Stay Consistent

Some rules in English – whether they are for spelling, grammar, or whatever else – are debated among linguists, vary between cultures, or simply depend on a teacher’s preference. For example, we at Insights favor the Oxford Comma, but we’ve noticed that excluding it is more popular than including it these days. Also, should you include ‘s after a singular verb that ends with an s? We say ‘yes’, but other sources will tell you ‘no’. So what should you do?

Here are a few issues that can be resolved in at least two different ways:

    • the Oxford Comma (the comma that comes after the second-to-last entry in a list)

    • British vs. American spelling (e.g. travelling vs. traveling; colour vs. color)

    • hyphenated words (eg. rat-infested sewers vs. rat infested sewers)

    • they vs. he/she for singular persons of unknown/ambiguous gender

    • possessive ‘s after singular nouns that end with an s (eg. James’s vs. James’)

    • words vs. digits for writing numbers (eg. twenty vs. 20)

There are others, and if you don’t have a solid stance on one of those particular issues, one could argue that you could decide how to follow the rule on a case-by-case basis. But for at least the six above, you should be consistent within each work.

For example, if you’re writing a story, you might choose to spell out a number. You should then continue spelling out numbers for the rest of that story. But then if you write a scientific report, you may choose to use digits to express numbers instead.

As a teacher, you should probably be consistent in what you teach students and how you grade their work. You may decide to explain to advanced learners that there are more than one options, but otherwise if you expect your students to write he/she instead of they, you should stand by that for all students for as long as that class lasts.

You can get picky with these rules, by the way. For instance, I personally use American spellings for most things (I write color and analyze instead of colour and analyse), but I like to use the double L after a vowel when adding a suffix (so I write traveller and cancelled instead of traveler and canceled). While I’m not consistent with the broad rule of British vs. American spellings, I am consistent with the more specific rules.

Again, you can pick what works for you. But you should pick one or the other.

Get more with Insider Access

INCLUDING

Extra Video Content

more How-to-Teach grammar videos*

with intros, instructions, and summaries

*compared to free resources

AND

Exclusive Supplemental Resources

slideshows

posters & handouts

bonus notes

AND

Advanced Features in Student Projects

search and filter

planning info

teaching tips

Word Puzzle Tactics

Word Puzzles and Word Games are a fun, engaging, and effective way to practice vocabulary, spelling pronunciation, word-building, and more. If you’d like to try some with your students, here are some tips to give them.

Read More »
grammar uncovered

‘They’ as Singular

‘They’ is acceptable as the 3rd-person singular pronoun for nouns of an unknown or undefined gender. Here’s how we can use them and what happens to their verbs.

Read More »
teaching tips

Review Activities

Here are some activities that you can use with your class to review vocabulary and grammar. There are quite a few to choose from, and each is customizable; use whatever is best for your class!

Read More »
teaching tips

Review Regularly

Frequent review is one of the best ways to help students remember new grammar points; it’s far more effective than a single large review before an exam. Here are some recommended ways to integrate small reviews throughout the week.

Read More »
teaching tips

Why Forced Recall is Important

When a student is taking a while to answer a question, it’s easy to cut their thoughts short and jump to the answer yourself or give another student the chance. But waiting for the first student to think might be better for their brains.

Read More »

Share This Post