This week I learned that I maybe (definitely) don't know as much as I should about this mysterious thing called grammar, something my elementary teachers were always talking about. Sure, I don't use "ain't", I can conjugate my verbs with ease and I even like to toss around the word "gerund" every now and again, but ask me what predicate nominatives are all about and I'll excuse myself to Google it. (FYI that comma up there, outside of the quotation marks around the word ain't is me practicing this fancy shit from the UK called "logical punctuation", and it is totally in right now, guys.) Come to think of it, if I were asked to explain much of my knowledge about English language grammar, I wouldn't even know where to begin.
While some people argue that a complete and unending knowledge of grammar isn't necessarily essential in the face of our ever-changing language and modes of communication, others take it very seriously (I think the author threatens violence more than once). Personally, although I care very much about language I tend to accidentally put out of my mind the notion that I don't know all of the rules of grammar. This is because (I think) I have a pretty solid base. Sure, I over-use commas, and constantly interrupt myself, but that's a stylistic choice to write conversationally, and if there's anything that reading as taught me it's that writers can pretty much do whatever they want when it comes to word order and sentence structure. Seriously, just look at this freaking style sheet. (I certainly understand that there's a great difference between fiction writing and blog writing, but the point is that we're not writing term papers or textbooks here, so just be cool.)
Wouldn't it be nice to do things like give writers advice on things like using the present-perfect or getting rid of that passive voice? The problem is this, once you become an adult (read: not taking any foreign language or grammar classes in college) how do I go about brushing up on grammatical skills? So many grammar books, while very informative, are unreadable in large doses and used mainly in cases of reference. (Sub-problem: how do I know what to look up if I don't know that there is a problem?) Grammar podcasts are very short, making their sponsor's advertisements seem excessive. Learning by example presents a difficulty, because there are seemingly no rules on the internet — where the majority of things are read these days — and even news sources are rife with punctuation and grammatical errors (I blame this on the speed by which information travels on the internet, it's got to be murder super-proofreading everything that gets published online). It would be ideal if there were adult education courses for native English speakers, that got deep down into that syntactic slime.
Anywho, I asked around Facebook and Twitter this week to get some good suggesions on how and where to get back into practice but the responses were few in number, so I need more.
Maybe you're a kindred soul, and want to improve your grammar, too, so here are the suggestions I was given this week, and a few things that I found in my research today:
@hollharris recommended the Grammar Girl Podcast – she also has books.
This book looks very, very promising and I would definitely accept it as a late birthday present: The Deluxe Transitive Vampire: The Ultimate Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed
Courtney Algeo demands to know how long it will take her to become a grammar genius.