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The Importance of Grammar The ancient Greeks have passed down grammar where it has evolved into Latin

and then into English. This prestigious way to eliminate error has had a high value of importance throughout the history of the English language. Students have been taught to follow the "holy" grammar handbook to prevent them from making errors. The handbooks importance was never questioned until the 1960's when Braddock said In view of the widespread agreement of research studies based upon many types of students and teachers, the conclusion can be stated in strong and unqualified terms: the teaching of formal grammar has a negligible or, because it usually displaces some instruction and practice in actual composition even a harmful effect on the improvement of writing (Warner 76). Here we have one of the first arguments relating to the importance of grammar and the way that it is being taught. The grammar construct has been questioned and argued about by many writers, of whom I will talk about, but not much has been changed. So where do we go from here? Is grammar really that important and do we need it to be perceived as intelligent individuals? If so, should we learn it through the use of handbooks or is there a more efficient way? If we should teach it, what age is appropriate? These are all questions that have been a main drive for the ongoing conversation about Grammar. I argue that there is a specific time to teach grammar and that there are specific times and places when the importance of grammar should be raised or lowered. The argument I am making is much more complicated than a simple sentence explaining where and when, to whom or how we should use grammar; but much simpler than memorizing the entire grammar


Why do we teach Grammar if the students dont get it? (do they get it?) From the beginning of the English Language, students in English class were taught grammar through the precise instructions and rules of the grammar handbook. I personally envision children in the 50s being slapped on the wrist for forgetting a comma here or an apostrophe there. The strict use of the handbook has been stressed year after year through generations, condemning kids for their errors. Back in the early 1900s, students had hard lives where they had to walk miles to school in crappy weather, go to school while working on farms, or were apart of a wealthy family who demanded importance of success from school. All these types of students were disciplined to do well in school to help out the family or to keep the high status name of the family. If disciplined students from the early 1900s, whos circumstances demanded a hard work ethic in school, were always punished for misusing grammar, wouldnt that motivate them to study harder? This means that its not just a boring subject, which to many it still is, but, I believe that the problem is, that no matter what era we are in, students until at least late years of high school, just dont comprehend the skill and drill of grammar. If this were not true, then why do students learn the same thing year after year in school? As Warner says, It seems the educational establishment doesn't expect students to "get it." Can any of us imagine a math or science curriculum where the same material is presented and drilled year after year as is the case in grammar textbooks? (Warner 77). Weather

someone argues for or against teaching grammar for whatever reason, they cannot deny this argument. The amount of students that dont understand is far too high when teaching the rules of grammar. Warner also includes in her article, If the Shoe No Longer Fits, research from psychologists, Jean Piaget, Laurence Kohlberg among others, that individuals develop cognitive reasoning at different times in their life. In her research, she found that only some adults and adolescents reach the highest levels of formal operational thinking. This level of thinking could be the level of thinking needed to understand the fundamentals of grammar (Warner 77). If this is true then why, at such young ages, does the education system INSIST on teaching grammar?

The importance of Grammar: Business and Employment What is the point of teaching grammar? Why have schools put such an importance on the study and rules of the grammar handbook? In Analyzing Grammar Rants, by Kenneth Lindblom and Patricia A. Dunn, they also argue that there is a certain time to teach grammar even if that isnt during adolescence. They state, Whether we like it or not, powerful people make value judgments about other peoples intelligence based on language use. Young writers and speakers must learn that the forms of language they choose will be judged, sometimes harshly, by their audiences, and their ability to appear intelligent will be effected by their audiences opinions of their language choices (Lindblom and Dunn 72). As explained above, the desired result expected from teaching grammar, is that students can become better writers so that they accumulate good and proper

