Brandon made an amazing connection with my son that I haven’t seen with any of his other teachers-he worked twice as hard on his SAT prep as on any of his other projects.

—Tracy, Capitol Hill

grammar made awesome

Schools don’t teach students grammar.

Well, duh!  I suppose you’ll say you do, and fair enough.  But how can you make grammar ‘awesome’?

Simple: by uncovering the twisted stories that have shaped our grammar rules. 

For example, did you know that centuries of grammar snobs have tried and failed to come up with a single word to replace “he or she”?  And it certainly needs to be replaced – watch how awkward it can be:

He or she should tell his or her SAT coach to stop beating him or her every time he or she gets a problem wrong. 

‘He or she’ is so ugly that, since Shakespeare’s day, people have replaced it with ‘they’.  But that’s a bit sticky – as grammar snobs love to point out, they is plural, and ‘he or she’ is singular.  (Beware – the SAT will try to trick you with this.)

They should tell their SAT coach to stop beating them every time they get a problem wrong. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong – or at least so say the authorities.  To solve this, the British Parliament passed a law in 1854 dictating that the word ‘he’ legally mean ‘he or she’.  But 20th century feminists found this solution problematic, for obvious reasons.  Now it’s considered vaguely sexist.

In stepped a computer scientist, who invented a new word – zhe – to stand in for ‘he or she’:

Zhe should tell zher SAT coach to stop beating zhim every time zhe gets a problem wrong.

(Although I, personally, find this charming, most people find it stupid.)

And so all English-speaking people were stuck… until 2007.  That’s when a bunch of middle-school teachers in a nighttime grad school class reported to their professor that their students – African-American kids in Baltimore – were using the word ‘yo’ in place of ‘he or she’. 

Nonsense, the professor said.

But the university sent in the researchers, and it checked out.  The kids had solved the problem that grammar snobs had been wrestling with for centuries.  Here’s how they’d put our sentence:

Yo should tell yo’s SAT coach to stop beating yo every time yo gets a problem wrong. 

Think it sounds stupid?  Give it a couple decades – it’s already spread to Milwaukee.

Wait – how is knowing this useful for the SAT?

The grammar errors on the SAT are actual mistakes people make when they write.  We make those errors not because we’re stupid, but because English is quirky.  I show you how to spot the errors by explaining the quirks, usually through stories. 

Is that all, then – grammar explanation through story-telling?

No, of course not – I’m a cognitive coach, not just a teacher.  Once you understand the error inside and out, I train you to spot it instantly.  More than any other subject, SAT grammar scores can be raised quickly and dependably. 

Lessons are $100 for an intense but intellectually fulfilling 1.5-2 hour session.  I generally meet students at the sumptuous Roy Street Coffee and Tea in Capitol Hill, though I occasionally make trips to the East Side.   Write me (Brandon) at with questions, or to set up a free initial consultation.

“Brandon is a lifesaver!” – Gloria, Pullayup

Have a Specific Question?

I’d love to meet you in a free, 1-hour consultation.  I can answer your questions, & give you a sense of what I can help you accomplish.

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