Grammar’s so confusing with all those terms!

As a writer, I, obviously, use grammar on a daily basis. As someone who works in a writer center (I edit students’ papers for them.) I also come across grammar regularly.

However, when I’m editing someone else’s paper, we’ll call her Mary, my convesation generally goes like this:

“Now, we want to place a comma here, because this is–it’s something special, but I forgot the name to it. But it’s like when we have ‘My sister, comma, Ellanna,’ that’s what we’re going for here.”

The only grammatical terms I can remember right now involve noun, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, pronouns, conjunctions and articles. If I’m lucky, I’ll remember the difference between a phrase and a clause.

And yet… And yet my boss in the writing center (G.), thinks I’m good. Why? I’m not sure. But I made the comment that I’m thinking about being an English teacher and I still can’t remember a lot of the names of things yesterday. Nearly all of my editing is intuitive.

She responded by pointing out that it’s actually okay. The fact that I know it intuitively is actually good. When I need to teach about something, I’ll have a textbook.

This brings up the whole question of whether one should even bother teaching grammar at a school, or if one should teach students how to edit instead. Right now, my intuitive skill has been developed over years and years of editing.  However, that’s a whole entire other post.

The point is right now that you don’t need to know a lot. My advice: know what makes a sentence. That’s all you need to know and all you need to know how to place are commas and periods. Don’t bother with M-dashes, and semicolons, and colons. Then, get people to edit it for you, look at how other people write, and I think you may learn in time.

Just remember: EDIT, EDIT, EDIT!

“I’m not a very good writer, but I am an excellent rewriter.”

–James Michener

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About Abigail

I'm an elementary education major at a college in the Midwest. I might graduate as early as December '13 but more likely May '14. I write when I can. I also knit on occasion, draw, do homework and contradict teachers to make people think. :)

3 responses to “Grammar’s so confusing with all those terms!”

  1. jojopant says :

    True! I completely agree with you on this. Trying to learn (read rote) grammar is useless and does not make sense. Using it in day to day life is what enhances our skills.
    Great Post.
    And it’s good to be back on your blog after many months. Will be going through all the posts that I missed. :)

    Take care.

  2. Meaghan says :

    I have the same problem – I couldn’t tell you the first thing about what Strunk or White has to say about grammar and punctuation, but when it comes to essays, research papers, and all other kinds of writing.. it’s just intuitive. Glad I’m not the only one!

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