The Quick Brown Fox And Lazy Dog
Posted on 01.12.17 by Danny Glover @ 9:32 am

A pangram is a sentence or verse that contains all letters of the alphabet. One of the best-known pangrams is, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” And now here is the same English lesson in an entertaining video package.

I first saw this video on Twitter this morning and tracked the short clip back to a Reddit thread. But the brief clip actually is taken from a much longer video posted to YouTube nine years ago.

Filed under: Grammar and Just For Laughs and Video and Wildlife
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The Scoop On The INNformer
Posted on 07.07.15 by Danny Glover @ 9:52 pm

A Washington Post video about a fledgling newspaper that is produced in a historic West Virginia hotel helped the reporter on that story win a national award last month.

Lee Powell traveled to The Wells Inn in Sistersville, W.Va., last year to get the scoop on The INNformer, dubbing it a “bi-monthly miracle” in an era when newspapers are dying. Powell included the companion 4 1/2-minute video report in a a package of three stories that he submitted for an Edward R. Murrow Award for online writing. Powell won the award on June 24.

I’ve had my eye on The INNformer for nearly two years now, ever since media writer Jim Romenesko started mocking hotel/newspaper owner Charles Winslow over his quirky job ads. The free paper is published just a few miles from my hometown, and my parents get it delivered to their house. I skim the back issues when we visit and now have a stack of them at our home hundreds of miles away. I also check the paper’s Facebook page periodically.

Reading the paper as an experienced editor and reporter, I haven’t been impressed with the journalistic quality of The INNformer. Grammatical errors and typos are common — one issue was printed without standard masthead details like the date — and the writing can be bland. The paper also has missed multiple opportunities to tell compelling stories.

I can think of two from my hometown, which is part of the paper’s circulation area. The first story had great feature potential. When former Paden City High School band director Ed Hood died last summer, alumni and current band members paid tribute to him at a memorial service. It was a great news hook for exploring Hood’s legacy in building “The Biggest Little Band in the Land.”

The second, a shooting that left a man dead in Paden City, happened a month ago. That is big news in a small town, but the coverage overall has been sparse and confusing. It’s the perfect opening for an upstart newspaper to fill the void. Yet The INNformer dedicated only four superficial paragraphs to the shooting several days after it happened.

All that said, as a small-town boy who grew up reading daily and weekly newspapers in the Ohio Valley, I still appreciate the work The INNformer is doing. It’s the part-time passion of a local businessman who cares enough about his community to produce a paper that is likely more hassle than it’s worth in terms of revenue.

The newspaper is quaint, like the hotel where it is created. And although the journalism is sometimes lacking, it is improving. It’s also welcomed by readers who aren’t as critical (for better or worse) as seasoned journalists like me. “It’s something everybody looks forward to,” one reader told the Post.

Given enough time, dedication and desire, Winslow could become the next Adam Kelly of West Virginia journalism. Kelly, the “country editor” who owned and ran the Tyler Star News, was a fixture in Sistersville, Paden City and other small towns when I was young. The big shoes he left behind haven’t been filled since.

Winslow could be the one to step into them. “I actually enjoy this,” he told Powell. “That sounds kind of stupid but — my paper, I handle it from start to finish.”

Filed under: Grammar and Media and News & Politics and People and Video and West Virginia
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A Hillbilly Grammar Lesson, By Jim Comstock
Posted on 06.19.14 by Danny Glover @ 8:34 pm

I have this tendency to become obsessed with unusual characters, both fictional and real. Two that come to mind readily: Bartleby, the scrivener of Herman Melville fame, and John Randolph of Roanoke, an oddball politician from America’s early days whose named resurfaced in the news again just this month.

These days I’m obsessed with Jim Comstock, a “country editor” best known for his “weakly” newspaper, The West Virginia Hillbilly. I remember reading the Hillbilly occasionally as a child, and over the past few years, I’ve dreamed of finding a way to resurrect it online for digital posterity. His legacy deserves more attention than it gets deep in the bowels of a few libraries in the Mountain State.

My periodic but passing interest in “Mr. West Virginia” became a fascination a few weeks ago. That enthusiasm has manifested itself in a fairly successful quest to compile a personal collection of Comstock’s writing.

I now own three signed copies of his books — “The Best of Hillbilly” compilation of his newspaper musings, his autobiography “7 Decades,” and “Pa and Ma and Mister Kennedy.” And just today my wife snagged a small collection of the Hillbilly for me, thanks to an ad I placed in a circular back home. I’m still on the lookout for a good deal on the 50-book set of the “West Virginia Heritage Encyclopedia” that Comstock authored.

All of that is context for the real point of this post, which is a nugget I just found in “Pa and Ma and Mister Kennedy.” It’s a hillbilly grammar lesson from the Pa in the book:

“Son, if somebody knocks on that door and you say’s who’s there and the person knocking said ‘It is I,’ just shoot through the door because chances are it is either a social worker, a magazine writer, or a man from Harvard, and they are paid for. No court in West Virginia would convict you.”

