I tweeted the other day, "Why is grammar so important?" Here are a few of the responses I received:
@comPOSITIONblog sentences need a form. Subject verb and adjective, at least in English. If the sentence doesn't have this it is incomplete.
I use the responses of these three individuals because they were all self-professed "Grammar Nazis." I had to laugh a bit, though, because they were using incorrect grammar to tell me about the importance of proper grammar usage-- especially alenka-m, who tells me that bad grammar is one of her "pet hates" but doesn't know how to use "its" and "it's."
For alenka_m, though, the importance of grammar seems to be less about performing a rigid strucutre of proper usage and more about a safety net, latching onto something she was good at in elementary school perhaps instead of the bigger, scarier parts of writing (ideas, revising, analysis, etc.). Not that alenka_m is an ELL, but I think this is a common trend in ELL students. They come to the Writing Center often asking for grammar checks, not worried about content. This is possibly because in taking the tests to prove their English proficiency, they have learned that grammar is the top concern. If their grammar is bad, they cannot pass. If their grammar is good and their ideas are bad, however, they may still pass as proficient in English. This really goes for any kind of testing that requires writing: SATs, Regents, HESPAs.
For JaykeisBrutal, the conversation starts off being about grammar, but winds up being about different mediums requiring different approaches. Though he is a "Grammar Nazi," he recognizes that the reason grammar is important is because it allows effective communication.
Finally, I shared with saradobie that bees have a dance language that has its own (very simple) grammar, and therefore, grammar/language isn't really what separates us from the animals anymore. saradobie, however, expresses something very important-- the face-value of grammar. The way we use our words and language often defines us, whether accurately or not, and in a culture obsessed with self-presentation, grammar then becomes a way for us to create a face. Good grammar = higher in the class system. Bad grammar = lower in the class system. Again, though that may not be true, it is often how our society interprets it.
So the questions I leave you with are these: Is the tech. generation really "ruining" writing, or are we evolving and leaving the traditionalists behind? Is grammar important?