Why Grammar Matters

It's National Grammar Day, and our Review of the Week explores the story of English grammar

Making sense : the glamorous story of English grammar

Crystal, David. Oxford, 2017
281p bibl index, 9780190660574 $24.95, 9780190660598

Making Sense complements Crystal’s recent books on spelling and punctuation—Spell It Out: The Curious, Enthralling, and Extraordinary Story of English Spelling (CH, May’14, 51-4856) and Making a Point: The Persnickity Story of English Punctuation (2015)—offering an equally well-informed and sensible perspective on grammar. Comprising 29 brief chapters, Making Sense speaks both to those new to grammar and to those with some expertise. For those new to grammar, Crystal’s systematic, avuncular exposition painlessly introduces concepts, keywords, and grammatical reasoning. For aficionados, Crystal provides depth and perspective—and for teachers new ideas. The book first introduces parts of speech, clauses, and grammatical functions by tracing the language development of Crystal’s daughter. Next comes a set of chapters on the role of grammar in communication and the importance of semantics and context. Crystal rounds out the book by discussing grammar change (and resistance to change) and the educational consequences of do-as-I-say-ism. Many chapters offers interludes, as the author calls them, in which the history of grammar and grammar teaching are brought to life. Making Sense ends with a summary of ten principles about grammar—not grammar rules but rather key ideas that encapsulate Crystal’s view of grammar as an intellectual enterprise—along with an appendix on grammar teaching and testing.

Summing Up: Essential. All readers.
E. L. Battistella, Southern Oregon University
Subject: Humanities – Language & Literature
Choice Issue: Jan 2018