Rules of Grammar: Do You Remember What I Told You to Forget?

This week’s assignment for 6300 Understanding Writing as a Process course is to read the “Introduction” and locate ourselves among the range of voices in “Bad Ideas About Style, Usage, and Grammar” from the book Bad Ideas About Writing by Cheryl E. Ball and Drew M. Loewe.  I was drawn to the section titled “Teaching Grammar Improves Writing” by Patricia A. Dunn.

I will start by saying I have much respect for the Ball and Loewe compilation of entries on bad ideas.  The “Introduction” relates their work is more of an effort to suggest better ideas than to simply name bad ones (Ball and Loewe 2).   Readers are told the entries “…offer a practical action-oriented group of rational manifestos for discontinuing unhelpful or exclusionary ideas about a subject and activity that all have a stake in (Ball and Loewe 3).”  I admit to having had a vested interest in the correct use of grammar and all it entails.

Based on what is revealed in this book, I’m learning to un-learn grammatical ideas hammered into my psyche from elementary school, high school, grant writing, architectural and engineering technical writing, and sundry other influences.  As a creative writer, you’d think I’d left antiquated notions about grammar far behind.  Not so!  I’ve spent so much time revising content to comply with concepts of correct grammar, only to have my writing suffer in the process.

For instance, I mercilessly cling to the belief that a paragraph is made up of two or more sentences.  How difficult it is for me to read, let alone publish a one-sentence paragraph!  I strive for a degree of paradigm shifting because my freelance writing is sometimes edited to break up those more-than-one-sentence paragraphs.  Classmates can attest that recent peer review of my assignment design offered multiple suggestions to break up lengthy paragraphs.  Can you imagine?!

Oh, if I’d only had teachers who taught writing instead of grammar as Dunn recommends.  “One way to improve writing is to stop looking for a better way to teach grammar.  To improve writing, find a better way to teach writing (Ball and Loewe 144).”  She advocates teaching writing in context by having students write in real-world situations with the declaration: “Even what is considered so-called correct writing can vary depending on the conventions expected in a particular genre or publication (Ball and Loewe 146-147).”

I found an interesting website while searching for other sources on the subject.  A former classroom teacher introduces the process of writing to elementary students.  There’s hope yet for future first-year college writing students and teachers of writing.  If students enter college already equipped with understanding of writing as a process, what a wonderful academic world this will be!

Dunn makes an assertion in concluding her entry.  “If young people are to be knowledgeable, ever-learning, active citizens in a participatory democracy, they must develop a wide-ranging, flexible literacy (Ball and Loewe 148).”  I dare say the statement also applies to not-so-young people such as myself.  I’m still learning and evolving as a writer because I want to “…become informed, alert and engaged enough to appreciate all kinds of writing (Ball and Loewe 148).”

Images courtesy of Pinterest

Ball, Cheryl E., and Drew M. Loewe, Bad Ideas About Writing, West Virginia U, 2017. Web. 07 Oct. 2018. <>.

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