What is grammar, anyway?

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When most people think of grammar, they think of fussy rules English teachers and editors apply when reviewing written work—about what’s wrong with your writing instead of what’s right.

But grammar is so much more than picky rules.  Consider, for example, this definition from The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Edition:

Grammar consists of the rules governing how words are put together in sentences (5.1, page 203).

Yes, rules are mentioned here, but they’re not just about subject-verb agreement or dangling participles or knowing where the commas go.

These rules are about crafting words into sentences—the essence of what we do as writers. In other words, these rules also cover more advanced work on syntax, rhythm and flow.

Now that’s more exciting, in my view.

If the idea of “grammar as writing and not just rules” intrigues you, too, check out Roy Peter Clark’s The Glamour of Grammar: A Guide to the Magic and Mystery of Practical English. It’s a great book that can help you become a better writer.

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