Why should I bother using correct English grammar?

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Answered by: Beth, An Expert in the English Grammar Category
Some people think correct English grammar matters only to teachers and is of no real importance in daily life. Their attitude is "Hey, as long as people understand what I'm saying, it doesn't matter how I say it."

But think about it. If you know there is such a thing as proper grammar and have made the effort to use it when completing school assignments, then why would you want to be sloppy and uncaring when speaking and writing at other times? Why not always try to speak and write correctly? If you make correct English grammar a habit, it will become second nature. It will become effortless; simply your manner of communication.



Many years ago I worked in the concession stand at a movie theater in Oklahoma. Late one night, just as the concession stand was closing, a customer ordered a hot dog from one of the other employees at the counter. Her curt reply was "We ain't got no more hotdogs. We're fixin' to close." After the customer returned to the auditorium, the theater manager walked out of the back room, eyebrows raised, and asked the other employee what she had just said. Her reply was "I told him we were getting ready to close and didn't have any more hotdogs." Well, that was the basic information she communicated to the customer, but that was not at all the way she said it. I've remembered this incident as illustrating someone who knew the grammatically correct way of speaking and chose not to use it. In doing so, not only did her remark to the customer sound discourteous, but it also sounded rough and uneducated, and she was neither.

No matter what the situation or setting, the words you choose say something about you. Whether in casual conversation with a new acquaintance or in a cover letter to a prospective employer, correct English grammar conveys education and intelligence. It says you have the ability to express yourself clearly. When you speak, others will understand you and will pay attention to the content, rather than being jarred and distracted by poor grammar. When you write, others will take pleasure in the clarity of what you've written. You may worry that using correct grammar will make you sound snobby and set you apart from your friends. But it isn't necessary to communicate in a stilted, formal manner or pepper your speech with so-called ten-dollar words that require a dictionary to decipher. Just say what you want to say, but say it correctly.



On the flipside, poor grammar can make a poor first impression. As in the theater example above, it can convey that you're rough, poorly educated, and unconcerned about coming across that way. It could make the difference in whether you are hired for a job, whether you successfully resolve a complaint with a merchant or service person, whether you make a new friend. Additionally, incorrect grammar, including misspelled words and missing punctuation in written communication, can result in people completely misunderstanding what you are saying.

An easy way to help make correct English grammar a habit is to read a lot. It doesn't matter what you read - books, magazine articles, newspapers - as long as they are written in proper English. Listening to others who use good English can help, too, whether newscasters on television or people in your own daily life.

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