Love-Hate Relationship with English Grammar
by Saralyn Richard
I taught high school English for many years in the days when students had to write ten mandatory papers per quarter, or forty papers per year. According to my estimates, I’ve graded over seven thousand papers, not counting major assignments, where I graded several drafts of the same paper. I graded papers day and night in every location you can imagine. With all that practice, I became a walking encyclopedia of grammar, able to recite every rule, chapter and verse.
Here are a few of the most common mistakes my students made:
- Run-on sentences or comma splice
- Pronoun disagreement
- Mistakes in apostrophe usage, especially possessives
- Lack of subject-verb agreement
- Misplaced modifiers
- Sentence fragments
- Verb tense inconsistency
- No clear antecedent for a pronoun
When my son was in ninth grade, his English teacher offered five points extra credit whenever a student could find a mistake in the “real world,” take a photo of it, get the person in charge to change it, and photograph the correction. You wouldn’t believe how many errors came to light. My son even had the local park district take down and redo a huge sign at the entrance to a nearby subdivision, costing taxpayers approximately nine hundred dollars.
Today we have online (AI-based) grammar tutors, and we are still plagued with grammar infractions everywhere we go, including in edited and published media. As a reader, I find mistakes distracting, but I no longer carry the weight of responsibility for marking each one in red ink and making sure the writer knows better for next time.
As a writer and editor, I’m not let off the hook so easily. While I recognize there is no such thing as a perfect piece of writing, I can’t let go of wanting anything with my name on it to be as clean as possible. For me, an error-free, clearly stated, well-ordered paragraph practically sings from the page.
How about you? Do you have a love-hate relationship with English grammar, too?
Saralyn Richard is an educator and the writer of six mystery novels and a children’s book. Connect with her at http://saralynrichard.com and subscribe to her monthly newsletter for interesting and fun content and opportunities.