Your “Grammar Phone”

In ancient Greece, grammar was one of the respected arts of discourse. Now someone who insists on using proper grammar might be called a killjoy or a stickler. Both words carry a negative connotation, but whether grammar is respected or disrespected, the need to learn it still exists if you want to fill out a job application, write a professional letter or e-mail, or simply make a good impression when you write.

You might be surprised to learn what one accomplished and prolific author thought about grammar:

I am almost sure by witness of my ear, but cannot be positive, for I know grammar by ear only, not by note, not by the rules.

—Mark Twain

A photograph of instruments on the wall in a doctor’s office. One is for ears, another is for eyes, and another is for blood pressure.

Source: Dreary Doctor’s Office, TimmyGUNZ, Flickr

If an accomplished writer professes to have forgotten the rules of grammar, you ask, why do you need to know them? Like a pianist who plays by ear, Twain could write by ear. This gifted writer might have scoffed at the rules, but he did so in masterful and grammatical prose. Like Twain, you might have some sense of when things sound right. Let’s call this sense your “grammar phone.” In this lesson, you’ll test the reliability of your “grammar phone” for editing your writing, and you will review many grammar rules along the way.