Image provided by Shakespeare Birthplace Trust. Top: William Shakespeare, who would have failed his English classes.
I perceive writing in an English class to be reflective of one’s personality, whether it is analyzing Edgar Allan Poe’s spine-chilling tales or writing an argumentative essay on how eating cucumbers don’t turn a person green. Our personal understanding of words is what makes our writing unique to us. Thus, we should not let the rigidity of grammar deprive the value of our ideas by making grammar a part of grading. Furthermore, English essays and writing composition shouldn’t be bound by constringent rules that only make the writing process less creative.
With over 160 dialects worldwide, each individual develops their own unique accents and cultural speaking conventions over time. Therefore, there should not be a single ‘correct’ or accepted way to speak such a universal language like English. Merely pronouncing words differently or speaking in choppy grammar does not skew my intended meaning when I am speaking; similarly, ignorable errors in writing like spelling mistakes, double negation, and using passive voice instead of active voice should not be counted against someone. If everyone writes how they speak daily, without regard for common conventions, it is still possible to communicate effectively without any loss of clarity, which is the ultimate goal of sharing a common language with the rest of the world.
In fact, many renowned authors would definitely fail their English classes for this very reason. Neither Charles Dickens’s one-sentence paragraphs nor William Shakespeare’s affinity for transforming nouns into verbs are considered conventional writing. However, it is for their unique writing styles that we know them today. Granted, while sometimes it is very hard to analyze the meaning in their sentences, it is still the personal touch that tells us about the author. Perhaps Shakespeare wanted to make it easier for his audience to understand his words by using familiar roots to develop common nouns into verbs. Therefore, he is an author who wants his words to reach a broad audience, not just the elite intellectuals of his time. Moreover, it is not always true that disobeying grammatical rules makes a work of literature less valuable. This creative and explorative nature of writing should be encouraged more in classrooms to help us become unique writers expressing our own voices.
Writing should not be about developing cookie-cutter grammar, but rather teaching students to explore their own creative writing style without fear of failing their school classes. Oftentimes, teaching grammar does give students a better idea of the writing devices they can employ to make their writing more concise and efficient in conveying meanings. And that is where we should draw the line. There should be separate class time dedicated to diagramming sentences and understanding grammatical devices, but it should be up to the individual to choose whether to include this in their literary writing style.
Shaunak Roy is a senior at Washington High School. Having spent the first ten years of his life amidst the tightly-knit neighborhoods of India, Shaunak continues his passion for communal activities by playing gully cricket with his friends and participating in dance teams in the States. As a first-year member of The Hatchet, he strives to interview students at his school and report their unique stories, while occasionally reviewing horrible Bollywood movies for the mere fun of it. Besides being randomly interested in watching chess videos and singing in video calls with his sister, Shaunak has developed a strong passion for physics and engineering over the past few years of high school, which he plans to further explore in college.