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What is Grammar?

This is not a grammar course. If you want a thorough study of grammar and usage, there are many textbooks that do the job more thoroughly than we’ll be able to this year. At WriteAtHome, we are more interested in your writing than your knowledge of grammar, but grammar is an important part of good writing. The lessons in this course, therefore, focus on grammar issues that we think are important for growing writers like you.

Let's start by defining grammar:

Grammar is the study of how language works.

Grammar is an interesting subject. Seriously, it is. It involves breaking down language into its parts and determining the functions of words and word groups. Figuring out how words work together to create meaning can be fascinating. 

Grammar is different from composition. Composition, or writing, is creating meaning out of words. It’s putting words together in order to communicate. So in a sense, grammar is taking language apart, and composition is putting it together.

Do you need to know lots of grammar before you can write well? No, we don’t think so. That’s why we get you writing way before we teach you all about grammar. But that doesn’t mean grammar isn’t important. Craftsmen should know as much about the tools of their trade as possible, and words are the tools of the writer. Writers who want to excel at writing should be eager to know as much as they can about their tools.

Another reason to study grammar is that it provides a useful common vocabulary between teacher and student. It’s difficult to explain many writing errors without understanding basic grammatical terms. For example, if a writer’s meaningis vague because a pronoun lacks a clear antecedent, it’s hard to explain that if the student doesn’t know what a pronoun or an antecedent is. The more writers understand the names and functions of words and word groups, the better prepared they are to improve their writing skills.

But understand this: Writers don’t improve just by studying grammar; they improve by writing. Teachers who think that students will become better writers by doing lots of grammar exercises are mistaken. They forget that grammar is taking apart, and composition is putting together. It would be like taking apart a car engine in shop class, but leaving the pieces all over the garage. Learning to write means putting those pieces together so that you have a functioning machine. Simply put, if you want to learn to write, you must write. That’s why we have you actually writing papers in our courses and not just doing a bunch of grammar exercises.

Still, some lessons in this course will address certain areas of grammar and usage. They will not be complex, detailed lessons, just quick reviews of some grammar basics. The goal is to help you write better and understand any grammar corrections you writing coach might provide on your papers.