Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Grammar and Spelling

I am not immune to making typographical errors, but one thing that irks me to death is the number of people on the Internet who think that grammar and spelling don't matter. The same problem exists in my classroom. If I had a dollar for every student who said, "But this ain't English class," I'd have retired ten years ago. Grammar and spelling do matter. They are the tools of effective communication, whether you are communicating about art, mathematics, science, or any other topic of note.

When I emphasize vocabulary in my classes students immediately trot out,"But this ain't English class." They are right about that. But thinking about prefixes and suffixes give students an insight to what not only these words mean, but what other, similar words mean. If one understands that geometry is the measure (metry, from meter) of the earth (geo), then they might further apply that logic to determine that geography is the description (graphy) of the earth (geo). These are important, if not critical skills when learning about mathematics. The numerous properties of equality alone (reflexive, symmetric, transitive, et. al.) are enough to give students headaches, but they are all important in their own way when it comes to providing explanations for proofs. If anything, we should be hammering them with this stuff because it's so important to mathematical topics that will be introduced later in their academic careers.

Education aside, I hang out at various message boards and forum communities to read and share ideas with people who have similar interests. What many posters don't seem to understand is that to be taken seriously, you have to at least pay cursory attention to how you write.

The thing that has me really going this week is the sheer number of reviews of the new Harry Potter book that criticize J. K. Rowling as a terrible writer, while the vast majority of them can barely construct a coherent sentence. When criticizing someone's writing you should demonstrate at least minimal competence at the same skill. "She uses exposition to much," removes any thought in my mind that I should pay attention to the rest of the critic's opinion. If one doesn't know the appropriate uses of to, too, and two, then they shouldn't even be talking about the writing style of the most published children's author in history.

1 comment:

Martin said...

Jim, amen! And it is not just the teacher in you. I can't stand when people are too lazy to take a minute and proof-read what they want to say before hitting Send. I am not going to take anyone seriously who can't bother to spell correctly, compose a reasonable sentence, and use proper punctuation. And don't even get me started on the lack of capitalization some message board posters use. If you can't be bothered to hit the Shift key every now and then, dude, why should I bother reading what you have to say? (okay, I feel a rant coming on...I better stop). Anyway, excellent entry.