Part of the skill of good writing is taking what sounds good in our heads and converting it into clear, coherent and impressive words on a page. We know exactly what we’re trying to say and how it should be said, but the challenge is to get a reader to digest it in the way we intended. This is why even people with an excellent grasp of spelling, grammar and all-round essay writing often do a fairly poor job of editing their own work. They’re reading what they wanted to write, not what they’ve actually written.
With today being National Grammar Day, it’s a good time to think about not just the words we put onto the page, but also the way we present them. Most of us, if we’re consciously thinking about it, understand the difference between ‘there’ and ‘their’, but this doesn’t stop the odd blip from sneaking through. With grammar appreciation having its own day, it’s a useful reminder of the need to proofread your work, or better yet, have somebody else do it for you.
Why does good grammar matter?
In this age of social media and rapid sharing, a grammatical mistake that would otherwise only have been picked up by a few eagle-eye readers can now be identified and broadcast to the public, causing all kinds of mirth and embarrassment. A classic example of this occurred last September, when the ironic misspelling #grammerschools started trending, and not everybody quite cottoned on to the joke. Also, the Washington Post recently ran an amusing article picking up on a number of dodgy spellings from US President Donald Trump and his administration, highlighting the fact that nothing undermines a written statement more than a glaring grammatical error.
No need for grammar Nazism!
Accurate grammar and punctuation can be the difference between family meals together (“Let’s eat, Grandma!”) and cannibalism (“Let’s eat Grandma!”). Nonetheless, I feel it’s important not to be overly condescending about errors because, like any skill, grammatical knowledge and proficiency is not something that comes easily to everyone.
Publications like ‘Eats, Shoots & Leaves’ that aggressively advocate the use of perfect grammar have probably only served to give grammarians a reputation for pedantry and snobbishness. Use of the term ‘Grammar Nazi’ has risen in the last five years, and in 2013, satirical news website The Daily Mash published a piece mocking the superiority complexes often displayed by those with a keen eye for typos.
English is a non-phonetic and often inconsistent language, so ridiculing those who find spelling and grammar challenging doesn’t help. Instead, what we should all aim to do is train our brains by reading widely, writing regularly and seeking to get to that state where our inner editors are able to spot our own mistakes, rather than allowing someone else to do it in a public and humiliating fashion.
If grammar doesn’t come naturally to you, or if it does and you want to prove it, our superb ‘Freelance Writing for Business’ course is currently available for just £29 (usual price £295) with the discount code WRITER. The course will guide you through the need-to-know nuts and bolts of grammar and punctuation, and then develop this into advice on writing styles and making money from your writing.
Follow this advice, and you need never refer to a school named after actor Kelsey Grammer again!