Big chunks of grammar are rule-based learning, at least at the level of what distinguishes academic writing from casual conversation. The rules are articulated in grammar handbooks and can be consciously applied.
Grammar at the level of what sentences one can use in casual conversation is much more “information integration”, as it takes skilled linguists substantial effort to express the grammatical constraints in rules, and fairly complicated rule systems are needed for even crude approximations to grammaticality
That’s exactly right.
The principles Katharine and I teach in our curriculum can be learned–quickly learned–via rule-based learning:
- End focus: put the most important information in the sentence last
- Known-new contract: start with information the reader already knows, proceed to new information he or she doesn’t know (or hasn’t heard you say yet)
- Cohesive topic chains: many if not most of your sentences in a paragraph should have the same or closely-related grammatical subject (I think the most effective percentage in a fairly long paragraph is around 75%)