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[Susan notes: This great letter shows that the teaching of grammar, like most education topics of great controversy, is not an either/or proposition.]

Published in Washington Post

To the editor

Missing from "Clauses and Commas Make a Comeback"

[front page, Oct. 23] is more than 100 years' worth of

scientific research on how people learn to write with

high levels of grammatical accuracy.

This research consistently shows that formal grammar

study has no significant impact on writing quality.

Rather, studies support the view that nearly all of

our ability to write with an acceptable style comes

from massive amounts of reading.

The study of grammar has value, however: Even those

who are well read may have small gaps in their writing

competence, and conscious knowledge of some grammar

rules can be helpful in filling some of these gaps

(e.g. the it's/its distinction).

Writing teachers generally recommend using these rules

in the editing stage, after one's ideas are on the


In addition, the study of grammar can serve as an

introduction to linguistics, a subject that includes

the study of universals (what all languages have in

common), language change, dialects and how language is


Research strongly suggests, however, that the study of

grammar should not be at the core of the language arts


Stephen Krashen

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