is grammar a helper or a hindrance?

I consider myself a multifaceted individual with respect to writing. I was taught grammar, had it instilled in me by a relentless nun: she made sure that we loved conjugating verbs and could identify objective complements effortlessly. Noguchi’s three initial points don’t leave me feeling well. I become very sad when I hear students complain about the nuances of the English language and refuse to incorporate proper grammar into their writing, and then have the nerve to question a poor grade received chiefly because of their refusal. I wholly disagree with the notion that grammar cannot be transferred to writing situations. This idea coincides with the entire style versus content argument present later on in the piece. Grammatical structure dictates style just as much as diction and lexicon do; however, style is also comprised of the unwillingness to abide by those rules. Poets like Whitman and Bukowski are apparent rebels; authors such as Danielewski and Burgess should be lucky that their work has been published, but because they tend to ignore conventional rules, their work contains a very specific, very different quality that sets it apart from everything else. Of course, they also realize that proper grammar is a necessity to avoid sounding like a dolt.

That being said, I think Noguchi would have written a more interesting piece had he discussed the verbal implications of grammar in addition to the written. In fact, learning proper grammar, employing it in speech and utilizing it in writing, I feel, yields a much more positive result. It becomes exceedingly difficult to understand someone’s ideas when the conveyor belt they use to issue them to us is broken, whether the medium is written or spoken. Constant use of “like” bothers me so much more than confusing “well” with “good” or “bad” over “badly”, but I’m more forgiving of the errors in speech than I am in writing. I cannot ignore the fact that poor speech translates directly to poor writing, because so many students find themselves writing in the exact same way that they speak.

Concerning the entire “teach less grammar and they will learn more”, I’m iffy. Instead of spending half an hour a day on correcting run on sentences and dedicating the other hour to content organization, why not just start teaching grammar alongside vocabulary at an earlier age? We were not heavily drilled on gerunds and whatnot until seventh grade – I was twelve years old and only just having the most important aspects of English cemented into my mind. If teachers go ahead and start correcting mistakes early on – explaining why “because”, at times, when used in the beginning of a sentence, does not express a complete thought, or even what a complete thought is – then students are much more likely to avoid those same mistakes later in life. Smaller doses over a longer period of time would instill the rules better than smaller doses over a shorter period of time.

Mostly I just wish more kids would study grammar with more interest because of how incredibly confusing the English language is. We have Latin words, French words, Spanish words, Italian phrases, and roots from a dozen different countries, and whichever group of grammarians came up with these paradigms were incredibly pretentious, yet startlingly eclectic. Noguchi wants a more structured, categorical viewing and teaching of grammar that is more thinly spread, but I don’t see that as being too effective.

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