I am a fan of grammar, a huge fan really. Sometimes I break the rules, and sometimes I make a point of following them perfectly. The difference, to me at least, is what my specific grammar choices give to the meaning of what I’m saying. When you make a grammatical choice, you’re decided how something is read, and how it should be construed. Misconstrued meanings are the result of poor grammatical decision-making. There’s a reason that in communication theory Paul Watzlawick described the meaning and interpretation of an event as the “punctuation”. We determine the meaning of something based on the grammatical choices made, particularly that of the punctuation.
If we take this photo from Tails magazine, the lack of commas has turned Rachael Ray into an absolute monster. If we add the commas, however, she is suddenly a loveable host who enjoys cooking, her family, and her dog (not some serial killer who finds it inspirational to cook her pets and family).
The Rachael Ray example is just an entertaining anecdote as to why grammar and punctuation matter. The confusion a lack of comma can cause (Oxford or otherwise) is a blatant example of how poor punctuation leads to poor understanding, but there are other ways grammar matters too. The ultimate basics like the difference between “then” and “than”, and “there”, “their”, and “they’re” may seem obvious and a ridiculous thing to spend time worrying over, but if we stop caring about grammar and accept shortened forms of words, weird acronyms, and emojis as word replacements, we’re going to loose a large percentage of understanding.
Punctuation and grammar are the non-verbals of text. We can often tell that someone is being sarcastic or teasing based off his or her grammatical choices (for example, saying “Really? I never would have guessed.” versus “Really. Never would have guessed.”), just like we can tell someone is being sarcastic or teasing from tone and facial expressions. The majority of communication is performed through non-verbals, so it’s important we have an understanding of written non-verbals. These are just a few of the reasons I love grammar, because a proper understanding of all the punctuation available can open up your writing in a way that allows for more meaning to be conveyed, without leaving it open to interpretation.