- Who is Kew Comets versing this week?
- How much minutes until lunch?
Yes, this is a post about choosing the correct words (and giving the occasional thought to grammar and punctuation)*.
My kids think I’m pedantic, I know I’m right. On more than one occasion I’ve pointed them in the direction of the dictionary or grammar guides and said that if they find ‘versing’ or their peculiar use of ‘much’ in any of the books, they’re free to go wild.
So what are my go-to guides (apart from having a good dictionary and thesaurus)? A handful of terrific books, suitable for kids, explain simple spelling rules, grammar and choosing the right word.
The Silly Book of Weird and Wacky Words by Andy Seed focuses on word play – rhymes, puns, oxymorons and jokes. Kids will be busting to break out their bestest pleonasms and let you know that there’s a town in Dorset, England called Scratchy Bottom. Suitable for kids 7 years and over.
The Greatest Gatsby – A Visual Book of Grammar by Tohby Riddle is a visual guide to grammar. Riddle uses images and typography borrowed from the Gatsby-era to explain the fundamentals of grammar – it’s particularly useful for kids to ‘see’ examples rather than just ‘read’ examples of tenses of verbs, the various kinds of adjectives and sentence structure. (Note that Riddle co-authored the fabulous Word Spy series with Ursula Dubosarsky – there are two reference books and one activity book, all highly recommended). Suitable for kids 8 years and over.
How to get to the nitty-gritty of particular words? Jan Venolia’s The Right Word has useful tips for remembering spelling rules (for example stationary and stationery – stationery is for writing letters); selecting the correct word (effect or affect, prophecy or prophesy); and lots of words and phrases that kids may hear but aren’t necessarily in their school dictionaries – faux pas, halcyon days, laissez-faire.
Lastly, My Grammar and I (Or Should That Be Me?) by Caroline Taggart and J. A. Wines is a simple reference guide for grammar, with lots of examples and easy-to-remember rules.
Of course, none of this is likely to eradicate ‘versing’ – it’s persisted in our house for almost a decade, although I’m not ready to give up my well-worn speech about it quite yet, which goes like this:
“Mum, who are we versing on Sunday?”
“You won’t be ‘versing’ anyone. You will be playing against someone or maybe it will be Comets versus Redbacks,” I’ll reply automatically.
“OK, who are we playing?”
Because of the number of children in my house and the number of teams they’re in, I have this conversation approximately six times every week. It will be a sad, sad day when versing is deemed an acceptable word and my kids shout “It was Mum versing the Oxford Dictionary and the Dictionary won!”
*If there are any typos or grammatical errors in this post, please let me know (Murphy’s Law, there will be).