Let Your Writing Breathe

I believe that grammar should be used as a guideline, rather than a rule.

Grammar is important. They teach you grammar in every grade from first to senior year. People have been studying grammar since the 4th century BCE in India and Greece. In the 19th century, people began studying and creating grammar for other languages. Grammar can be defined in a number of ways, but a common definition is that it is the scientific approach to language.

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It’s comprised of morphology, the form words take, and syntax, their relation to each other. Ask any student, though, and they’ll just tell you it is a pain. Grammar kills your English grade. It gets points taken off even the best content, and so the grade doesn’t reflect the ideas. I believe the ideas are what is important. I believe in grammar as a guideline.

In poetry, grammar can be safely ignored. Some poets still use the traditional rules, which are fine, and they work for some people. In other cases, that just isn’t the style. Take Cummings for example. He dismisses grammar and capitalization in his poetry altogether, but his poetry still works. This is acceptable because poetry is creative.

It expresses not what your English teacher wants to see, but an idea so pure that it defies the language. Songwriting is much the same. No one is going to tell the Beatles that their songs aren’t grammatically correct; it never stopped them from selling records. John Green, in his book Looking for Alaska, which if you haven’t read, you should, wrote a line that has infiltrated the blogging world. He writes, “I wanted so badly to lie down next to her on the couch, to wrap my arms around her and sleep.

Not f***, like in those movies. Not even have sex. Just sleep together in the most innocent sense of the phrase. But I lacked the courage and she had a boyfriend and I was gawky and she was gorgeous and I was hopelessly boring and she was endlessly fascinating. So I walked back to my room and collapsed on the bottom bunk, thinking that if people were rain, I was drizzle and she was hurricane.” If you look at this quote, it is not grammatically correct.

There are run on sentences running amok. But it reads well. Better than well, it reads fantastically. Incorrect grammar doesn’t stop this quote from having the impact it does. This is why I believe that grammar should be a guideline.

It bothers me as much as the next literate teenager when people don’t spell out their words or use the wrong form. If someone texted me, “hey wats up u wanna hang l8r?” I would promptly ignore them. That isn’t the type of grammar I mean. I mean the grammar that includes conventions such as capitalization and punctuation. Punctuation is the one that gets me more often than anything else. When I write, or read, and I see a comma, I pause.

Have you ever heard the joke, “What’s the difference between a cat and a comma?” Well the answer is “A cat has claws at the end of its paws and a comma has a pause at the end of its clause.” It’s clever, and it’s how I learned to use commas. I have both the problem of not using enough commas and using too many. I want a comma to pause. When I don’t want to pause, I don’t use a comma. In poetry, this is fine.

But I believe it should always be fine. I understand that incorrect grammar can be distracting, but it isn’t always. My commas, or lack thereof, don’t have to ruin a story or paper. I want my writing to be read a certain way. I want the reader to pause when I want them to.

Especially writings that I want to be read out loud. I want it to be heard a certain way. I’m very particular. I believe that grammar is important, and that usually, you should use it. Let it be the default for writing, that’s fine with me. Most of the time, I use it, and I use it well.

But when I pour my heart and soul into a writing, I don’t want to be bothered by typical conventions. I want it to look and sound the way I thought of it. So embrace your creativity and ignore the green squiggly lines. Take grammar as a guideline but let your writing breathe. This, is what I believe.