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An Anti-Grammarian

By Sandra Lee Schubert | September 30, 2009

Right off I am going to let you know if you love grammar you are going to hate me. I am a anti-grammarian.

After 10 years of facilitating a writing program I’ve come to develop a deep dislike for grammar. I want to love grammar and what it can do to enhance writing. I want to love it as a technique that moves writing from boring to scintillating. I want to love grammar and the way it can frame a piece of writing and hold it all together. I want to love grammar the same way I love the technique an artist uses to create a great work of art. Grammar, right now, I am mad at you. Here’s why.

Ten years ago I co-created a writing group so that a bunch of us could share our work and get some feedback. The group evolved into a workshop format with an instructor, homework, and a reading at the end of the season. The group attracts new writers and writers who are shy about their work. A writer, nervous about their work, comes in and reads a heartfelt story. The emotion in the room is palpable. The feedback is, “in the second paragraph, it should be semi-colon not a colon”. What? The person just gave us an incredible piece about their life as an adoptee and what you noticed is the semi-colon?

I edit an anthology each year with two friends who have told me the grammar of a piece is more important then the content. That is what frustrates me about people and grammar. Grammar becomes a cultish devotion that seems to forget the craft it serves. I read a lovely piece about how Shakespeare used the language to add the pauses and inflection needed.  English grammar did not yet exist for him.

I want to love grammar, but I want to love the content of writing more. I want to love grammar as a tool that helps to clarify and move a piece along.

I will pick up my grammar books again. One day I will love the semi-colon and eradicate a dangling particple. In the meantime, I keep reading and loving the words.

Grammar, we will be friends.

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Topics: Writing | 1 Comment »

  • Peter

    That should be, “an anti-grammarian”. Ha.