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Do you know the difference between a verb and an adverb? What about the correct use of ‘their’, ‘there’ and ‘they’re’? Are you guilty of misspelling words and using incorrect punctuation? And what exactly is grammar, anyway?
‘A good grasp of grammar enables writers to express themselves clearly, and readers to comprehend the intended meaning,’ says Dr Sarah Ohi, Senior Lecturer in Language and Literacy Education at Deakin University.
Grammar is the system that governs the sounds, words and sentences of a language. A broad definition also includes spelling and punctuation. Though not a science, grammar gives us the framework to understand how words work and how they’re best used.
Sometimes a grammar or spelling error can have serious consequences. Take the case of Oakhurst Dairy in Maine in the US, where a lack of the controversial Oxford comma in state legislation led to a dispute with its drivers and a class-action lawsuit.
In a world of social media, text messages and emojis, at times it seems grammar skills have all but disappeared. There’s been a lot of discussion recently about grammar not being taught in schools.
‘“Grammar” was once considered part of the curriculum, but disappeared from the 1960s, to come back as “knowledge about language” – but more of a functional grammar approach than nuts and bolts, parts of speech etc.,’ says Dr Rod Nielsen, Senior Lecturer in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).
But does it matter if we occasionally misspell a word? Or don’t use proper grammar in texts and social media posts? Language evolves over time – and always has. We often come across new words and phrases and integrate them into our speech and writing.
‘The acceptance of varied spelling as expressed by the media and in digital communication has meant that people tend to be more open to accepting changed words and incorrectly spelt words in their everyday use of English,’ Dr Ohi says.
So it seems that while we adapt to language changes – how we speak and write in everyday life – there are some essential grammar rules we need to get right in order to be heard and understood.
Want to put your grammar skills to the test? Take our grammar quiz now.
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