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In One Word, Rules

In One Word, Rules

What does grammar mean in one word?


That is how I try to simplify my introduction to the English Language in my Business Communications class or any Business English class I handle. Many will disagree and say that no language has rules since languages started out without them.

But because clarity is key in business, and English is the international business language, people have to follow sets of rules to be able to understand each other and work together.

Grammar is actually the structure and system of a language, considered to consist of syntax. Although all languages evolve over time (try reading Shakespeare and Steinbeck side-by-side), there are universally accepted rules to facilitate communication.

There must be over a million rules, and many more are exception to those rules. So how can anyone remember all of them?

This is when I say to my class, “Grammar is not memorization; it is familiarization.

“And familiarization requires reading. So reading and grammar are like chopsticks. You can’t use one without the other.”


“The best writers in the world became the way they are because they read,” I add. “They may not be able to mouth the rules, but they follow them because they are familiar with them.”

More groans.

Then I quote someone they all know (I hope!), Edgar Allan Poe: “A man’s grammar, like Caesar’s wife, should not only be pure, but above suspicion of impurity.”

This is my simple spiel semester after semester about grammar and reading. By grace, I am able to repeat it, like a fresh idea that has come out of my mouth for the very first time. #throwback