People still ask, especially when we're getting ready to take the whole curric- ulum apart and see if we can fit it back together in some plausibly 21st-century way, whether we ought to keep on teaching those annoying grammar terms. (Especially the test.) Isn't there other stuff we ought to be teaching instead, and do you really have to know all that pluperfect stuff to be a journalist anyway?
Well -- no. You don't. Indeed, there are large parts of journalism in which diagramming seems a pretty low-order skill. But if you want to traffic in the written parts, you can't go too long before that pesky grammar comes in handy. You might want to keep someone from doing something boneheaded to your copy, for example. Or you might want to talk one of your writerly friends out of writing him- or herself into a corner -- in a way that keeps you from having to fix the same mistake again and again and again. Or you might find yourself on the receiving end of a rant like this, delivered to the AP Stylebook's Ask The Editor feature:
Q: ... Here's another question: Someone makes comments; the comments don't come or go anywhere, do they? Who teaches this form of formulaic and idiomatic but nonsense writing? It seems to be more prevalent than it was only a few years ago, but it's irritating to this copy editor. (AP story) "Haley's remarks came after the Budget and Control Board, a financial oversight panel she chairs, agreed without discussion to require the Department of Transportation to provide more details of a summer financial meltdown that left contractors with invoices unpaid for months." – from Arlington, Va. on Mon, Sep 26, 2011
A: Point taken. The passive voice and complex structure make the sentence unduly challenging. I suspect we're all guilty of this at times.
Read more »
Labels: AP, grammar, writing