The study of grammar is not popular at present. Despite its proven record as a quick and certain route to mastery and clarity it is usually spoken of dismissively as the province of bores and pedants, and a total waste of time for teachers and students alike. Even in the foreign language department, where it has traditionally been seen as a way of simplifying explanations and speeding learning, it is often neglected in favour of more conversational practice, or watching a video.
Here are four of the many benefits of studying grammar.
- The study of grammar will improve your writing. When you are writing in your native language, it only takes a little care to write fairly well because you have spent most of your life reading and speaking it. But what if your goal is not just to write fairly well, but to write powerfully, and effectively? A thorough knowledge of grammar can help you identify and correct sentences that are all right, and turn them into clear, smooth, gripping prose. Because you have the tools to analyze your writing, you also have the tools to improve it, just as the experienced chef can taste a dish and identify precisely which element is out of balance. As with many areas, if you know the rules you can deliberately break them when necessary, rather than breaking them out of ignorance.
- The study of grammar will improve your reading. Blogs and newspapers are full of entertaining and informative material and they are usually written quite simply, but at some stage most people want to read older books either for study or pleasure. Many of these contain long, complex, delightful, sentences that perfectly express the authors intent, and which actually add punch to their meaning. The reader who knows his grammar will be able to understand what is being said and appreciate the subtleties conveyed. In reading some official and scholarly reports which are dull and full of jargon, the carefully instructed reader may even become aware that, rather than being erudite they are actually unreadable and carefully hiding a lack of substance behind many words.
- The study of grammar will improve your thinking. Grammar is like applied logic, you are distinguishing between parts of speech, thinking about their relationships, and identifying subtle distinctions. If you develop the habit of doing this you will become adept at untangling your thoughts, motivations, and ideas, and discovering relationships which you never suspected, and possibilities of which you never dreamed.
- The study of grammar will improve your speaking. Our speech is an overflow of our thinking, which is moulded by our reading and other inputs. The more our thinking, writing, and reading, improves, the better we will be at communicating our ideas in speech. It is true that some people are naturally better at writing, and others at speaking, but the habit of clear communication developed through the study of grammar spills over into both spontaneous and planned speeches and will improve your content and delivery.
The study of grammar has clear and defined benefits for its students. For centuries it was at the heart of education and involved the memorisation of poetry and other literature; the analysis of how the words were put together, which words were chosen and what shades of meaning they expressed; and the imitation of such work. This thorough grounding provided a storehouse of phrases and images which gave students a rich treasury to draw from in their own writing and gave us many of our most beloved works.