Wednesday, July 16, 2008


Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling

In a recent blog tour I had the pleasure of asking the author of The President’s Parasite, Jim Musgrave if there were any "secrets" that the newcomer to writing should know. "Learn your basics first, meaning grammar, punctuation and spelling." he offered.

And the second best kept secret, which I’m sure isn’t a secret to my fellow writing friends because I’ve said this over and over again, get a good manual of "technique". His suggestion? Telling Lies for Fun and Profit by Lawrence Block. Great advice!

I’ve given you blogs on Style, Theme, Ego, Inspiration, and even a blog titled Writer’s block. Today’s blog, I’d like to offer up to you the importance of Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling.

Many of us have learned our grammar techniques in grade school and more than likely we’ve become rusty over the years. Do you really remember was a present participle is? Did you ever think that later in life you would NEED to know?
The definition of the word grammar is interesting:
a. The study of how words and their component parts combine to form sentences.
The study of structural relationships in language or in a language, sometimes including pronunciation, meaning, and linguistic history.
The system of inflections, syntax, and word formation of a language.
The system of rules implicit in a language, viewed as a mechanism for generating all sentences possible in that language.
a. A normative or prescriptive set of rules setting forth the current standard of usage for pedagogical or reference purposes.
b. Writing or speech judged with regard to such a set of rules.

This ties in the punctuation and spelling because we can not have one without the other. Notice how simple letters form words, we write our words and they are going to form sentences (hopefully logical ones.) We’ll need to add the proper punctuation and to finish it off we need to proofread what we’ve written to see if we have any typographical errors.

I know a lot of people depend on their MS Word for a spell check but it being a program and not human, the robotic nature will not pick up the differences in there and their. It will not discern by from buy. It will give you a red squiggly line for incorrect spellings and your eyes may be drawn to THAT. In the process you may miss an error and let it slip through your eyes. MS Word will not find errors in punctuation for you either. YOU need to do the work to make it comprehensible and legible to your reader.

The best thing to do as a writer is to get in the habit of proofreading your work BEFORE you click that little word, SEND. Know the rules, know the proper etiquette and by all means STUDY what you don’t know.


Anonymous said...

Very good advice, Joni.
In my case, my auditory sense will often interfere with my visual sense. I lean towards auditory. My struggles with grammar specifics have caused me to add another segment into my writing schedule. Everyday, I try to do one page of grammar out of a workbook. I'm making slow progress, but overall, I think I am beginning to get better.
Takes time. I rely on my feedback a lot. After reviewing what has been said, I go to my grammer reference and look it up.
One day, I hope to be able say I've got it down.


June said...

Excellent advice, Joni!

Writers should also learn to read their work out loud or have someone else read it to you.

Not only might you find a pause (comma) where it doesn't belong, or a word (such as dear, deer) that SpellCheck will not catch, but might also find words or phrases that are awkward or just don't fit.

Another option if to have the computer read your writing back to you.

Take care,