Well, as a language teacher I expect that you share my unending and pathological hatred of people who can't form a coherent sentence or be bothered to learn the rules of grammar and syntax. Not to mention learning to spell.
Actually no, I don't. The written, unofficial standard American English is in many ways a foreign language to many native English speakers. People mostly don't talk that way. In addition, there are many ways of speaking and using English. Acknowledging this I think is key in addressing the needs of the various students in our classes. Knowing that we need to teach academic English as a second language and comparing the differences between the different English styles helps people become better readers and writers. More important than grammar, syntax, and spelling in writing are the following: Is the idea clear? Is the piece well-organized? Is the language style and vocabulary appropriate for the audience? Does the writing match the genre it was written for?* For example: The piece is supposed to be a letter to provide evidence of a banking error. Is the piece in letter format? Is the problem, the error, introduced and described? Is the evidence there? Is the evidence presented in a logical fashion? Is the evidence discussed to illustrate how it shows that the bank made the error in question? Is the letter respectful?
Grammar and spelling are like the dishes for a meal. If the food is lousy, the best china doesn't improve the flavor any. So, when I evaluate a piece of writing, I look at the larger issues first and see if there are problems there. I choose a larger issue to work on, and then choose one type of spelling error or one type of grammatical error and work with the student to understand and use the correct forms. It is equally important to point out what the student has done well and discuss why it works well. It makes no sense to point out spelling and grammar issues if the person's idea isn't clear or if the organization is muddled. This does not mean that I ignore these, but it is not the be-all and end-all of good writing. Grammar and spelling need to be addressed in context as well so there is an association with meaning. The best writers know when and how to break grammatical rules. Shakespeare did it all the time. As did Mark Twain and many other great writers.
*Okay, many of you have probably heard the mantra: Never end a sentence with a preposition, and you're probably thinking I have made a grammatical error here. Actually, I haven't. 'For' in this sentence is not a preposition. It is what linguists call a particle. In more of an every day English, it is part of a phrasal verb which is a verb composed of more than one word, in this case 'write for'. 'Put on' is another phrasal verb. I can say either of the following: I will put on my jacket. I will put my jacket on. 'On my jacket' is not a prepositional phrase in this case. Nothing is 'on' the jacket. Rather, 'jacket' is the object of the verb phrase 'put on', which is why I can put 'my jacket' between 'put' and 'on'. However, I could never say: I will put the jacket the table on. In this case, the prepositional phrase is 'on the table', and 'the table' must follow 'on'.
Back on the topic of scams. I received a piece of mail today saying that I could save a bundle of money on my student loans if only I transferred the loans to them. Among other things, in bold face it says "No payments for 6 months." Barely visible in a faded print is a miniature superscript 2. It looks almost like a speck on the page, really easy to look over and miss. It took me 10 minutes to find the location of the footnote buried in fine print so small even I nearly needed a magnifying glass to read it. The footnote says: "Interest will continue to accrue on the loan during the period payments are postponed."
Here's what a lot of folks fall for: 1) They think that because they are having their loans transferred and because of that boldfaced print they do not have to pay the current lender if they are in repayment. The document says nothing about the necessity to continue payments with the current lender. So folks wind up in big trouble because they are now in default, unless they were in the grace period which is usually the first six months after graduating. 2) They miss the footnote and don't realize that the principal balance of the loan will actually go up because the accrued interest will be capitalized, that is added to the principal balance. 3) Many do not realize that consolidating their student loans during the grace period with anyone but the direct loan servicer with the Dept. of Education (There are certain qualifying rules in order to consolidate with them.) will result in their losing the rest of their grace period which will result in more interest being charged if they have subsidized loans.
Another thing: This document actually had false information on it. While it was fairly accurate in stating the amount of my consolidated loans, the writers seriously overstated the amount of interest I will pay on the loan with its present lender, the direct loan servicer, and then says that I will save several thousand dollars by transferring the loan to them. On top of that they do not say that I would lose my current interest rate, which in my case would actually result in a loan with a higher
interest rate, one that would be a variable rate given the recent laws that were passed. My present consolidated loan is at a low fixed rate, much better than present student loan rates.
Scam, scam, scam. I'm going to use that document in my teaching and report these guys to the Better Business Bureau as well.