A rocky beginning
I’ve had a love-hate, on-again, off-again relationship with grammar over the years. When I was in school I truly despised it. Sentence diagramming and prepositions were the banes of my existence. I loved reading, spelling and creative writing, but grammar was a (supposedly) necessary evil.
The problem was that I just didn’t see the point of it. I could tell if a sentence was right, and if it wasn’t, then I knew how to fix it. Why learn all the meaningless names and rules when I could already read and write?
This perspective changed when I worked as a proofreader at a daily newspaper. I enjoyed the work, but suddenly I was on the spot trying to explain subject-verb agreement. I discovered a newfound appreciation for grammar pundits.
In university, one of my first-year classes was dedicated entirely to grammar. Although I had a new interest in the subject, I was still wary of three-hour grammar lectures every Wednesday. To my great surprise, I thoroughly enjoyed them. All those rules finally seemed relevant, and at every turn I experienced “Aha!” moments where I suddenly had a name for something that I’d already known. Finally, I’d reconnected with grammar.
Over the years of my freelancing career we’ve come to a mutually agreeable arrangement. I’m not a grammar pedant, and there are still occasions where I scratch my head over verb tenses, but my old antipathy is long gone.
One day, I stumbled across an article that validated those early, rocky years of grammar. “The Wrong Way to Teach Grammar” discusses how studies have shown that formal grammar training can do more harm than good, causing students to develop an aversion to high school English and a fear of making mistakes. On the flip side, students who didn’t follow a grammar curriculum but were exposed to more literature and creative writing still possessed the same English skills, but lacked the grammar hang-ups. The upshot is that it’s possible — maybe even ideal — to learn grammar from reading and writing rather than sentence diagramming.
Share your relationship tips
What do you think? Have you enjoyed a long-term rapport with grammar? Share your pet peeves, tips and success stories below.
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