Is grammar important? This question was recently asked in a Facebook group that I moderate. At first, I thought that this was a facetious question.
However, as members of the group replied, I was surprised at the responses. Many people were happy to ignore the traditions of spelling and grammar because they felt that the ‘rules are no longer valid’.
Let’s turn the clock back to the dark ages of when I was in high school. Every Monday my English class was met by a blackboard filled with a paragraph from a little-known literary journal – missing all punctuation. Our first 15 minutes were spent transcribing the words and adding meaningful punctuation. Through these exercises we learned the importance of punctuation, spelling, and grammar.
English is a malleable language and moving a word or punctuation mark can change the meaning of a sentence. Let’s look at the sentence below:
I love my dog.
This is a statement of fact. Now, let’s add the word ‘only’ to various areas of the statement of fact and see how it changes the meaning:
Only I love my dog (Why? Is something wrong with him?).
I only love my dog (Okay, but maybe you should hang out with humans a bit more?).
I love only my dog (About the same as above but clunkier).
I love my only dog (Ah, one person/one dog. That’s lovely).
I love my dog, Only.
Now let’s look at that last iteration. I added a comma because I want to impart a specific meaning.
I love my dog, Only. By adding the comma and capitalizing the ‘only’, I am naming my dog. As a side note, Only would be a horrible name for one of my dogs.
By following grammar, spelling, and punctuation conventions we, as writers, add specific meaning to our work. It’s a powerful ability. Why would we give that up?
So yeah, I think grammar is important.
What about you? Do you feel that we should learn and use the old traditions?