Write and Wrong


I was asked the other day for some help with grammar homework.

I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, I’m glad somebody is teaching grammar, and wish some of the reporters I work with regularly had had such a benefit. On the other hand, the particular assignment struck me as counterproductive.

The students were asked to decide which sentence used a simile, metaphor, personification, idiom or hyperbole.

So: nice to learn what these things mean. But recognizing them in a sentence is a pretty useless task. I mean, how often does someone note the use of literary devices on the page while reading?

And I can say pretty authoritatively that nobody sits down to write saying, “I’m going to get one simile and one metaphor on this page.”

I wish the students spent that homework time writing, with class time devoted to going over their writing and looking for ways to make it livelier. And, indeed, that might mean using some personification or an idiom. I bet it would teach them more than the current exercise.

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