'Why care for grammar so long as we are good?'
Try this simple game.
Take a piece of paper and write GRAMMAR at the top. Then beneath it write down the first few things that come into your head as you consider that word.
I'd be surprised if your associations do not include something suggestive of boredom, hostility, impatience or dread, or possibly all four! For grammar has a very poor image at present. It conjures up pictures of dusty arid classrooms or of tedious struggles with the mechanics of a foreign language. Grammar seems to be the preserve of dull pedants who delight in taking you to task for a momentary slip or who write crusty letters to The Daily Telegraph and suchlike, bemoaning the illiteracy of contemporary life.
Now this is very sad-mainly because it is unnecessary. There is no reason why grammar need be any of these negative and irritating things. Grammar ought to be fun-not side-splittingly uproarious, perhaps, but quietly satisfying and enjoyable. And the first thing to remember is
Language-including and especially everyday usage-does not serve grammar: it is the other way round.
Mere grammatical competence is less important than quality of response and imagination, creative energy and proper clarity. However, no one should imagine that grammar is the enemy of those things: it is their partner and help-meet. The true value and purpose of grammar has been well defined by S.H. Burton:
'Grammar is not a collection of hard-and-fast rules. It is more flexible (and, therefore, more useful) than that. Grammar gives an account of the way in which a language is used by those who use it well.' *
A good working knowledge of grammar will unquestionably help you to become a better writer and speaker. The more you are aware of how
* Mastering English Language (London: Macmillan, 1982) p. 128.