Today I’d like to share an excerpt from my book 10 Core Practices for Better Writing. This excerpt is from “Chapter Four: Grammar,” which explores the relationship between grammar and writing and includes tips and resources for mastering grammar. Enjoy!
Grammar and Writing
Grammar, spelling, and punctuation are the most basic components of good writing. Grammatically correct texts are easier to read, easier to get published, and easier to sell to readers; in many cases, a firm understanding of grammar also makes the writing process easier.
Grammar is unpleasant for some writers. We’re in it for creative expression—we want to tell a story, make a statement, or share ideas. Why do we have to fret over parts of speech and punctuation marks?
But grammar is necessary. You can get by as a professional writer without totally mastering grammar, but you will fall flat on your face if you don’t know the basics.
Too many writers avoid studying grammar because they prefer to focus on the creative side of writing. Some work under the assumption that grammar is unimportant (they are wrong!), while others rely on editors and proofreaders to do the dirty work.
But developing good grammar habits, while painstaking, enriches the experience for everyone involved—from the writer to the editor to the reader.
Why Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation Matter
If you’ve ever read a piece of writing that was peppered with typos and grammatical mistakes, you know how frustrating these oversights can be for a reader. They’re like bumps in the road, jarring you out of the text. When you’re deeply immersed in a story or article and encounter one of these errors, you’re pulled out of the reading experience.
Writers gain great benefits from developing skills in grammar. Have you ever been writing and gotten stuck on some technicality? Should I put a comma here? Am I using this word correctly? Are these words in the right order? If you’ve learned grammar and studied a style guide, eventually these kinds of questions won’t interrupt the flow of your writing.
I’ve found grammatical mistakes in novels, magazine articles, even in textbooks, and (especially) on blogs. Now, a lot of these errors are typos. It’s not that the writers or editors didn’t know their way around the English language—they just let one (or two) mistakes slip past. If people who are experts at editing can’t catch every mistake, can you imagine the number of errors in a piece produced by someone who doesn’t have a good handle on grammar? Those works are riddled with mistakes!
And when mistakes appear to be more than mere typos and instead seem to reflect a deficiency in good grammar and basic writing skills, then I find myself questioning the quality of the work. If writers can’t be bothered to learn the tools of their trade, why should I bother reading their work?
There are many things that lead to better writing, and there are a few things that raise a flag to signal poor writing. Bad grammar is one of them.
Learning the rules of grammar might be a drag (I happen to find grammar fun and interesting), but it’s a worthwhile pursuit if you want to get your work published and find an audience for your writing. Study a little bit of grammar each week, and you’ll be writing better in no time.
Once you master grammar, you won’t have to worry about it anymore. It becomes a natural part of your writing process. Proofreading and editing become less of a chore, and your writing sessions flow more smoothly.