Mentioning the word grammar makes most people cringe or panic. This is probably because the majority of us have forgotten most of the grammar rules we were taught at school or we were never taught them in the first place. Knowing grammatical rules seems old fashioned and unnecessary. Yet the experts are now claiming we need to bring formal grammar back into the curriculum. Why? Why do we need to know grammar?
Grammar is the basis of all our communications, it forms the patterns and structure of our language. Common, irrefutable rules enable every English speaking person to understand the communications of others. Grammar helps us to understand a message’s meaning and intent. Understanding English is not just a matter of knowing what the words mean, you also need to clearly understand, recognise, interpret and use - tone, connotation, intonation and context, particularly in written English. A misplaced comma, for instance, can completely change meaning eg: Let’s eat grandpa instead of Let’s eat, Grandpa could have disastrous consequences.
Why do we seem to have so much trouble with grammar? During the seventies the language experts at the department of education decided children didn’t need to learn the rules, students would just ‘soak up’ the correct way to write and speak by being immersed in language. This worked for some, but left many people, especially those who didn’t like to read or daydreamed their way through high school, with poor writing skills and no idea how to fix them. Even those who write reasonably well can have difficulty recognising an error or correcting something, because they don’t know the rules. It is important to know how to write and speak well both personally and in business.
Despite the fact that many people believe the English language is disappearing due to technology, we are actually writing more than ever, because of emails and texting. As a result, it is even more important that we write clearly. The people you contact are in a hurry and overwhelmed with demands, they want to be able to quickly and clearly understand emails and texts. When communicating in person, we don’t just hear the words, we also take in the tone of voice, facial expression and body language of the person who is talking, thus there is less chance of a misunderstanding. However, when we write we only have the words, sentences and punctuation to convey meaning and attitude, so writing in a clear, unambiguous way is essential in avoiding misunderstanding and being efficient.
Employers value staff who can write clearly and correctly. If your emails, quotes, presentations, reports and proposals are badly written it effects workplace efficiency. When dealing with clients or other companies, grammatical errors in your communications can give them an undesirable impression of you and your company. If you are not meticulous or knowledgeable enough to write correctly, they will question your business practices and other skills related to your expertise. Incorrect spoken or written grammar could be an obstacle in climbing to the top of the ladder in your career. The higher you climb, the greater the employer’s expectations and needs. Good grammar and writing on your part means there is nothing left to question.
English is the internationally accepted standard language of business, government, medicine, education and so forth. In most countries where English is not the primary language, it’s the second choice. People who have learnt English as a second language, either here or in their own country, usually speak with a noticeable accent, however, their knowledge of grammar is often better than that of English speakers. It could be embarrassing to have someone you are dealing with internationally to notice your errors, don’t assume they won’t know.
Communicating in a clear and efficient manner is an important element in business and personal success. Knowing the rules of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and spelling can improve your communication skills and help you develop a proficient, clear and interesting writing style. Grammar is not an old fashioned concept; yes, good grammar does matter.
Written by Wendy Robles, SGSCC English Teacher