An Argument for Good Grammar



How many times have you asked your parents a question only to have them respond: "go look it up," "because I said so," or asked them to spell-check a term paper only to have them question why you chose to use an apostrophe in "Bachelor's Degree" and not "Bachelor of Science Degree?" Does the comma go inside or outside of the quotation marks? When do I capitalize a word? When do I use "which" and when do I use "that" in a sentence? Why is any of this important?

We moved dozens of times across a dozen states during my childhood, but the most memorable years were spent in Dallas, Texas. My mother was a single parent, working long hours as a secretary for an international freight warehouse. She was proud of her near-perfect typing and shorthand skills; she was especially proud of her writing skills and stressed that if I wanted her to listen to what I had to say, I was to "enunciate" and use good grammar. That comment was usually followed by an eye roll on my part and the back of her hand, but the end result is that I'm a relatively good writer and a stickler for good grammar and punctuation.

The point of this essay is that our email communications, blog articles, social media posts, and public communications are sprinkled with hashtags, pointless flying tildes, possessive punctuation that shouldn't be, and random punctuation. We're becoming a generation of lazy writers and speed readers racing to a literary finish line, overlooking the delicious pause of a comma, and the finality of a period.

I've recently been asked to act as co-director for our local writer's group (here's the link if you're interested: Village Lake Writers & Poets). I created the website and post frequently on our group's blog. I would encourage any of you who are interested in becoming writers to post on your group's blog site, or share (as I will this article) essays from your own blog site both as a participant, and to perfect your craft. As you write, however, I would ask that you "enunciate" and use good grammar.

My mother would be proud. Hopefully, you felt the eye roll. 

I'll leave you with an answer to the "which versus that" puzzle from Shundalyn Allen on the Grammarly blog:

 Which vs. That: How to Choose

  • In a defining clause, use that.
  • In non-defining clauses, use which.
  • Remember, which is as disposable as a sandwich bag. If you can remove the clause without destroying the meaning of the sentence, the clause is nonessential and you can use which.



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