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Entries in Grammar (1)


Grammar is not just for nerds

It's always a little disappointing to read a book which has made it through the publication process, but reveals bad editing. Of course, editors are human, but it can be very distracting when one is reading along merrily, and a poorly used comma stops the reading process, causing the reader to go back and untangle the arguments. When reading a blog, although I would expect a responsible blogger would proof read and make an attempt at proper grammar and usage, it's not as much of an issue. When it comes to a book from a reputable publisher, one would expect that not to be the case.

If we are going to write with the expectation of others reading it, we ought to do the absolute best we can. And that may mean considering help with our writing. It isn't fun to think we are writing without clarity, and we may feel disgruntled taking advice from others, but ultimately, it helps. I recently wrote and handed in a fifteen page term paper. A friend asked if I could send him a copy, and as I did, I proof read it again, and realized that yes, I did hand it in with some unclear writing. I'm sure when it's returned to me, my prof will have taken note. 

Is grammar taught in high school these days? Do people learn how to diagram sentences? My children didn't really like diagramming sentences, but I had them do it before they went off to public high school. They are all good, clear writers. The reason people use "lie" and "lay" incorrectly may be due a lack of grammar instruction. I saw a television commercal recently where the advertisement used "less" and "fewer" incorrectly. Some of the worst examples of writing I've seen is perpetuated by journalists.

Reading well-written books helps in gaining an intuitive understanding of how good writing sounds. but learning grammar is valuable, too. And if we're going to write for others, we should not hesitate to learn more. As a former homeschool mom, I myself, a few years ago, re-visited a grammar program just to sharpen my own writing. I used the program I used with my children in 7th and 8th grades, Stewart English

For an adult looking to improve writing clarity, a high school grammar program would be a good investment. There is a review website by Cathy Duffy where various programs are reviewed. Right now, one of the more popular grammar programs is Analytical Grammar. It came into the homeschool community after my children were homeschooled, but if I was homeschooling today, I would probably use it.

I don't always write with clarity, and when I do, it's probably because I've been rushed or careless. It certainly isn't because I don't know the rules. Writing is hard work, and writing with clarity means being willing to follow a few guidelines and rules so that others will not be distracted by poor writing. The best ideas suffer from being poorly expressed.