Hey guys, I’ve posted this piece a couple of places, but I wanted to see what reaction it would get from a different audience. Originally I posted this at my blog and over at Crimespace, so if you’ve seen this post there, my apologies for the cross post. More original work to follow in the coming days.
There’s a conversation going on on Crimespace about pet peeves of incorrect grammar. Everybody has one. Mine is people saying “I could care less” when they mean “I couldn’t care less.” But I have another argument as well.
Grammar is not important.
Well, I’ll back off of that… simple grammar is something everyone should learn young and grasp. But after that, who really cares?
What is important, and what I stress when I teach, is meaning. A student has to be able to put together an argument or a storyline or a sentence that has meaning. They have to learn how to put together a logical progression and THEN you can go back and fix grammar.
Hell, look at a lot of writing in books these days. People break grammar rules all the time, whether to sound colloquial or to create effect. I understand that you have to understand grammar to break the rules, but grammar should still not be the end all be all of writing.
It should be the least important thing.
National tests these days do not grade on grammar and spelling. They let most errors go as long as it does not affect meaning. Hence, meaning is where we should focus. That’s what I work on.
If a story starts:
“Me and you went to the store. Your a giraffe and heads spilld across the road.”
I am not going to sit there and help fix the “me and you” and the correct “your” first. I’m going to ask why is there a giraffe in this story, why were there head’s spilling across the road, and what does that have to do with the store you went to.
I want to get to the point where someone will write “Me and you went to the store. You bought skittles and I bought a soda.”
Then we can go back and fix grammar.
I think people worry about grammar because it’s easy to fix. You can–when you edit someone’s piece–say well this is wrong and this is wrong and it’s easier than saying, but there’s a plot hole here on page 202 and I don’t know how you can fix it. That involves a back and forth and a conversation.
I’m always willing to talk about writing, be it with students or with other writers. I’m always willing to brainstorm plot ideas and why a paragraph works as a thought. But folks, what it comes down to is this: Whether you are in 8th grade or writing for ten years, most grammatical errors can be fixed by just reading your sentence out loud.
Meaning, however, takes work.
What do you think?
FOR THE RECORD: This is in no way an attempt to trash teachers. I am a teacher and I believe in teachers. All teachers want to make students smarter and more well rounded young men and woman.
However, I think there is an old fashioned thinking vs. a new type of thinking among all citizens of the United States on whether or not grammar should be the key to good writing.
© 2007, Dave White. All rights reserved.