Comstock’s books are full of zingers like that, and you’ll probably read more of them here in the future.

In fact, I’ll be writing much more about him down the road. I’m obsessed enough that I recently interviewed Comstock’s son Jay by telephone, and next week I’ll be talking to one of the journalists who worked for Jim Comstock decades ago. If I can’t resurrect the Hillbilly, which actually might annoy Comstock in the after life because in his eyes I’m a “chickened-out West Virginian,” the least I can do is tell Comstock’s story on a blog that he helped inspire.

Filed under: Grammar and History and Just For Laughs and Media and People and Redneck Humor and West Virginia
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Why We Home-School, Lesson #43
Posted on 05.29.12 by Danny Glover @ 8:23 pm

We have seen the value of homeschooling in the successes of parents and children from our own community, including 6-year-old Lori Anne Madison, who this week will become the youngest person ever to compete in the National Spelling Bee:

Sorina Vlaicu Madison, Lori Anne’s mother and primary teacher, said she and her daughter have no problem eschewing books and academic pursuits if the outside world is more inviting or their minds are tired. That means swim lessons, play dates, time for games like Angry Birds on the Kindle, and visits to an indoor play center called Kids ‘N Motion.

Madison, who teaches health policy at a local university, laughs at the assumption that she has driven her daughter to spelling heights, perhaps by sheer will or intolerance for failure. “You can’t drill a 6-year-old,” Madison said. “You can’t really force them to do anything.”

Lori Anne earned her spot in the national competition by winning the Prince William County, Va., spelling bee. Most of her rivals this week will be at least twice her age.

Lori Anne’s educational success is not unusual in the homeschooling world. Her peer group regularly excels in competition. Here’s just a short list:

  • Evan O’Dorney, who earned $100,000 by winning the Intel Science Talent Search at age 17 — this after winning the National Spelling Bee at age 14.
  • A team of seven students who won the world championship of robotics, a field where homeschoolers often excel.
  • Calvin McCarter, who won the National Geographic Bee at age 10. A few years later, homeschooler Nathan Cornelius won the bee at age 13.
  • Emily Vanasdale, a winner of the National Center for Women and Information Technology Award.
  • Amy Anderson, who won the U.S. Girls’ Junior Golf Championship and who surprised the professional golf world by finishing with the lowest score in the first round of the 2011 U.S. Open.
  • NFL quarterback Tim Tebow, the first home-schooled student to win the coveted Heisman Trophy while at the University of Florida

You can read plenty of other success stories at the website of the Home School Legal Defense Association, or just Google the phrase “homeschooler wins” and watch them fill your screen. Students who get their education at home are especially good at winning spelling bees.

(Read previous “Why We Home-School” lessons.)

Filed under: Grammar and Home Schooling and Human Interest and News & Politics and Sports and Technology and Why We Home-School
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Educating The Spell-check Generation
Posted on 04.04.12 by Danny Glover @ 2:51 pm

Once famous for its legendary spelling and grammar test, as of yesterday the University of North Carolina’s journalism school is now famous for turning its back on a time-honored, old-school teaching tradition. The school is dropping the spelling part of the must-pass test.

Like many other journalists, I cringed when I read the news at A journalism school deciding that spelling doesn’t matter in the era of word processors because we have spell check, and this after media organizations have spurned copy editors? Journalists are lowering the standards of the profession so much that we all might as well have unedited blogs!

But as I read the school’s explanation for the change, the decision began to make more sense:

The content of the test came up last fall when several faculty members were talking about the introductory News Writing course, which is where many students first take the exam. In those conversations, I suggested that memorizing a spelling list wasn’t the best measure of competence in our craft. Why not use a set of questions about word choice instead? Other faculty members agreed to the idea.

I am still concerned that entirely killing the spelling portion of the test sends the wrong message to future journalists — that training their brains to spell words doesn’t matter because they can rely on the engineers who build technology to do it for them. But no one can deny that, with the exception of names and other proper nouns, spell-checking tools do a great job of catching misspelled words, whether they are the result of typos or the poor spelling skills of the typist.

On the other hand, spell-checking programs don’t often catch errors in word usage. I can’t tell you how many times a day I have to change “their” to “its,” “it’s” to “its,” or “effect” to “affect.” The words are always spelled correctly, but they are used incorrectly in the context of the sentences. And no matter how many times I correct people, they keep repeating the mistakes.

This tells me that word usage is a bigger obstacle than word spelling in the modern era. The journalism school has recognized a greater need in testing and is adjusting its process accordingly. That strikes me as a good move.

