Reading: Grammar as Fashion

choice, grammar, readings, style

This NYTimes article compares grammar to fashion and provides a great starting point for a discussion on why grammar matters as well as when it matters and how to use it. This piece does an excellent job of re-framing what has often been pointed out as “errors.” Instead of seeing unconventional grammar usage as mistakes, this article sees them as variations of language usage, much the same way people vary their clothing choices.

There’s nothing wrong with wearing bunny slippers, but we wouldn’t wear bunny slippers to a job interview because it sends the wrong message and doesn’t meet the expectations of our audience.

If students are able to see grammatical usage as a fashion choice, it turns the conversation away from “right” and “wrong” and gives them more agency over their decisions. It also makes learning grammar rules less of a chore of “catching up” on something they should already know (which can be a very negative way to approach learning) and more of a way to expand their choices as they move forward in their professional and academic careers, just like buying new clothes for a new job.
Here are some possible reading response or discussion questions:
  • What have you learned about the importance of grammar in the past? Does this article match what you’ve learned?
  • What did you think about the article? Do you agree with the author that grammar is like fashion?
  • What do you know about fashion choices? How do you choose what to wear to school? To go out with friends? To a job interview? Does grammar work the same way?
  • Do you think the grammar knowledge you have now matches all of the academic and professional settings you will inhabit in the future? If not, how can you gain a larger grammar “closet”?
This article could also be used in combination with “I Won’t Hire People Who Use Poor Grammar. Here’s Why.” Students could discuss how the articles contradict and intersect with one another.
Photo: jmkizer
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