Following the rules of English Grammar.

English is a funny language. It is the only language where your nose runs and your feet smell.

Perhaps funnier are the rules and exceptions of this language.  Just when you familiarize yourself with the rules of a particular concept, the Wren and Martin throws an exception and you’re back to where it all it started, utterly perplexed.

My tryst with grammar.

When I was at school(Rosary Matriculation, Chennai), I was lucky enough to come across wonderful English teachers who walked the extra mile to make us understand the rules and exceptions of the language and I developed an instant liking for the subject and its grammar.  I remember how I used to be worried about gerunds, when the concept was explained and how my life was made simple when someone said, leave the definition and just add ‘ing’ to the verb. Tenses did confuse me a lot. Somehow I did manage to get it right, to a considerable extent. But if you ask me to explain it to you or ask me why I chose the past perfect participle for a sentence, I would probably not be able to convince you. I would not be able to tell you the reason but it would have been the right choice. Prepositions still scare me. Every time I Google the phrase to ensure that I’m using them correctly. Though I can proudly say I know when exactly to use It’s and Its, I cannot state with the same confidence the right usage of who and whom. But the beauty of this language is, you can avoid getting entangled in the complex rules and exceptions by keeping things simple enough.  Simple sentences are better any day when compared to the compound and complex sentences.

Having said all this, there is always a debate on whether the rules of grammar have to be strictly adhered to. Some people say that as long as someone is able to understand what one is trying to convey, grammar can be overlooked. This is mainly applicable for poetry and creative writing. But there is another group where people say that even the smallest grammar mistakes are not pardonable. If you’ve read the books written by many (upcoming) young Indian authors, you would find at least 50% of the books laden with grammatical errors. Now don’t come and pick up a fight with me. It’s up to you to decide which group you fall in.

Obstructing the flow of thoughts

Some people say that paying minute attention to grammar hinders the flow of their thoughts. And even when expressing their thoughts, sometimes they feel that reconstructing a sentence to make it grammatically right, may even spoil the very essence of the words. So in such cases, they take it upon themselves to bend the rules to suit their needs. As a reader, in a few cases, we tend to get lost in the words and we barely notice it. Sometimes the errors outweigh the magic of the words and the results are not that impressive.

It’s not English without the Grammar.

A few others vehemently argue that no sentence is complete or perfect if it doesn’t stay adhere to the syntax. It has been said that an article with a simple language, clearly expressed thoughts and correct grammar would impress a reader better than an article with flowery and grandiloquent words, which doesn’t stick to the basics of grammar. Further, they state that one cannot possibly try to convey their thoughts clearly unless they follow the rules of the language that the others are familiar with. Hence, they feel it can no way act as a barrier; it can only enhance the perception.

So, does Grammar matter?

The most common question I came across was, ‘If Shakespeare can break the rules, why can’t I?’ I am not generalizing that everyone thinks that the rules can be relaxed or that they should be followed to a T. People have their own reasons and justifications. But as a reader, who has read a fair number of books and blogs in various forms of writing, I find it difficult to enjoy an article that is strewn with errors unless it is exceptionally great. Not that I’m criticizing the work or acting hypocritically. Yes everyone makes mistakes, but sometimes certain jarring errors which can be avoided by just a round of proof reading would make a world of a difference. A few errors wouldn’t affect the reader to a great extent. But repetitive errors definitely plays spoilsport. It does obstruct the flow of thought of the reader who is trying to connect with the writer’s words.

I feel that grammar is important, at least to a considerable extent. Of course, the definition of this ‘considerable extent’ may be subjective.

What do you think?

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42 thoughts on “Following the rules of English Grammar.

Add yours

  1. Subjective..
    Well expressed and certainly a brief history on grammar 😛
    Languages are subjective to changes, today's grammar can be altered years later for people's convenience.
    Writer should not only be weighed based on his grammar but also on his way of expressing, displaying his thoughts on words. Indeed poor grammar can topple the plot 😛


  2. The beauty of the language is marred by too many grammatical mistakes!Changes with time are bound to happen but that should not imply that on can get away by murdering the language! Nice thoughts , Ashwini:)


  3. I used to hate grammar – both in English and Thamizh. When I started blogging, I did not even proofread my articles and I found/find the process of checking for grammatical errors very cumbersome.

