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Subject:Re: Grammar and learning to write From:"Huber, Mike" <Mike -dot- Huber -at- SOFTWARE -dot- ROCKWELL -dot- COM> Date:Wed, 6 Dec 1995 13:34:18 -0500
From: Suzanne M. Faubl
Mike Huber writes:
"Correct grammar is just a tool. An important tool, and one worthy of
and careful study, but not the goal of either children or tech writers"
While techwriters may agree that using correct grammar is not their main
goal (communicating effectively is), I do feel that we have a moral and
professional obligation to attempt to "make" the use of correct grammar
most effective form of communication.
We can't "make" anything the most effective form of communication. If I
could, I would make illuminated manuscripts on vellum with gold leaf
the most effective form of communication.
I don't feel we (as tech writers) have any such obligation directly. We
an obligation to be clear, thought, and that usually means correct
Sometimes it does not. It may mean graphics, or lists, or even the
occasional breaking of a rule. I agree, thought, that it never means
If we do not insist on using correct grammar, who will? Do we really
to contribute to the demise of the english language?
Why (and I ask for information, not to be sarcastic) should I (in a
setting) care? As a personal hobby, I read old stories, in the original
Some as old as Chaucer, some as recent as 1970's, some current. It's all
different. What version is it that I am to preserve?
Still, this is no excuse for the sloppiness that I see in too much
especially (and I find this embarrassing) in manuals. Sloppy writing is
clear, and the sloppiness usually goes well beyond grammar.
Using correct grammar should not have to be a conscious goal of technical
communicators. It should be a given.
Schools should require children to pass a grammar basic skills test. I
teach technical writing to college seniors, and I would say that (way
than) half of them regularly make errors on "routine grammar stuff" such
dangling modifiers, subject-verb agreement, antecedent agreement, tense,
Ghod save us from more standardized testing. Requiring an essay makes
They should have learned these things in 8th grade.
My third and fifth grade kids have acquired an ear for most of the
rules through a great deal of reading and writing. They are in the
learning the formal rules. And they have a real grasp of why those rules
important: so people can understand what they write.