Understanding Rhetorical Grammar

Although this article was pretty dry, I found that it brought up several interesting points. I’m a huge grammar dork, so I’m entirely in support of increased importance placed on teaching grammar in schools. However, Micciche looks at the importance of learning and understanding grammar in a way that vastly outdoes my “because you don’t want to sound stupid” logic. Here are a few key points:

1) Grammar says much more about us as writers than we think it does. Micciche writes, “The grammatical choices we make…represent relations between writers and the world they live in. Word choice and sentence structure are an expression of the way we attend to the words of others, the way we position ourselves in relation to others. In this sense, writing involves cognitive skills at the level of idea development and at the sentence level” (719). I thought this point was really thought-provoking, particularly because of how grammar feels like more of a burden than a mode of expression. I especially liked that Micciche references Didion’s “Why I Write” piece and how she compares grammar and its effects to changing the angle of a camera.

2) Analyzing other texts for grammatical manipulation can be sort of fun. Micciche describes in her second main section of the essay that she requires students to keep what she calls a “commonplace book” in one of her courses. In the commonplace book, students are required to record passages and critically analyze them for at least one grammatical device, so as to get to know the effects of grammar and recognize them more quickly. I know (from personal experience) that one of the last things I look at when analyzing someone else’s work is how their grammar functions to further their argument. Through repetition in a commonplace book, I’m sure it would be much easier to pick up on how grammar is at work within a piece and ultimately make rhetorical grammar a more commonly recognized feature in a text.

3) GRAMMAR IS EVERYTHING. As she’s wrapping up her argument and broadening things out to a “bigger picture” lens, Micciche says, “By looking at practices of representation in various discursive forms, cultural studies methodologies tell us something about the way desires are fabricated and reproduced in order to construct certain kinds of subjects. Rhetorical grammar analysis can work in concert with these goals by making available to students a vocabulary for thinking through the specificity of words and grammatical choices, the work they do in the production of an idea of culture and an idea of a people” (731). I really enjoyed how she connected the analysis of rhetorical grammar to cultural studies. It really drove home the importance that she places on everyone learning how to properly analyze and critique grammar.

I think that this article has been helpful in terms of me looking at my own writing because it will encourage me to contemplate my own grammatical choices rather than just overall argumentative construction. I know for a fact that I rarely consider the way things like sentence structure and word choice can help to manipulate my argument even further. In addition, I’ll be able to provide more constructive feedback for classmates by analyzing their work for deeper, rhetorically grammatical meanings.


One thought to “Understanding Rhetorical Grammar”

  1. I completely understand your take on your article as dry, as I thought similarly about mine. But what I really appreciate about your blog post is the style in which you commented on the article. You took a boring piece filled with facts and reworded it in an interesting and relatable manner. This was really helpful for me to understand the grammar part of rhetorical reading.

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