Spa Speakers

What is the role of the grammarian?

Our brilliant Vice President of Education, Harriet Cummings

The grammarian plays a small but important role in the meeting, encouraging everyone to select the words that best serve their message.

Although some people might be intimidated by this role and its discussion of grammar, all that’s needed is the right mindset. We’re simply looking to grow more aware of our language and, to do so, it’s helpful to have someone in the room who is eagerly listening!

What does the role involve?

First up, the grammarian chooses a “word of the evening” and asks us to use this whenever we speak. (Typically they write it in large letters on a piece of paper which they attach to the lectern so it’s easily visible throughout the meeting.) Doing this challenges us to think on our feet and widen our vocabulary.

During the meeting the grammarian pays attention to who uses this word. They also take note of the following:

  • Any particularly effective or noteworthy uses of language
  • Any areas in which individuals can improve (usually focussing on the more experienced members)
  • The use of verbal crutches (ums, ahs, likes, etc)

Towards the end of the evening the grammarian reports back on what they’ve observed.

Why focus on verbal crutches?

Arguably language is at its most powerful when succinct. Verbal crutches tend to dilute and slow down our sentences, muddying our meaning. It’s therefore helpful to grow aware of our use of verbal crutches – when we use them and why – in order to try and curb our reliance on them.

How can I do the role well?

It’s all about practising sharp listening skills! The best feedback you can give is specific notes on what people can improve upon next time and praise for which techniques to repeat.

Unless you have an exceptional memory it’s wise to take notes – most likely using separate pages for the various elements you’re observing. This way when it comes to giving feedback you can run through each section in order, rather than darting about sporadically.

What about giving constructive feedback?

Constructive feedback is hugely important, though needs to be given with tact. When pointing out areas that could be improved upon, be as detailed as possible. It’s also a good rule to generally focus on the more experienced, confident members.

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Harriet Cummings

Novelist, script writer and member at Spa Speakers
Harriet is a debut novelist with a background in history of art and gender studies. As a script writer, she’s had work performed at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, as well as independent venues around London. While studying at Faber Academy, Harriet threw herself into her first novel and hasn’t looked back since. We are very lucky to have her as our Vice President of Education.
Harriet Cummings
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