An Introduction to The Oregon State Guide to Grammar - Transcript

By J.T. Bushnell

When people hear the word grammar, they often feel some kind of judgment, whether from or towards other people. The assumption in each situation is that there’s one proper way to speak and write, and that anyone who deviates from it is committing – I don’t know – some crime against nature or insult to humanity. It makes us feel embarrassed, or righteous.

That way of looking at it is called “prescriptive” grammar – it’s prescribing how we behave verbally like a doctor doling out medicine. But there’s another way to look at it. “Descriptive” grammar describes the language systems you’ve already got in your head, the ones telling you what to say and how to say it every day of your life. In this sense, grammar just means the systematic use language, whether formal or informal, standard or nonstandard.

And why not? Grammar isn’t a force of nature, like photosynthesis or the Pythagorean theorem, which will be true no matter what people think of it. Instead, grammar is really just an unspoken agreement among people, so it’s subject to differences and disputes and power structures and changes and, yes, because of all this, a considerable amount of confusion.

Hey there, YouTube. My name’s J.T. Bushnell, and it’s my great pleasure to welcome you to the Oregon State Guide to Grammar. In this video series, the faculty at Oregon State’s School of Writing, Literature, and Film will explain where these grammatical confusions arise and how you can navigate them. Our goal is to help you toward a better awareness of the language systems you’re already using, the ones that influence the way you shape and arrange words when you’re speaking – and to help you translate that intuitive knowledge into symbols on a page, which is where people tend to run into trouble.

We plan to roll out a handful of new videos every season for the full academic year, so please subscribe to our YouTube channel, and like and comment on our videos to keep the conversation going. If you have any suggestions for concepts you’d like to see us cover, we’d love to hear them. Please post them in the comments sections of our videos.

As a land grant institution, Oregon State is committed to public outreach and engagement, and this series is one of many efforts within OSU’s School of Writing, Literature, and Film to share our love of language with the people in and beyond our community. If you’d like to check out more of our initiatives, please visit our website at

Thank so much for stopping by, and enjoy the videos.

View the full series:

The Oregon State Guide to Grammar