Monday, April 11, 2011


Question: Who says that the study of formal grammar doesn’t improve writing?

Answer: Ken Linblom, editor of the English Journal, that’s who.

Quote: “Public discussion of English teaching is so stuck on the idea of grammar rules that more important aspects of our field are rarely mentioned. This is true even though the research is clear that traditional grammar instruction—drill-and-kill attention to the parts of speech and punctuation rules—does not improve student writing at all, and there is even some evidence that focusing on grammar rules actually worsens students’ writing (see Dunn and Lindblom; Schuster).”

Dunn, Patricia A., and Kenneth Lindblom. “Why Revitalize Grammar?” English Journal 92.3 (2003), 43-50.

Schuster, Edgar H. Breaking the Rules: Liberating Writers through Innovative Grammar Instruction. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 2003. Print.]

Comment: One of the practices that irritates me is writers’ use of their own articles in support of their own ideas. Note that Ken Lindblom in the previous criticism of grammar quotes his own publication in support of his own ideas. Also note his use of “some” evidence that “…focusing on grammar rules actually worsens student’s writing.” [Schuster’s book merely points out that good writers often violate the rules of good grammar by using such traditional mistakes as sentence fragments intentionally.]

I suggest that failure to use standard English results in the readers’ not concentrating on meaning when sentence structure, usage and punctuation cause unintended distractions. The purpose of the study of grammar when it comes to writing is polishing prose, so that the reader begins at the beginning and moves effortlessly to the end without being distracted by unintentional mistakes in sentence structure, usage and punctuation.

For a rebuttal to Lindblom’s tired, clichéd rant  against grammar, see my next blog, a review of the study that was supposed to end all use of grammar to improve writing. RayS.

Title: “Beyond Grammar: The Richness of the English Language.” Ken Lindblom. English Journal (March 2011), 10-11.

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