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The Printing Press is the English Department Newsletter. Its purpose is to inform majors and minors about programs and activities within the department. The Press will inform readers of activities and opportunities outside of Monmouth College. For any questions or submissions, contact or



 A Condensed Explanation of the Quirky English Language

by Jamie Jasmer

           Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday I sit in Hewes Library and I read the Chicago Tribune.  Admirable?  Informed?  Intellectual? Maybe.  I can honestly say that most of the time that I read the paper I read it to keep up with current news because I do not watch very much television.  However, I usually just end up becoming board with the content that I’m actually reading.  The critics are right when they say that Americans are spoiled and catered to.  I would rather listen to a 30 second sound bite that abbreviates the content than read some lengthy, detailed article.  I just want the basics. 

           Once in a while, however, breaking away from the dull and drear of the news, I will find an article that actually peaks my interest.  A few weeks ago I found one such article by journalist Nathan Bierma titled “Navigating the Oddities of English Usage” in the November 30, 2005 issue. The content of his article made me laugh and giggle because as I was reading it I thought of all the “stupid” English grammar rules that exist.  I reminisced knowing that at some point within the last 3.5 years I have used vulgarities, mumbled angrily at some professor, or possibly even vocalized my hatred for the seemingly pointless English rules.  How does anyone ever learn our language when it is  too hard for Americans to figure out?  There must be some way to do it!  As for me, I’m still struggling.  To give my fellow English majors a step up I thought I would include the article from Bierma just to help you with the little things that you might over-look the next time you write a paper. 

Readers continue to wonder about grammar and other oddities of our tricky language.  These days I find myself reaching for the "American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style" (Houghton Mifflin, 511 pages, $19.95) as an authoritative arbiter of usage disputes like these:

Q: I often see the use of the possessive with the
"'s" after the use of the possessive "of."

For example: "A friend of my sister's." Is the "'s"
necessary because the word "of" already conveys
the possessive form?

 ~Murad Meneshian

A:  Etymologist Michael Quinion tackled this recently in his World Wide newsletter (  “The technical name for this construction is double genitive or double possessive,” Quinine wrote.

He said this form has a long history; Dickens used it for example, when he wrote “an aunt of my father’s” in “David Copperfield.”

The double possessive occurs naturally to English speakers—especially with pronouns: we say “a friend of mine” but not “a friend of me.”

While “of” does indicate possession, it’s such a vague and versatile word that the double possessive is often needed for clarification. 

Quinion’s examples are “a bone of the dog”—which could be taken to mean either a bone the dog possesses or a bone in the dog’s own skeleton—and a “picture of Jane,” which means that Jane appears in the photo, not that she owns it.” 

However; Quinion also points out we tend to use the double possessive only in cases where the owner is a human or animal, and not for instance, an organization.

We say “Friends of the library” but not “Friends of the library’s.” Why do English speakers make this distinction naturally in our speech, without being taught it?  It’s a linguistic mystery.

Q:  It seems to be more often that I want to use a preposition at the end of a phrase (“that’s what we came for”), which I have tried not to do at the orders of my English teachers.  But the alternatives, which I sometimes use just to feel like I’ve written properly, can be so awkward (“it is that for which we came”). 

 Any advice for using this device appropriately without ending every sentence in a preposition?

~Emily Varner,

A:  Your instincts are right: joining a verb with a preposition to form a “phrasal verb” is perfectly natural in English and always has been (Shakespeare wrote in “The Tempest,” for example, “We are such stuff as dreams are made on.”)  According to the “Guide to Contemporary Usage,” it was 17th Century poet John Dryden who started the successful campaign to have this practice frowned upon. But as the “Guide” says, “English syntax not only allows but sometimes even requires final placement of a preposition” – indeed, just try to move “upon” in the previous sentence.  It doesn’t work. 

For sanity’s sake, unless you’re writing a book or business report or giving a Nobel Prize acceptance speech you can probably ignore this and many other picky grammatical commands of your English teachers.  Few of them are helpful or sensible for informal, everyday communication.

Q:  Is it “farther” or “further?”  I was taught that the word “farther” denotes physical advancement in distance while “further” denotes advancement to greater degree, as in time.  Yet I hear many people, most notably Chicago meteorologists and traffic reporters, when denoting distance, use the word “further” instead of “farther.”  Is “further” another one of those words, because of repeated incorrect usage, whose definition has been broadened to denote distance as well?

                                                                        ~Mark Zurblis,

A:  It’s actually one of those words whose definition has always been flexible in the history of English, but which language elites – the same folks who enforced the bizarre ban on prepositions at the end of sentences – decided to insist could only mean “degree” and not “distance.” 

It’s advisable to try to follow the distance-or-degree distinction between “farther” (if you can go “far,” you can go “farther”) and “further” (a synonym for “more” – “let’s discuss this further”) in formal settings and disregard it in informal ones.  But note that the line between distance and degree can be blurry; the “Guide to Contemporary Usage” point out that most educated users say “far from the truth” but also “nothing could e further from the truth.” 

 After reading this article I wasn’t quite sure what to think.  Apparently good grammar only matters when you’re writing or speaking for something academic or formal.  If this is the case, then why are students taught that it should be used within everyday language?  I did discuss my peaked interest with fellow students after reading this article. Talking about the confusing aspects of the English language, several elements came up repeatedly in conversation:  commas, run-on sentences, the difference between “then” and “than,” and “affect” and “effect” just to name a few.  Hewes Library does not currently have The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style book in its collection (I checked).  However, if you run a search on Amazon or Google there are plenty of sites that you can purchase it from.  I am sure that it would be a great investment for any of you wonderful English majors.  Put it on your Christmas list for mom and dad and enjoy. 

