How will writing with Grammar B change composition classes?

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Answered by: Summer, An Expert in the Rhetoric, Style and Interpretation Category
Grammar B is not a new style of writing but a relatively new approach to writing within the classroom. It encourages writers to take chances with their prose by bending the rules of traditional, Standard English. Grammar B even incorporates its own set of rules. Students may write with sentence fragments and comma splices according to the rules of Grammar B, but only if those fragments and comma splices add to the effectiveness of the writing. Writing with Grammar B is, in essence, a focus on audience and purpose and not a focus on the traditional syntax and usage of Standard English. Grammar B should not be seen as the enemy of Standard English, however. In fact, good writers will blend the styles of both Standard English and Grammar B to write the most effective discourse.

Many English teachers are fearful of Grammar B, and this fear is somewhat legitimate. Writing with Grammar B, after all, requires maturity on the part of students, and English teachers will argue that students in secondary school are simply not at an academic level to incorporate the rhetorical tools of Grammar B into their writing. The problem with this argument is that it presents no challenge to an English teacher’s expectation that secondary students are mature enough to learn the rules associated with Standard English. Why, then, do they have the ability to learn one set of rules and not another? The real discrepancy that many English teachers have with Grammar B comes down to fear of the unknown. Only recently has this style been discussed in graduate teaching programs and presented to teachers outside of creative writing classes. You see, Grammar B has always been an accepted type of writing in creative writing classes, but now teachers are being challenged to include this style in regular composition classes. And with this challenge comes a promise of a new revolution in the way students are taught to write.

The composition class that offers students an array of rhetorical tools with which to write will yield a group of highly-motivated, audience-conscious writers whose words are more effective, passionate, and thoughtful. The blending of Grammar B and Standard English creates writing that is real and purposeful. It encourages writers to be more conscientious about the language they use and the way they manipulate words and sentences to connect with their readers. It eliminates the stale, robotic voice of “formal” prose and allows students to write with appropriate flavor on everything from research papers to short stories. The possibilities of Grammar B in the composition class are exciting, and English teachers must begin recognizing this style as a legitimate form of writing.

Correcting composition papers will get a lot trickier for English teachers, especially the seasoned ones. Before, misspellings, sentence fragments, and comma splices were easily identifiable egregious errors that warranted a deduction in points from a student’s final score. Now, teachers are being asked to look at these “errors” within the context of the student’s writing. Specifically, teachers are being challenged to judge the effectiveness of a student’s work by considering another style of writing focused on audience and purpose. Could it be that perhaps the sentence fragments within an otherwise well-written paper showed up on purpose and should actually be contributed to why that paper was so well written? Can a student actually use a comma splice in a research paper as a rhetorical tool to add emphasis to her writing or better show the correlation between two things? Is that purposeful misspelling easily recognized as such, and does it add emphasis to a point the author is trying to make? These questions demand thoughtful discussion about the direction in which writing is moving, and they demand recognition from the very teachers charged with developing young writers. Writing with Grammar B opens students to the possibilities of being stronger, better writers because the writing becomes real.

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