The importance of grammar

I’ve encountered a number of writers lately that have me read their work for constructive criticism, with the emphasis on ‘it’s just a rough draft’. I think what they mean is that they want feedback on the content, not so much on punctuation. As a reader though, sifting through poor grammar and fragmented sentences is straining. I can read a story and focus on the plot and characters, but errors can irk me to no end.

I also find from my own experience that it’s important to write properly at all times. Grammar is habit forming, so slacking with proper sentence structure is just as much a part of writing as editing later to improve it. The Internet doesn’t help with the phonic and abbreviated style that is too often accepted.

My husband asks me how to write letters to this or that person, wondering if he should be formal or informal. My usual answer is ‘when it doubt, go with formal’. The reason I offer is that formal encompasses manners and covers all bases to what you want your letter to do. So when writing emails to someone you’re not familiar with, take the effort to write in a formal, polite style before using ‘lol’ or little graphics. Save that for friends and family.

This type of practice doesn’t necessarily include text messaging or Instant messaging online. Why is that, you may ask? Simple. Not everyone can type fast, or be familiar with the practice. I type around 80-90 wpm, sometimes faster if I had a couple cups of coffee in me. I can easily throw out sentence after sentence while some typists might manage only one in the same amount of time. It’s rude of me to think or criticize spelling when It is for conversational purposes.

Grammar includes not just the proper punctuation, but good spelling as well. One person wrote “What do you think of my righting?” on Yahoo Answers, only to be blasted with answers for not recognizing it is ‘writing’ not ‘righting’. Her response was that she misspelled the word. No, that is not a misspelling. She spelled the word correctly but the use of the word was completely off base.

Trust me when I say that submitting writing for publication will get your work thrown out if you have mistakes like that. Editors are overworked, and underpaid for what they do, and correcting the manuscript for grammatical mistakes is not their job to correct basic grammar mistakes; that’s your job. It is assumed you are a writer. It is also assumed you have a basic grasp of the English language.

Prompt: Take the next few days to make a concentrated effort with your writing…in all your writing. See what mistakes you make, and correct them. After a few days, compare to see if your writing hasn’t improved in the meantime.


5 Replies to “The importance of grammar”

  1. As I’ve been thinking about having children, this is one facet of parenting that worries me. Will texting and online chat destroy their grammar? Hopefully not. But it may prove difficult to explain to a child why the ability to ‘sound professional’ will become important–invaluable even. I suppose all I can do is start offering to proofread their school papers by fourth grade, hope they take the bait, and be as supportive and constructive about it as I can.


  2. I would say pushing typing skills can help there. I can type out an entire sentence in the time some people type their abbreviated greetings. Also reading helps improve grammar. Nearly all sources of published authors voice a need to read extensively in order to be a good writer, and I agree.


  3. Right. Me too… I can type about eighty words a minute, last I checked. I typically make my friends who do that whole “h8” instead of “hate” junk look slow anyway… and it never hurts to be clear as to what you mean. (and coffee DOES help the speed)

    My grammar teacher would probably give me a look right about now – I always use long sentances that stretch into paragraphs (a careful look typically shows them to be grammatically correct) and she hates it.

    I always get A’s though.

    As to telling kids to sound professional, the quicker way is to simply say that they sound stupid if they don’t type things out completely. Harsh, but effective… I forced my sisters to form that habit by doing just that.

    I use “…” too much… and I never remember their correctly spelled name either.

    Just thought I’d throw my two cents in.


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