The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style



Grammar? What's that?

A set of reviews on popular grammar handbooks
by Johnathan Skidmore


Eat, Shoots & Leaves
by Lynne Truss

Comedian and Grammarian, Lynne Truss, writes from across the pond with this intriguing guide to grammar. Well written and informative, the only downside to this book is the fact that it deals with the British variations of punctuation. There are slightly different rules for commas and slight spelling differences, not to mention the fact that a period is referred to as a "full stop."  On the plus side, this book is chock full of humorous anecdotes and explanations, not to mention some rather interesting historical insights into grammar.  Lynne Truss examines common mistakes and takes her manual one step further by explaining the theory and history behind why the punctuation is chosen as it is. This is mainly a prescriptive punctuation guide so things such as verb agreement and word usage are lacking, but the punctuation is spot on. Overall, this is an excellent addition, especially for Anglophiles like myself, but a caveat: A good deal of the information may not apply to your silly American grammar, but it's still worth a look.



The Grammar Bible: Everything
You Wanted to Know About Grammar
 but Didn't Know Whom to Ask
by Michael Strumpf and Auriel Douglas

Written by the creator of the "National Grammar Hot Line," Professor Michael Strumpf, this grammar guide is perhaps one of the most practical I've seen. The format for the guide focuses mainly on an indexed list of questions and answers, allowing quick access to information. This is one to keep by your desk for those random lapses in your grammarian judgment. Strumpf has been running his hotline for more than twenty five years, and it shows. The only downfall to this text is that some grammarians might not agree with certain choices, such as allowing prepositions at the end of sentences, believing that the words "that" and "which" are interchangeable, and the use of the passive voice. This is an excellent reference guide if you don't mind using a less formal form of grammar, but even this is made up for by the availability of information.



The Only Grammar Book You'll
Ever Need: A One-Stop Source
For Every Writing Assignment
by Susan Thurman

Penned by an experienced English Teacher, Susan Thurman, this guide caters more towards a younger audience. An all encompassing guide, very little is left untouched, with information from things as simple as the parts of speech and the elements of a sentence to punctuation guides. This also makes for an excellent reference text as the information is indexed and easily navigated. As an added bonus that not many of the other guidebooks availed are some examples of ways to approach writing several different types of projects, from persuasive essays to critical expositions. Don't let the title fool you, however. While this text has several different options for types of information, it may be spread too thin. Some of the information and tips might be viewed as insufficient, especially to those at the college level. For any earlier applications, this is a good choice, just not the best for more advanced writers.



  • Mary Bruce is again directing the English Department’s Reading in Reading (England) program.  The group had an afternoon “tea” to build support and explain the program to those who are interested.   The Reading at Reading Program, crossed listed as Eng274/Edu274/Bus274 is a 3 week program studying International Children's Literature: Reading, Teaching and Writing. It carries three credits and includes classes at the University of Reading, England, field trips, room and board with an English family, airfare and some transportation. It has gotten rave reviews from those who have gone on it. Traditionally, it is offered Spring Semester, right after Commencement.  If you are interested or have any questions about this over-seas program please contact Prof. Mary Bruce. 


  • The tutoring hours at the Mellinger Learning Center have changed. There are updated schedules posted around campus and there is also an updated version available on this website.  Please note that certain hours have changed and a new Japanese tutoring session has also been added.  To find this information quickly, please click here.

During the writing process, which grammatical mistake takes the biggest toll on your writing?

Writing like I think!   That's just a mess in itself.  The problem is proper use of semi colons and hyphens. 
-Jaime Calder

The use of the comma.  I always have to ask myself: "Do I use the comma or don't I?  Or should it be a semicolon?"
-Debbie Cratty

Perfection!  I'm perfect!!! I know everything!! I do not make mistakes.   But I get destroyed by Watson.
-Brandon Athey

Not really a grammar mistake but more like a syntax mistake… unnecessary passive voice.  The worst grammar mistake I have is putting clauses in the wrong place!!
-Kimberly Gratzke

Comma errors.  There are just so many exceptions that it is hard to remember them all.
-Kacie Parge



Cultural Events Calendar

The Cultural Events Calendar is a monthly update on the special activities going on at Monmouth College and other campuses such as Western, Knox, and Augustana.


Writing Labs

Monday - Thursday                 3:00-5:00  pm
  Sunday - Thursday                 7:00-10:00 pm
Math Monday - Thursday                 3:00 - 5:00 pm
  Sunday - Thursday                 7:00 - 9:00 pm
Spanish Monday and Thursday             7:00 - 8:00 pm
  Tuesday and Wednesday         7:00 - 9:00 pm
French Tuesday and Thursday            7:00 - 9:00 pm
German Tuesday and Thursday            6:00 - 7:00 pm
Japanese Monday                                3:00 - 5:00 pm
  Thursday                              4:00 - 5:00 pm

          By appointment Only
            (3rd Floor of Wallace Hall)

Photograph courtesy of Johnathan Skidmore, 2005

The Mellinger Teaching and Learning Center sits peacefully after a heavy snowfall at Monmouth College.


Photograph courtesy of Johnathan Skidmore, 2005

Snow angels found outside of Wallace Hall.  This was obviously made by a student with not enough homework.

Photograph courtesy of Johnathan Skidmore, 2005

Wallace Hall after a heavy snow and having been decorated for the winter holidays.

Jamie Jasmer                                       Johnathan Skidmore                      



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