Re: Is grammar important?

Subject: Re: Is grammar important?
From: Bill Burns <BillDB -at- ILE -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 21 May 1998 13:08:43 -0600

Tracy writes:

> Maybe I'm just feeling disgruntled today, but I'm wondering if most
> readers even recognize proper grammar. And I don't mean the basic
> sentence structure (as in Arlen's "Red pig green hand blue." example), I
> mean things like noun-verb agreement, the difference between "who" and
> "that," and don't even get me started on apostrophes! Even the most
> intelligent people don't recognize when their own writing is
> grammatically incorrect or when they misspell a word, so how do we know
> they accept and expect it from us?
Maybe to clarify the point (and to underscore what both Lisa Higgins and
Vicki Long have already added to this thread), we should be saying
"conforming to the rules of formal standard written English" instead of
"grammatical." When we speak of something being "ungrammatical," we're not
typically referring to the syntax of a sentence but to how the sentence is
rendered on the page with punctuation and spelling. If something in written
English were truly "ungrammatical," it would also be nonsensical; no amount
of punctuation would make it less so.

My wife is an excellent writer, and she has an intuitive sense of what
conforms to standard convention and what doesn't. She couldn't diagram a
sentence to save her life. Formal studies in grammar might change that, but
it wouldn't improve her writing.

BTW, I'd like to apologize to everyone for my live e-mail suicide on
Tuesday. In addition to being inappropriate on its own, it also wound up
getting reposted to the list when it triggered a response from someone's MS
Exchange account. My post was unnecessary, and I'm sorry if it offended
anyone. I would, though, like to encourage newcomers to browse the archives
or look at the FAQ before asking questions about platforms, application
comparisons, or proper spacing between sentences.

Bill Burns
Senior Technical Writer/Technology Consultant
ILE Communications
billdb -at- ile -dot- com

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