There are people who seem to think that “good writing” is exactly the same thing as “good grammar.” We hope that by reading this chapter – as well as earlier chapters in this book – you understand why that doesn’t make much sense. Writing as an act of communication involves much more than sentence-level details of word order and phrasing and punctuation. More importantly, since all language follows a grammar of some kind, there isn’t such a thing as “good grammar” or, for that matter, “bad grammar.” References to so-called correct grammar might be thought of as actually referring to “correct for this particular audience given this genre and this rhetorical situation.”
Yet grammar and style are worth paying attention to because they affect how audiences will interact with your writing. Readers expecting formal language might be turned off by colloquial phrasing. Those who don’t want to be distracted might see unusual phrasing as annoying. And those who associate formal correctness with the conventions of academic writing might not think much of your scholarly ethos if you seem not to have proofread an essay to eliminate spelling errors.
At the same time, we hope you see from some of the examples discussed here that grammar and style are also connected to much bigger ideas about writers’ identities, voices, and points of view. Skillful writers can break so-called “rules” and, in the process, make their writing even more powerful.
In sum, the reason to learn about grammar isn’t to be “correct” – it’s to empower yourself to make choices about details of your writing that get readers to pay attention to and understand what you’re trying to say.