Learning good grammar is like learning good manners because like good manners good grammar costs nothing.
On the other hand, first impressions are no longer made by manners, dress-code or “the cut of his jib”, as we never have to meet the majority of people we do business with. We do make the same snap judgements on brands, logos, image and grammar. This is usually all we have to judge people on. How else are we to decide? We have all seen pictures on social media ridiculing shop signage with incorrect use of apostrophes or plurals. The quality and the standard of writing, grammar, punctuation and presentation is how you will be judged and how our pupils will be judged. No-one will ever see you open a door, however, millions could see you commit a punctuation faux-pas if it becomes viral.
What are good manners?
Famously written down by Nancy Mitford in her 1954 essay “The English Aristocracy”, British Society seems to be obsessed with good manners. But what does this mean today, is it really that important and how do we teach them?
If you ask Google “What are good manners?” then 5,800,000 results appear, so it would seem that there are many people out there who have an opinion about good manners. They also seem to have the opinion that manners are becoming worse. There also seems to be a consensus – good manners include:
- When asking for something, say “Please”
- When receiving something, say “Thank you”
- Do not interrupt adults or others when speaking unless there is an emergency
- When needing to get someone’s attention, use the phrase “Excuse me”
- Do not comment on other people’s physical appearance, unless it is to compliment
- Knock on closed doors and wait to be asked in before entering
- Never swear in front of adults
- Don’t call people mean names
- Even if a play or as assembly is boring, sit through it quietly
- If you bump in to somebody, immediately say “I’m sorry” or “Excuse me”
- Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze and don’t pick your nose in public
- As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.
It seems that there are the two basic cornerstones of manners: “Please” and “Thank you” which all other manners are built upon.
How do we teach good manners?
According to Dr Sears, an America pediatrician and author of over 30 books on parenting, modelling behaviour is the best way to teach a child good manners. He states that “your child’s behaviour reflects on you” as the parent and that “Good manners, after all, are necessary for people to live together in this world. Gracious manners reflect a loving and considerate personality.” He goes on to to give 7 ways to teach good manners are:
- Expect respect
- Teach polite words early
- Model manners
- Make sure that you give a child’s name before asking them to do something
- Acknowledge the child and keep them close to you
- Don’t force manners
- Correct politely
As teachers, we can see that these 7 ways to teach manners are based in sound pedagogy. Some experts go further, for example familyeducation.com allocate expected manners to age.
Whatever your opinion about manners, how they should be taught and what age at which they should be taught, manners can be seen to be a tool to help people move through life more smoothly.
Why is having good grammar like having good manners?
In the age old argument about grammar, some people argue that grammar is not important and some people argue that grammar is important. Like appearance, manners and education level, grammar is another thing that people may be judged on in everyday life.
Using good grammar helps quick and effective communication:
- It saves time
- It saves face
- It can save money – poor communication in the workplace costs millions
Grammar is the clothes hanger on which language hangs.
- Like manners, grammar is a toolkit to help people move through life more easily
- Like manners, grammar helps clear communication and expression of ideas or intent
- Like manners, grammar has basic cornerstones which can be taught and then all other grammar principles hang on them
- Like manners, pupils are judged on grammar (not just through the SPAG marks, but through what it shows about them as a person)
- Like manners, grammar should be modelled and correctly and insisted upon
Why teaching good grammar as important as teaching good manners?
Teaching good manners and good grammar narrows the gap between rich and poor. Like manners we should teach grammar to our poorest pupils to make sure that they have the ability to express themselves clearly and so that they can compete with children who have been privately educated.
Grammar and manners are essential lifeskills.
Manners may cost nothing, but poor grammar has a very large cost indeed.
See the type of grammar skills that SkillsMastery can teach. Click here.