Monday, April 20, 2009

Gripes About Grammar

Grammar. Punctuation. Spelling.

Do these three words mean anything to you? On a scale of 1 to 10, how important are they?

Have you ever thought, or heard, the following? I can fix the grammar; it's the content that matters. (I've heard this refrain from many unpublished authors.)

Okay, okay, I'll admit grammar can be fixed, but I'd love to know if it actually does get fixed. Or, to put it another way, do writers even know when they're using poor grammar, incorrect spelling, or punctuation that defeats the meaning of the sentence? If you can fix the grammar, why write it wrong in the first place? Wouldn't you have written it correctly the first time?

I get the impression that many writers feel grammar is the least important part of the book. Writing, at the most basic level, is the act of stringing words together; grammar rules enable the words to mean what the writer intends.

Least important part of writing? I don't think so.

Grammar, punctuation, and spelling do matter. Spelling is the easiest to fix; spell-check and the dictionary rarely lie. Punctuation and grammar pose a trickier problem. It can be confusing to know where to put a comma, and not everyone agrees on the correct placement. A few good reference books will steer you in the right direction.

When someone reads your work, they form a first impression of you by your writing skills. They may get so distracted by the lack of commas, the incorrectly spelled words, and the dangling modifiers that they can't comprehend the content. They'll begin to think you're uneducated. You may be a genius, but they won't recognize it, and no, they won't be impressed.

Here's a simple mathematical formula: grammatical errors=unprofessional; polished writing=professional.

Grammar rules help your writing. Ignoring them will not help you get published. Even if you think you're the master of grammar, consider asking a writer friend (preferably one with strong grammar skills) to check a few pages of your work for errors. We tend to make the same mistakes over and over. An outside eye will pick up any problems, and you can apply the knowledge to the rest of your work. Another good idea is to review a grammar book every six months.

One more note on the topic: make a conscious effort to always write with correct grammar, punctuation, and spelling--even in your rough drafts. You'll save time, improve your skills, and gain confidence. Grammar matters.

Where do you fit in? Do you write with little or no punctuation in your first draft? Do you fix the problems later? Or do you write as polished as possible at all times?

Join me on Wednesday when we'll discuss flexibility (or what I like to call Yoga Plotting).


Get Motivated! It's Monday!


  1. I totally agree with your post. Grammar basics are the foundation to good professional writing. I have a hard time wanting to continue reading a post or other piece of writing when I keep stumbling across Grammar mistakes!

    Of course none of us are perfect, but Microsoft Word definitely helps me catch the little mistakes I tend to miss!

  2. While I am not a grammar guru, I can pretty much peg when something is wrong (or the little green lines in Word alert me), but I certainly can't diagram a sentence! I took an Advanced Grammar course in college for about two days, then realized I was hopelessly lost.

  3. I totally agree. Correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation are not add-ons or afterthoughts. They're the building blocks of writing. You wouldn't build a house with lots of mistakes in measurements and just say, "Oh, I'll fix it all later."

    Yeah, grammar rules!

  4. Jody, I don't know what I'd do without Microsoft Word, reference books, and the internet--and I consider myself decent at grammar! Thanks for the input.

  5. Melissa, I have a love/hate relationship with those little green lines in Word. They're wrinkle causers. Sometimes I just can't figure out what is wrong with the sentence!

    College courses can be intimidating and expensive. I try to find reference books that have exercises and answers in the back.

    I don't think I'll ever be 100% on the basics, so I review often.
    Thanks for stopping by!

  6. Jan, I love your analogy that writing is like building a house. Too true.

    Some famous authors have successfully bent every grammar and punctuation rule, but they wouldn't have succeeded if they hadn't had a firm foundation (did you catch the building pun--ha!) to begin with.

    Grammar DOES rule! Thanks so much for stopping by!

  7. grammar SO matters. is there anything worse than reading a book with mistakes? spelling errors are absolutely unforgivable to me. misplaces commas...i have a bit more tolerance for...but it still annoys me. i totally agree...grammar is part of being a professional writer. if you don't CARE about grammar, then you can't care about being a writer.

    and on an unrelated do you give credit for your photos? i don't see how to do that in my post...unless you just type it in yourself under the photo in your editing post stage?

  8. Hi Jeannie,

    I was a little worried about stepping on toes with the grammar post, but it's nice to hear other writers agree.

    As to the photo question, I get most of my pictures through the Flickr Creative Commons (Attribution License) section. I copy and paste the "Grab the html" under "Share This" and, yes, I type in "Photo by ***" and link the name when in the editing posts phase.

    Some sites don't require individual attribution. Bigfoto, for instance, just requires a general attribute to their site.

    Flickr is my favorite because there's so much to choose from.
    Hope that helps!

  9. i'm using flickr now, too, after reading michael hyatt's post. i have a macbook, and creative commons has a built-in search on firefox and safari. but do you need to type in the attribution? if i click on your photo, it sends me straight to where you got it.

  10. Jeannie, I don't have a cut and dried answer for you on that. When I checked at Creative Commons (for Flickr), the various licenses required a credit with a link back to their profile. As you said, the picture takes you right back to their profile, but that doesn't necessarily fulfill the "credit" requirement.

    I read a few extremely informative posts on about using Flickr images. If you go to the site, type in "Flickr" for two super guides to using and attributing pictures using Flickr.

    One more note: since I like to stay on the safe side and I feel blessed to use these fantastic images (a photographer I am NOT), I'm glad to go the extra mile and type in an attribution with a link.

    Have a great night!

  11. Great post and I agree totally! I try to fix as I go and am horrified when I find some that I thought I had fixed. Poor punctuation and grammar does speak volumes when submitting.

  12. Hi Terri,

    I edit and edit (even my blog posts) and STILL find errors! It's enough to make me cringe for days!
    Thanks for stopping by.

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