It wasn’t until I began learning a foreign language that grammar actually made sense.
It seemed to me that in my English class we were being taught things that were blatantly obvious. I mean we already knew the language, so it felt completely unnecessary and excessive. Why did everything have a label? Did we really need to know all those rules?
Oh, how wrong I was. I blame it on the innocence of youth (or the ‘I know better than my teacher’ attitude)
Now, spelling was a different thing – I loved that and understood why you had to learn to spell properly, but the rest of it repulsed me.
As a result, I didn’t perform well in those classes. Maybe that’s the real reason I detested English so much. The possibility of failing something didn’t spur me on to try harder, instead it turned me against the subject and I gave it up at the first opportunity.
Whenever I saw mention of “composition, comprehension, punctuation or sentence structure” on my daily schedule, my mood changed instantly. Argh – I can still recall the sweaty palms as I awaited the grade for one of my essays. Oh, the embarrassment at getting a ‘C’, it demoralised me to the core.
Yet, when the same topics cropped up in my French or German classes, they suddenly made sense. Perhaps the message had got through to me subliminally and thus made the foreign languages easier to learn. Or maybe the teaching methods for English really were not very good at all.
Now I began to understand these terms, probably because I didn’t think I already knew it!
These days, whilst I am by no means an expert, I have learned to accept the rules and to check out those areas of language where I am still unsure. A more mature attitude combined with a love of reading has left me with a greater appreciation for grammar and a willingness to get it right in my own writing.
However, whilst that is all very positive, there is a downside. I am now more critical, not just with my own efforts, but with each and every book, leaflet, letter, poster etc that I read. I’ve become the grammar monster that haunted me at school. My pet peeves are relatively few, but they are TOO commonplace. It grieves me to see these mistakes crop up time and again, particularly in works that have supposedly been edited professionally. These are my top ten peeves – can you relate to them? Are you an offender?
1) their / there / they’re
2) your / you’re
3) were / where
4) apostrophes used to make a word plural
5) could of / could’ve (also should & would)
6) to / too / two
7) fewer / less
8) its / it’s
9) good / well
10) double negatives (unless it’s a NO – NO to all of the above)
Well now I am totally frazzled, the very thought of these can do that to me.
I will probably have to end this post with an excessive use of !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!.