There was once a student who enjoyed school. He did well in his classes and even enjoyed English. He read all of his required reading and excelled on all his writing assignments. Then, on days in which the sun was eradicated and the Heavens watered the Earth, this student would come into class and find out that there was a grammar test. This student hated grammar tests – he hated grammar! He would take his seat, pull out a pencil, have his teacher serve him a paper full of torture, and slowly but surely fail his grammar test. It was not until his junior year of college, while studying for his B.A. in English, that the student, an enemy of syntax, came to love it.
This student had two professors during that junior year – Professor X and Professor Y. Professor X taught a class on modern English grammar, and it was there that the student learned that grammar is not about rules and regulations, but about learning how one’s language (in the student’s case, English) works. In Professor Y’s class, a class on the history of English, the student learned that grammar should not be viewed prescriptively (as rules only) but descriptively (as a way of representing a rich and ever changing language).
I believe most of us are in this student’s shoes: We feel that grammar is just a list of stupid rules that some people know and some people don’t. However, this is not true. Max Morenburg, author of "Doing Grammar," tells us that “. . . grammarians don’t analyze sentences just to analyze sentences . . . . Grammarians analyze sentences in order to understand how language works” (pages 2-3). Grammar is not about knowing rules: it is about seeing the beauty of our language and understanding how our language functions based on the way people arrange and rearrange words. If you begin to look at grammar more as a representation of your own unique language, you will start down the path to loving grammar.
That student was able to learn a lot from his professors, and his current knowledge of grammar is rooted in what he learned from those two scholars. He learned how sentences can be rearranged, how grammar changes as the spoken language changes, and how diagramming sentences, though challenging, can be fun and beneficial in becoming a better writer. The student who once hated grammar thrived; he now works at the Undergraduate Writing Center where he helps students become better writers, enjoys teaching other students how commas work, and frequently writes blog posts on his love for grammar.