I’ve been running a writing consultation service through my blog for a while now, and I’ve notice a common pattern among my clients: a great resistance, distrust, and distaste towards learning English grammar.
At first I thought this was an isolated incident, but as I saw the trend keep popping up, I realized that I had run into a real issue here.
As I thought more about it, I realized that I was exactly like my clients not too long ago: I hated grammar. Grammar confused me and intimidated me. The more grammar rules that were taught to me, the more I felt like my true voice was being strangled out of existence.
But once I reached college, I learned not only to trust the rules of grammar, but I mastered them enough to know when and how to break them. Today, instead of strangling my true writing voice, my ability to utilize the English language correctly has actually amplified it.
Was Grammar A Member of The Nazi Party?
I don’t blame my clients for disliking grammar.
They’ve been raised in a culture where select groups of people take it upon themselves to shame others for their bad grammar—you know them as the so-called “Grammar Nazis.”
“Grammar Nazis” often forget that sometimes even some of the most important grammar rules can—and should—be broken.
The Grammar Nazis also fail to realize that, in many ways, they are privileged. Not everyone is taught English grammar and structure correctly. Not all of us had the best teachers available to teach us the rules and to teach us why learning these rules was so vital to our future.
Unfavorable Circumstances and Their Influence On Grammar
Those who criticize people with terrible grammar skills should ask themselves the following questions:
What if the person who struggles with grammar had a bad teacher who never taught them what they were supposed to know? Or, what if the person struggling with grammar had a good teacher who just didn’t teach grammar in a way that the person responded to? Or what if the person had a great teacher, who taught them in a way he or she could respond to, but due to some extraneous circumstance (a disease, a financial hardship, or a family tragedy) this person had great difficulty focusing on the lesson?
There are far too many factors that can get in the way of a writer’s ability to become great, so can we blame the person who struggles with grammar for all of their shortcomings?
How many great writers transformative ideas and revolutionary thoughts are muffled today because no one taught these writers how to use a semicolon properly? Now THAT is the shame: that there are people out there who have been convinced that English grammar is their enemy, when nothing could be further from the truth.
A Different Way To Teach English
I wonder if instead of shaming those who use bad grammar, we focus on their strengths and encourage them to improve? I wonder if we can look at their mistakes with understanding, and then see the great potential for their greatness underneath their initial shortcomings? I wonder if this approach might lead people who resist grammar rules to one day embrace and love grammar?
Many of us know that when you learn English and master it, it is your best friend. When you master English, a dash becomes a knife that can slash at the gut of injustice; a period becomes a bullet you can use to puncture the head of inequality; and a comma becomes a sling that can launch a stone into the very eye of evil.
English is more than a tool—it is a weapon.
A pen isn’t just mightier than a sword—it is might itself.
Why Grammar Was Really A Member of The Allied Powers
The truth is that Grammar is not, nor ever has been, a member of The Nazi Party.
Grammar is simply a tool that allows you to communicate your thoughts, ideas, and beliefs clearly, concisely, and effectively.
Grammar is literally about trying to be UNDERSTOOD.
But some have been wrongly led to believe that grammar is meant to restrict you, shackle you, bore you, annoy you, frustrate you and confound you to no end. But what you may not know is that when grammar is done right, it commands respect, it commands attention, it moves people to tears, it moves them to action, and it moves them to hope and inspiration.
That’s when grammar is at its best: when it gets out of the way of itself and becomes so visible that it sinks into the page and disappears completely. At the shore of your fingertips, excellent grammar calls the ship of your ideas home, like a lighthouse at the darkest hour of night.
But how can something that does so much good in the world have earned such a bad reputation?
Maybe The Grammar Nazis, whose intentions were to elevate the level of language in society, did more damage than good in shaming those who broke the rules?
Maybe those who had one or two bad grammar teachers were made to feel so inadequate and so full of shame that they never looked for a teacher who could finally transform their hate of English grammar into love?
In order to change grammar’s bad reputation, The Grammar Nazis must be more lenient the next time they point out a grammar blunder. In order to change grammar’s bad reputation, those who hate grammar must be open to giving grammar one more chance.
In the end, we must all work together to help debunk the myth that grammar had any part in starting WWII. If anything, Grammar was a member of the Allied Powers and has yet to be given “The Medal of Literary Freedom” for the bravery it has shown fighting in between the margins.