Grammar Should be Secondary for Composition Teachers Essay

Grammar Should be Secondary for Composition Teachers Essay

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I have a knack for creating a series of run-on sentences and calling them an essay. I have a knack for beginning sentences with And or But. I also have a writing degree. I still have not mastered the use of the comma and somehow the Academy granted me that little piece of paper anyway. You, reader, may be wondering my point. My point is this: that despite my ill-formed paragraphs and run-on sentences I have existed and prospered within the formal writing environment. And so, I was elated to read Patrick Hartwell’s essay that contests that teaching grammar has a negligible effect on the development of a student writer (183).

Clearly, there are different types of grammar, which Hartwell distinguishes in his essay. Borrowing from Francis’ “The Three Meanings of Grammar,” and his lengthy definition of grammar in three parts, Hartwell extends to the five categories of grammar. In dissecting grammar, Hartwell divides and conquers the argument that formal grammatical training is of great use to a developing writer. Instead, Hartwell sees grammar as a recognition tool, a way to keep the writer and reader on the same page. It is a tool of orientation rather than a prerequisite for “good writing.”

Harvey Davis, an author I found by way of Hartwell’s end-notes, makes a great distinction between the necessity of grammar texts for educators and students. In his book, Famous Last Words: The American Language Crisis Reconsidered, Daniels recognizes that grammar books, “while they may be good for the publishing business, and may comfort anxious teachers, they are unlikely to help students much” (241). Books devoted to the teaching of grammar or the integration of grammar into writing programs simply create names for lessons and rules alread...


... middle of paper ...


...n of all threads of thought, with a process of shaping afterwards.

Grammar lay waiting for the guillotine in the arena of composition. The main concern of any composition teacher, as well as his students, should be the production of writing. Since the rules are so flexible and easily changed for matters of style, grammar should be an afterthought, rather than a pre-writing tool. To take writing time away from our students and force them to familiarize themselves with formal grammar does them a disservice.

Bibliography

Daniels, Harvey. Famous Last Words: The American Language Crisis Reconsidered. Edwardsville, IL: Southern Illinois University Press, 1983.

Hartwell, Patrick. “Grammar, Grammars, and the Teaching of Grammar.” Cross-Talk in Comp Theory: A Reader. ed. Victor Villanueva, Jr. Urbana, Illinois: National Council of Teachers of English, 1997. 183-212

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