How important is good grammar?

When I decided to go back to school in the fall of 2009, I chose to complete a degree in English. Many factors were part of the decision, including a recent spike in my own reading and writing and the discovery that I could complete the degree in two years when my previous college classes were transferred.

I was fully prepared to endure some jibes: “Why do you need a degree in your native language?” “What in the world will you do with that?” and the always assumed, “Oh! Are you going into teaching?”

Once, early on in my classes, I was surprised to even hear an instructor acknowledge the lack of confidence some place on the degree when he said, “We’re all English Majors, right? So we can open our shop of English down the street and serve up slices of English?”  It got us students chuckling at 8am, no easy feat.

Although doubt of my chosen direction occasionally appeared, I’ve come to realize (as that instructor went on to tell us that day), that obtaining a degree in English opens up a world of possibilities.

Every employer values a staff member who can communicate professionally, internally and externally.  Writing well is a skill that may sometimes be overlooked, but makes a world of difference.

I got this fun book as a Christmas gift from a co-worker!

I got this fun book as a Christmas gift from a co-worker!

Still, when I began classes, I promised myself to never become a member of the grammar police.  I am a truly HORRIBLE speller, and have found myself at the center of some disbelieving stares when my weakness showed itself.  The looks, chuckles, and snide comments made me feel dumb and often angry. I decided I would NOT let myself become one of those righteous over-correcting people.

But funny things happen when you make little declarations to yourself.

As I made my way through my degree, just by the nature of my education, I began to notice those little mistakes.  Then I noticed them more…then they started to bother me a little.

Still, I like to think I kept my promise a bit. Although I may find myself rolling my eyes at a Facebook status or sighing at our apparent inability to properly use your, you’re, there, their, and they’re, I’m not the first to jump on the “Grammar, your doing it wrong” bandwagon (pun intended).

A co-worker sent me this article today about a couple in Minnesota who are making a movie to promote good grammar. One quote in particular jumped out to me: “…the simple fact is, whether we like it or not, there’s always going to be a certain way of speaking and a certain way of writing that is considered the proper one.”

I liked this quote because it addresses the attitude of many that grammar simply does not matter.  Why aren’t we concerned with other things, like the message that is trying to be relayed?  But, “if we’re looking at writing as thinking on paper, we need to be able to do it clearly.”  Every day, we are communicating with others in some form or another and to do it clearly, there are a set of rules to follow.

I also liked this: “O’Brien said she doesn’t go around correcting people’s grammatical errors. ‘I’m pretty forgiving about any kind of mistake because I feel as though people haven’t been taught the rules, so how can they be expected to know them?'”

She acknowledges that berating isn’t the answer, education is.  Enter the educational movie.

I’d like to know what others think.  Is good grammar important?  Would you like to be told when you are making a mistake?

I know I’ll always struggle with spelling – as I, like a good Minnesotan, often have to pause before choosing between then and than – but just because it’s hard, dosen’t mean it’s impossible.

Also, I apologize in advance for all the mistakes that are sure to follow…


2 responses to “How important is good grammar?

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