BTT: National Grammar Day

The question that Rebecca poses today is:

In honor of National Grammar Day … it IS “March Fourth” after all … do you have any grammar books? Punctuation? Writing guidelines? Style books?
More importantly, have you read them?
How do you feel about grammar in general? Important? Vital? Unnecessary? Fussy?

Oh boy – I wasn’t sure whether to write on this subject or not, as I am afraid my blog posts will now be read with much scrutiny and I do not think I will measure up.  See, I am a grammar teacher.  I like grammar.  Diagramming sentences used to be one of my most favorite school activities.  It is conducive to my left-brain perspective on the world.  However, I understand that the nitty-gritty details of grammar are not for everyone, and I do think there are times when grammar can be overdone (I tell students that I am not trying to change the way the speak, only the way they write).

I tell my students that the first draft of a project is written for the writer; all subsequent drafts are written for the reader.  It is the job of the writer to communicate to the reader in a way that the reader does not have to work to comprehend the message.  And that, in my humble opinion, is the primary purpose of grammar:  to facilitate communication.  Fragments, run-on sentences, and comma splices make it difficult for the reader to follow the train of thought.  Verb inconsistency makes it difficult to understand the time progression of events (I tell students I feel like I am in a time machine — going back to the past, then being transported to the present — I get whiplash).  Pronoun antecedent agreement is key to understanding who is doing what.  Double negatives give the impression of illiteracy (a false impression for my students of affluent Johnson County).  These I believe are some of the mainstays of a grammar curriculum, and I find that they are really not all that difficult for students to grasp.  I believe that most glaring errors can be identified if the writer would just take the time to proof-read (and spellcheck) the work before submission.  Unfortunately, many are either too lazy or too indifferent to do that final review.

I suppose I would state that good grammar is like good manners for writing.  It is the polite thing to do for our readers, and I do think they appreciate it.

Let me leave you with a little funny.  A student of mine has this posted on her facebook wall:


Let’s eat Grandma! (which means, let’s carve up Grandma and have a nice meal of her)


Let’s eat, Grandma! (which means, come on, Grandma, let’s have a meal together) 

The use of a single comma has indeed saved Grandma’s life.


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