Several features of Sentence Sense can be displayed only upon completion of the full site. The site search function is inevitably one of these. Others include a summary of the site’s variety in interactive modules, suggestions for site use in online classes, linkages with writing workshops, compatibility with course management systems, and collaboration among site users.

Purpose & Origin

The purpose of Sentence Sense is to foster confidence and fluency in the use of Standard English, the version of English needed for most writing purposes. This site supplements other grammar and writing websites by offering two features:

1) Descriptive grammar – an examination of how English sentences work, explaining sentence structure and the interactions among sentence parts. Most other websites offer prescriptive grammar —a collection of usage rules for contemporary English focusing on common errors and corrections. Sentence Sense focuses instead on working with sentence anatomy to recognize and build clear sentences.

2) Formative explorations —activities that engage students in discoveries that build understanding of each topic. Many other websites introduce topics with definitions or explanations followed by summative tests measuring what the student has understood. Whenever possible, Sentence Sense activities reveal rather then tell, eliciting key distinctions in context. This makes the activities pedagogically illustrative in their processes as well as in their outcomes. Summative materials come only at the end of each chapter.

The sentence analysis activities on this site originated with classroom materials written by Evelyn Farbman in response to the needs of adult basic writing students. Those early materials covered descriptive grammar (sentence structure), prescriptive grammar (error correction), and writing (techniques and prompts). They were compiled and published as a textbook (Signals, Houghton Mifflin 1985) and used in schools and colleges for several years, which led to the publication of a revision (Sentence Sense, Houghton Mifflin 1989). One of Farbman’s colleagues, Charles Darling, created an online version of the new book, prompting the development of a website hosted by Capital Community College (Hartford, CT) from 1999 to 2014. The site was used by school classes, learning centers, home schoolers, and independent adult learners all over the world until its maintenance failed and its programming became outdated.

The current website displays the full contents of the Introduction to Sentence Sense. For the other chapters, the menu bars list the segments that are under development. The fully developed site will be a revised and updated presentation of the old site’s unit on descriptive grammar. It will provide crucial orientation and background for the many current websites that focus on prescriptive grammar and writing techniques. Sentence Sense is designed for a wide range of learners between the ages of 12 and 102.