In casual conversation with friends and in professional settings, I am frequently asked to explain why good grammar is so important. Many people in today's society suggest that too much emphasis is put on the importance of using correct grammar. They say, "Why does it make any difference, as long as we are able to understand what we are saying to one another?"
Without having factual information to verify what I have answered, I tell them what conclusions I have reached by observation and personal experience. I tell them that grammar is the very foundation of communication, that using correct grammar leads to better understanding and fewer arguments, and that good grammar enhances one's professional life and personal relationships.
Now I have the results of a broad national survey that back up some of what I have been saying. There were 5,481 people polled, consisting of male and females ages 21 and older who were neither married nor committed to a significant other. The survey focused on the expectations that single men and women have for potential relationships. It was conducted by a reputable marketing firm, Market Tools Inc.
What surprised me the most were the top two things that both women and men considered before going out with the other person on a date: number one, "their teeth," and number two, "their grammar." Never in my wildest imagination when teaching a high school or college English class or addressing a group of young people would I have thought to say, "Learning correct grammar will enhance your chances of landing a good date or hooking up with a significant other in a long-term relationship." And had I said it, I can only imagine the rolling of eyes I would have seen.
I have been disappointed by two things. Number one is the lack of response to this survey by the educational community. The survey results indicate that the top two things people look for in a potential date and the prospects of a long-range relationship are both related to education. Schools all over the United States teach at a very early age proper care of teeth, and grammar is taught throughout all levels education. Yet, there has been practically no attention paid to this survey in educational journals and newsletters, at least that I have seen.
The second thing that has been a disappointment to me is what the media and most blogs have concentrated on in response to this survey. The media have headlined and posted articles about sexual items of the survey, such as that 42 percent of those polled would not date a virgin, 44 percent of women and 63 percent of men have had one-night stands, and 28 percent say they've had sex by the third date and 46 percent by the sixth date. These are the more sensational things being concentrated on instead of the desire among single adults to hook up with someone who has good teeth and uses correct grammar.
There is so much made of the fact that America is falling behind other nations in educational outcomes, the eroding effects that social media is having on proper grammar, and the escalating costs of taking care of neglected teeth. Yet, here is a sign that there is a desire among single adults -- a very significant segment of our society -- to concentrate on such basics as good grammar and oral hygiene. One cannot help wondering why educators, English teachers, dentists and hygienists have failed to pick up on this.
Hooray for our single adults! They are keeping it simple, basic, and positive: if you want a good date or long-term relationship, just concentrate on your mouth, what's in it and what comes out of it.