Grammar is in the Eye of the Reader and Ears of the Listener

Katie Kelly

Much of modern communication focuses more on content rather than structure, delivery, or rhetoric. This is an observation after reading the three articles that call into question how much the actual form the message takes matters. Owen’s 12 Mistakes list, while humorous, ranty, and aggressive, demonstrates that being a hard-ass about grammar can only backfire. Most of the rules that are often over enforced are meant for formal theaters of commentary rather than an ever-present force in average conversation. The fact that sentences “Ain’t nobody got time for that” in pieces is infuriating to translate but as a whole expresses a sentiment and message everyone understands.

Weingarten’s demonstration of how the same message can be conveyed seven different ways, the last one being slightly morbid in nature, shows that the message boiled down the same take away each time. It was a matter of choice for audience, preference, and goal with the message that would decide which one of the seven paragraphs would be used over the others.

But on the other side Elbow talks about deliberate care for what is put on paper. We’ve been discussing how most of professional writing is so audience driven, but Elbow advocates for retaining some of one’s own style. With the overwhelming commentary hinting that the rules are just “guidelines”, I’m inclined to think of writing as a product. The customers are the readers and intended audience and with user feedback an author can produce iterations that better address the needs of the audience to understand the message. Very difficult advocating for method writing when it boils down to the fact there will always be critics of how a message is conveyed, and it’ll be called expert opinion rather than author preference. And even if an author wrote to every critics’ expectation, then they’d be criticized for not adhering to their own style. It’s a shot in the dark. Personally, so long as people use whole words and not wrt lk ths because vowels are overrated, then ya’ll can do what you want.

Moral of the story: don’t use rhetoric as a high horse to trample people with.


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