communication skills in hopes that they can be accepted into the real adult world. On the other hand, if students do not recognize error, as stated, they will not be seen as professionals or even educated in the eyes of their employers and it can hurt their credibility. If we are to look at grammar in this way, we must take into consideration the importance of grammar. In Beasons article, Ethos and Error, he describes the importance of error outside of the handbook use of the classroom. He says, Errors must be defined not just as textual features breaking handbook rules but as mental events taking place outside the immediate text(Beason 35). Beason conducted a study of 14 business people, both men and women, who have positions such as vice presidents, Regional Managers, Managers of offices, and such. In this study he conducted a series of questions to see how these subjects reacted to certain errors. His research concluded that errors usually range from somewhat bothersome to extremely bothersome to these individuals. He says, The interviews suggest that the extent to which errors harm the writers image is more serious and far-reaching than many students and teachers might realize (Beason 48). He claims that there are 3 major categories in which error affects our credibility. It affects our credibility as a writer, as a businessperson, and as a representative. When someone has a job that includes a little bit writing, their credibility can be affected as a writer when they make specific errors. They may be seen a hasty writer (someone who did not put enough time into a document), a careless writer (one who neglects to proofread), an uncaring writer (one who doesnt pay attention or care about the intended audience), and a uninformed writer (one who lacks knowledge about the error they make or the topic in which they speak of) (Beason

49-52). He then speaks of the writer as a business person and says their credibility may be hurt because they could be seen as a: Faulty thinker (not having complete thoughts), not a detail person (failing to recognize important detail relating to the job), poor oral communicator (one who communicates poorly in writing equals poor oral skills), poorly educated person (One whos education is doubted or seen as one who didnt care enough in school), and sarcastic, pretentious, aggressive writer (seen as a writer who wants attention or implies sarcasm or aggression mostly thorough the use of quotation marks which makes the reader judge and question) (Beason 52-55). The next category, writer as a representative, was brought up by the subjects because of employees that they had had in which the employee embarrassed the company because of the usage of errors. The two subcategories include representing of the company to customers and representing the company in court (Beason 56). If these businesspeople see these errors that some of wouldnt think of noticing, then it is most likely that other important, prestigious bosses, managers, and the people on the hierarchy or business will see the usage of grammar and elimination of error as important.

How should we teach grammar? Rhetorical. From this point, we have seen that younger education students do not understand grammar because their cognitive understanding just wont allow it. We have also seen that grammar and the elimination of error is very important in the

business world and that and individual will have a very hard time surviving in it if they cannot recognize their error. So what do we do? We must find a way to teach students the importance of productive writing in the English language in a way that they can learn to recognize error that is bothersome to their future bosses. What has been stated and proven by evidence is that teaching grammar from the handbook has a very low improvement rate in the writing of students. In Jean Sanborns article, published in the English Journal, she states her ideas on how the understanding of grammar should be acquired. She states, What is important in school is not grammatical analysis or the teaching of as yet undeveloped forms but continuing performance in all aspects of language reading writing, speaking, listening-which will encourage, not teach, syntactic maturity. Language continues to develop through the use of language, not through exercises in the naming of parts (Sanborn 74). It has been argued that students are just not getting it, but that doesnt mean that we can just get rid of grammar and leave our students and future world without knowing any since of writing. My thought is this: the people in the world can effectively perform well enough without having understood the proper use of grammar that was taught to them while they were in school, so what is it that the teachers could be doing now that portray how to write effectively? It is exactly what Sanborn says; the students learn through the use of language! What if teachers spent more time teaching and using the language through reading books, essays, poems, etc., creative writing, and speaking? The authors of the article To Grammar or Not To Grammar, have an opinion about the way grammar is taught with in the lines of Sanborn. The writers of this edition

said Both our personal teaching experiences and the findings of research studies support the conclusion that most students do not benefit from grammar study in isolation from writing, if indeed our purpose in teaching grammar is to help students improve their writing (e.g., Hillocks and Smith, 1991) (Weaver, McNally, and Moerman 18).

Think of how much greater of understanding the students would have! Teachers can teach grammar through the use of language in a rhetorical way. Kolln writes about the use of rhetorical grammar and says, I use it to designate a purpose that is different from the remedial, error-avoidance or error-correction purpose of so many grammar lessons. I use rhetorical as a modifier to identify grammar in the service of rhetoric: grammar knowledge as a tool that enables the writer to make effective choices (Kolln 29). Rhetorical grammar relates grammar usage to to whom you are writing for, and what parts of the writing you want emphasized. Teachers want to point our error after error, but a person in the employment world could write a wordy essay with all perfect grammar and be denied because they did not write in a way that was suitable for the intended audience. There for, the concepts of our writing are more important. In the article Why Revitalize Grammar, the authors argue that the students need to understand the complexity or analyzing rhetorical situations so that they can make sophisticated decisions about audience, purpose, and voice. The authors paraphrase Donald Daiker and write, Effective writing is not effective due to an absence of error. Effective writing works because it achieves its purposes with the

