What’s So Awful About Good Grammar?

July 11, 2011

History

I’ve seen a noticeable increase in articles, posts and Twitters about “grammar police” lately. Most of the stories run this way: a person will write about the importance of proper grammar and spelling, and the commenters usually criticize and whine that English is too difficult and that proper English doesn’t matter, anyway.

Au contraire. Proper English DOES matter. I make a career off proper grammar (as a writer). I thank God I retained enough knowledge in English to be able to make my living in this way. Good writers are very much needed today, as I’m sure you discerning people who try to interpret mangled news stories and articles realize. Proper grammar ensures that the speaker/writer communicates appropriately and accurately with the listener/reader. When it comes right down to it, proper grammar is common courtesy, too. It’s yielding to the other’s sensibilities so that the listener/reader understands your thoughts or instruction.

As a homeschooling parent, I have had my fill of difficult English grammar, year after year after year. :brudder: It’s not been easy, especially struggling through the participial poohbahs and diagramming doldrums… so I can’t say I have much love for the many snarls of English language grammar. But just because something takes great effort doesn’t mean it should be eradicated.

The kids have this saying about the English language, a running gag between us:

The only English grammar rule that does not have an exception is that every English grammar rule has an exception. :smarty:

:duncehat: LOL. It’s true!

I finally figured out how to label parts of speech when I was teaching my youngest son 8th grade grammar. He’d been struggling to understand why the word “their” could be both a pronoun and an adjective, and how could you tell the difference when labeling?! I realized that when labeling parts of speech, you must look at the entire sentence to determine the word’s intention and placement, and not just interpret the singular word and it’s particular definition.

Yeah, after 35+ years of English, I finally figured that one out! Sheesh! πŸ™„

BUT….

Good grammar and spelling are important!

As a student, I loved English classes in school but struggled with grammar (who doesn’t?!) because it was so difficult to remain consistent and interpret it accurately. English is a crazy amalgam of languages, a mish-mash melting pot of Dutch, German, Latin, French and slang. It was a very loose language until the printing press, when the spelling and grammar was managed by printers who used their own preferred style of writing. Various regions had their own styles of grammar and spelling. Even after the printing press, the language was still extremely flexible. Go read excerpts of Lewis’ and Clark’s journals of their expeditions, and you’ll see what I mean. Talk about creative spelling!

There have been many movements over the centuries to forcefully change English grammar and spelling. One notable modern movement began in 1906 when wealthy steel magnate Andrew Carnegie started an organization called the “Simplified Spelling Board.”

I wonder how TR would have liked changing the way he signed his name to "Theodor Rosevelt."

He wanted to get rid of the effluence of letters in the English dictionary such as the unnecessary silent letters: “e” in “are”; “h” in “ghost”; “hy” in “rhyme changing it to “rime,” and etc. Theodore Roosevelt latched onto it and commanded that the government printing office make the changes immediately. He was voted down by Congress, lol.

In the mid-1960s, another guy wanted to radically alter a great deal of English spelling words, such as change friend to frend, and head to hed. It didn’t go over well in the United States, but the Australian government adopted much of the idea.

I personally prefer to leave traditional spelling and grammar alone, unless there is good reason to alter it. I dislike the social engineering philosophy in general.

I’ll share a MAJOR pet peeve with you, while I’m thinking about it- the metric system. I hate the metric system! For one, it was introduced by a bunch of humanists during the atheistic French Revolution. They’d disliked the Biblical system and wanted to overhaul everything even remotely traditional.

The French Revolution's first act for liberty and tolerance was to eradicate the liberty of thousands of "intolerants."

They even placed a dancing girl on a dais and named her the Goddess of Reason. Not a very good track record of temperance and intelligence, if you ask me.

Anyway, the United States has remained staunchly on the side of the traditional English measurement system. And I hate this push to make everything in my country metric! Our household measuring tools are even metric, and I can’t (and won’t) make heads nor tails of them. I wouldn’t mind it, I guess, if the metric system was on the back of the measuring cups and all as a choice for our European friends, but no– the metric system is on the FRONT of our measuring tools! I have to turn the tools around and hold them in my left hand to use them! :-p I hate that kind of sneaky social engineering. I stubbornly resist! lol! And you KNOW if you go to Europe they don’t have measuring cups with the English system on the fronts and metric on the backs!

Ah, I feel so much better getting that off my chest. lol

I think English grammar and spelling is important. It’s a good discipline. It’s the best method we have to communicate with each other, to make sure that we are all communicating on the same level.

And that’s why I’m proud to be a part of the grammar police. HAHA!!

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5 Responses to “What’s So Awful About Good Grammar?”

  1. Kara Says:

    Couldn’t agree with you more! I believe that good grammar is important, even if I stink at it. The only thing that annoys me is when people correct my grammar when it’s not wanted. I had a friend who was constantly correcting me in MSN chats, and THAT got on my nerves. It’s not that I wouldn’t try, but that I was just in a hurry to type as we were in the middle of conversation. Typos in chats I don’t see as a big deal, but for emails, message boards, and especially blog posts…I believe that is important to correct grammar.

    • Rebecca Says:

      Kara, I think there’s some obscure rule somewhere that IM chats are completely exempt from proper grammar and spelling! At least, it is for us!! πŸ˜‰ My IM chats with my kids are rather…. vernacular. LOL

      I agree! I also dislike the constant “policing” of grammar. I think that’s a tad rude, unless the person is being taught by someone. Good grammar doesn’t mean that a person can skip good manners.

  2. Karen and Gerard Says:

    I never minded grammar in school. Actually I liked it because it never changed and once I learned it the first time, after that it was just review and easy A’s. I like easy!

  3. Beverly @ The Buzz Says:

    Can I just say AMEN!

  4. Anna Says:

    My son and I were attempting to explain this to my husband the other day. I received a text from my daughter that took quite a bit of time to decipher, all because she used the incorrect version on one little word and neglected to use punctuation. I don’t think we convinced the husband, but we’ll keep trying.

    Is it OK to correct grammar or word usage in a post about grammar? There’s a little problem with this sentence:
    “…and not just interpret the singular word and it’s particular definition.”

    I agree about chat and IM. Punctuation, capitalization, etc. are not required unless absolutely necessary to being understood.