In my work with Grammarly.com, I research the tools people use when they write, and how they become better writers. It's no secret Grammarly.com cares about grammar. Our online grammar check is designed to improve a writer's grammar by checking text against over 250 grammar rules. But that doesn't mean we don't stop every now and then to consider WHY grammar is so important.
Solid grammar ensures your reader that you understand what you're doing. Is it the most important element of writing? Probably not. No teacher will ever fail an essay because a few commas are out of place. And, besides that, plenty of writers get away with throwing many grammar rules out the window, and no one complains too much. For example, read a Cormac McCarthy book, and you'll be struggling to find much punctuation at all. No one's going to say that Cormac McCarthy is a terrible author, because he doesn't use good grammar. Despite all of these, however, grammar is still an important way to build your credibility, especially if you're writing an academic essay.
Beyond building credibility, good grammar also serves to make your piece easier to read. Going back to my Cormac McCarthy example, if you ever read one of his books, you'll likely struggle. He doesn't use a lot of punctuation, his sentences are short and jarring, and his paragraph construction is near non-existent. While McCarthy uses this to his advantage as a way to build tension in his books, it doesn't change the fact that the reader has to work extra hard to follow what he's doing. Good grammar lets your reader focus on the text itself and the argument the essay makes.
Now, I know what you're saying: there are so many grammar rules! How do I even begin?? Well, I'd be remiss if I didn't again point to Grammarly.com and its online grammar check. It really is the easiest way to catch most grammar mistakes. But, what if you want to learn the rules yourself? Where should you go?
Below are a few of the websites that I think have some of the best resources for learning good grammar:
- Chomp Chomp (http://www.chompchomp.com/rules.htm) is one of my favorite sites, primarily for its subject matter. It doesn't cover every grammar rule out there, but it does cover a lot of the fundamentals, such as fragmented sentences and lay vs. lie.
- Purdue OWL (http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/) is another great website that covers a wide range of topics. It also includes practice sheets to help you test out what you've learned. Of course, the biggest benefit of the Purdue OWL over other sites is its easy to use style guide for MLA and APA. If you need to format your paper in either of these styles, the OWL can help you with what you need to know.
- Grammar Girl (http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/) is a great resource if you're not looking for anything specific. The site posts tips every day on a variety of grammar rules, and while you can search the site for a specific tip, it tends to be more of a check in on occasion and read some of the tips, before moving on. One of the benefits of Grammar Girl is that each tip is also recorded in an audio file, so if you learn better by listening, this might be for you.
- The Guide to Grammar and Writing (http://grammar.ccc.commnet.edu/grammar/index.htm) is another website that covers most grammar topics. The Guide excels in its organization where it has multiple categories. For example, if you need help with adjectives, you'll find it in the sentence-level lessons. Another benefit to this site is its 174 quizzes, which will let you put all you've learned to the test.
While good grammar is not necessarily the most important thing you should worry about in writing, it still goes a long way to making your text really shine. By making sure that your text is written correctly and easy to read, your readers will have no problem keeping up with you, and you'll find they invest themselves more fully in what you have to say. And that should always be your primary goal when you write anything.