Today Ain’t Just March 4

It’s Gramma–er–Grammar Day!

Grammar really is under-appreciated. I’m sure slang has always been present, but at some point between fighting for independence and fighting over the last pack of peanuts, we lost our way. Never fear, Sultans of Grammar, for National Grammar Day is here!

Technology seems to be the target of the proper grammar crowd. Our forms of expression from the Internet and from texting seem to have spilled over into our formal lives. I don’t think anyone expects a formal research paper as a Facebook or Twitter status. The opposite is not true, though. I don’t want to hear you speak in the shorthand of a Twitter status, and I certainly don’t think it’s appropriate to do so in formal writing. At what point did our minds flip the switch? “Okay…so I guess it’s cool to start putting emoticons in admissions essays. ‘Cuz I want to.” I’m not just making that last part up, people:

Emoticons, happy faces, sad faces, cuz, are just some of the writing horrors being handed in, say professors and administrators at Simon Fraser.

“Little happy faces … or a sad face … little abbreviations,” show up even in letters of academic appeal, says Khan Hemani.

“Instead of ‘because’, it’s ‘cuz’. That’s one I see fairly frequently,” she says, and these are new in the past five years.

from The Canadian Press

I think the nature of the Internet contributes to poor grammar, but ultimately the responsibility to speak correctly rests with parents and educators. I’m not talking about boring semesters filled with obscure grammar rules. In fact, I think this discussion is valid. A teacher can teach grammar all he or she wants to teach it, but it will not sink in until it is applied.

In sixth grade in Maryland, my school had two separate but related classes…Language Arts and Integrated Language Arts. In the former, we spent more time on vocabulary and common grammar issues. In the latter, we learned to, well, integrate those skills into reading. My ILA teacher focused on proper writing structure and how vocabulary and grammar were a part of that. Perhaps more importantly, she emphasized the difference between formal writing/speech and informal writing/speech.

I can’t say with certainty that this distinction is where schools are failing our students. Perhaps if I get started now I can tour every school in the country to find out. They might have to wheel my casket around in the end, though…

Anyway, I think our society has become too relaxed when it comes to language. Part of the problem is not knowing how to speak properly, but another part of the problem is having a society that accepts such errors. For now, I shall celebrate Grammar Day. Today, and every day.

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