how we learn English

Subject: how we learn English
From: Connie Winch <CEW -at- MACOLA -dot- USA -dot- COM>
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 1995 00:00:00 LCL

My grade- and high-school English teacher (one
person) forced us to know our grammar rules.
For example, she'd say, "Punctuate this sentence"
or "Choose the correct word", etc. After we supplied
our answer, she'd say, "Why? (as in why is that
correct)" or "Prove it", and we'd have to tell her the
rule behind the answer we'd given. I agree with
Arlen's point (good post, Arlen; I must say the outcome
surprised me). You can't just write with no initial
guidance/guidelines and expect to write well.
As with anything else in life, language must have its
principles, or chaos results.

Having said that, I would also
say that there are some things that are taught as rules
that really don't need to be rules (such as Never end
a sentence with a prepostion, or worse, Always write
in the third person - this has led to a lot of really
poor technical writing, especially in the early stages
of this profession). And some "rules" should be flexible -
applying only in certain situations. For a good treatment
of this whole subject, see Joseph Williams' _Style: Ten
Lessons in Clarity and Grace_, Lesson Ten.

My $.02.

|Connie E. Winch | Don't be so open-minded |
|Technical Writer | your brains fall out. |
|Macola, Inc. | |
|cew -at- macola -dot- usa -dot- com | -Unknown |

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