What is Grammar? Why is Grammar Important? What Do I Need to Know about Grammar in order to Write Well? How do people learn grammars?
Grammar - Warning signs leading to a railroad crossing Grammar - Warning signs leading to a railroad crossing

What is Grammar?

Grammar refers to

  • the rules and conventions that inform how people use signs (e.g., body language, oral, written, and visual language) to communicate, including
    • morphological rules
      • structure & construction of words such as word roots, prefixes, and morphemes
    • phonological rules
      • sound, sound combinations
    • syntactical rules
      • word order, word combinations
  • an academic discipline, a field of study
    • Grammar is a topic of study across disciplines, including Linguistics, Corpus Linguistics, Machine Learning, Semiotics, Literacy Theory, Critical Theory.
  • a curriculum taught at all levels of education
  • evaluative criteria used to critique a work from the perspective of its conformance to Standard English.

Related Concepts: Code Switching; Edit for Grammar; Register; Rhetorical Reasoning; Semiotics: Sign, Signifier, Signified; Style

Why is Grammar Important?

People communicate information/data via a variety of semiotic systems, including visual language, mathematics, music, computer coding. People are able to use semiotic systems to communicate with others because these systems share grammars with their audiences: users

Grammars are the rules and conventions that govern how words can be put together to make meaning. Without grammar, a written text would be incomprehensible.

“Grammar is important because it is the language that makes it possible for us to talk about language. It names the types of words and word groups that make up sentences not only in English but in any language. As human beings, we can put sentences together even as children — we can all do grammar. But to be able to talk about how sentences are built, about the types of words and word groups that make up sentences — that is knowing about grammar. And knowing about grammar offers a window into the human mind and into our amazingly complex mental capacity.”

Some Questions and Answers about Grammar, NCTE

What Do I Need to Know about It in order to Write Well?

  1. Develop your rhetorical reasoning competencies so that you can identify the appropriate register for a specific rhetorical situation
  2. Listen to the discourse of others and critically read the work of others from an editorial perspective in order to identify potential stylistic infelicities. Note: You may not be able to formally label specific grammatical errors, yet you can use your tacit sense of grammar, forged in the kiln of every day speech, to identify speech and sentence patterns that don’t seem right.
  3. To employ the grammars of academic and professional discourse communities, learn about
    1. Code Switching
    2. Parts of Speech
    3. Register
    4. Sentence Errors
    5. Sentence Patterns
    6. Sentence Structures
    7. Sentence Types

How Do People Learn Grammars?

Native speakers of languages learn the grammar of their languages chiefly by listening to others and emulating their language practices. We chiefly learn to communicate by engaging in communicative practices, whether that language practice is oral, written or visual.

In school contexts, students are introduced to declarative knowledge about grammar. This is especially helpful to students whose home languages are dialects of the dominant language.

Andreea S. Calude, “Does Grammar Matter?” Ted Talk

Recommended Resources

CCCC Statement on Ebonics. Conference on College Composition and Communication. 6/30/21

Students’ Right to Their Own Language. Conference on College Composition and Communication. (April 1974, reaffirmed November 2003, annotated bibliography added August 2006, reaffirmed November 2014)

Why is Grammar Important? NCTE Position Statement (National Council of Teachers of English. 7/1/2002.