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.”