Written by David Hatz, Retired Teacher and Coach
I’m guessing most of you are familiar with the adage “Practice makes perfect.” This is
certainly true if you have ever taken lessons in the arts – musical instruments, voice, dance (to
name a few) – played organized sports (all of them), or learned a skill like cooking.
Practice makes perfect is the mantra of teachers, coaches and instructors of pretty much
every teachable skill.
Early in my coaching career I learned that this familiar phrase, now cliché, needs to be
amended. While practice can make perfect (if students work diligently to improve with the goal
of achieving perfection), learners often become distracted, lose interest, etc., and then simply
go through the motions or, worse, skip practice altogether. Raise your hand if you’re guilty of
this transgression – yes, mine is stretched high into the air.
Since this is reality, this inspirational phrase should be modified to: “Practice makes
permanent.” Because if one works hard and strives to improve, s/he will get better and maybe
reach perfection. But those who merely go through the motions will develop bad habits and
plateau, likely at an unacceptable level. And when game time or showtime arrives, that is how
they will perform – well short of perfection.
So, whether you are learning a new skill or a developing one that requires constant
refinement, the message is simple: work hard, strive to improve, or don’t bother. As the sign on
many a locker-room wall reads: “Go hard, or go home.”
This is particularly true in writing. While many students embrace practicing in athletics and
the arts, and thus willingly dedicate countless hours hoping to achieve perfection, far fewer of
them are willing to expend similar time and effort on writing projects.
Young writers, whether desiring proficiency or excellence, must understand that good
writing does not happen by accident and certainly is not achieved through last-minute all-
nighters or hastily rewritten first or second drafts with “final drafts” that merely include
superficial changes from the original.
I will provide some writing tips in future blogs that I hope you will find use as you work to
develop your writing prowess.
I have used this space before to demonstrate how homonyms, homographs, and
homophones can make it difficult to learn English, especially for (but certainly not limited to)
second-language learners. Following are some heteronyms (words that are spelled identically
but have different sounds and meanings) that may cause some readers to do a double-take:
1. The insurance was invalid for the invalid in the hospital bed.
2. There was a row among the oarsman about who would row.
3. They were too close to the door to close it.
4. A buck does funny things when does (females) are present.
5. A seamstress and a sewer fell into the sewer line.
6. Upon seeing the tear in her painting, the artist shed a tear.
7. How can I intimate this to my most intimate friend?
8. I had to subject the subject to a series of tests.
9. To help with the planting, the farmer taught his sow to sow.
10. When he opened his eyes, he saw a saw.
Finally, there was the seamstress whose skills were average at best – they were only sew sew.
One fowl is a goose,
but two are called geese.
Yet the plural of mouse
should never be meese.
If I speak of a foot
and you show me your feet –
And I give you a boot,
would a pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth
and a whole set are teeth,
Then shouldn’t the plural of booth
be called beeth?