National day of grammar/send in your best poem/enjoy glory and prizes

Grammar, usage and style are what we use to hold language together so it appears with a sense of order and fulfills its basic function. The English language is alive and constantly changing. The rules either allow for flexibility or, after some struggle, change to fit the needs of the language. This change comes not from chaos but from order, and National Grammar Day celebrates our collective, ordered approach to the English language.

Haiku is a Japanese poetry form familiar to schoolchildren with a structure and style that  allows for flexibility. Strictly speaking, it should focus on nature or the seasons, but it often strays from convention. While critics might carefully count syllables, the point is not conformity but a sense of rhythm that produces a desired effect.

Twitter is a medium that allows quick communication of brief messages to those who have opted to hear what the writer has to say. It celebrates brevity and clarity of language in an era of verbosity.

To help celebrate the binding principles of the English language, I’m hosting a contest featuring the Japanese form of haiku through the medium of Twitter. The National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest will convey upon the winner the glory and immortality that comes with having his or her winning haiku permanently embedded in digital archives somewhere. Also, prizes.

The coolest prize, for the winner, is a copy of “Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing,” by National Grammar Day host Mignon Fogarty. Also, for the winner, your choice of a t-shirt or mug with my favorite piece of writing advice: Be explicit. (Check it out at www.cafepress.com/EditorMark.)

For the runners up, see the glory and immortality bit above.

Here is how it works: Post your grammar-themed haiku on Twitter and include the hashtag #grammarday. Separate lines with commas or slashes. Your haiku must fit in a tweet with the hashtag.

Deadline is 10 p.m. Thursday, March 3. The winners will be announced the afternoon of March 4, National Grammar Day.

The initial screening team, consisting of a freelance copy editor, an educational policy expert, a university English major, and a high school scholar and musician, will collect all haiku tweeted with the hashtag and cull the list down to the top 10 or 12 entries. Entries will be judged according to how well they fit the theme and how much they look like a haiku.

Because all entries are public, it is impossible to know how much one entry may influence another and how much similarities are coincidence. In cases of similar entries, the earlier entry is more likely to be selected.

After the initial screening, a panel of expert judges will independently rank the finalists, and a winner will be determined based on the rankings.

The winner will be announced on Twitter, on the National Grammar Day website and on this blog.

Contest judges (so far) are:

  • Martha Brockenbrough, founder of National Grammar Day and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and author of “Things That Make Us (Sic).”
  • GRAMMARHULK, editor, tweeter and lover of ALL CAPS who smashes poor usage choices but promises a delicate approach to sorting haiku.
  • Erin McKean, founder of Wordnik, the online compendium of all the words, and author of “The Secret Lives of Dresses.”
  • Amy Reynaldo, freelance editor, crossword blogger, and author of “How to Conquer the New York Times Crossword Puzzle.”

Be sure to visit the National Grammar Day website at http://nationalgrammarday.com/. If longer-form writing is more your style, try the National Grammar Day short-story contest. Details are on the site.

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