Eats, Shoots and Leaves – Does Grammar Matter?

I don’t know about you, but when I see an article with this title, “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why”, I give it a look.

Harvard Business Review author Kyle Wiens argues “…that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they’re doing something completely unrelated to writing – like stocking shelves or labeling parts.”

Admittedly, Wiens runs iFixit.com, the world’s largest online repair manual, so writing is his business. And hypercorrect grammar is part of that.

But it got me thinking that while we’re not grammarians, don’t we owe it to our students to help them be the clearest, most correct writers they can be? Wouldn’t it be a disservice to ignore repeated uses of non-standard language, mixed verb tenses and the like?

Poor grammar can obfuscate meaning; a few slips here and there can be minor, but many of our students struggle with basic grammar rules like verb/subject agreement.  And don’t get me started on “its” and “it’s”!

Of course, in Writing 105 and communications courses, we hold our students to a high standard of college-level writing, but we should be doing this in their major courses too. Strong communication skills – written, verbal, visual – are in demand from all employers in all fields.

If we agree on this, how can we – as instructors – help students use proper grammar when perhaps we haven’t had the training we need? And since our middle school grammar class has long since slipped out of memory, what can we do?


Grammar Tools

I’ve done a number of things in my classes, from distributing paper copies of exercises from textbook sites like Bedford St. Martin’s, to doing a mini-quiz on grammar after papers have been returned. Winning answers get to pick from the candy basket. It’s fun and the concepts seem to better stick when there’s chocolate involved.

You might also want to try an online tool like Road To Grammar. This site says it’s for “young learners”, but it works for all levels. It’s a free site with no log in required, so students may be more likely to use it. You could assign exercises to students who are struggling with papers, or use it in class.

 

So what do you think? How have you been handling grammar issues in your classes? Any tips or tricks you find that work? We’d love to hear them, so share here!

 

 

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