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I sympathize with your interviewing pain. Am going through a similar
"growth" experience myself, learning how to interview candidates for jobs.
To defend, or perhaps just give some perspective on your experience with
people knowing their grammar, I must respond with a rhetorical question.
*Must* I be able to explain right away every grammar rule in the book
*during an interview?* I have to say, I find this akin to being asked to
explain Frame's autonumbering or some such tool procedure off the top of my
head. If I've worked with it in the last month, I can probably explain it to
you. If I haven't, then I may need a little time (say 30 minutes or so)
working with it before I can remember how to explain it to someone else.
Give me a day with a grammar book to refresh my rusted memory and I'll be
good to go.
I tutored writing in a community college writing lab for 7 years. I have
more than adequate knowledge of why commas go here and not there, and where
the fuzzy areas might be, and what my preferences are in the fuzzy areas and
why. At one point in time I had pretty much every grammar rule at the tip of
my tongue on demand. I make a very competent editor. But I haven't had to
explain to anyone in 6 years the difference between a SUBordinating
conjunction and a COordinating conjunction. Never mind the subjunctive,
which I know I occasionally mangle in my spoken language, though get right
in written words.
Of course, your candidates may have little knowledge, rusty or otherwise, of
grammar. I just wanted to point out that knowledge used and knowledge
articulated can be two different things. Perhaps an interview about grammar
could cover their grammar background and whether its truly a matter of never
learning or only that they haven't thought about the underlying rules in a
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