Does grammar matter? Yes, as shown in a recent article titled “War of words: why journalists need to understand grammar to write accurately about violence” on The Conversation by Annabelle Lukin, Associate Professor of Linguistics at Macquarie University.
In a reminder of the power of grammar to convey responsibility for an action, the article highlights the impact of grammatical structures such as:
- using active or passive voice
- using main versus dependent clauses
- turning verbs into nouns to avoid human responsibility.
Passive voice in particular can be problematic as Lukin explains: “The passive voice puts the object of the action first. Because the passive voice puts the people or things acted on before the verb, writers have a choice about whether or not to name the agent of the action.” The many comments on the article highlight some of the difficulties in determining who is responsible for an action.
As well as grammatical structures, choice of individual words such as verbs, nouns and adjectives is also important. In media articles, choices of headlines and accompanying photographs and captions have high impact.
Don’t dismiss grammar. Grammatical choices help present our view of the world to others, so think carefully about choices.
See my related blogs on:
- Use the active voice in writing
- What’s the purpose of grammar?
- Be inclusive with gender-neutral language
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