Better Grammar

Subject: Better Grammar
From: Andy Dugas <adugas -at- NAVIS -dot- COM>
Date: Tue, 9 Mar 1999 09:50:49 -0800

1. One point about the grammar thread was how to learn better grammar. I
can only offer my own personal experience. I was an English major and never
doubted my grammar UNTIL I moved to Latin America and taught English
professionally. Students had questions, and by god I had to have the

Oddly enough, teaching grammar became one of my favorite aspects of that
job - I learned and used an approach that treated grammar not as a set of
rules to be memorized, but an underlying logic of language of which one
needs only to develop an awareness.

Group activities included Silent Sentence (in which students deconstruct a
long complex sentence one word at a time, getting points if the sentence
remains grammatically correct, even if the meaning changes) and Sentence
Auction (in which students bid on sentences that may or may not be
grammatically correct). In such activities, students are constantly running
the language through their head and developing/internalizing their own
"grammar intuition."

My point? By teaching grammar, I learned it myself, eight years after
graduating with a BA in English.

2. Another point was whether or not we professional writers can be less
fastidious about our grammar in our TWRL postings. IMHO this is a
no-brainer. This is a professional forum and today's reader may be
tomorrow's employer or ally in getting another job. A misplaced apostrophe
here, a typo there, okay - no need to be Nazis about it - but a posting
riddled with "their" instead of "they're" and such errors cannot but help
make an unprofessional impression.

If you were a line cook and regularly met other line cooks, what would you
think of a fellow line cook who coughed without covering her/his mouth?
Sure, you could ASSUME that s/he's professional enough to cover her/his
mouth ON THE JOB, but what would your impression be? Would that person be
the first to come to mind when that hot opportunity opens up at your


Andrew Dugas
Technical Writer
Navis LLC
1616 Franklin Street
Oakland, California 94612 USA
tel. 510-763-5715
fax. 510-763-2516

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