Does grammar matter? Take a look at these two sentences from the website of the Plain English Campaign(http://www.plainenglish.co.uk/). The first sentence is from a actual document on school children.
High-quality learning environments are a necessary precondition for facilitation and enhancement of the ongoing learning process.
Here’s the plain English translation:
Children need good schools if they are to learn properly.
Which is the better sentence? For clarity, the second sentence is unquestionably better. Both are grammatically correct.
So, does grammar matter? If you never plan to write a term paper or have a job that requires you to write, probably not. You can make yourself understood without following the rules and conventions of formal English. If you constantly make glaring grammatical errors, a few snobs—human resource officers and the like—may think you’re an ignoramus, but who cares?
If you are in school or have a job that involves writing anything that will reflect on your employer, you probably should care about grammar. But you can follow all the grammatical rules and still write gibberish. Avoid the following like the avian flu:
Pompous, wordy alternatives to simple expressions
High-quality written communication = Good writing
Silly, wordy euphemisms
We experienced a negative patient care outcome. = Our patient died.
Hackneyed phrases and empty “fluff” words
an ongoing process = a process (Every process is ongoing.)
an emergency situation = an emergency
Any phrase with more than one word that has a one-word equivalent
in spite of the fact that = although
owing (or due) to the fact that = because
at this point in time = now
gives positive encouragement to = encourages
is in direct contradiction with = contradicts
during the time that = when
in the eventuality that = if
did not succeed in achieving its objectives = failed
I knew a very successful lawyer who said that he always tried to write briefs that his grandmother could understand.
The biggest problem with writing these days isn’t bad grammar; it’s too many words per thought. Many politicians, academics, management consultants, and assorted bureaucrats indulge in wordiness intentionally. Short of setting legal limits on the number of words allowed per thought, we can’t do much about intentional wordiness. But those of us who have no stake in obscurity can reduce wordiness in our writing by applying a few simple principles.
Look at the following sentence:
There were three grammarians who were strangled by a wordy bureaucrat last night.
The first thing to notice is the expletive. In linguistics an expletive is a word or phrase that has no meaning and fills only a syntactic function There were and it is are expletive constructions. Sometimes expletives are useful, but sentences can usually do without them.
Three grammarians were strangled by a wordy bureaucrat last night.
By getting rid of the expletive, we’ve reduced the sentence from thirteen to ten words. We can improve it even more by changing from the passive to the active voice. The difference between active and passive voice is easy to understand. In active voice, the doer of the action is the subject and comes first; in passive voice, the receiver of the action is the subject and comes first. Active: I ate the whole pizza. Passive: The whole pizza was eaten by me. Let’s change our sentence from passive to active voice.
A wordy bureaucrat strangled three grammarians last night.
We now have a sentence with just eight words instead of thirteen, and it’s a much better sentence. Finally, we can eliminate the redundancy.
A bureaucrat strangled three grammarians last night.
Reduce wordiness in your writing by avoiding expletives, preferring the more direct active voice to the passive, and eliminating redundancies