I am not a grammar Nazi, but I will admit to a certain fondness for a well-parsed sentence. (I will also tell you that in the first draft of this post, I referred to a fondness for a well-arsed sentence, but that is another topic for another day). You can abuse the rules of grammar, but you cannot abuse them willy-nilly. You must develop a mastery of the rules before you can ignore them to good effect. To quote Jay Brandon, “You must know the rules. You must be on friendly, even intimate, terms with them. That way you can take one aside some evening, slip away for a few drinks, invite the rule back to your place, and then gently and with great tenderness, violate the hell out of it.”
So I will admit to a certain ambivalence in finding this post in the Paris Review. It is from a 1912 Eighth-Grade Grammar Test.
I am equal parts pleased that I can answer most of the questions and annoyed that I am not familiar with the phrase Degrees of Comparison as it applies to adjectives. I find myself wondering whether the younger generation does not write well because we have stopped teaching grammar. I find myself wondering why I permit myself to get sucked into questions with false assumptions. Is it, in fact, true that the younger generation does not write well? And if that is, in fact, true, is is also true that the cause of this deficit is an absence of instruction in the finer points of grammar?
I look forward to reading your well-arsed comments.