A couple years back I decided to buy Grammar For Dummies and read it cover to cover as part of a self-improvement strategy I had going at the time.
I’ve always been pretty good with writing; however, even when I was starting college I could not identify an infinitive, an adverb or a preposition in a sentence.
I didn’t know the terminology, but I did know the usage. I could string a decent sentence together, which enabled me to get an “A” in College English. And later, get paid to write. And later still, start my own blog.
When I got the book, rather than use it as a reference tool (as I do now), I read the whole thing with the intention of brushing up on my skills. My hope was that it would help me write good. Well, gooder.
It worked. The book cleared up many issues I had just never bothered to look up, for example, the use of further vs. farther. (If you have some of these lingering issues, it ain’t a bad read. Well, you know what I mean.)
What occurred to me while reading the book was, if there is an easier way to learn this grammar stuff (i.e. a book for “dummies”), why aren’t we using it in schools? Why is it merely a supplement to our educational diet and not the main course? Isn’t it sensible to teach a subject in a way that people can understand and apply in their lives?
Some educators in particular may think these books “teach down” to students. But that may just be old-fashioned thinking. I say if it works, it works.
It’s not akin to Cliffs Notes, for example, where you just get the gist of a book; you can actually learn a good cross-section of grammar skills with the Dummies book. Certainly to a level most people would call sufficient for everyday life.
A functionally literate society is the objective of education, correct? If there’s a better way to teach grammar (or any other subject), we shouldn’t shy away from it. Hell, we still see enough your/you’re transpositions alone to suggest our grammar curricula aren't quite doing the trick.