March 4 is National Grammar Day in the United States. According to Nationtoday.com, National Grammar day was established in 2008 by Martha Brockenbrough, the founder of the Society for the Promotion of Good Grammar. The day’s motto is, “It’s not only a date, but it’s also an imperative: March forth on March fourth to speak well, write well, and help others do the same!”
How can you celebrate National Grammar Day? People around the country are celebrating the English language by studying up on common grammar mistakes, proofreading correspondence, and thanking fellow editors.
In honor of National Grammar Day, the Mustang Newspaper Staff interviewed traditional grammar professor, Roberta Brown. Brown has been teaching at WNMU for three years. She teaches traditional grammar, English 97, English 99, English 1110, and Short Story Class.
Q: Why is grammar essential, and why should students take it more seriously?
A: I think it’s important mainly so that we can communicate clearly with one another and accurately. People with grammar lapses would have no trouble communicating, but it never hurts to make sure that we’re communicating accurately. I think it doesn’t take much to look around and see how angry a lot of people are these days and how oppositional they are and how entrenched they are in their positions politically mainly, but if we can talk to each other, if we can communicate with one another in a calm, civil manner, it will be a helpful thing.
By studying writing, grammar, speech, communication, and philosophy, we can be able to communicate clearly and effectively with each other and maybe avoid unpleasant disagreements. I see grammar as part of writing instruction, and I don’t really see it as something separate and detached. Writing is a form of thinking. I don’t think the writing process is sequential. Research has proven without a doubt that writing is a recursive process meaning that we think and write, and as we’re writing were thinking, and then we write some more as we’re writing were thinking! I look at grammar as part of the whole writing experience. It is important to see it connected to communication because if we don’t see grammar as connected to connection, then we run the risk of people saying it is not important. It’s just this isolated esoteric exercise that doesn’t mean anything to anyone, but if you see it as connected to accurate communication, then it becomes more meaningful.
Q: What is a common grammar mistake you feel is the biggest challenge for students?
A: The biggest challenge for students is too many students still today aren’t clear about what an actual complete grammatical sentence is and not being able to identify or construct a complete grammatical sentence. This means that students will be writing a lot of incomplete sentences, making fragments, or they’ll be stringing sentences together in ways that make them hard to read because they’re not connected properly. Those are the biggest problems. I would love to see students be able to recognize a complete grammatical sentence as quickly with little effort and be able to write complete grammatical sentences.
Q: Why did you choose to teach traditional grammar, and what is your favorite part about teaching this class?
A: I chose the teacher because my department chair asked me to teach it! I was also intrigued because she told me that most of the students in the class would be education majors. The idea that education majors have to take this class got my attention. I think it is interesting that the School of Education requires its majors to take this class. I’m learning to teach this class effectively, but I would say it’s going well. My favorite part is the face to face class every Wednesday. I get to sit down with the students who are in that section, and I enjoy meeting with them, talking in person, and having a pleasant exchange in the seminar room.
Q: Is there anything you would like to say to students about grammar?
A: Something that students need to keep in mind is when they’re applying for jobs; your dream job can be discarded because of grammar. I don’t think students realize it when they’re asking for jobs a lot of times; the employers are looking for ones to discard from the process. If there are mistakes in your cover letter and your resume, that’s an easy reason to throw out the application, you don’t even get to the interview stage. When companies have 100 applicants or 50 applicants; they are looking for ways to narrow the pool. I wish students would realize that something like grammar could kill your dream if you got embarrassing errors in a cover letter. That’s just one way that they will cut you out of the pool and hire somebody else instead. At this point, it doesn’t matter how passionate you are about your job, your field, achievements that you’ve done at school, or your GPA. Don’t let grammar be the thing that keeps you from getting that first job.
For resources related to grammar or writing, stop by the Center For Student Success in the Juan Chacon Building or the Writing Center in the Miller Library.