Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Ooh, a game for grammar nerds!

Via File 770, this: Stet!, the Hot New Language Game

The game of Stet! comprises two packs of cards with sentences on them, fifty of them Grammar cards with indisputable errors (dangling modifiers, stinking apostrophes, and homonyms, like horde/hoard and reign/rein) and fifty of them Style cards, on which the sentences are correct but pedestrian, and the object is to improve the sentence without rewriting it. There are trick cards with no mistakes on them. You might suspect that there is something wrong with (spoiler alert) “Jackson Pollock” or “asafetida” or “farmers market,” but these are red herrings. If you believe that the sentence is perfect just as it is, you shout “Stet!

How neat is this?

So, here’s the link to the game on Amazon.

It says:

There are 100 entertaining sentences waiting for you, the copyeditor, to correct–or, alternatively, to STET. The first person to spot the error, or else call out “STET!” (a copyeditor’s term that means “let it stand”) if there is no error, gets the card. There are two ways to play: compete for points in a straightforward grammar game, or play with style and syntax and whip the author’s sentences into splendid shape. The person with the most cards at the end of the game wins!

If I were teaching English grammar and punctuation, I’d definitely get this. As it is, not sure there are enough grammar nerds handy to play it. But it does sound like fun!

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8 Comments Ooh, a game for grammar nerds!

  1. Irina

    Hm, it might be possible to modify an Apples-to-Apples bot to play it online on IRC or Discord or something like that.

  2. Rachel

    Hanneke, I think it’s because its a market where plural farmers have stalls to sell things, but it’s not a market that belongs to the farmers. But I wouldn’t have known which way to do it and, in fact, I bet it could actually go either way, depending on whether the farmers DO own the spot where the market is set up.

  3. Hanneke

    Thanks for explaining that, Rachel. I know these apostrophes are a weak point for me.
    If ownership rather than (temporary) possession decides the possessive apostrophy, that makes things complicated, as I won’t always know who owns what.

    But if Mary rents a house and you want to go there, you say “I’m going to Mary’s house”; so renting can count for the possessive too.
    So if the farmers don’t own the market but rent all the stalls, I’d still expect the apostrophe.
    Or maybe houses are just special that way, always getting the possessive apostrophe? Like “it” is special, never getting it? (It took me a very long time to pick up on that!)
    Then what about library books? I think Henry’s borrowed books still get the apostrophe too?

    Maybe a farmers market is just a fossilized phrase which doesn’t have to conform to the rules?
    The more I dive into the details, the less certain I get…
    Probably what I deserve for learning the language mostly by osmosis instead of formal learning of grammar and idiom etcetera, and not wanting to take the time to learn a formal grammar course now.

  4. Rachel

    Honestly, if the farmers own or rent the stalls, I’d kind of expect the apostrophe. Maybe it is a historical thing and not really a logical one — in which case, it’s not really appropriate for a card in the game.

    The way to think of the apostrophe in it’s vs its is like this:

    Possessive Pronouns Positively Prohibit ‘Postrophes.

    The possessive of its no more takes an apostrophe than hi’s or her’s or their’s.

    It’s always, always means “it is” or “it has” and is absolutely never a possessive pronoun.

    Setting “it’s” next to “her’s” is often helpful for making the mistake LOOK wrong.

  5. Hanneke

    That is a really clear reason for no apostrophe in ‘its’, thank you very much for that!

    I never realised that; I knew I’d seen it’s as well as its, so it wasn’t tagged as ‘not right’ for me; only after I started commenting on Cherryh’s blog I noticed that I used way too many apostrophised it’s, and everyone else used the unapostrophised version way too often for it to be a typo.
    I never made the grammar connection to the different sorts of ‘it’, just figured out at that point that its was an exception to the possessive apostrophe.

    As her’s and their’s doesn’t occur in books, I never got confused by those, and I’m bad enough at grammar that I never lumped it in with those.

  6. Rachel

    Hanneke, that is SO common a mistake for English-as-a-first-language college students that I had to come up with short, pithy ways to explain the difference — though I have to admit I didn’t make up the PPPPP rule. Great rule though! Very helpful.

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