I’m more bothered by the fact that UNC journalism students only need to get a 70 on the word usage and grammar test to graduate. As a journalism major at West Virginia University in the 1990s, I had to score an 85 on a grammar test that included spelling and word usage just to get accepted into the journalism school.

As an editor, I don’t want my writers to get it wrong 30 percent of the time. That just makes my job tougher. If UNC wants to emphasize word usage over spelling in its must-pass test, that’s a legitimate choice. But the school needs to up its grading game.

Filed under: Grammar and Media
Comments: 1 Comment

Another ‘Shcool’ Lesson
Posted on 01.25.12 by Danny Glover @ 11:30 am

We’ve been down this road before on this blog — twice, in fact. Apparently road-painting crews (and our “home-shcooled” son) have trouble spelling the word “school correctly.

The latest example, as reported by Fox News:

An embarrassing misspelling of “school” is gone from the street outside a New York City school building.

Utility workers used heavy machinery to ground up the wrongly placed “H” and “C” in the “SHCOOL X-NG” sign on Tuesday. The correction was made a day after the New York Post reported the spelling error.

Filed under: Government and Grammar and Human Interest and Just For Laughs and Photography
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The Newspaper Life
Posted on 01.04.12 by Danny Glover @ 5:35 pm

When I decided to become a journalist, I imagined I’d be working in an atmosphere much closer to this one than the one I’ve known for the past 20 years:

The tools for producing and distributing journalism in the information age are much better than those of yesteryear, but I do long for the days of the “rewrite man” and copy editors. They were the protectors of the art of great writing — a mostly lost art in today’s era of blogs, tweets and text messages, where too many journalists think good grammar and consistent style are antiquated.

Filed under: Grammar and History and Media and Social Media and Video
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‘Must Be Able To Work Indecently’
Posted on 10.19.11 by Danny Glover @ 1:14 pm

I know the economy is bad, but is it so bad that people would be willing to consider a job where one of the skills required is this:

Must be able to work indecently, with minimal direct supervision.

I can see why someone who is willing to work indecently wouldn’t want much direct supervision. The job also requires “overnight travel” and a willingness to “embrace diversity.”

One laughable error in word choice makes the ad sound like something from an adult publication, but it’s actually a listing for … a food-safety specialist in Northern Virginia/Maryland. No pole-dancing required.

My guess is that the ad meant to say the employee “must be able to work independently.” Instead, we see what happens when all of the copy editors are downsized.

Filed under: 1980s and Adoption and Books and Business and Grammar and Just For Laughs and Media
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‘I Am Home Shcooled’
Posted on 10.11.11 by Danny Glover @ 10:00 pm

Spot-checking the text messages of young children can be great entertainment for parents — or as the shcool kids say, LOL!!!

On the off chance that this was just a typo, we asked our 12-year-old son after seeing the message how to spell “school.” He spelled it verbally just the way he spelled it in the text to his friend. Clearly we need to schedule a remedial spelling class at the Glover Home School.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, he knows we check his text messages randomly. It was a condition for us getting him a phone at such a young age — an open approach that I recommend for all parents.

Anthony also knew I was going to post this snapshot of his mobile screen. He’s hoping it will make him famous all over the Internet. Boys!

The sad thing is that now I’ll no longer be able to poke fun at public schools for this amusing error because our “home shcooled” son is guilty of it as well.

Filed under: Grammar and Home Schooling and Just For Laughs and Parenting and Technology
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Living Elitist In Small-Town America
Posted on 08.25.10 by Danny Glover @ 10:39 pm

Amy Hinds, a teacher in Missouri, the author of the blog Living Single in Small-Town America, and a talented photographer, fancies herself a teacher. But by my reading of her latest blog entry, “Really … I Don’t Hate Rednecks,” she has much to learn, too.

It’s clear from the title and lighthearted tone of of Hinds’ essay that she’s not as hostile as most people who make a sport of mocking rednecks these days. But she has an elitist streak that is blinding her to who we rednecks really are.

A stubborn embrace of the Confederate flag does not a redneck make. Neither are sexism nor a contempt for English class the exclusive domain of rednecks. Plenty of highly educated men are chauvinist pigs who can’t write or speak coherently, and whose idea of a good book is the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue.

Ironically, Hinds plans to use her own redneck past to better connect with her students:

I am going to talk about growing up on a big farm, doing lots of farm chores, and how I still basically live on a farm. I’m going to tell my crazy stories about wild animals getting into my house and my having to shoot things like possums and raccoons. I’m going to put pictures I’ve taken of our farm (animals, equipment, etc.) and my niece and nephews dressed up in John Deere and hanging out on the farm as my screen saver for my school computer. Often, my screen saver is projected on the board, so they will see the pictures.

It’s a smart move on her part. Hopefully she’ll learn as much about rednecks this year as they learn from her. It sounds like they all need a good education.

Filed under: Grammar and Hatin' On Rednecks and People and Rednecks
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