National Grammar Day is nearly upon us, so it’s time to get ready to enjoy — or participate in — the ACES National Grammar Day Tweeted Quatrain Contest.
That’s right, quatrain. We have done haiku and limerick, and now we want to see what grammarly advice or commentary can be expressed in four lines of verse.
The contest is officially open, and the deadline to submit is noon EST, Tuesday, March 3. Tweet a grammar-related quatrain using #ACESQuatrain to be considered. Also include #GrammarDay, used for all National Grammar Day–related activities.
Winners will be announced March 4, the date chosen for National Grammar Day because it is a complete and grammatically correct sentence when written “March forth.” As in, “march forth and celebrate National Grammar Day.”
Quatrain refers to a stanza of four lines (just one stanza, please), usually with a rhyme scheme of abab. But our poetry judges will consider your aabb, abba or even for the radicals among you, abcd.
Entries will be judged on how well they make a point about the language, which can include grammar, typos, writing, and editing.
So, this example probably wouldn’t win:
So fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.
Last year’s winning limerick is from Claire Valgardson, an academic copy editor based in Toronto:
The all-purpose he is passé,
And he or she gets in the way.
Ip, ey, co, and heesh
Make readers say "Sheesh!"
Which leaves us the singular they.
Valgardson returns as a poetry judge this year, to be joined by four other celebrity grammar poetry judges, who will be announced in the coming days.
Prizes include a one-year ACES membership with all the benefits that come with it; a pass for one ACES day-long editing boot camp; a copy of Roy Peter Clark’s “Murder Your Darlings”; and a “Be Explicit” tote bag from organizer Mark Allen (@EditorMark).
Judges for this year’s contest are:
Roy Peter Clark (@RoyPeterClark), who has taught writing to students and pros at the Poynter Institute since 1977. He is the author or editor of 19 books, including “Writing Tools” and his latest, "Murder Your Darlings." He recently led a movement to have the city of St. Petersburg, Florida, choose the brown pelican as its official bird. He's written a song about it, based on this poem: “A wonderful bird is the pelican / His bill will hold more than his belican.”
Maisha Maurant (@mtmaurant), manager of Culture & Engagement at Beaumont Health. She is also a board member of ACES: The Society of Editing. She’s been a professional writer and editor for more than 20 years.
Jesse Sheidlower (@jessesheidlower), who currently teaches in the Writing program at Columbia University. He is the former editor-at-large of the Oxford English Dictionary and former president of the American Dialect Society. He is author of “The F-Word.”
Maggie Smith (@maggiesmithpoet), the author of four books, most recently “Good Bones” (Tupelo Press, 2017) and the forthcoming “Keep Moving: Notes on Loss, Creativity, and Change” (Simon & Schuster, May 2020). Her poems and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Tin House, Poetry, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Paris Review. A freelance writer and editor, Smith is on the faculty of Spalding University’s MFA program and serves as an editor-at-large for the Kenyon Review.
Claire Valgardson (@CMValgardson), an academic copy editor based in Toronto who has worked in almost every subject that uses APA, from architecture to psychology to education. (She also edits nonfiction manuscripts, business reports, and anything else the wonderful world of freelancing throws her way.) She won the 2019 National Grammar Day Tweeted Poetry Contest with a limerick on the singular they.