    But, over time, I discovered that grammar aids the process of writing by enhancing the comprehension abilities of the reader. What more, it enables unhindered reading & makes the reading experience better – which is very essential.

    I do break rules – sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly. Besides, certain 'Indian expressions' can be conveyed only if we break rules!

    I strive towards achieving perfection in grammar, but I know it's a herculean task. I can only hope to improve, with each passing day. That said, I am always glad to break the rules if it results in better comprehension for the reader.

    After all, grammar exists to enhance the reading experience, right?


  4. After reading a whole lot of blogs, I have come to the sad conclusion that the correct use of grammar is beyond the scope of most of our writers. But what is probably sadder is the fact that many carry their dismal knowledge of the language as a badge of honour!

    This was a good topic to raise – glad you did that!


  5. Ashwini, ideally correct grammar must be mandatory for any language. Grammar does matter and bad grammar severely hampers writing. The sad part is that blogging has caused any TDH writing in English that many times is very substandard. But what can one do?


  6. A coincidence that my post is also about English today – though not grammar. I share with you that instinct for usage without being able to explain why.

    Grammar – if language is communication, then the way people understand what is written needs to be standardized. Words have their meanings – grammar is the way the meaning of a sentence is standardized so that it can be ensured that everyone understands it the same way. I would rate the importance of grammar very high. The farther you diverge from the rules the less effective you are at communicating what you seek to communicate.


  7. You rightly said that when there are too many glaring grammatical errors it acts as a barrier for the reader to connect. Having said that English is a very complicated language. So one or too mistakes here and there is unavoidable especially for people like us whose mother tongue is totally different


  8. If grammar is trivial and can be overlooked, well then it is a chaotic nonsense in language that will be born. If men of great exceptions and literary talent have had bend grammar to suit their writing at times, it has only enhanced the beauty of their creation. They have not mauled the language. If Shakespeare wrote, “the unkindest cut of all…” in Julius Caesar, it only bears the stark deceit of Brutus.

    You are right when you mentioned that grammatical and weak spellings are jarring. In fact they lessen the impact of the piece.
    If someone asks me if I could teach English grammar, I must confess I cannot. Because I do not know grammar, I can only feel it.


  9. The rules of grammar must be observed and adhered to, especially the spellings part. The aberrations found in Shakespearean text can however be ignored as poetic license.Computers only recognize American English and some words typed in Queen's English are underlined red. There is confusion on this account also. We , in India can perhaps excuse ourselves at times on the pretext that we are not native users of English language , but all serous writing should mind Ps & Qs of grammar.
    Nice post as usual raising a very relevant question !


  10. Grammar, what grammar, I don't even know the meaning of grammar.
    Well, i feel people who are so particular about being everything or most of the things written in a grammatically correct way, must visit only those blogs where they find it done correctly, to their satisfaction. They have no right to generalise saying many bloggers are lacking in that. They are many bloggers who write so well that one would find it very difficult to find fault with their usage of the English language, and of course while they are busy bragging about their skills in the grammar department, they fail to see how boring they sound to majority of people who can't be bothered about grammar all the time. In fact, my husband is like that, he is very particular about the words chosen, blah, blah.. that sometimes the very essence of what a person want to convey is lost. I have come across so many blogs, where people choose very high funda words, that people normally would not use, and figuring out what exactly it means is another headache (if only they would give links to the site where they go to pick out such words). even then it would be so much of an effort, that one would think twice before going to their blogs again.
    I agree one has to adhere to some normal/ basic grammar, but one has to remember not to be rigidly tied to some rules, for when they are, their work loses its spontaneity. My philosophy is to keep it as simple as possible, for blogging is something personal, it is not some essay competition.
    Good topic, and I am glad you chose to write about it.


  11. Not quite sure why good grammar is being confused with using “high funda words”, or with writing that can't be simple and spontaneous? What is the connection?
    I can assure you that the most popular blogs in the Indian blogosphere are written by people who are careful about their grammar. And I can assure you, too, that their blogs are simple, spontaneous, personal, not 'rigidly tied' to anything, and definitely not boring.


