Blog for budding Sheikhspeares entering National Novel Writing Month 2006

November 03, 2006

How Important is Correct Grammar?

I'm curious to know how pre-occupied others are with correctness of grammar. Do native or absolutely fluent second-language speakers really have to be concerned? Does the reader really care? My take is that there are often more than one acceptable ways to express the same idea and some of these relate to different usages, each gramatically correct in different contexts. Good grammar, I feel, is no more and no less important than good diction. You just have to get the words right whether it's an article or just the right idiomatic expression.


Blogger secretdubai said...

This depends on so many factors, but mainly on what you understand to be "correct" grammar.

Breaking (frankly useless) rules like splitting infinitives is one thing. But using the wrong form of a verb (except in dialogue) is quite another.

Then there are regional variations. For example in UK English, people tend to regard companies as plural. Having lived overseas for so long, I make them singular as often as I make them plural, but it doesn't really bother me either way. (Eg: "Etishite has blocked Skype"/"Etishite have blocked Skype" - neither is wrong per se).

Some readers will care, and some won't. Some won't even notice. I think what we are really aiming for is good writing, of which good grammar - or rather clear, cohesive grammar - is a very significant part but not the whole picture. I start sentences with "And..." and "But..." - taught to me at school as "wrong". Screw that. The sentence makes sense, and it usually sounds better, and I am perhaps building pace at that point, or reflecting someone's stream of consciousness.

So I think having a real command of language is being able to bend and break rules in a way that enhances your writing, remains clear and powerful, and is above all understandable by your target reader group. And to break rules, you need to have a good grasp of them in the first place, and generally a good ear for language. Grammar should be your slave, it should work for you, not be your rigid master.

04 November, 2006 00:47

Blogger secretdubai said...

Oh yeah - and my grammar in the above comment was doubtless all over the place - but then it, like this, is kind of stream of consciousness stuff.

That's my excuse anyway. So long as you all understood it, where's the problem?! ;)

04 November, 2006 00:48


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