Phone: (309) 438-2961

Office Hours: Tuesday 10:30-11:30
& Thursday 10:30-11:30 & by Appointment
(Office hours held in STV 351 until further notice.)

Any student needing to arrange a reasonable accommodation for a documented disability should contact Disability Concerns at 350 Fell Hall, 438-5853 (voice), 438-8620 (TDD).

Class Meets

Tuesday & Thursday 12:35-1:50

Course Description

From the ISU Course Catalogue: Traditional, structural, and transformational grammars applied to needs of writers. Choosing among alternative grammatical strategies. Usage; semantics of punctuation. Revising.

This course will not resemble other grammar courses you have taken for three reasons. First, during the first part of the semester we will discuss the political, ideological implications of grammar, dethroning, as it were, the gods of standardized grammar and deconstructing the right/wrong binaries of language usage that have become naturalized by traditional grammar instruction in the academy. Second, the course includes applied grammar and usage rather than descriptions of a language system of the kind taught in many grammar classes. In other words, you will focus your study upon issues of grammar as they relate to the discourses, styles, and usage(s) applicable to specific audiences and specific rhetorical situations. Third, you will be researching and discovering for yourself the grammar and usage that will be most appropriate for your chosen major or future occupation.

Discussions of grammar, then, will lead you to a better understanding of the ways that language works within specific communities: the ways that language creates or destroys understanding, the ways that certain language practices mark a text as belonging to a particular discourse community, and the ways that language acts as a gatekeeper marking the language user as outsider.

Thus the work that you do in the course will direct you toward understanding what "good grammar" means in the field or fields where you plan to do your work. I will ask you to do some theorizing about the information you discover as you do your assignments and activities for the course, but the conclusions you draw will be based on your own discoveries.

I would prefer, then, that you think of this as a class in the third canon of rhetoric: style.  With the birth of composition in the university, style, which was taught as one of the five canons of rhetoric, became subsumed under instruction in grammar. In other words, grammar, which is just one part of style, became the primary focus of writing/rhetorical instruction. You will come to recognize that while good grammar may mark a text as worthy of consideration by a specific community of readers, it is just one stylistic consideration out of many.

Course Goals

  • Writers will investigate and demystify some of the assumptions informing traditional approaches to grammar and style
  • Writers will work to improve/develop their style: coherence, clarity, voice within the context of the professional communities they study
  • Writers will work to improve their grammatical choices within the context of the professional communities they wish to join: deadwood and concision, connections, sentence patterns, punctuation
  • Writers will develop their rhetorical choices with regards to grammar and punctuation, sentence structures and styles, and the creation of specific texts within their individual fields of study
  • Writers will conduct individual investigations into and analyses of the language conventions appropriate to their field(s)
  • Writers/researchers will share the information they analyze and interpret with our classroom community
  • Writers/researchers will contribute to the knowledge/understanding of their peers in the classroom with regards to specific grammar issues (historical, contemporary, and field-specific)
  • Writers (our class of hyper literate adults) will gain a greater awareness of the grammatical/rhetorical choices of others and learn to trust their internalized (intuitive) grammars above, perhaps, the prescriptive grammars of handbook and textbook writers


  • Style: Ten Lessons in Clarity and Grace. Joseph M. Williams
  • Line by Line: How to Improve Your Own Writing. Claire Kehrwald Cook
  • A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Richard A. Lanham
  • Selected readings from Course Packet (Rapid Print in Old Union) & links posted to Internet Classroom.

You will also want to purchase a grammar handbook that is recommended by a professor or professional in your field and a Dictionary of English Usage (two texts that should be in every writer's library). A good general grammar and style guide (one that is quite fun and informative) is Things Your Grammar Never Told You by Maurice Scharton and Jan Neuleib.


We are working in a computerized classroom because this is, in every sense of the word, a writing class. We will also be using an Internet Classroom to post documents for analysis, to conference about issues, to complete group and individual classroom activities, and to access links for discussion during class and for homework.  I encourage you to post links that you discover as you research your particular field, and we will discuss how to do this in class. A large list of course-related links may be accessed from our homepage, or by clicking here. The course-links page provides some information on grammar and style in various discourse communities, so you may wish to begin your research and inquiry there.

Format of the Class

Class time will consist of discussion based on the texts and the research you are doing. We will discover together what we know about language and what the world around us expects us to know. There may be times when it is necessary for me to "lecture" to get us started on a particular activity, but I would prefer for issues, discussions, and lessons to occur in a more organic fashion, stemming, for example, from your questions about the reading assignments or about specific grammar/style issues you encounter in your own work.

Toward the end of the semester, you will be asked to bring in various drafts of your final project for peer review, workshopping, and copyediting. I consider these classes to be at least as important as (if not more important than) the other work we do this semester, so please be prepared to present drafts and provide valuable feedback to your peers.

I have also set aside a few classes for copyediting texts in groups. During these classes, you will bring in papers, memos, articles you have written or work written by friends, roommates, or family members (hard copy please).  You will spend the class working with one or more of your classmates improving the grammar and style of these texts. Ideally, you should bring in your own work, but I realize this is not always possible.

Creative Commons License
These course materials
are licensed by Lori Ostergaard under a
Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.