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Good Grammar Is Suddenly Sexy

Trying to teach grammar has always been met with stiff resistance by students who considered it boring and irrelevant.  But there is hope, thanks to the popularity of dating sites ("What's Really Hot on Dating Sites? Proper Grammar," The Wall Street Journal, Oct. 2).

Contrary to what most people think, singles are impressed by proper grammar.  It's not that looks don't matter.  But apparently the ability to express oneself in a message that is grammatically correct is considered hot.  It indicates intelligence, which is no longer way down on the list.

If this trend continues, English teachers can capitalize on it to motivate their students.  For example, consider the placement or omission of the lowly hyphen. Does "one night stand" refer to furniture in the bedroom or to promiscuous sex?

When I was in school, grammar was given heavy emphasis.  I was one of the few in my class who enjoyed learning about all its parts, including diagramming sentences.  But when I began to teach English in high school in 1964, I quickly learned that the best way to turn off my students was to try to teach them basic grammar.  They viewed it on a par with memorizing the local telephone directory.

I realize that studies show little transfer between learning grammatical rules and graceful writing, but I still think it's important to try.  The popularity of Eats, Shoots & Leaves (Gotham, 2003) about the importance of punctuation is evidence that humor can engage readers. If nothing else, mastery of grammar can be an effective way of romantically meeting someone special.

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The opinions expressed in Walt Gardner's Reality Check are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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