RE: Midol Moment or National Tragedy? You decide...

Subject: RE: Midol Moment or National Tragedy? You decide...
From: "Higgins, Lisa" <LHiggins -at- carrieraccess -dot- com>
To: TECHWR-L <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 12 Nov 1999 08:27:36 -0700

> The friends who tell you that spelling and grammar don't
> matter aren't pro writers. We who write for a living take justifiable
> in doing our jobs to at least those fundamental standards.

It seems people are chasing boogymen here. I've never seen anyone on this
list claim that grammar doesn't matter. Of course it does. I have, however,
seen (and been) people who claim that fourth-grade Language Arts usage rules
are invalid. Which they are. Grammar--real grammar--is a complex logical
system. It is far too intricate and convoluted for any one person to fully
comprehend, so we have this wonderful intuitive mechanism that allows us to
grasp the structure and meaning of our native language(s).

Throughout history, from time to time, certain insecure and egotistical
people have tried to lay claim to their native languages, asserting some
spurious authority over its constructs and logic. Often, these
pronouncements are based on some valid fact or observation. Splitting an
infinitive verb from its 'to' particle, for example, tends to look awkward,
so someone decided it should never be done. Never mind the fact that, due to
the incredible complexity of the language, whoever invented this rule didn't
notice that the 'to' particle isn't an inherent part of the infinitive form,
and that the pure infinitive is, in English as in Latin, a single word.
Consequently, the rule as stated is just plain provably wrong. As
*intended*, it's a good guideline for beginning writers to consider, but
certainly nothing that anyone who could reasonably be considered a
professional writer would ever be concerned with.

What makes a good professional writer is not the ability to memorize and
adhere to these grade-school usage guidelines. In part, it's the ability to
grasp the inherent logic of language and to use that to effectively convey
what you want to convey. The sheer number of things a writer needs to know
in order to write well is enough to make it clear that an understanding of
true grammar is not a conscious process.

Good professional writers speak to their audiences, and they convey their
messages. If that audience consists in part of people who have some
emotional investment in the mangled hodgepodge of arbitrary dictates that
they call "grammar," good writers take that into account, if only to avoid
distracting their readers.


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