Grammar, simply, is the rules of and for language. Modern English grammar began in the eighteenth century with new printing technology and a rise in capitalism, which produced an explosion in printed material at affordable prices for broader audiences. Soon, however, it became apparent that there were few rules for writing. For this reason, you can find texts from the 16th and 17th centuries where Shakespeare’s name is spelled seven different ways! These inconsistencies in language led to mass confusion over what actually was being said.
These misunderstandings propelled the English writer, Samuel Johnson, to devise the first dictionary. This dictionary, originally called a lexicon, brought much-needed clarity not only to the meaning of words, but also uniformity to how they could be arranged. This uniformity came to be known as grammar. With the growing acceptance of grammatical conventions, there was an even greater acceleration in both the dissemination of the printed word and the swift growth of learning, discovery, knowledge, and creation.
Grammar brings order, predictability, and commonality to language and creates bridges to people, the universe, the past, the present, and the future. It is one of the most potent tools. Grammar is like gravity: it holds things in their proper place. Imagine the free-floating chaos of no gravity. Everyone would be disoriented without a constant, dependable point of reference. Grammar, thus, duplicates our thoughts in a logical, sensible pattern. It provides a roadmap to the ever-changing world of language. There are a finite number of terms and rules, which, once learned, allow you to become a more effective communicator. As the philosopher, Michel de Montaigne once said, “The greater part of the world's troubles are due to questions of grammar.” Putting in time, effort, and practice towards grammar allows you to avoid misunderstanding and create bridges, instead, toward understanding. And, as you learn, the world of words becomes clearer, more helpful, more useful, more interactive and more reassuring.
Don’t know where to begin on your journey toward sharpening your grammar? Try the Purdue Owl’s Grammar Guide to propel you forward, onward, and upward!
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