While coming up with a language arts plan for my eleven-year-old daughter I searched for a grammar reference book. I didn’t want a big volume too intimidating and heavy to carry around and use. While perusing Rebecca Rupp’s Home Learning Year by Year I saw she recommended Nitty Gritty Grammar. I contacted Ten Speed Press and they were happy to send me a copy to review.
Our Grammar Background
We tried grammar workbooks a few years ago, but found them to be drudgery: either wasting time covering things she knew, or for new topics not always leading to application in her own writing. Since then we’ve used copywork and dictation with lots of writing, independent reading and reading aloud.
Reading Ruth Beechick’s You Can Teach Your Child Successfully (you can read my full review here on The Curriculum Choice) I was reassured to continue avoiding piles of grammar workbooks and work on grammar within writing.
“Bits of usage information scattered throughout a series of workbooks is not nearly as efficient for learning. You can study a good grammar book as a text, you can use it for reference when you are not following a text, and all the time your child will become more familiar with one good grammar book. If the book is well laid out and readable, browsing can be fun, too.”
What Is Nitty-Gritty Grammar?
Nitty-Gritty Grammar: A Not-So-Serious Guide to Clear Communication is a book written by Edith H. Fine and Judith P. Josephson after teaching grammar review classes to adults. This is not a workbook with fill-in-the-blank questions; it is a grammar reference book with short explanations and many examples.
What I like About Nitty-Gritty Grammar
The authors use cartoons to illustrate concepts. Not only does this bring humor to a rather dry topic, but it actually helps us remember the concept better!
The explanations aren’t lengthy, but they lead right into examples. This makes it easy for quick reference and gets right to the meat of it: using correct grammar in writing!
The examples are clearly presented with a graphic symbol: thumbs down for the wrong way to write something, thumbs up for the right way, and a question mark for the explanation.
It isn’t written to children so it doesn’t talk down or avoid more difficult concepts. This way it can meet my daughter where she is in her writing.
It covers a lot for a slim volume (just about 100 pages): parts of speech, sentence structure, punctuation, and even some spelling help like suffixes, prefixes and plurals.
How We’re Using Nitty-Gritty Grammar
My daughter and I are reading through it together, going over the examples. As she becomes more familiar with the book I hope she’ll use it to edit her own writing, and I can refer her to it when I see a problem in her writing that is covered in the book. It may not be the only grammar reference we ever use, but is great for us to use this year because of the positives I listed above.
Other Uses for Nitty Gritty Grammar
This may not fit the student who is too young or who struggles with grammar. I could see it working well for an older child who dislikes writing or grammar and may be won over by the “nitty-gritty” concise approach and use of humor. Lastly, it does show diagramming for illustrating sentence structure, but is probably not in depth enough to teach a child how to diagram if that is something you’d like your child to practice.
In short, Nitty Gritty Grammar is a practically pocket-sized handy reference guide that’s also humorous enough to flip through and concise enough to read cover to cover.
Heidi homeschools her two children in Maine using an eclectic mix including Charlotte Mason’s ideas, quality literature and hands-on learning. She strives to show her children that learning is an exciting, life long adventure. She shares their experiences on her blog, Home Schoolroom.