Is Grammar Really Necessary Today?

Teacher and class of students with hands up to answer

While grammar can essentially be defined as a set of rules that govern spoken and written language that help ensure others can properly understand what we're saying, today some are questioning the need for grammar.

For many people, the mere mention of the word grammar can bring back awful memories of tortuous, sweaty English lessons throughout school days.

Imagine a scene from years ago. A teacher stands at the back of the classroom wielding a booming, monotone voice, admonishing reluctant teenagers to keep their "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.

Nice! (no). However, during such challenging times for us, we may have learned important material, that we would use for the rest of our lives. 

On such a sunny summer afternoon, when faced with such a school days scene, all we may really want to do is go outside, play soccer, or sports, or perhaps sit under a tree and read a great book.

Thankfully, for most 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.

Even so, during any age, superb, adaptable, 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 basic 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 all along: 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". Arguably some aspects of grammar are important, while 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 and one that usually doesn't serve us well.

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 a persuasive, engaging objective.

Also: sometimes — just as in our schooldays - it's fun to break the rules. Be brave. Live your writing life with more freedom — and bring grammar along for the ride too. Who knows, you just might start a contagious new trend!

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