Posted by: Jack Henry | October 17, 2016

Editor’s Corner: Why Do We Study Grammar?

Good morning, crew!

Recently, I read an article in the Parade magazine in my local Sunday newspaper. A reader asked Marilyn Vos Savant why it’s important to be able to identify the parts of speech. Many people ask me why it’s necessary to study grammar at all. I thought that Marilyn’s answer was right on point: we all want to be understood.

Q: You once explained why so much class time is spent on identifying parts of speech, such as whether a verb is reflexive, when no one uses this knowledge in life. Could you expand on the subject for my family?

A: I spent seemingly endless hours diagramming complex sentences in grade school, and I’ll always be thankful for the experience. (Not that I thought so at the time!) You need to learn every rule of grammar because this lays the foundation for high-quality adult communication. And I don’t mean pretentious speech. I mean the ability to express yourself clearly and well. This is much harder than it sounds. [dbb – That’s the truth!]

[dbb – This is the good part.] Less-than-excellent grammar dooms one to a life of being misunderstood. How many times have you said, “No, I meant…”? (And how often have you listened to a person telling you about something for a couple of minutes before you finally figured out what he or she was talking about?) Misplacing even one pronoun can totally confuse a listener. Worse, you usually don’t realize this is happening. Your listeners just get it wrong.

When you’re writing, you are obviously not face-to-face with your audience, and you don’t have the benefit of observing anyone’s confused facial expression, so you may not know that your message was not understood. Lucky for you, you have editors who would be more than happy to review anything you write. Symitarians can use this link to submit any type of business-oriented written correspondence to a Symitar editor. Folks at JHA can use this link.

You may not be interested in diagramming sentences or studying grammar books and articles (although some of us nerds find no end of pleasure in that kind of reading), but you can do the right thing and take the time to express yourself clearly. When communicating with others, especially clients, it should never be acceptable to say, “That’s good enough.”

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

8985 Balboa Ave. | San Diego, CA 92123 | Ph. 619.278.0432 | Extension: 765432

Symitar Technical Publications Writing and Editing Requests

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