Is Grammar Dead?

Somewhere deep in the vaults of American education lay the forgotten books about grammar. Kids hate learning it, teachers don’t want to teach it (let’s face it, it’s not that fun) and no one seems to be complaining. But at what cost? Most people can’t even spell the word grammar correctly anymore, never mind form a grammatically correct and complex sentence. Don’t even get me started on made up words…. (“For all intensive purposes?!” “Supposably?” I had a bunch of kids asking me when they were going to “presentate” their posters last year. They had no idea that wasn’t a word, despite my adamant arguments to the contrary.)

I’m an English teacher. I can succinctly explain the difference between a gerund and a participle; I write with semicolons. I believe in the power of the Oxford comma. But even I don’t always write with proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Is grammar dead?

We speak of Latin as being a dead language- no one speaks it anymore. I learned how to conjugate Latin verbs in high school, and it may have helped me on the SAT, but I’m not sure that it had a tremendous impact on my ability to be a functioning adult. Still, I appreciate a well written article, but more and more, I am finding that people don’t seem to care about grammatically correct language, even in published work.

We all send and receive dozens of emails a day, and to be honest, I don’t always proofread my own writing- and it shows when I don’t. iPads and iPhones often auto-correct writing, corrupting the spelling, grammar, and meaning of our messages. It has reached the point that we are well practiced at deciphering messages and writing, quickly searching for the intended meaning to formulate a response. In the age of social media, the written word is gaining power. Just not the way that my 8th grade English teacher, Mrs. Foley, would have approved of.

mom-jcrew

But does it matter if articles are well written anymore?

My husband asked me to read over a piece for him last week, and I asked him if he’d like me to edit it for grammar, as I was picking up my pen. (Being married to an English teacher is riddled with pitfalls.) He rolled his eyes and said no thank you.

I was horrified.

“Why not?!”

“This isn’t a formal piece. That’s just my brainstorm! I have good ideas that I wanted to share with you!!” he replied, defending his piece.

Writing is emotional. It is the way that people communicate ideas and convey their feelings. As an English teacher, I am often too quick to read a piece and find the spelling and grammar mistakes, instead of finding the author’s intent. But hey- maybe I’m at the wrong end of this fight.

Do people care if they use the correct, most precise word to communicate their message? Does it matter to the average reader if the same verb is used five times in a paragraph, or if all of the first words of a sentence are capitalized? Do any of these things effect the intent and purpose of the message?

I’m not sure. I might be speaking a dead language, with other zombies, before I’m done…

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2 thoughts on “Is Grammar Dead?

  1. I am a grammarian, too. Over the last few years, I have noticed a new phenomenon that grates on my ears. People are inserting the word “of” where it isn’t needed. Instead of saying, “It is not too big a problem”, they say “It is not too big of a problem.” To my ears it is a huge problem. “She wore too short of a skirt.” “It was not that big of a deal.”. It is like a virus, spreading everywhere. If you haven;t noticed it before, I apologize. You will now hear it everywhere.

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  2. Ah yes, the great “what do we teach” debate. The focus on ideas and imagery in writer’s workshop does not have to come at the expense of proper communication. With my young students I focus on making sure the reader will be able to understand their good ideas. That means that they have to do the best they can with spelling, they have to use punctuation so the reader knows when one idea ends and another begins, they have to match their verbs to their subjects so the reader always knows who’s doing the action.
    I refuse to believe our language is dying. We have all these great opportunities to communicate with people around the world that we never had before. It is now more important than ever that we communicate well. Keep up the good fight.

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