Grammar, writing jobs and the bottom line

Betsy Edgerton
Betsy Edgerton

Can better grammar skills lead to a better job as well? So argues Columbia College Chicago journalism professor Betsy Edgerton in the piece below. Feel free to leave your comments on Betsy's views or contact

You know grammar, right? Of course you do. So why pay for your teen to sit through an old-school grammar course in college -- isn't that what middle school was for?

Sadly, it wasn't. Nor was high school, and freshman-year English Comp 101 won't help either. That's because decades of research in English education have convinced academics that teaching grammar is a lousy idea. Students, they say -- and they're adamant on this point -- will only learn grammar as part of the process of learning to write, not as a standalone subject. Any other method will be soul-killing and a waste of time for the student.

Well, people doing the hiring in the writing professions beg to differ. Public relations professionals recently added to the chorus of complaints, telling researchers the writing skills of their entry-level colleagues "are bad -- and they are getting worse." I run the magazine program in the Journalism Department at Columbia College Chicago, and I couldn't agree more. An increasing number of journalism programs, including mine, have grammar tests and classes and don't allow students to continue in the major until they pass one or the other.