Monday, October 25, 2010

Twitter Grammar Nazis on Grammar

I'm still very curious as to why people feel so strongly about grammar. Not to say that grammar is useless or unimportant, but when the content is good, is it necessary to badger people that they have misapplied punctuation or used the wrong verb tense-- especially in Twitter tweets? Obviously, I'm opposed to badgering of any sort (not just about grammar), but should we be pointing out others' errors? Is it constructive?

I tweeted the other day, "Why is grammar so important?" Here are a few of the responses I received:

@ Correct grammar is what separates us from the animals. It also says a lot about who you are. And how much you read.

@ people don't always communicate effectively, should writing suffer just the same? Different medium require different rules.
@ sentences need a form. Subject verb and adjective, at least in English. If the sentence doesn't have this it is incomplete.

@ Its important to me! One of my pet hates. I thought it was grammar, cos its not the spelling, its the wrong use?
@ I don't know really, maybe because I've always been good at it but since leaving school, its gone down the pooper!
@ I never ever know which "its" to use. I gave up trying with that one. =P
@ Lol, I thought it was - it's = ownership and its = it is. If its a put an ' Sally's phone. =/

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?


Bill said...

Grammar is still important. It helps us communicate with precision. There is, however, a time and a place for precise grammar. Informal settings, like texting, call for informal grammar. Depending on the user, Twitter has formal or informal grammar. Personally, I spend time on Twitter professionally; consequently, my tweets are grammatically correct. Then again, I'm also the guy the corrects menus in my head...

NP said...

I would say that is true, Bill. As a teacher, I try to set the example by using formal grammar in my emails, on my syllabus, on our class site, etc. When it comes to texting my mom, however, grammar is the last thing I'm worrying about (<-that's not even proper grammar). So, then, how do you go about teaching it? Do you teach that you should code-switch? Or do you teach your students to use correct grammar all the time?