Thursday, January 14, 2010

Review: Grammar.

Schoolhouse Rock: Grammar RockFrankly I'm agin it.

After reading a comic posted at Calvin's Canadian Cave of Coolness last week, I decided a review of grammar was long overdue. Naturally I have arisen to take the beast to task for its sins.

I grew up in many different school systems and one of the hardest things for me to get straight was grammar. It seemed like I was always missing key lessons. Sure I could write a banner narrative but what did that matter if I couldn't expound upon the virtues of the semicolon? At one point I even went from one teacher that graded me down because I didn't use enough commas to another teacher who graded me poorly for using too many. Because of this I developed nervous habits in my writing. They persisted until the day I decided I didn't care anymore.

An amateur writer, one of my biggest problems has been editing my work. In a first draft I write fluidly and craft a story that puts characters, plot and language first. Later when I go over things again and try to fix all the little sentence fragments and other such syntax issues, I inevitably lose the integrity of the structure. Yet I am compelled to attempt fixing it as no self respecting editor will overlook such mistakes.

This has led me of late to wonder how many others might have faced similar problems. How many fantastic stories out there will never be read because the author couldn't decide where to put a period when using a quote within a quote? Maybe there are others who have comma problems like I've had in the past and continue to occasionally. We could very well be missing out on the next F. Scott Fitzgerald, because some intrepid young writer has never heard of a split infinitive.

Now don't get me wrong, I know the importance of grammar. I used to have a friend who wrote page long letters in a single sentence without break. Note, I said "used." I don't just throw qualifiers around like that willy-nilly. Well, ok I do, but that's neither here nor there. The point is, it's like a punch in the brain trying to read through a block like that. Grammar is important and that's why I'll always try to make corrections in my own writing. Yet I can't help think of all the horribly written books and stories I've read, and wonder if they were chosen over amazingly creative works, simply because they were grammatically correct.

In a world where (oh yes my friend, that old clunker of a cliché) the laws of grammar and proper speech are being eroded by cell phones and the internet; where pigeons are springing up, that mix our mother tongue with every language on the planet, we must begin to weigh things out. Which is of more importance: rules that have been changed and altered by an ever evolving language, or the expression of ideas and concepts that might otherwise go unexplored? Is it possible to retain our traditions and history, while at the same time changing and growing?

To quote Schoolhouse Rock's adjective song, "I unpacked frustrated first..." Indeed.
Grammar: I grade you a distasteful C+

"...Reached in and found the word 'worst.' Next I picked 'soggy' and then I picked 'foggy' and then I was ready, to tell them my tale. Cause I unpacked my adjectives." And now that's going to be in my head all day. Way to screw me over again, grammar.


  1. Most importantly you should feel blessed to have that song stuck in your head...It's my favorite. What song? Go back and read your last paragraph. You're welcome.

    I really want to distribute this post from the rooftops, I find it that important of a read. For the record, your posts are always extremely well polished. I do get the occasional verbal comment about the 'creative' use of grammar on my blog. It is discouraging, so I've combated it by employing the dot, dot, dot...

    Effective, No?

  2. Dang it! I had forgotten what I wrote. Now that song is in my head again. I don't care. I'm just going to go with it this time.

    Thanks. I try to make them as clean as possible, but the grammar monkey still laughs quietly in the dark...


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