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The Boston Globe


joan wickersham

Navigating the grammatical thicket

IT WAS 9:30 at night. I was tired; my students were tired; we’d been writing and talking about writing for almost four hours; it was time to start wrapping up so we could all go home to bed. “One last thing,” I said. “Looking at the writing you did tonight, I noticed some confusion about when to use ‘me’ and when to use ‘I.’ ” Suddenly everybody in the room was awake. More than awake: they were excited. Help, they said, please, please explain. They were graduate students, but no one had ever taught them basic grammar.

Now we come to a fork in the op-ed writer’s road. This column could head off in the direction of deploring and lamenting the lack of grammar instruction in our schools and fearing that the English language is being corrupted, impoverished, and lost. For the record: Yes. I deplore, lament, and fear.

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