Chuck Wendig. Is. A. Writer. I follow his blog and delight in it more often than not.
****Disclaimer – Chuck is an extremely talented, potty mouthed and, at times, angrily ranting and writing type of guy. When you look up his work be ready to act like an adult and focus on the language and content, but also be ready to have your brain melt out your ears.****
Here is a link to the actual blog post. You’ve been warned. CLICKY-DOO RIGHT HERE TO READ.
Regardless, I found one of his blogs to be hyper-relevant to many of the conversations I’ve had with teachers, administrators, parents, school board members, PTA moms, and students over the past almost ten years. Here is the question I get most often, “Why didn’t you/did you count off for grammar?” Or maybe it was, “Don’t you hate putting all those red marks on papers?” Or the comment, “My kids can’t even put a period on the end of a sentence much less write a complex one, aheyuck, aheyuck!”
Mrs. Craton’s classroom [she was knows as Mrs. Kraken to us] was pale and filled with bored to anger dust mites. We, the sovereign 15 students who hadn’t been kicked out, sat at our desks, books open to page “it doesn’t matter”, working on, I’m presuming here, problems 1 – 50 evens only because odd answers are in the back. It’s subordinating conjunction day and the excitement is overwhelmingly outside somewhere running from us at its top speed. We are learning alone and in silence to mark our complex sentences and adverbial phrases with the correct subordinating conjunctions while also figuring out the limitations of doubt the human soul can hold on its back. It is rote, and I am thinking to myself, I wonder if anyone else in the world can diagram perfectly a complex sentence or name all of the subordinating conjunctions? Is it taco day or that square pizza slice with the cubed “pepperoni” day? I wonder if girls know when guys are staring? The literal bell rings and we are rising from our graves, saved for another day until the next grammar lesson takes our collective will to live and cuts it one thread at a time.
This was my English experience until I took dual credit English in high school. How all of this relates is that, people have always, in my life, been concerned with grammar and syntax and word order and the like. I get it. Semantically speaking, I’m all about word order and choice. It’s what begins developing voice and that’s awesome. but the grammar wagon is one that has no wheels.
The idea that there are several sets of rules and expectations that no one really knows or has learned but only memorized that governs whether or not you can speak with authority is ludicrous.
I love poetry; therefor, grammar is rhetorical. (Ahh! Run! A semicolon!) That is an unfair blanket of a statement if I’ve ever written one, but it’s the best I can do right now. I want to see people that understand it enough to use it to create meaning. Yes, there is presupposition in that sentence, but what unloaded, persuasive sentences have you written lately?
The point is, read Chuck’s post and ruminate on the idea that all of those grammar lessons didn’t kill you but hopefully have made you that much more of a threat with a pen. To steal and modify one of Alfred Corn’s lines, “[Grammar] is not a straitjacket [anymore].”
Okay, I changed a lot from the short quote, but it proves my point nicely.
Learn the ropes? Yes. It’s important to have an understanding of grammar so your readers will know what’s going on. Otherwise they’ll be too frustrated to go on, and you will have wasted your time completely.
Use your mistakes sparingly, and fill them with meaning. In the end, just write, and show that you have something creative and inventive and personal and incredible to say. That will always be enough in my book. Which is not a book at all. It is a tiny stack of invisible papers that I’ve lashed together with braided hair from the backs of walruses off the coast of Zanzibar.
Happy writing. You. All. are my favorite