In a discussion of homophones, a professor patiently explained that a vein can be a vessel in the body or a geological term, while a vane swings with the weather and vain is best explained through the Carly Simon classic, “You’re So Vain.”
“Watch your homophones when writing,” he summarized, “or all of this will have been in …”
A first-year course in remedial grammar? No, it was Queen’s University Principal Daniel Woolf tweeting his popular #queensgrammar lessons on Twitter. Twice a year for the past two years he’s been offering the advice over a period of several weeks during “what I’d call the high season for essay writing,” he says.
The tweets are a fun way for him to keep a hand in teaching and build his Twitter following of more than 5,000, he says. His 10,000-plus tweets on various subjects make him the most active of the handful of university presidents in Canada on Twitter.
“I decided when I embarked on Twitter that this was going to be my voice. I wasn’t going to have others write the tweets for me,” he says. “I was actually going to try to use it to give our students a real flavour of me as a person, and I think it’s worked.”
He acknowledges there are potential pitfalls in tweeting so regularly, but says “I do try to be reasonably careful in what I say.” He adds: “We can become rather artificial and inaccessible figures in these jobs, and anything that affords me an opportunity to show a sense of humour and have a medium to have exchanges with students and others is not a bad thing.”
You can follow Dr. Woolf on Twitter @queensprincipal.