Words Matter!

“Morals and manners will rise or decline with

our attention to grammar.”

Jason Chamberlain, 1911


Communicating effectively in two-dimensional media has been my passion, my gift, and was my career. The quote above was said at the inaugural address of Jason Chamberlain as he began his tenure as the President of the University of Vermont. I found it while I was developing a four-hour course designed to empower employees of various businesses to use the written word to send the messages that they really wanted to send.

It is one that has haunted me as I’ve seen the destruction of the medium over the years. The image above is one I recently shared on Facebook, where I questioned how much the writers of these headlines were paid. 

I will admit that I am a word nerd, but when I see a high school graduate who doesn’t know the difference between THAN and THEN, and hear that even college instructors are telling students not to bother with apostrophes, my teeth hurt! In addition, today I heard a talking head refer to emoticons as our new language, and that they should be taken as seriously as the written word!

With Americans looking for free rides from their government and personal responsibility a thing of the past, children no longer having fathers, and very few people even sending “Thank You” emails anymore, can anyone else see the truth in Mr. Chamberlain’s words? 


For any teachers out there – I have the easiest explanation for determining the placement of apostrophes EVER – I found it while I was teaching Business English to Accounting majors at a local community college back in the day! Leave a comment if you want to know it.



5 thoughts on “Words Matter!

  1. Oh, the grammar and punctuation errors I see on news outlet websites or even in newspapers themselves set my teeth on edge. I’ve been an English teacher for 22 years, and while my grammar is not always perfect, I do my best to make it so. I guess that makes me old fashioned!


  2. I love your collection. I have to admit that I had to look at the Mississippi literacy program headline a couple of times. It’s so true that you see what should be there. I’m interested in your tried and true method for teaching apostrophes. Never hurts to have another trick in the teaching bag!


    1. I’m happy to share it, Ramona!

      It started way back, when possession was shown by identifying the possessor, then saying “his” whatever, as in:

      “The clerk his desk…” (singular)
      “The clerks their desks…” (plural)

      Over time, the verbalization of this identification became blurred or slurred, so that all that was heard was the “s” sound. Enter the apostrophe, which is the symbol for letters missing. The apostrophe goes where the letters had been. In the singular example, the “hi” had been dropped, so the apostrophe stands in after the “k” in “clerk:”

      “The clerk’s desk.”

      In the plural, the entire word “their” was dropped, so the apostrophe goes AFTER the word “clerks:”

      “The clerks’ desks…”

      Until I read this explanation when I was a young adjunct professor, I had ALWAYS struggled with apostrophe placement when showing possession. I have never doubted how to do it since!

      Thanks for asking!


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