Every March 4th is National Grammar Day. I mentioned this fact to some students when I was substitute teaching on Friday and the following exchange:
Me: Sunday is National Grammar Day.
Student1: You mean grammar has its own day. What’s that all about?
Student 2: It means that you have to speak and write correctly on that day, stupid.
Student3: I ain’t doin that!
Me: You should use good and correct grammar every day, not just on that day.
Student 4: Do we get Monday off?
I am reminded of a quote attributed to Winston Churchill, probably apocryphal. When an editor chastised him for a prepositional ending , he allegedly replied. “Not ending a sentence with a preposition is a bit of arrant pedantry up with which I will not put.” There are several variations on this story and Churchill probably didn’t say it. I tend to agree with the sentiment. Strict grammarians and people who go about correcting other folk’s grammar are a pain in the ass.
The winner of the 2011 National Grammar Day Haiku Contest
Spell-checkers won’t catch
You’re mistaken homophones
Scattered hear and their
– Gord Roberts
That doesn’t mean that grammar isn’t important. In these days of “tweeting” and “texting” the teaching of grammar should be taken seriously. Grammar and punctuation serve to clarify meaning in our communications. A misused word or a misplaced comma can be a serious thing daily communication Diplomacy, law, politics, journalism all require clarity of language. I have often told my students that the use of correct grammar can change the way others view you.
If you are competing for a job and the selection process has narrowed the choice to you and one other person, something as simple as the misuse of grammar can make the difference. People who do not have mastery of the language are often perceived as less intelligent. The perception may be wrong but it still exists and may cost you the job, all other things being equal.
Even in casual communication, much can hang on a misused word. Consider these two sentences:
You know your shit!
You know, you’re shit!
Situational grammar obviously applies. You speak and write more casually with friends and family than you do in the workplace or the classroom. I would never expect students to use the same level of grammar in the hallway with their friends as I would expect them to use in the classroom. I’m not even a stickler in classroom discussions, as long as meaning is clear.
National Grammar Day even has its own song, ” March Forth”
National Grammar Day has its own web presence, a site loaded with information and links to helpful and useful grammar and writing pages . It’s fun, and there are useful tools for teachers to use in the classroom. Check it out.
National Grammar Day founder, Martha Brockenbrough, shares her grammartini recipe to spice up your celebrations:
- 2 1/2 oz gin
- 1/2 oz dry vermouth (The ratio is what’s important.)
- 1 green olive (Some people use lemon. I say, what is up with that?)
- Pour the ingredients into a mixing glass filled with ice cubes. (I use a Value Village cocktail shaker.)
- Stir for 30 seconds. (You can also shake, but John McIntyre says this bruises the gin. Who wants to be charged with gin abuse?)
- Strain into a martini glass.