Why is grammar important?
Some say grammar doesn't matter anymore, especially in a society where texting and using slang terminology is so popular.
After all, who has time to worry about misplaced modifiers with all those emojis to choose from?
However, in the professional world, correct grammar is still a critical skill to master. On the other hand, basic grammatical errors can demonstrate unprofessionalism.
This article takes a closer look at why grammar is important and the role of proper grammar today.
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Why is Good Grammar Important?
Whether you are looking for a new job or marketing a product, service or writing, the way you speak and write impacts how people perceive you.
Having good grammar helps you come across as more intelligent, educated, and professional. Poor grammar can put off clients, particularly if you're a writer. A single mistake isn't a big ideal, but a litany suggests poor attention to detail.
It's fine to text with poor grammar, but not so much if you're writing a pitch or cover letter for a job interview.
If you plan to lead others, good communication skills, and therefore good grammar, are assets to foster. If you decide to go to college or grad school, written grammar skills will be necessary to help you write papers.
On the other hand, bad grammar errors detract from the message or image you are trying to portray. Elon Musk reportedly fired some of his employees for typos and grammar mistakes in important communications.
When you submit a paper or resume with grammatical errors, it can make you look less professional or educated. Your important words become less powerful when filled with grammar problems.
What is the Purpose of Grammar?
Grammar refers to the rules and regulations that govern spoken and written language. Grammar is the code that makes language work. It is through proper grammar that we are able to communicate in a clear manner that people can understand.
Good grammar is key to effective communication, whereas bad grammar leads to surprising mistakes. Its purpose is to build a bridge between what you mean and what the reader or listener's understand.
With clear, strong grammar skills, you can ensure people understand what you're trying to say or write, even if english isn't your native language.
Here's a classic english grammar example from the grammar book Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss:
If you were to say, “Let's eat, Grandma,” everyone would understand that you were inviting your loved one to a meal. If you were to write, “Let's eat Grandma,” the meaning becomes far more cryptic.
One simple grammar rule makes a huge difference in the meaning of the sentence.
What Does Good Grammar Mean?
Good grammar means writing or speaking in such a way that your choice of words is understandable and follows the basic rules of sentence construction, punctuation and spelling.
But, how can you tell if you have good grammar or need to improve in this area? Well, here's a closer look at what “good grammar” means.
1. The Ability to Communicate Clearly Using Written Language
If you have good grammar, you have the ability to communicate clearly with written language. You know how to use words and punctuation to get your meaning across in a way that most readers can understand.
2. The Ability to Communicate Clearly Using Spoken Language
Not only does grammar play a role in written language, but it also plays a role in spoken language. While grammar rules are less strict when speaking, grammatical errors in speech are still important.
Too many grammar mistakes and your spoken language becomes distracting, making it hard for people to follow your meaning.
3. The Ability to Understand and Apply the Rules of Grammar
Finally, having “good grammar” means having the ability to both understand and apply common rules and uses of grammar. While rules are not always set in stone, the basic concepts are worth understanding and using properly.
What Are the Four Most Important Grammar Rules?
Grammar, especially in the English language, comes with a lot of rules. But how can you decipher the most important ones?
Here are the basic grammar rules to focus on as you strive to increase your skills.
1. Proper Use of Commas
In written language, the comma is a small mark that has a big job. It is easy to both over and underuse commas. Here are some common mistakes involving commas:
- Comma Splice – The comma splice is a fancy name for a run-on sentence. It is a sentence that combines more than one sentence or idea into one, without a comma and conjunction.
- Introductory Clauses – Introductory clauses that are not necessary for the sentence to make sense should be offset by a comma. If they aren't the sentence becomes confusing. Here is an example: Because it was late, the family went home to put the kids to bed.
- Names of Direct Address – When you are addressing the person you're talking to, you need to set the name off with a comma. Remember, we don't want to eat grandma, we just want to invite her to the meal.
- Coordinate Adjectives – Coordinate adjectives are multiple adjectives that modify a noun and can have their order changed without changing the meaning of the sentence. These need a comma. For example, you would need a comma between “The fast, sly fox,” because fast and sly both modify fox and could be switched. Conversely, no comma is needed between, “The shy little boy” because little must precede boy to make sense.
These are just an example set of rules worth noting. If you want to be a strong writer, you need to understand how and when to use commas while learning sentence structure.
2. Subject-Verb Agreement
Subjects and verbs in sentences must agree in number. If you have a plural subject, you need a plural verb, and visa versa. Sometimes this gets tricky in sentences where the subject doesn't come right before the verb, so it's something to watch for.
3. Pronoun/Antecedent Agreement
An antecedent is a word a pronoun replaces. In the sentence, “John went to the store because he was out of milk,” he is the pronoun replacing the antecedent John.
The pronoun and antecedent need to agree in number and gender. They also need to be clear in who or what they are replacing.
So, if you say, “Sarah and Anna went to the store because she was out of milk,” the sentence is incorrect because it is unclear who “she” is.
One of the most common pronoun/antecedent errors involves the pronoun their. In the sentence, “Each girl took their bag and went to the car,” the pronoun is incorrect. Even though there is more than one girl, both each and girl is singular.
It should read “Each girl took her bag.”
Homophones are words that sound the same but are spelled differently and have different meanings. Affect/effect, compliment/complement, and their/there/they're are all examples. Learn the appropriate uses of these words.
How Can I Check My Grammar?
No one is going to have perfect grammar all of the time. It's not a big deal if you make a single mistake in most cases.
There are simply too many rules to follow, and it's relatively easy to fix issues in most works. That said, if it's important (like a job cover letter), consider a grammar checking tool before pressing send or clicking publish.
Here's what we recommend:
Grammarly is a free online grammar checking program you can use to check anything you're typing. Simply upload your content into the browser, and it will check your grammar and help with proofreading.
Both of these tools can also help with spelling mistakes.
Unsure about what tool to use? Read our ProWritingAid vs Grammarly comparison.
What Are the Benefits of Learning Grammar?
So why should you spend time and energy to learn correct grammar and ensuring you're using it correctly in your written works or everyday life?
Good grammar can help you become a stronger communicator.
Get your basic grammar skills right and you won't have to worry about your message being perceived badly for the wrong reasons. You can become a trusted professional and someone people consider as well-educated.
Here's the key takeaway about the importance of grammar today:
Understanding the basics improves your communication skills. That can translate into more clients, jobs, readers and even money. On the other hand, bad grammar is kind of like bad breath; it's off-putting.
All that said, don't let the grammar nazis deter you from putting yourself or your work forward. Find a balance between perfectionism and done. If it's a text, who cares? If it's a job cover letter, you probably should.
Learn the rules before you break them.
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