National Writing Project

Grammar... Again

By: Edwin Epps
Publication: The Quarterly, Vol. 21, No. 1
Date: Winter 1999

Summary: Epps analyzes, but doesn't defend the "reasons" for teaching grammar, going on to advance the case that grammar teaching should be specific, selective, and taught in the context of student writing.



Does a knowledge of traditional textbook grammar–the nomenclature kind of grammar that teaches the definitions of "transitive verbs" and "predicate nominatives" and fosters sentence diagramming and the conjugation of verbs–facilitate or improve a student's competence as a writer?

Without a doubt the real-world answer is no. Think about it: How many students have you taught in your own career who were capable of making A's on you grammar test but couldn't write their way out of a paper bag? Conversely, how many truly excellent writers have you taught who had no idea whatsoever of what a direct object is or where to find one or how to identify one, all this in spite of five or eight or ten years of instruction by often gifted teachers?

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