For those of us who want to put our best foot forward, the most crucial step would be to brush up our grammar as well as our Shakespeare. I've often written in these pages that we should require the diagraming of sentences in all our public schools. But lack of interest in grammar has already gone on so long that many of the teachers themselves don't appear to care about the difference between an adjective and an adverb.
Diagramming sentences was required in public schools when I was a girl. Miss Posterino at the Saugatuck Elementary School in Westport, Connecticut was my second-grade teacher. She got married that summer and in my third grade she continued to hammer her very valuable knowledge into my little brain as Mrs. Chirapa. Mrs Chirapa is why (and how) I became a writer.
I wrote a book a half century ago that was published by Simon & Schuster; my editor, Richard Kluger -- who had been the last literary editor of the New York Herald Tribune -- said I had made only one grammatical error. I tended to use "like" when I should have used "as," (or vice versa). Since I've grown up (grown old!), I've come to realize how essential proper English is for understanding yourself, also. The difference between a subject and an object, for example, is the difference between one who acts and one whom is acted upon. Yet I spoke to a 13-year old boy last week who told me his teacher said they don't use "whom" anymore at his school.
A complete sentence has a subject and a predicate. (A noun and a verb.) An adjective may modify or describe a noun but an adjective may not modify a verb. So you would not wish to say that you paint real well; you would prefer to say that you paint really well. ("Ly" added to the end often turns an adjective into an adverb ) For that matter, you wouldn't wish to say that you paint really pretty, either. Pretty is an adjective. • Barbara Waterston, November 22, 2019
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