Student writes way into better English, grammar skills

Doug Boock
Joseph Burrows displays a copy of a 41-page booklet, “English Eddition,” he produced while a student at Marmion Catholic Academy in Aurora. The booklet lists guidelines for basic English and proper grammar.

What do you do if you’re struggling in a school subject? Joseph Burrows has an interesting solution: study the subject well enough to write a booklet about it.

Burrows, a senior at Marmion Catholic Academy, found English particularly challenge when he entered Marmion, a private school in Aurora, three years ago. So, at the end of his freshman year, he decided to do something about it. The results are impressive.

Son of Rita Burrows of Galva, Burrows has produced a booklet listing guidelines for basic English and proper grammar. His “English Eddition” –  an 8½-by-11 compilation featuring 41 pages and over 7,200 words – took a lot of work.

“I have been adding and revising since my freshman year. I worked on the book an hour two or three times a week,” said Burrows.

Using his own notes and definitions, Burrows wrote a booklet that lets readers know how to correctly craft sentences. For instance, he explains what things like verbs, participles and antecedents are used for, and gives examples of how to use them.

He also includes tips on writing resumes, cover letters, essay papers and references to books listed in essay papers. And, he offers proper elements of a short story.

The booklet’s loaded with good, practical information. Partly for that reason, Marmion is giving it to some of its freshmen to use as a study tool.

They’ll find it’s written in a style kids can relate to. (“Some items were used in more than one place because it fell in more than one category, so get over it!” Burrows writes at the end of his index, which lists 25 different categories covered in the booklet.)

“I wanted the book to read more like a student wrote it,” he explained. “My intention was not to personalize it as much as to make it comfortable to use.”

He also keeps readers on their toes, occasionally misspelling words on purpose.

“Some words I misspelled to show that everyone misspells,” he said. “Other words are misspelled to make you think; if some words are misspelled, the reader will do a double-take and look at the information a little more closely.”

Burrows’ efforts were rewarded at the county fair this summer. His booklet took first place and Best of Show. It also won third place at the Illinois State Fair.

Hopefully, the booklet will look good on his college applications, Burrows said, but he doesn’t have plans to professionally publish it.

Ultimately, he’s already gotten what he initially wanted out of it anyway: a sharpening of his own skills.

“I was never the best English student,” he conceded. “Writing was always a struggle. So I took my weakness and tried to better myself.”