My mother had two goals for her children: (1) that they would be proficient cookie bakers, and (2) that they would know how to use apostrophes correctly. Ladies and gentlemen, I can bake cookies, and I know the difference between possessive and contracting apostrophes.
Case and point: just ask Conner or Nicole or Emily or Kenton or Bekah or Jessica how I can whip up a batch of oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookie dough in under ten minutes. And look at this:
It’s = “it is”
Its = belonging to “it”
Some might say that my mother should have put loftier goals on her three kids, but I like to think I turned out all right, if you can see past the anxiety disorders, social phobias, general insecurity, and veiled egotism. I say veiled because I hide the egotism in self-deprecation, another insecurity.
But really I was raised right and my mother is a grammar snob. She was an editor for goodness sake; it’s not her fault. Maybe it is, but I’m glad of it, it puts me a step ahead of the other English majors at school.
But you know what I love? Fragments. As in sentences that fail to be even one single clause. I love those things. And you can tell because I used one two sentences ago. At least that’s what Microsoft Word’s “Spelling and Grammar” tool told me. I can’t see the fragments for shit.
Do I think grammar is important? Well first of all, no one actually asked that question. I brought it up as an abrupt transition to the next thing I want to say. It’s something we writers do, you know. Whatever we want…
Yes grammar is important. Should it take a prevalent role in school? Should it take precedent over other writing lessons? I don’t know. Research points out that “the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in composition, even a harmful effect on improvement in writing” . Grammar is the least exciting part of writing, and when strictly enforced, takes some of the value of writing away. But you can’t really learn how to write without learning any grammar; it would be very convoluted and confusing. Then again, the people I know, or authors I’ve read, who’ve had Dyslexia are strikingly creative and artistic, with great ideas. What I mean, is that if we punish students for bad grammar, especially young students, instead of finding the value in their ideas, their form, their style, we risk exiling them from writing altogether. And I don’t want little kids to be exiled from the wonderful island of writing.
Or maybe I do. Less kids writing means less future competition. So to hell with the little buggers, give them some draconian grammar enforcement.
If you’d like to see my siblings’ grammar put to good use, then I encourage you to read their posts, especially if you’re interested in the Middle East, political science, and/or sociology.
Kelsey is a grad student at American University in Washington D.C. and a member of the blog The Global Present. You can read her post on Drone strikes and the necessity for government transparency here.
Jessy lives in Jerusalem as an intern for the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC). She has a wonderful blog about her life in Israel and her last post describes the issues around applying social contact theory to the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Hartwell, Patrick. “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar.” College English 47.2 (1985): 105-27. JSTOR. Web.
. Research in Written Composition (Urbana, Ill.: National Council of Teachers of English, 1963), pp. 37-38