January 16, 2018
Everyone can use a grammar refresher, or if you’re me, it’s been a constant insecurity in your life that’s followed you into your adult dreams as an angry English teacher with a red pen laughing at you. A bit dramatic, but welcome to my nightmares.
Consistently poor grammar can make your writing or message look unprofessional and careless, so a basic understanding of grammar is critical. Most of us have an innate sense of what sounds “right or wrong” if English is our first language. But I’m sure I’m not the only one who sometimes struggles with those picky,“English should be like Latin” rules, when to use them, and how to use them correctly.
In an attempt to conquer this evil English teacher of my dreams, I’m currently enrolled in an online grammar course taught by a linguist and English professor. My perspective and respect for my sometimes-nemesis has changed dramatically. The focus of the course isn’t just “these are the rules, so follow them.” Instead, it breaks down the history of the English language and how it’s evolved dramatically over time.
I’ve learned the power of grammar in human language comes from the fact that “we can create an infinite number of utterances, from a finite number of resources,” as described by Wilhelm von Humboldt in the late 18th and 19th centuries. I’ve never thought about the power of grammar in this way. The use of grammar and syntax can create an unlimited amount of utterances, all because of human creativity. Amazin!
Since dusting off my knowledge of those traditional rules, I’ve also learned I don’t need to live my life to the AP style guide 100 percent. (Of course, context is key. A research paper is different than a Peepshow.) But now, I fear the red pen a little less. Grammar trolls can chill. My advice after one online course? Make grammar your bitch. Use the power of these rules and our language to make something epic. Who knows, you might just break the rules in a really great way.
Mick Jager is the Honey Badger of Rock ‘n’ Roll, and he don’t give a sh*t about your double negatives.
Same with Pink Floyd. And this sweet remix.
You try telling a Trekkie that Spock should stop splitting his infinitives.