By: Lauren Kassien
I was never taught how to use a comma. There was a time not long ago when I had never heard of an em dash. It wasn’t until I was bored one day in my ninth grade English class that I learned the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Instead of participating in my class’s discussion of Romeo and Juliet, I sat hunkered in a corner, pouring over my first copy of Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style. If no one would teach me to be a better writer, I had to learn myself.
I’m not the only one who missed out on these valuable English lessons. Several of my friends and current classmates have complained that they, too, never learned the difference between independent and dependent clauses. One of my best friends recently confided to me that she has never heard of an idiom. Websites such as Apostrophe Abuse and Funny Typos make light of the today’s all-too-common grammatical blunders, but this lack of English education is a serious and growing problem.
Recently, educators have begun to argue that grammar is a lost art. The Telegraph published an article in 2013, claiming that today’s crop of new teachers don’t have enough grammatical knowledge to teach their students. They believe technology will take care of spelling and punctuation for us. But we’re still taught math, even though there are computers and calculators to add for us. We’re told learning to solve for x teaches us to challenge ourselves, to problem solve. Doesn’t grammar do the same thing?
In addition to giving us stylistic and organizational skills, grammar also helps us become stronger, more effective communicators. In an NPR blog, author Kyle Wiens argues that, “Grammar is credibility, especially on the Internet. Your words are all you have. They are a projection of you.” Journalist or not, being a solid communicator is a skill that transcends all majors and fields. In a world where anyone can publish anything on the Internet, isn’t it better to stand out through as a more credible source, thanks to a use of proper punctuation and capitalization rules?
What do you think? Were you taught grammar in high school? Does a writer’s grammar skills—or lack thereof—influence your thoughts of them? Would you hire a person who misspelled several words in his cover letter?
Photo courtesy of Richard Leeming on Flickr