The Blinding Light of the Beginning Writer
I don’t like grammatical errors, not because I’m a grammar snob – I’m the first to admit that I don’t know every single rule and nuance – but because poor grammar in a piece of writing interferes with my ability to read it.
Grammar can be taught; if someone wants to learn grammar badly enough, that person can learn it.
Most children learn grammar simply by listening to language. They may not be able to explain the difference between “is” and “are” and when to use those words appropriately. But they figure out how to use those words without thinking too hard about them. Later, in school, students learn the rules that describe the grammar they absorbed as children.
Sometimes, a child isn’t able to learn all the nuances of English grammar simply by listening to others speak. That’s why grammar lessons are helpful – they clear everything up for the student. Usually, as you get older, your grammar will improve, simply because you begin to understand and have rules for the way you have communicated your entire life.
However, having a working command of grammar doesn’t necessarily make anyone a good or imaginative writer. As most people grow older, their imagination fades. Imagination cannot be taught.
In fact, I think some of the best, most imaginative writing could be produced by enthusiastic, passionate young writers who don’t necessarily have the best command of grammar. I’m not trying to make excuses for native English speakers who don’t have a working knowledge of grammar by age 18. But the ones who still try to write despite their frustration with the language, the ones committed to expressing their ideas and emotions – those young writers produce some of the best, most imaginative writing.
Writing, without fully understanding how to do so, is quite brave, especially when we have so many other ways to communicate.
It’s up to someone who appreciates imagination and creativity to approach these writers and teach them the value of grammar, to possibly show them a new way to learn. Not everyone with poor grammar is careless, and many have ideas that they deserve to express.
When I read something by a beginner, I typically value imagination over order, but I value order because I know readers don’t have patience for disorder. And they deserve to see the beginning writer’s light too.
(Photo by Abulic Monkey)