Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Wacky Grammar Rules

I can only remember a  few wacky grammar rules that I have been taught throughout my life, but when I started working at the Writing Center, I realized that I had definitely been taught things incorrectly. As choppy as this blog post may be, I can think of no other way to organize these wacky grammar rules than to type them as individual answers to this question.
In second grade, my teacher taught us that the reason that we say “Amanda and I” instead of “Me and Amanda” is because if someone says “Me and Amanda,” it could sound like “Mean Amanda”. I didn’t understand the difference between using “me” and “I” when talking about two people until high school. I would be lying if I said that I did not feel betrayed and disappointed by my second grade teacher once I was corrected.
In seventh grade, I was taught that a comma must always come before “because” and that a colon can be used before any list of items. I really wish that I could go back and ask my teachers about these rules and the reasoning behind them. In high school I did not understand why I was suddenly not allowed to put a comma in front of “because”, but I learned that I should not do that.  
In ninth grade, my English teacher taught that one must always place a comma after a year in a sentence. An example of this would be “I was born in Nevada in 1993, this makes me 19 years old.” Obviously this is incorrect because the comma depends on the sentence not the fact that a year is being used. That also screwed up my writing for a while.
I imagine that I would be able to come up with more if I thought about it long enough, but I have a feeling that it wouldn’t help me very much. I may not be correct about this, but it seems that teachers may teach rules as absolutes because it is too difficult to teach the exceptions to every rule. My teacher may have made us say “Amanda and I” for every instance because that rule is easy to teach to second graders as “Mean Amanda”. I was probably taught that a colon can be used before any list of items because that is often what a colon is used for. My ninth grade English teacher may have taught that we must have a comma after a year because in many sentences students use phrases such as “In 1993, something happened.” Maybe the secret is that most teachers are actually quite lazy and do not feel the need to explain the reasoning behind each of these items. Teachers may also not know the grammar rules well enough to explain them to their students. Either way, I’m glad to be working at the Writing Center to have had these misconceptions cleared up.


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