My students think I love grammar. For that, I deserve a Golden Globe nomination. I don’t love grammar. I love Shakespeare, I love Toni Morrison, I love language and imagery and symbolism. But, in front of my class, I embrace proper grammar and punctuation with the same zeal with which Jon Gosselin embraces Ed Hardy. I have to; if I don’t, my students will take grammar as seriously as drivers take the no-cell-phone-while-driving laws.
You see, my students insist they write best when they don’t have to worry about all the “stupid grammar rules.” I love that idea in theory- I really do. How could I not relish the idea of young, vibrant minds freely disseminating page after page of unfettered brilliance? But, that’s not quite how this “freedom” translates to the written page. This email written to me from one of my students illustrates their interpretation of the concept:
I was curious to on my grade report I got the letter F by Writing Skills.I'm guessing I didn't pass the class but what I'm curious about is how? Im hopping its a mistake, I know Im not the best at writing, but I did all my homework accept for two assignments and I did some extra credit.I thought I atleast did ok on the finals also.
(Let me guess: my student’s the only one who doesn’t understand why she failed college English.)
I’m not, however, interested in lamenting the current state of writing. That would be as obvious as lamenting the current state of the economy or of Lindsay Lohan. And, trust me, today’s writing skills- with all of the missing apostrophes, misplaced commas, randomly capitalized letters, and bizarre misspellings- are in as much need of help as this:
Instead, I am interested in offering the knowledge I have gleaned from grading thousands of essays and reading as many emails. I have found that most of us tend to make the same big, noticeable mistakes. These can easily be fixed to drastically improve our writing. I am not interested in perfecting punctuation and grammar, just with confronting the major issues that confuse people and make them laugh at us (Thus, for Ms. Lohan, I would probably have to advise starting with more sleep/less collagen.)
Welcome to Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares.