Become A Grammar Ninja Today
As a teacher, I know that students hate studying grammar. While I can’t say I don’t understand this attitude (after all, I remember being a student and thinking it was the most tedious and complicated thing ever), I believe that this hatred is based on a misunderstanding of the purpose of grammar.
Grammar was not, counter to popular belief, invented to torture and confuse students. Rather, the purpose of grammar is to provide a common set of standards for communication and for the organization of words. Quite simply, grammar is the rules for the game that is language. Being a grammar ninja means that you have become a master of those rules.
Ye Olde Sports Metaphor
In order to play well, athletes must understand the ins and outs of the game. Athletes practice their skills (for writers this might be a wide range of vocabulary), and they are aided by natural talent (the equivalent of “a way with words”). But the absolute truth is that if athletes do not follow the rules of the game they are at best accruing penalties, and at worst not playing the game at all. Knowing the rules can also give athletes the ability to turn plays into an art.
The Musical Complement
Is sports not your thing? Well, let’s think of grammar in terms of music. In music there are scales and keys, there are tempos and rhythms, and note counts. There are sharps, flats, and tonalities. Musicians spend years practicing the “rules” of music. The most accomplished musicians (even the rebellious rock ‘n roll legends) have mastered the rules of music and use them to their advantage. Accomplished artists use everything they know to create art.
I could come up with a thousand other metaphors [hyperbole], but my main points are these: [colon used to indicate a list] grammar is one of the tools that allows speakers and writers to communicate effectively. Becoming a grammar ninja allows you to use language in incredibly creative ways [gerund used for emphasis]. It’s true that grammar lessons may not be the most interesting exercises, but different grammar rules allow you to express different shades of meaning [parallelism used to make a connection between “rules” and “meaning]. Grammar lessons are merely the drills that you have to do to build your language muscles. Once you’ve mastered grammar, you can demand that the words you use march in patterns that allow you to say exactly what you want them to [metaphor].
For all you students who hate studying grammar, I suggest that you start thinking of grammar drills as training exercises to build your writing and speaking muscles, your verbal drop kicks and subject/verb agreement scales, so that one day you can enter the arena of linguistic challenges, stand on that stage, and wow the world.
Not a Grammar Ninja Yet?
Not a problem. As it happens, I am a grammar sensei, and I have some practice suggestions for you:
Grammar Ninja is a website that lets you play word games online. Aside from some fun ninja-themed music, it also offers great opportunities to stretch those verbal muscles.
Grammar Bytes! is less animated than Grammar Ninja, but offers serious grammar students great exercises to overcome hurdles like comma splices and run-on sentences.
Purdue Owl is less of a resource for training exercises, and more of a reference guide for almost any grammar complication. I like it, because it has great examples to go along with each explanation.
My final piece of advice, is to write, write, write and read, read, read. There was a time when I had serious difficulties with grammar. I overcame them as a teenager, when I started devoting several hours a day to reading and journaling. Often, using language (a lot) is the best way to master language.