Join Judy Steiner-Williams for an in-depth discussion in this video Why does grammar matter?, part of Grammar Foundations.
Why does grammar matter? That is a frequently posed question, usually followed with, "As long as I get my message across, what difference does it make if I use a comma in the right place or use me or I correctly?" Or, "If I don't know what's correct, probably most of my readers or listeners don't know, either." Or maybe you've convinced yourself that nobody really cares. Readers do know. They do care. And a wrong word or misplaced punctuation mark may even change your intended meaning. We all realize the importance of good first impressions and are probably familiar with the cliche, "You have one chance to make a good first impression." Employers often say that when they look at resumes, they stop reading when they find that first misspelled word or grammar error. That first impression is that the applicant didn't care enough to be sure the resume was free of all errors. Or if we receive a message from a business and we immediately see mechanical errors, we form a negative impression of the company. We don't know if the writer doesn't know what's correct, doesn't care what's correct, or was in a hurry and didn't take the time to check for mechanical correctness. The reason really isn't important, but the result is. It's wrong, and we have a bad first impression of that writer and that writer's organization. That's one reason grammar matters. Another reason correct grammar matters is that all the reader has are the words and punctuation marks on the page. As you'll learn as you progress through the course, that comma placed in one location versus another location can even change the meaning. Here's a preview. Pat Lewis said you are correct. Is that group of words clear? Or could different punctuation result in a dozen or more meanings? With a question mark, Pat Lewis said you are correct? With an exclamation point, Pat Lewis said you are correct! Or just as a statement with a period. Changing the ending punctuation results in those three different meanings. Now here's another one. Put a comma between 'Pat' and 'Lewis.’ Pat, Lewis said you are correct. Pat and Lewis are now two different people, and another three meanings based on the comma and the end punctuation mark. Or, Pat Lewis said, with a direct quote, "You are correct." Or Pat and Lewis being two different people with direct quotes. Three for each of those. Or let's put "Pat" in quotes along with "You are correct." Another three. That's 15, and there are still other possibilities. Telling the reader, "Well, you should've known what I meant" is not valid. The writer's responsibility is to make certain that correct mechanics are used so the reader knows exactly what was meant. So, feeling confident that you are giving that good first impression and being sure the mechanics make the message clear are important reasons to view grammar and mechanics as a meaningful element of your writing.
- Differentiate between concrete and abstract nouns.
- Demonstrate proper use of articles.
- Distinguish between restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.
- Create parallel sentences.
- Use pronouns correctly.
- Recognize look-alikes and sound-alikes.
- Apply appropriate punctuation rules.
- Distinguish between passive and active voice.