Don’t Leave or Stay Home Without It: City Tech Professor Publishes GPS for Grammar

January 31, 2012 | New York City College of Technology

Brooklyn, NY —  “Grammar is really a navigation system for writing,” says Jane Tainow Feder, professor of English at New York City College of Technology (City Tech).

Photo credit: Michele Forsten

Feder, who has been teaching at the College for more than 40 years, has compiled her entertaining way of approaching the fundamentals of writing into The GPS for Writing: Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentence Structure (Kendall Hunt Publishing Company, Dubuque, IA), available through www.amazon.com and www.kendallhunt.com.

Playing on the idea of a Geographic Positioning System (GPS), Feder’s user-friendly book steers both students and experienced writers through the mechanics of writing by finding the fun in the study of language. “Even people with degrees who write well often can’t explain why they write well,” says Feder. “Sometimes good writers just want to know what makes their writing effective and how to make it even more so.

To engage readers, visual puns abound throughout the book’s 180 pages. For example, verbs in the passive voice and active voice are diagrammed on the book’s cover, designed by Feder’s son Andy, a professional designer, as two different routes a writer can take to a destination.

“The book is a system of making sure that the written words direct the reader to the intended ideas,” Feder explains.

A distinctive feature of her book is the use of clever mnemonic devices — easily remembered acronyms conveying important concepts which otherwise might be a chore to memorize. WABITS covers subordinating conjunctions used in dependent clauses, ABS OF NY enumerates coordinating conjunctions, FITCHMINT explains conjunctive adverbs and CVS represents not the pharmacy chain, but the components of a sentence: complete thought, verb and subject.

In the classroom, Feder has been known to invent her own rap lyrics to put across the ideas of subject-verb agreement, correct usage of singular and plural, and the possessive apostrophe. “I want to do a YouTube video of my students doing those raps,” she says.

The GPS for Writing includes more standard information as well — tests, exercises and answers with each chapter, and addresses of helpful web sites. A user’s guide for writers and writing instructors is included.  “The book may be used as a reference book as well as for a 15-session course, for which I present a plan,” Feder says. Already, many of her colleagues have adopted the book for their classes.

To make the book affordable and conveniently portable, it sells for $23.95 and is small enough to slip into a jeans pocket. Later in the year, the book will be available as an e-book.

Feder, who resides in Brooklyn Heights, walking distance from City Tech, teaches classroom and online courses in writing, reading, literature, voice and diction, and public speaking. For her work in promoting intercultural harmony on campus, she is the recipient of both the Peace Award and the Ursula Schwerin Award from the Mickey Leland/Ivan Tillem Peace Studies Seminar.

Feder brings a rich background in teaching and developing curricula for writing. In addition to her job at City Tech, she taught at the New School for Social Research for 14 years and has led short-term classes at Shanghai University in China and at the South Dakota School for Mines and Technology with Lakota Sioux Native American high school students.

She also formerly served on a state-wide committee to develop a literature and writing curriculum for Bell Atlantic/NYNEX employees matriculating in a degree program in telecommunications at City Tech.

A native of Passaic, NJ, she has written for the Metropolitan Diary page of The New York Times and has been a textbook reviewer for several major educational publishers. She also is certified as a Kripalu yoga teacher and employs some of its principles in helping students get ready for test-taking.

Of her new book, Feder says, “It’s a thrill to do my first book at this stage in my career. When I retire, I don’t want to take with me what I’ve developed over a span of 40 years of teaching. I want it to become widely used in the classroom and at home so people can benefit from it. I hope they enjoy it; it’s a kick.”

New York City College of Technology (City Tech) of The City University of New York (CUNY) is the largest public college of technology in New York State. Located at 300 Jay Street in Downtown Brooklyn, the College enrolls more than 16,000 students in 62 baccalaureate, associate and specialized certificate programs.