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About the Author

To my students and readers:

Karl SherlockWelcome!  My name is Karl Sherlock.  I'm just another English instructor who teaches fundamental skills classes in writing.  I do teach other subjects—developmental composition classes, literature classes, and creative writing classes.  I've been on full-time staff at Grossmont College, in El Cajon, California, since 2006, and, before then, an adjunct and part-time instructor of English since 1982. 

I am many things outside the profession of teaching that, inevitably, go into the profession:  web design artist; anime nut; first-generation U.S. American; LGBTQ advocate; pottery collector; poetry writer; friend to parrots; paranormal investigator; Gary Numan aficionado; etc.  In addition, I am, unapologetically, a big, ol' grammar nerd. 

My interest in words and all the grammar that tinkers them together started in—you guessed it—grammar school.  Mine happened to be parochial, so an air of religious devotion pervaded my education.  The Sisters of St. Joseph, on the other hand, seemed (to a child, at least) a rather cantankerous group, and their unpredictable moods made my study of words and grammar an escape: grammar had rules that wouldn't arbitrarily turn on me; what could be learned on Monday wouldn't change by Tuesday, unlike Sister Marceline's temper or God's mercy. 

At home, my father, a non-native communicator of English, relied on me to talk to him in a way that didn't outpace his limited command of the English language.  (I'm sure that's a familiar experience for those living in bilingual households.)  Changing our last name from “Szewluk” to “Sherlock” in 1961, my parents may have also indirectly encouraged me to be a word sleuth in my youth, as I took great pride in the association with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's protagonist, and I made a conscious effort to be more skeptically inquisitive about everything, including language and the culture of its usage. 

Being interested in grammar and vocabulary didn't make me popular, as you might imagine.  On good days, kids used to call me a “walking dictionary” (which I most certainly was not, nor did I become one later in life).  After all, when you're a kid, erudition isn't exactly fun for your friends, and when you're a young adult, it's not in the least bit cool at parties.  Grammar doesn't really become sexy until you're older, when it begins to come into focus as a cultural and linguistic puzzle.  Your mind is teased by it, because language is a mind. The first time you're victimized by the semantics of a legal contract, or the first time someone you love misunderstands and breaks into tears because of something you've said, you realize how important to love and life and the pursuit of happiness your simple command of words and grammar can be.  Words and grammar, then, are more than just a way of organizing info.  The complexity of who you are, what you think, and how you express yourself during your short stint in the universe is all locked up in that amazing organ in your head, and it all depends on the software of words and grammar.  In other words, your mind expresses itself through the collective mind of a language and its rules. 

I've put together this handbook in order to encourage your exploration of how, like alchemy, the mind spins information into the ineffable gold of all that experience.  However, at the very least, if, in reviewing all these concepts, I've left you less anxious about English grammar, I'll take that to be a qualitative victory.  Enjoy!

Karl J. Sherlock
Last Updated: 02/07/2015


Karl J Sherlock
Associate Professor, English
Phone: 619-644-7871

  • Grossmont
  • Cuyamaca
A Member of the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District