  12. When you write from your heart, you don't go searching for sophisticated words to insert them into something that can be written in a simple way too. I am not saying it is wrong to do that, if a person wants to enhance what he / she has to say then it is their business, they have every right to do what they want.
    It is my personal opinion, that it takes away the spontaneity from their work, though they may not be aware of it.No offence intended. Keep it simple that is my philosophy. You must know how to use the words correctly, that is where grammar comes and also the connection. When they are obsessed with the use of certain words, and also be grammatically correct, naturally a rigidness is bound to show in their works.
    May be people who love such works may not see any thing wrong with it, and that again is their wish.
    I always admire their choice of words and the way they have written it, but somehow I miss their soul in their writing.
    Again as in everything , there is no right or wrong about anything for it all depends on our way of reacting or looking at things.


  13. Hell. Feels like the word 'gerund' is no more a part of my memory.

    Grammar is important because it guarantees that what we write will be understood by anyone who at least reads. Anything more than that is trying too hard in my opinion. Just like you said, important but subjective.


  14. Ashwini, a post that touched my heart. I am not sure how bad my grammar has become now, but I was one of those students in school who scored the highest in grammar. And Wren and Martin, my all time favourite book in English Grammar. I was just thinking about that book the other day and bingo! Here's your post. 🙂 Sonny is very weak in English grammar and writing, I am sending him to classes now at an exorbitant price :(..Sadly, English grammar standards have gone very low in many schools these days.


  15. Well put.. worrying about grammar is a double edged sword… it forces us to re-think every line while writing…
    what some poet's called lyrical license is their excuse for not sticking to grammar..

    Anyway, if one is used to correct usage, they won't be able to appreciate (fully) what is grammatically incorrect…

    Each to their own i guess 🙂


  16. Ash… I studied in a Government School where Teachers felt passing in English is enough. So I did not have the opportunity to learn the language properly in my school days, but for the sake of placements, I learnt it on my own. I got placed colorfully.

    The passion for writing poems and prose arose inside me and I started blogging at Few Miles and was criticized for my poor language skills. I did not give up instead took it up as a challenge to better myself. I believed the story is important, not the syntax, but later realized the syntax adds beauty to the story. I am continuously working on it, hoping someday I would write better. 🙂 Good post. Keep writing 🙂

    Someone is Special


  17. Atleast when others point it out to them, they need to take it personal and try to improve. All the more, people think using a flowery language makes others think they have a great command over the language. People should probably realize that grammar matters more than the words.


  18. Exactly my thoughts. Unless there is a standardization, it would be difficult to interpret what the writer tries to convey.

    And coincidence indeed. English lovers at heart, most of us are 🙂


  19. Yes, grammar can only be felt. You have raised a very valid point. When famous authors broke the rules eons ago, they did not affect the language or misuse them. It only enhances their word play. Very True.


  20. Despite not being native users of the language, I'm sure we do justice to the language. But of course there are a few (probably quite a few) exceptions too. Thank you sir!


  21. @Rama:

    What we mean by saying grammatically correct, is ensuring that the fundamentals of grammar are taken care of. Mistakes are bound to happen. As humans we can overlook them. But if some basic rule has been misused, that does not strike a chord with the reader. And I am not speaking about using flowery words. Even I am against it unless the situation demands. Just a clarification, excessively using high funda words might make it boring, but writing something with the perfect grammar would NEVER make an article boring, it would enhance the readability and the interpretation as someone rightly mentioned here.

    In short, we are discussing about grammar here and I feel that has nothing to do with the vocabulary, though I completely agree with you about the choice of words.


  22. Grammar is more like a life skill. When we understand and learn it once it can never leave us. Reading your posts, I can assure you that you set a high standard for all of us :-). I have noticed that the importance of Grammar is not being stressed for the young generation at school these days. We cannot help that, can we?


  23. We all start at a point where we dont have practically any knowledge about what we are getting into. Learning on the go is the only possible solution. That's what you seem to have done. You have taken others' feedback as a challenge and you've taken steps to work on it. And I'm sure you have come a long way and realized those people were actually trying to help you. All of us want to keep improving, right?

    Proud of you 🙂


  24. @Rickie

    I agree with your thoughts. An article can be classified as boring, based on the content. Following grammar wouldnt make a content boring. And Indians have consciously tried to keep increasing the standards of the language, though there are a few exceptions.


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