Celebrate National Grammar Day in verse — for fun and prizes

HAIKUHaiku of grammar /
Provide a warm escape from /
A wintery mix

The spring equinox is still a month away, but a young grammarian’s fancy turns to thoughts of spring once National Grammar Day hits. Word lovers come out of their shells March 4, before crocuses push through the frozen ground and before bluebirds join in ritual tweeting.

A highlight of this seasonal event is the National Grammar Day Tweeted Haiku Contest, this year sponsored by the American Copy Editors Society.

With ACES sponsorship, the fourth-annual contest will feature even more fabulous prizes, including a year’s membership in the 1,000-member  organization. Other prizes include special items from National Grammar Day host Mignon Fogarty, National Grammar Day founder Martha Brockenbrough, and contest organizer Mark Allen.

Last year’s contest had 269 entries (that’s 4,573 syllables, give or take). Judges agreed on this gem from Arika Okrent, linguist, author and Mental Floss contributor:

I am an error

And I will reveal myself

After you press send

As Okrent’s winning haiku makes clear, the winners aren’t always explicitly about grammar. Nor are they explicitly haiku. The key here is to resonate with the judges, who can frankly be a tough lot to pin down. Generally speaking, usage, style and spelling are important to good grammar, and haiku on those topics are fine. Grammar Day haiku only sometimes focus on nature or the seasons.

And they don’t always follow the familiar five-syllable, seven-syllable, five-syllable pattern. Pedants might carefully count syllables, but the point is not conformity but a sense of rhythm that produces a desired effect.

Entering is simple; if you’re ready, go ahead. Tweet a grammar-themed haiku with the #GrammarDay hashtag. Twitter now allows returns in your tweets to keep lines separate. If you’re an ACES board member or employee, or a close relative of the organizer or a judge, you can enter, but forces will conspire against your actually winning a prize of any value.

Deadline is noon EST, Monday, March 3. The winners will be announced by noon (if the judges cooperate) March 4, National Grammar Day.

The initial screening team consists of a freelance copy editor, an Ohio State University education professor, and possibly a Kent State University library science major. A five-judge panel of word experts will determine the winner and runners up. Our judges are:

•       Arika Okrent, (@arikaokrent), winner of the 2013 haiku contest  language writer for Mental Floss  and The Week and author of In the Land of Invented Languages.

•       Martha Brockenbrough (@mbrockenbrough), founder of National Grammar Day and the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar, and author of “Things That Make Us (Sic)” and the young adult novel “Devine Intervention.”

•       Adrienne Montgomerie (@scieditor), certified copy editor, editing instructor, instructional designer, “Canadian, Eh?” columnist at Copyediting and voice of the Right Angels & Polo Bears podcast on editing.

•       Henry Fuhrmann (@hfuhrmann), assistant managing editor at the Los Angeles Times, where he oversees the copy desks and serves as standards editor.

•       Gerri Berendzen (@gerrrib), copy editor, Editorial Production Coordinator at the Quincy Herald-Whig, American Copy Editors Society board member and moderator of the #ACESchat on Twitter.

Check out the official National Grammar Day website for more March 4 activities.