particular audience for whom it was intended to work (Lindblom and Dunn 44). The students must learn to write in a rhetorical way to try to reach their audience. This concept, I believe, comes before understanding how to understand grammar charts. After understanding this concept, then I think that students can learn to appreciate how the use of grammar can help them to have an even greater rhetorical effect. John Dawkins describes the use of Grammar as a rhetorical tool used to place emphasis on certain parts of a sentence. He uses a principal called raising and lowering in which clauses are more or less separated by the use of punctuation. If emphasis should maximum, a period or a semi- colon would be used If the emphasis should be medium, a colon or dash would be used and a comma or nothing for minimum emphasis (WAW 147). The higher or more abrupt punctuation like a period causes more separation, more of a pause than a lower mark like a comma. For example, compare these two sentences: She wanted to go to the store- until she lost her money. And She wanted to go to the store until she lost her money. Until she lost her money was emphasized because of the dash. The second sentence, which had no pronunciation, was given much less emphasis. Dawkins describes grammar as a use of how we want readers to read our writing instead of using a bunch of rules so that we are handbook correct. He says Learning to punctuate effectively requires only a little knowledge of grammar, much less than most English teachers will grant (WAW 150). He goes on to say that we need to understand what independent and dependent clauses are but we know this based on everyday speaking, reading and writing just as Sanborn has stated.

Rhetorical grammar is very useful, but at some point, students will be able to better understand the handbook and use it as a guideline, especially when they are in the business world. The point, is that they just cant understand until that age. I think that the writers of To Grammar or Not to Grammar explain it best. For us, the question is not a simple dichotomy, To grammar or not to grammar? Rather, the question is, What aspects of grammar can we teach to enhance and improve students writing, and when and how can we best teach them? In the context of writing is our short answer, but we keep learning more ways as we keep taking risks as teachers (Weaver, McNally, and Moerman 19). Conclusion We have seen the argument that grammar is an essential part to the English language. It is, but with in reason. We have seen how it has been taught over and over again to students, taking away the time they get to actually learn and grow in knowledge because they just dont get it. Also, we have seen how important it is in the business world that we can write and speak with very little error so that we can be held credible and seen professional. In between times, teachers have to teach how to put a sentence together in some way; the most effective is to teach rhetoric writing where the emphasis is placed on certain words or phrases to bring awareness to the reader. Finally, we see that there is a problem and that our education system is wasting time teaching grammar to children over and over again. If time is spent teaching the language through reading, writing, and speaking the language, the students will understand better and eventually be in practice of the language where they can come to understand grammar to benefit their future

opportunity and credibility.

Works Cited Beason, Larry. "How Business People React to Errors." National Council of Teachers of English. 53.1 (2001): 33-64. Dawkins, John. Teaching Punctuation as a Rhetorical Tool. College Composition and communication 46.4 (1995) 533-48. Print.

Kolln, Martha. "Rhetorical Grammar:A Modification Lesson." National Council of Teachers of English. 85.7 (1996): 25-31.

Weaver, Constance; McNally, Carol, and Moerman, Sharon. "To Grammar or Not to Grammar: That is Not the Question!." Voices from the middle. 8.3 (2001): 17-33.

Lindblom, Kenneth, and Dunn Patricia. "Analyzing Grammar Rants: An Alternative to Traditional Grammar Instruction." English Journal. 95.5 (2006): 71-77.

Lindblom, Kenneth, and Dunn Patricia. "Why Revitalize Grammar?." National Council of Teachers of English. 92.3 (2003): 43-50.

Sanborn, Jean. "Good Wine before Its Time." National Council of Teachers of English. 75.3 (1986): 72-80.

Warner, Ann. "If The Shoe No Longer Fits, Wear It Anyway?." National Council of Teachers of English. 82.5 (1993): 76-80.