How you communicate is extremely important to be successful in school and society today. While modern technology and social media have less formal forms of communication, employers still expect perfect grammar in professional settings. Glaring errors in spelling and punctuation are judged before the content of the work. To prepare students for communication, college and careers, focus on teaching grammatical excellence.
Grammar gives language users the control of expression and communication in everyday life. Mastery over words helps speakers communicate their emotions and purpose more effectively. Otherwise, communication can sound like a toddler getting frustrated because she cannot express her thoughts. Written communication skills with grammatical precision evinces professionalism. Employing inappropriate grammar in an email to a boss -- such as using "LOL" or flawed subject-verb agreement like "we was" -- makes the message less effective because the errors will distract from the intent. Understanding basic principles of word, sentence and paragraph structures bestows writers with the flexibility to plan how they communicate a message, from a simple text to a presentation. If people can't successfully speak or write to one another, they cannot share their thoughts with each other.
An important grammatical issue in schools today is its alignment with content standards. The Common Core Curriculum is a national standard of education implemented in many states. In the English Language Arts strand, 18 standards are related to grammar, including subject-verb agreement, punctuation, verb tense and parallel sentence structure. Standards are measured by standardized testing. According to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, students are tested by showing evidence of "substantial knowledge of spelling, grammar, usage, capitalization and punctuation." The U.S. educational system places a high regard on grammar instruction.
Effective communication strategies are important for college readiness. Being able to communicate in writing and orally requires a mastery of grammar. In an ACT research study, college professors ranked grammar as the most important skill for students entering college. The study found that 20 percent of college freshmen take remedial writing courses because they lack the basic foundations of writing and grammar. Colleges want to ensure that their students are well rounded and capable of effective communication, which is why they stress grammar and writing skills.
Communication in the workforce can also be a motivating factor in mastering grammar. Large American businesses spend about $3.1 billion annually on writing remediation instruction. Being able to write professionally and expressively proves to be a desired talent in potential employees. Some companies will not hire people with poor grammar skills. Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit.com, notes, "Applicants who don't think writing is important are likely to think lots of other (important) things also aren't important."
- Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts Standards
- National Center for Education Statistics: NEAP Writing Achievement Levels
- The Chronicle of Higher Education; Teaching Grammar Doesn't Lead to Better Writing; Dennis Baron
- Journal of Education for Business; Are Writing Deficiencies Creating a Lost Generation of Business Writers?; Z.K. Quible
- Harvard Business Review: I Won't Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar
Russell Paul teaches English and yearbook at Gaston Early College High School in Dallas, North Carolina. He is a National Board Certified teacher. Paul attended Michigan State University, where he obtained a bachelor's degree in English, and Western Governor's University for a Master of Education in instructional design.