Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Reason and syntax

In response to Jeff and Lindz at

At the risk of sounding pedantic, I would offer up a gentle reminder that the purpose of syntax and the myriad of related rules and regulations is not intended to stifle creativity, communication, or any of the delightfully whimsical flights of verbal invention that pass for “dialogue” these days. The rules of syntax exist to enhance and clarify communication – verbal or written. The problem with sweeping away all the rules in an effort to remove the restraints of creativity is that without structure we have ignorance and chaos – as it is in politics, so it is in grammar.
You may have forgotten what happened to the literacy and numeracy skills of high school students in this country when the rules were removed in favour of creativity and in an effort to avoid harming the fragile egos of our nation’s students. The result of all this ego-friendly, non-restrictive creativity is that colleges and universities are having to roll out large and expensive remedial writing and math programs in order to bring high school graduates up to some sort of minimal standard that will enable then to at least begin to comprehend and engage their various curricula. The current trend in education and general language use takes away from students the ability to experience the pleasure of crafting a graceful sentence, which I think borders on the criminal.
Picasso and Vonnegut knew the rules of their respective arts so well and so intimately that they knew how and when to bend and break them to enchance their creativity – but they knew the rules. Breaking the rules is not for amateurs… don’t try this at home because havoc will ensue, and you won’t know from whence it came, nor what it means.
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