Throwback Thursday: How to Make Grammar a Habit

The other night, while brainstorming ideas for upcoming posts, a few other contributors here at The Poetics Project and I began discussing–well ranting, really–about the importance of grammar, which eventually led here:

 “I hate when people mess up grammar when texting for me. I have to send a text that says, ‘That grammatical error was due to the text not being composed by me. I thought you should know.'” – Allison Bellows

“If my boyfriend texts someone for me while I’m driving, I get mad when he forgets a comma.” – Melanie Figueroa (Me)

Now, at this point, some of you may be tilting your head and thinking to yourself, “That’s just ridiculous.” And you’re probably right, but at least let me defend myself and my fellow grammar nazis.

I can’t remember a single grammar lesson from my K-12 days. I’m sure I had them, but so much of the English I speak and write every day was just sort of instinctively imbedded in my brain. I didn’t will it to happen; it just did. I imagine that’s how it is for most people and their native tongue. In high school, the only time my teachers mentioned grammar was after several students made the same mistakes on our papers. It was the same for most of my college career as well. When a few students appeared to have a problem understanding the proper use of a comma, the lessons on run-on sentences, comma splices, subjects, and verbs would begin. But these lessons were abrupt; they didn’t stay with you.

It wasn’t until my senior year at a university that I actually took a English grammar course. After researching the requirements of different types of English majors, I realized that grammar wasn’t even a requirement for most of them, which was pretty depressing, actually. Even though I am pretty sure my professor was the devil himself (he had a thing for public humiliation and torture), I learned more in those few months in his class than I did in my entire life about grammar. My professor was a bit radical in the way he taught the subject. Despite the fact that he had worked at my university for almost thirty years, he had never taught a class on grammar. He hated the typical grammar books with slews of exercises to be assigned for homework each night, and he fundamentally believed that in order to really understand and retain grammar,  you had to use it, properly, every day. By this I mean that he believed if his students were to learn they had to write–not simply complete drills. He also believed in always speaking using proper English grammar. He was quite emphatic when he insisted that if we were to enter a job interview and say something like, “My sister and me–” instead of “My sister and I–” they would laugh us out of their office.

I mention all of this because my professor was right (not about the interview and the laughing–although, they might not hire you if the job has to do with writing or communication). He was right, because you have to make grammar a habit. If you don’t, “My sister and me” will slip out of your mouth at some point, potentially causing employers or others to question your education, or how much they can trust you to deliver that error-free report, or even just annoyingly correct your grammar.

Stuff like this makes me see that the grammar nazis of the world can make a difference–even if it’s just a small one:

“My best-friend’s nephew would send me horrible text speak over Myspace and Facebook and via text back in the day and now (as a 21 year old adult) he says that me correcting his grammar and making him send the message back to me grammatically correct helped him pass high school. It’s a dick move, but it’s good stuff.” – Amanda Riggle


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