Posted by: Jack Henry | July 13, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Intuitive Grammar

Good morning, and happy Friday!

A reader, Christa M., recently mentioned that she “…intuitively just seems to know how to write correctly most of the time.” She says, “It sounds awkward if it’s wrong.” This intuitive knowledge of grammar is common among native speakers of every language. In fact, a study from the University of Liverpool in the UK found that children as young as six years old use instinct to know when something doesn’t sound right.

At some point, most of us studied grammar in school. We learned all kinds of rules about “parts of speech” and about how to correctly put words, phrases, and sentences together. But when you’re writing or speaking, you rarely rifle through your memory bank to come up with a rule to help you figure out how to construct a sentence. Instead, you rely on instinct. And that instinct comes from absorbing an enormous number of example sentences throughout your life. Young children may not have as many example sentences to draw from, but they have enough to start making assumptions and using their instinct.

The problem with learning grammar by hearing people speak is that if the sentences you hear in your home or community do not follow standard grammar rules, your instincts may lead you astray; you may be breaking rules you’re not even aware of. So, along with learning a language by hearing, experts claim that we learn a language by reading. The more we read, the better our intuitive grasp of a language. Reading is another way to absorb those example sentences. Whether you read news feed, fiction, self-help books, or even comic books, you are absorbing example sentences. Ahem…texts and tweets may not be as helpful.

None of this is meant to imply that studying grammar is pointless. Studying can help you understand why a rule exists or how rules work together; and for many of us, the “why” is very important. But even if you don’t care about the “why,” you should care that you’re following the standard rules of English grammar in your professional writing. So, when your gut tells you a sentence you’ve written is not right, trust your instinct. Revise the sentence or ask someone else to review it. Or, if you’re a Symitar employee, send it to us at Symitar Documentation Services and we’ll review it. We’re really friendly, and we’re here to help.

Donna Bradley Burcher | Senior Technical Editor | Symitar®

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

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