Last Updated: 6/18/00
Dr. Ed Vavra's KISS Approach to Sentence Structure
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Combat Between Giacour 
and Hassan in a Ravine
(Detail; 1824-1826)
Eugène Delacroix
# 9 Definitions of Grammatical Terms
      Way too much time, fuss, and energy are devoted to the definitions of grammatical terms, but this problem with definitions is also the cause of much, if not most, of both the poor teaching of grammar and our inability to improve that teaching. Numerous, often conflicting attempts have been made to define grammatical terms, but I have yet to see a discussion of the problem that begins with the basic question, "What is a definition?" The first subsection of this essay therefore attempts to address this question:

What Is a Definition?

Although the preceding section is more about philosophy and psychology than about grammar, I urge anyone interested in the problem to read it before reading anything else in these essays. The basic definitions for the KISS Approach can be found in "How to Use KISS Grammar." The essays in this section are more about the pedagogical problems in the ways that other people define grammatical terms and about the pedagogical assumptions that underlie the KISS definitions.

Defining and/or Recognizing Nouns and Verbs

Definitions of "Clause"

Definitions of the "T-unit"

     As time allows, I will return to these essays to discuss both definitions of specific grammatical terms and ways in which students can be taught to recognize the concepts which those definitions attempt to identify.