Pat did an article for the online magazine Tweens & Teens about why she wrote Woe Is I Jr. and why grammar still matters. Here’s an excerpt:
Knowing Write From Wrong
A cure for grammarphobia.
By Patricia T. O’Conner
The fall quarter or semester means new clothes, teachers, classrooms, books and friends. Yet, for many tweens and teens, it also means grammarphobia. In case you haven’t heard, grammarphobia is the fear of grammar. This common phobia attacks almost everybody at one time or another, and it’s most likely to strike during English or language arts class. Even people who love reading and writing have been known to get feverish and shaky at the prospect of turning in homework with grammar or spelling mistakes. Though writing may be enjoyable, being corrected most definitely is not!
Grammarphobes, unite! It’s time to put your fears behind you. Contrary to popular opinion, grammar isn’t gruesome, ghastly, gross, or grim. Here’s why.
Let’s assume you like hearing and telling stories. And that you enjoy joking with friends and sharing the latest gossip. You probably also like e-mailing and instant-messaging. Well, what do you think makes all this possible? Grammar!
Grammar is simply the art of putting words together to make sentences. Whenever you use words to express yourself, you’re using grammar. You do this all the time without even thinking.
So why think about it? Because good grammar helps you convey the ideas you intend. If your words aren’t right, or if they’re not in the right order, the person you’re talking to might get the wrong idea. This can have embarrassing consequences.
I’ll illustrate by using what I call the Bad News Rule. Here’s how it works. You learn that your favorite Uncle has broken his leg in a skiing accident. You send him an instant message: “I heard you’re bad news.”
Oops! You meant to say the news was bad. But you’ve actually said that your Uncle himself is bad news! You wrote “you’re”— a word that’s short for you are— when you should have used “your.”
Grammar helps us understand each other. It’s like an owner’s manual for assembling the words in your head. You have to put your words together the right way if you want them to make sense. They can’t do what you want if they aren’t put together correctly.
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