Professor Emerita Evelyn Farbman taught English and writing classes for 25 years at Capital Community College, instructing a generation of traditional and non traditional students in composition and the basics of writing well.
Farbman’s lesson plans on sentence structure and grammar led her to author a widely used textbook, Sentence Sense: A Writer’s Guide, first published in 1985 by Signals, Houghton Mifflin. A second edition came along in 1989 — a four-part, book “to provide beginning college writers with several approaches to improving their writing skills.”
During her tenure at Capital Professor Farbman teamed up with her colleague and friend, the late Charles Darling (the College’s first webmaster and Poet-In-Residence), to create an early online version of Sentence Sense that complemented Darling’s comprehensive Guide to Grammar & Writing now hosted by the Capital Community College Foundation.
Along with the Guide To Grammar and Writing, Sentence Sense was accessible at the college website from 1999 to 2014 making Darling and Farbman pioneer developers of online writing tools. Both the Guide and Sentence Sense, initially developed just for students at Capital, quickly became popular on the web for teachers and students at all levels and around the globe.
Before her retirement from the college in 2011, Farbman recognized that her college-based web page, developed with Darling’s help at the dawn of personal computer use, was encountering increasing problems and frustration for users owing to the outmoded computer languages that created it.
Working independently and at her own expense, Farbman started building a new site for Sentence Sense that could deliver again what the original book and web page offered: “an introduction to the way sentences work, particularly in writing and a learning tool for adults who want to use Standard English with greater ease and clarity.”
Along the way Farbman enlisted the help of a group of students at the University of California, Irvine. An Informatics class taught by Professor Hadar Ziv and assisted by Six Silberman and Tao Wang. Students Pen Han Chang, Tsz Hang Ng, Derick Nguyen, Dylan Shigekawa, and Darien Vidaure completed a preview of the new site in March, 2015.
According to Farbman the new version at http:/sentencesyntax.com “offers a descriptive grammar that explores how Standard English sentences work. Its focus is on the underlying structure of sentences, filling a gap left by the many existing prescriptive grammar websites that focus on error-correction. Sentence Sense addresses a wide range of learners between the ages of 12 and 102.”
The 2019 interactive and friendly Sentence Sense includes eight chapters including an introduction and sections on verbs, subjects and completers, modifiers, embedded thoughts, sentence combining, punctuation and English language learning.
In the Fall 2018 semester Farbman shared her work in progress to enthusiastic Humanities and English faculty members, showing how the newly formatted online guide can be a valuable writing resource again in composition and English classes and on the wider web.
Professor Farbman met again at the College last month with CEO Dr. G. Duncan Harris, interim Dean of Academic Affairs Dr. Miah LaPierre-Dreger, Humanities Chair Dr. Jeffrey Partridge and Interim Business & Technology Chair Seth Freeman.
Planned is a partnership that will engage Capital students in Computer Information Systems (CIS) to complete development of the interactive writing guide leading to CCC again hosting a state-of-the-art resource for teachers and students.