I believe teaching grammar does make a difference to a person’s development as a writer. Writing thought is mentally fluid, but the final product is formulaic and calculated. To general patterns within writing, the thesis, topic sentences, and MLA guidelines, allow the reader to be engaged and follow the writing clearly. Similarly, grammar is necessary so that the writing can be understood. Grammar rules help maintain the universality of language so that no matter what the sentences can be understood. I do agree with Noguchi, however, that the approach to teaching grammar should be altered.
Grammar should be taught through the actual process of writing. Grammar rules should be coupled with writing situations and transferred to those real situations rather than be treated as a separate subject from writing. The little purple book from which I learned grammar was a dreaded foe. The exercises were often dull and monotonous, and the explanations confusing. Often, I felt like I had to translate the grammar rules in my mind before applying them to my writing, as though they were two different languages. This discontinuity complicated the process of improving my writing. Knowing what a linking verb is by definition, does little for the usage of such in a paper. The minimalist approach to grammar would be more effective. Removing the complications and excess definitions and stripping grammar down to its basest form, would make the subject more approachable and applicable. Devoting countless hours to the gerund seems hardly productive, especially when students could be developing elements of their writing that would have a greater effect in the future.
As a tutor, practicing minimalist tutoring, I do focus on the quality of the student’s writing far before the grammar. While correct grammar does help the flow and presentation of the writing the larger problems of organization, writing concisely and idea development often outweigh grammatical errors. Furthermore, as a student improves the aforementioned areas of writing, he often irons out most of the grammatical errors. Ultimately, I do believe grammar is an important part of writing and correct grammar can improve a student’s writing, but only if applied to the writing.