As the former editor-in-chief of a student newspaper, I’ve seen some pretty poor writing. So I was pretty interested in Maggie Gilmour’s piece from last week about the poor quality of student writing in universities.
I think the problem is that primary and secondary schools just aren’t doing a good job of teaching writing and they’re doing an exceptionally bad job when it comes to teaching grammar.
I definitely learned more about proper grammar from the Canadian Press Stylebook, while working at the Concordian, than I ever did in a classroom and that’s a real problem. If there’s anything that shouldn’t be an extracurricular it’s the study of grammar.
When it comes to writing and grammar, the best way to learn is by doing. Reading plays an important role in the development of writing skills but students should also be editing each others’ work from an early age.
I hate to say it, but there’s also a role here for plain old memorization. I remember my entire grade seven English class repeating “I will not spell a lot as one word” over and over again. Crude? Yes. Effective? Absolutely.
Most importantly, students need to be taught the importance of grammar and how it relates to meaning.
If we want to fix this problem, we may have to look at universities. Just like students in every other program, education students are coming to university with poor writing skills and if elementary and high school teachers don’t have strong grammar, what hope do their students have?