Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Grammar Issues

One crazy thing I was taught about grammar was that you should NEVER use a comma before and. In fact, not until I looked at the six comma rules handout and started answering students questions about commas did I find out that you need a comma with an and if you are using it to connect two independent clauses. I graduated in English without ever using a comma for this purpose. Consequently, I resist using this comma rule in my own writing and I am semi-hostile toward it.

Another grammar issue I did not really fuss about until graduate school was the avoidance of contractions in academic work. I may have been cautioned against using them a few times at Brigham Young University but I can't really remember. If I did, it was so casual that I didn't really apply this rule to my writing. Even still, I use contractions in my writing for assignments that are less formal.

Fortunately, I did not develop too many grammar misconceptions; unfortunately, my grammar was frequently correct by my mom who majored in English and felt it was her duty to improve my English. Though very annoying as a kid and teenager, my papers and my tutees' papers are better for it.

Incorrect grammar instruction actually does matter, and proper usage is important even outside of the academic realm. A survey in a national report noted that 89.7% of employers view writing as essential to job success. Living in a globalized, democratic society where jobs are competitive, it is highly important to write and communicate effectively. This even applies to jobs where writing wouldn't seem to be a priority. My husband is a videogame designer--normally you would not associate writing skill with videogame creation. However, before levels or mechanics are developed, designers have to write documents explaining the rules, conditions, functions, and related information for each element. Oftentimes, his coworkers create documents with such poor grammar, that the intended gameplay idea is obscured. Without clarification, game features could be implemented in ways the designer did not intend or not implemented at all.

Proper grammar usage is also important because when grammar mistakes frequently appear, the reader gets slowed down--sometimes even to a full stop. This can cause two problems. First, the reader often resents any extra work they have to do in order to understand the author's intended meaning. This can lead to hostility on the reader’s part and make him or her question the point of reading such writing. Second, if so many small-scale mistakes are made, the reader may begin to question the validity of the content or arguments being made.

However, there are a few grammar and punctuation rules that aren’t as important beyond school. I doubt many people would notice or care if a period was inside or outside of a quote. Other grammar rules such as how to combine IC/IC and DC/IC are necessary to use because it affects clarity and readability.


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