A teacher stands at the back of the classroom wielding a booming, monotone voice, admonishing reluctant teenagers to maintain "heads forward to the blackboard", while the essentials of the present participle are defined and analyzed - in excruciating detail - and drilled into each reluctant mass of little gray cells. And such wonders on sunny summer afternoon when all we may want to do is go outside and play soccer.
Thankfully, for most InternetTIPS.com readers, those kinds of experiences either never existed or have now long since disappeared into history - even though the core of English teaching remains the same. Often today, expert teachers can make even the dullest topics interesting.
However, as communicators, writers and prospective writers, we can all benefit by evaluating grammar with a fresh eye.
If a writer is to be taken seriously, a working knowledge of grammar is necessary to ensure our writing and speaking episodes make sense to readers, listeners, viewers, and peers.
However, we need not torture ourselves as we might have done during school days that we may prefer to forget.
With a fresh outlook combined with a different attitude, we can soon learn or re-learn the basics of grammar as necessary - hopefully in a much more agreeable setting based on curiosity and a willingness to learn on our own terms, rather than the fear of some kind of retribution if we don't "make the grade.".
Nevertheless, an uncomfortable reality could emerge, as we may re-discover that in the main, our old school teachers were right: details do matter - even though we might still question the method of teaching.
Yet in contrast to school days, I suggest we learn or re-learn only as much as we need about grammar for the sole purpose of deciding what is still relevant today in the context of what we want to say.
Is that the answer you might have been expecting I wonder?
Did you want me to say that grammar is "essential". Well arguably some aspects of grammar are important, others less so.
Explanation: the English language (whichever version) is a continually evolving experience. Life changes and the world moves on. Customs and conventions change over time as we become more exposed to different influences.
Key point: writers and communicators need to at least understand, appreciate and apply the most appropriate rules of grammar, to match the times in which they're writing, and to meet the demands of each writing assignment - in order to know when to "bend" or even ignore some of those "conventions."
So don't be afraid to break the "rules" if you believe do so, gives your writing more fluidity, energy, drama, impact.
If you rigidly keep to the "accepted rules" of grammar, writing can become stuffy, staid and pompous. I hope you'll agree, a route that is a bad idea.
Key tip: reality check: I suggest that rules called for in an English school essay - even today - will rarely provide enough fluency in a "real world" commercial document designed to achieve its objective (whatever that might be).
Also: sometimes - just as in our schooldays - it's fun to break the rules. Be brave. Live your life with more freedom - and bring grammar along for the ride too. And: you just might start a contagious new trend!