Have you ever discovered something new, something that you simply hadn’t thought about before—and suddenly things clicked into place? That’s how I felt when I finally learned more about grammar.
“The writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” -Dr. Seuss
The state of today’s public school system is frequently derided as inadequate and lacking. Having gone to public schools from kindergarten to grade 12, I have some experience with the education system. As with everything, you can only get out of education what you put into it –and I put a lot into it. I always thought I had managed to receive a pretty good, well-rounded education —until I discovered grammar; and punctuation; and parts of speech.
I was fascinated. I couldn’t believe what I’d been missing.
Sure, I learned subject and predicate in 3rd grade, plus a smattering of other sentence structures and parts of speech in middle school, but these were glossed over as unimportant labels. Labels that had to be memorized until you passed the test. They were just a bunch of “rules” to follow for “good writing.” The intricate, and helpful, world of grammar remained hidden from me. However, I soon started to catch glimpses of the reasoning behind many common grammatical standards.
No one had ever told me that there was a logical reason for any of it. In college, I did more essay writing and that’s when I started sensing something was eluding me. As I researched new words and studied MLA formatting, I realized there was a curtain, and hiding behind that curtain was the logic that lay behind the rules.
It wasn’t until after I left school that I was officially inducted into the world of grammar. I realized that there’s a reason we have who and whom, and that certain words are better in certain sentences.
I felt cheated. How had I never known this world existed? Why had I been writing blind all that time? I’m still learning—but I’m an enthusiastic pupil. (I have a lot of catching up to do.) I know it’s okay if I have not yet perfected my grammar. As Grammar Girl writes in this post about proofreading, there’s always room for more editing.
Once I started learning, I couldn’t stop. I decided I had to read Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss. Although calling for zero tolerance to bad punctuation seems somewhat over-the-top, it was an enjoyable read. This book provided a great history of punctuation. I thought the comedy was overdone, but I guess catering to mainstream society is necessary in order to get a punctuation book published these days…
After instant messaging and texting, I sometimes wonder if certain people have even heard of punctuation.