Monday, October 28, 2013

Blog 8: On Becoming My Own Grammar Police
Shelley Williams

I had cursory knowledge of diagramming sentences, and for someone that is a visual learner, this tool should have been useful for learning and understanding grammar, but it was only partially useful, and I'm not sure why so, but I suspect I'll have a theory before I end this blog. Even taking a grammar course in college did not land me high marks because, for me, learning to identify something visually that includes both the words and a different visual composition of them than how I am used to seeing them, meant ultimately learning a new kind of language, not being given the right tool for me to better understand the language that was already before me.

So, ultimately, I learned all the rules of grammar that students don't get in public schools or at least only marginally so if at all. However, while I am grateful for that, understanding why I was using them or what grammar and punctuation did for me was more meaningful to me, and I was never directly nor indirectly taught that. It was just something I had to pick up on my own--i.e., that in order for me to digest new material or a new way of looking at old material, the new material had to have intrinsic value of itself or add to my current understanding of old or already-gained material. I already had an intuitive sense of grammar, something I think most writing tutors share. But to explain it to others or oneself even, aye, there's the rub.

These days, I approach grammar as a tool and tell students that, especially when introducing new punctuation to express the voice or tone they may have already achieved. I find it works well because it reinforces the fact that I think (and believe) that new writers have something to say and want them simply to understand how they can express themselves for best effect. I do this by telling them what the punctuation marks do and how some are interchangeable and the nuances attached to their fine-tuning choices. I portray grammar as their tool to use as they see fit, to best help the reader understand what is really on their writer minds. I may be more seasoned as a writer and experientially, but inevitably, I learn from the students, including and especially, by pleasant surprise, how to make punctuation meaningful because as it offers writers the capacity to be understood as they wish to be understood.


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