Faculty who assign papers to their students and would like them to review some of the fundamentals of grammar, punctuation and style (without taking up class time) might be interested in a new teaching tool made available free of charge to St. Thomas faculty and students.
St. Thomas faculty members Dr. Mark Neuzil and Dr. David Landry, recently published a CD ROM, “The Journalist’s Primer: A Refresher in Grammar, Punctuation and Style.”
The grammar unit contains sections on sentences (e.g., avoiding sentence fragments and run-on sentences), agreement (e.g., subject-verb and pronoun-antecedent), active/passive voice, parallel structure and case/possessive/usage (e.g., that vs. which, who vs. whom, its vs. it’s, etc.).
The punctuation unit contains sections on commas, quotation marks, semicolons/colons and hyphens.
The style unit contains sections on abbreviation, capitalization, spelling, numerals, plurals and weather terms.
Each section begins with a few pages of instruction, followed by exercises that test the user’s mastery of the rules and principles of proper grammar, punctuation and style. Most sections contain between eight and 15 exercises; there are about 300 interactions altogether.
At the end of each section users are given a score; they can enter their names and print the screen if instructors would like to have proof that students completed the exercises and an indication of how well they did. There is also a 65-question exam that can be used as a pretest or a posttest.
The CD was designed primarily for beginning reporters and journalism students, and some of the content would be of interest only to those groups. However, much of the CD (especially the grammar and punctuation units) would be useful to students in other courses as well.
The CD is being sold by the publisher, but a provision in the contract allows the content to be used free of charge at St. Thomas. To make it easy for St. Thomas students and instructors to utilize this tool if they wish, the authors have placed all of the material from the CD on the Web. The Web site is http://personal1.stthomas.edu/dtlandry/enterjournal.html
To protect the content from being used by anyone outside of St. Thomas, users will need to enter their NT username and password to access the site. Visitors to the site also will need to download a plug-in and install it on their browsers to enable them to read the file. There are directions for how to do this on the Web site; the download and installation should take 2-4 minutes. One can access these files from home, but because of the size of the files involved it is not recommended that users do this unless they have a very fast connection.