Grammar and Good Writing
I am quite proud of my grammar skills. I mean, it isn’t perfect (because perfection is not “real”) but I have mastered most of its important rules. It is something that I put to use when I’m writing. I’m one of those types who believe that in order to write well, one must write in the correct grammar. Lately, however, I’ve been seeing (and reading) many articles that basically say good grammar has little, if not nothing, to do with good writing.
I have observed this similar attitude towards good grammar, this time in teaching others to communicate in English. In Cambodia I met a few supposed English-language instructors who didn’t particularly care for grammatical rules in spoken English. Their practice seemed to draw a demarcation line between speaking English and communicating in English; implying that unlike the former, the latter is more relaxed when it came to grammar.
Grammar might be basic and annoying to learn but it is an important determinant of one’s language skills. I believe this, even now, when there seems to be a backlash going against it.
Here’s a good argument, from Language Log’s Mark Liberman:
“We don’t put chemistry into the school curriculum because it will make students better cooks, or even because it might make them better doctors, much less because we need a relatively small number of professional chemists. We believe (I hope) that a basic understanding of atoms and molecules is knowledge that every citizen of the modern world should have.”
My point exactly, I must say.
Of course, good writing doesn’t rest on good grammar alone. There’s rhetoric and composition, and a host of other critical elements but it doesn’t mean that we take grammar for granted just because one finds it tedious to learn.
An article from The Huffington Post proposes that grammar be viewed distinctly from writing and/ or literature, even if it has connections to both. And that grammar should be taught “not as something to hate or even as something to learn as a means to an end, but as a fascinating and complex system to be discovered and explored for its own sake”.
Grammar should be taught as something to love.