Do Creative Writers Need to Know Grammar?

September 10, 2009

posted by Jennifer

Those of us in the MFA / Creative Writing program here at the University of New Mexico are required to take English 501:  Introduction to the Profession of Writing.  Until recently the course included the dreaded Virginia Tufte book, Artful Sentences.  I thought as a 2nd year student–  one who took the required 501–  was done with that book.

Then I signed up for The Art of the Popular Essay…  and lo and behold one of the required texts….  yup, you guessed it, Artful Sentences. ugh.

It’s not that I don’t see the value of grammar. I’m actually a bit of a language / grammar / linguistics geek myself.  It’s good to have the vocabular to talk about your writing and prose style and a mechanical understanding of our language.  I’ve even argued points with editors publishing my work. And I won.

The Tufte book, in my opinion, offers some worthwhile information and lots of samples of good writing.  In 501 Professor Warner had us use the book as a guide to analyze our own writing, which in and of itself was worthwhile…  but the book is dense and difficult to read at times.  And besides, it’s been more years than I care to admit to since I had grammar in school…  I felt like I needed a refresher course on

A better resource, or maybe a companion to the Tufte book should you find yourself stuck with it is The Online Writing Lab (OWL) over at Purdue University.  My favorite section is the one on grammar, specifically a primer on the parts of speech.

And if that doesn’t do it for you, there’s always School House Rock:



  1. You know, you’d have thought we’d learn all we needed to know about grammar, math, and politics from Schoolhouse Rock.

    Remember this song?
    “Conjunction Junction, what’s your function?
    Hooking up words and phrases and letters and…. some other stuff… yeah!”

  2. YES that was my favorite… but I posted this clip because its swine flu season 🙂

  3. Ahh! Brilliant!

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