I find grammar fascinating. I know, that makes me weird in a lot of circles, but I can’t help myself. I love the nitty-gritty of it and researching correct answers. I belong to a grammar group on LinkedIn and I freely choose to read grammar books. Contrast my views with someone who loathes every bit of grammar, and you’ve got a good argument brewing.
But does grammar really matter? (And yes, I know I’ve started these last two sentences with conjunctions. Dreadful behaviour.) Arguments can be made for both sides. Does it truly matter if you say, “I don’t have any” versus “I don’t got none”? (And should that question mark be inside the quotes?) In both sentences your message is clear.
There will be times when contravening grammar rules will either confuse your reader or completely change the meaning of your thought. Don’t believe me? Check out this case in which a misplaced comma cost Rogers Communications millions of dollars: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/article838561.ece
Who would have thought one lowly little comma could cause so much trouble?
When you find yourself frustrated by all of the complexities and contrariness of the English language, it may help you to remember that grammar does have a point. People in a given area speak the same language so we can actually communicate with each other. Think of grammar as an extension of your language. If we had no rules to follow, we’d never be able to understand one another.
My short answer to the question I posed is this: if not following proper grammar will change or confuse your meaning, then grammar does matter. If you will still clearly communicate your point while flaunting the rules, then proper grammar doesn’t much matter.
Be forewarned, I still reserve the right to complain about people who simply don’t know the rules. Other grammarians may also lament your lack of English skills. We’re geeks. We just can’t help ourselves.