Mississippi Dept. of Ed.’s Fictional Grammar


Quite a few years ago, I helped develop the NM Academic Standards in English Language Arts. Since then, I have been involved in various education initiatives related to reading and writing (among other subjects) for K-12 students. From time to time I take a look to see what guidance the state department of educations provide for reading and writing instruction.

This morning I was looking at the Mississippi state standards and came across a document entitled “Clarification on what is considered Fictional material” (their capitalization). Being naturally curious, I took a look. And then I shook my head in dismay.

The Mississippi State Department of Education has problems with grammar.

THE PROBLEM

In this one-page document, published by the Mississippi State Department of Education, I found this sentence: “Biblical stories are considered fictional only when the characters are non human and personifies (portrays) human characteristics (e.g. Veggie Tales).”

You can download the document FROM THIS WEB PAGE (Microsoft Publisher file).

Many people forget the comma after “e.g.,” so that didn’t bother me. The words “personifies” and “portrays” represent, in my mind, a big problem.

The subject for these two words is “characters.” According to this sentence, characters personifies, and characters portrays. This is a subject-verb agreement problem.

FIXING THE PROBLEM

“Characters” is a third-person plural subject; it can be replaced by the pronoun “they.” It requires a third-person plural verb, which does not end in “-s.”

Let’s look at the conjugation of “portray,” as an example.

SINGULAR
I portray
You portray
He/she/it portrays

PLURAL
We portray
You (all) portray
They portray

As you can see from the conjugation, writing “they portrays” is incorrect. Instead, the correct verb form is “portray.” This is also true for “personifies,” which should be written “personify.” Whoever wrote, reviewed, and published this document didn’t make this mistake once. He or she made it twice in the same sentence.

WHAT THEIR STATE STANDARDS SAY ABOUT SUBJECT-VERB AGREEMENT

The Mississippi content standards address subject-verb agreement in second grade! Here’s what their standards say.

Competency 4: “The student will use Standard English to communicate.”
Objective: “The student will use Standard English grammar.”
Skill: “Subject-verb agreement.”

Second grade.

Who is proofreading their documents?

PREVENTING FUTURE PROBLEMS

I have one recommendation: hire external, professional editors.

Professional editors are trained to find grammatical problems such as these. We are experienced at helping writers communicate clearly and correctly. We can examine a document without preconceived ideas of what the text says. We look at what it actually says.

And then we fix it.


Write confidently. Write professionally. Write better every day with Precise Edit’s Writing Tips for a Year.
Click here to read more information, receive free samples, and subscribe.

Do you want a guide for solving the most common writing problems? The Precise Edit Training Manual addresses the 27 most common issues we find when editing clients’ documents.
Click here to read more information and purchase the Training Manual.

Advertisements

2 Comments

Filed under Mechanics, OOPS!

2 responses to “Mississippi Dept. of Ed.’s Fictional Grammar

  1. Walter

    I’m sure it’s a typo, but you have a subject-verb agreement problem in your own first paragraph here.

    “From time to time I take a look to see what guidance the state department of educations provide for reading and writing instruction.”

    So, it should be either “department provides” or “departments provide”.
    By the way, does Mississippi have a “department of educations”, where “educations” is plural? Just asking.
    W

  2. I’m pleased that you are reading these blog posts so carefully!

    In this case, the subject “state department of educations” is plural, i.e., there is more than one state department of education. As noted here, I review materials from muliple state department of educations. I review materials from the Mississippi state department of education, and I review materials provided by the state department of educations from other states, as well. I see what THEY provide.

    This sentence is correct, but I appreciate you keeping us on our toes.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s