Home » Well Grammared » Why is Grammar Important?

Why is Grammar Important?

Is grammar even important at all?  A lot of people don’t seem to think so.  If you don’t believe me, just take a look at a few internet forums.

Schools frequently fail to teach much grammar.  Students who pick up the rules of grammar intuitively still gain a good grasp of the English language.  But others, especially students whose parents speak little or no English, are left floundering.  That, however, is a topic for another post another day.

So why is grammar important?  I’ll give you a few of my favorite examples:

  • A book dedication: “I dedicate this book to my parents, Emily Dickinson, and God.”  But if you leave out the last comma: “I dedicate this book to my parents, Emily Dickinson and God.”  What?  Emily Dickinson and God had a baby?
  • A common mistake: “Your a moron!”  I’m sorry, whose moron are we talking about?  Oh, you mean to say “you are a moron,” meaning you think I’m a moron.  I’m sorry, but I believe it is you who are the moron.
  • An actual quote from Twitter: “I’d rather be pissed off, then pissed on.”  So you want someone to make you angry, then pee on you.  Oh, you mean it is preferable to be angry rather than to be mistreated.

Convinced yet?

Grammar becomes even more important in written language than in spoken language.  Confusions like your/you’re and then/than don’t happen in spoken language – the words are pronounced more or less the same, depending on your accent, and the meaning is quite apparent from context.

But in written language, the use of the wrong “then/than” or a similar mistake can change your meaning entirely!

With our ever-increasing dependence on written communication, found in e-mails, text messages, blogs, etc., you would think that proper grammar would be of every-increasing importance.

Not so much.

Which is a shame, really.

When we write something in a public forum, we are, naturally, judged for what we say.  We are also judged for how we say it.

If there are so many grammatical errors that your writing becomes hard to read, people often won’t take what you say seriously.  Or your meaning actually becomes lost in a sea of confusing mistakes.

Obviously, some grammatical errors are deliberate.  If you read many of my posts, you will find several incomplete sentences, which are used for rhetorical effect.  Many great writers use deliberate errors for a specific reason.

Many students use this as ammunition against their teachers for why they shouldn’t have to learn grammar.  If such-and-such famous writer broke the rules, why can’t I?

Because the difference between a deliberate mistake from a skilled writer and a hapless mistake from the ignorant is painfully obvious.

What do you think?  What are your favorite mistakes?  Please share in the comments below!

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7 Comments

  1. Noel says:

    I see it every day, and hear it every day. Newscasters who can’t speak correctly, newspaper reporters who can’t write correctly. I expect it at work because many of our engineers are learning English as a second language, but these people are supposed to be well educated.

    I was taught to diagram a sentence, but sadly many others in my generation and later were not, so they do not understand correct sentence structure.

    Oh, I could go on…

    Nice article Erin

  2. Richard says:

    I enjoyed the article and I concur wholeheartedly.

    I especially found amusing, and interesting, the examples, which I will use to argue my position on the indispensability of grammar.

  3. Cynthia says:

    I love your examples, Fiona. Would you mind if I use some of them in an article (with credit and a link to your blog, of course!)

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