In my writers groups I’m always the one looking for plot holes and continuity issues. It’s not that I’m particularly observant, it’s just that my confidence in my grammar is so low that I feel like finding plot holes and continuity issues is the best that I can offer!
I’m one of the gen X’s who went through on the new way of learning English back in the early 80’s, which is to say we didn’t learn it. Our grammar lesson (yes, singular) was pretty much limited to; “there are these things called nouns, adjectives and verbs, but you don’t really need to learn them.” As lazy six year olds we all clapped with excitement (high fives had not yet made it into the behavioural norm), little did we know it would set us up for a lifetime of never quite understanding our own language.
It came back to haunt me in year 12 when, in our dry-run English exam, none of us could answer the question about “the purpose of the adverb in the following sentence…” not because we didn’t know what its purpose was, but because we didn’t know which word was the adverb! So in my last year of high-school, just before I sat my final exams, I had my first lesson in English grammar.
Since then I have studied dummies guides and old English grammar books that I’ve picked up from the second hand book shop, but I still don’t feel like I’ve got a good grip on grammar. It is all well and good to say that by listening you can learn the building blocks of language, but have you heard how people talk these days? Really it is no surprise that I have a love affair with dangling modifiers and tense slips.