highly recommend this for teachers looking to instruct or develop their students creative writing.