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Grammar Ain’t Your Team’s Writing Issue

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https://narrations.ad-auris.com/widget/hurley-write/grammar-ain-t-your-team-s-writing-issueAre you surprised we used “ain’t” in our headline? Or are you more surprised that we said that grammar isn’t the writing problem you may think it is?

A call we get often is from potential clients complaining that their team’s writing contains grammar errors; while that’s a problem, it’s not the huge problem that these clients believe it to be. Why? Good question! Consider this: you can have a document that is grammatically perfect with no typos and the document may be unreadable. Conversely, a document can have grammar errors and the like and be perfectly understandable (don’t misunderstand: we’re not saying that documents that have grammatical errors aren’t a problem, they are, but documents in which the prose is difficult to understand are more of a problem and is often not correlated to grammatical issues).

Here’s an example of a grammatically correct piece:

Electric car batteries need to be replaced every three years and the discarded batteries produce hazardous waste if metals leach out unfettered. Therefore, mass production of electric cars will create large volumes of hazardous waste due to discarded batteries. Although there are federal and state laws to mitigate the negative effects from electric battery disposal, there are other environmental impacts.

The piece isn’t hard to understand, of course, but it has no defining theme, which makes it unclear: is this about replacing batteries every three years or hazardous waste or environmental impacts of battery disposal? In other words, as you’ll probably agree, the paragraph has too many ideas. In addition, because the paragraph emphasizes the idea of replacement every three years (as that’s what first in the sentence), the reader is led to believe that the number of years is somehow important, when it’s never mentioned again.

In fact, research shows that teaching grammar without the context of reading and writing doesn’t work long-term to help writers write clear, concise documents. In fact, according to Joann Yatvin, NCTE’s P12 policy analyst for Oregon, “among recent research studies, not one justifies teaching grammar to help students write better.” The goal of any course designed to help people write better should be to get them to think more critically about who they’re writing for and what they’re trying to accomplish, rather than to be constrained or worried about whether they’re following the proper grammar rules.

So, the next time you read a document that has some grammatical errors, ask yourself:

  • Was I able to understand it the first time I read it?
  • Is it logical?
  • Does it flow?
  • Is there one defining theme?

If the answer to these questions is “yes,” then you know that grammar didn’t impede your understanding. If the answer is “no,” it may be worthwhile to figure out the why behind these questions and we’ll bet you the issue wasn’t grammar.

Grammar Ain’t Your Team’s Writing Issue

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Prefer to chat? Call us at 877-249-7483

(503 Reviews)