So you want to be a better writer.
I could tell you it’s easy or that there’s one simple secret to becoming a better writer that you’ve never heard before.
But if I did that, I’d be lying.
Becoming a better writer will take work, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or complicated. And the secret to improving?
There are a lot of them, but the most important one is something you’ve probably heard plenty before:
To improve your writing, you need to learn about grammar.
I bet you’d love it if I could tell you that you can become a better writer without worrying about adverbs and punctuation, that grammar doesn’t matter.
Unfortunately, I can’t do that.
Some writers may disagree, but in my humble opinion, improving grammar is probably the first thing a non-writer should do to write more effectively.
However, you don’t need to spend a bunch of money to take a night class after you feed the kiddos dinner. And you don’t need to hire a tutor. Check out this post for simple ways to improve your grammar on your own.
Instead of merely telling you that grammar matters, I’ll break down the reasons why. As well as how it can help your writing, whether you want to write a blog, fiction, or you have to write a hundred emails every day.
Your Message Will Be Easier to Understand
Have you ever read something written so poorly you couldn’t even understand what the writer was saying?
Communicating through writing can be difficult because you can’t always clarify what you’re saying if the other person doesn’t understand. (Lesson learned since the invention of text messaging.) You have to try to send your message as clearly as possible the first time.
Recently, I read a blog post with helpful information, but it contained lots of typos and was missing several words. There was one word missing at an essential part of the post, so it lost its meaning. That one word was so important that I missed the central message.
Grammar teaches you how to structure sentences so they make sense. When you write correctly, you can send your message clearly and effectively.
Your Writing Will Flow
When you use proper grammar, your words will fit together beautifully. Your writing will flow and be much easier for readers to get through.
You have only a few seconds to capture a reader’s attention and keep them from moving on to whatever else could entertain them while they eat their cereal or take a “break” at work.
If your writing is hard to read because of poor sentence structure, nobody will waste time trying to understand what you’re saying.
When your writing flows, people will want to come back for more. If it’s easy to read, it makes sense, and the message is appealing, people will return to see what else you have to say.
You'll Appear to be An Authority
Recently, I got an email claiming I needed to take action on my website domain. Within two or three seconds of glancing at the email, I knew it was spam. The email had several grammar and punctuation errors, which I knew wouldn’t there if the message had been legitimate.
People won’t take your blog posts seriously if your grammar looks like that of a spammer. It makes your content look less valuable.
You can still have a fun, conversational tone, and write with proper grammar. In fact, proper grammar will help your voice to come across how you intend it to.
You'll Be Able to Write Quicker and Easier
Have you ever had to teach anything that you didn’t know much about? I was a missionary for my church a long time ago, and I felt anxious about teaching people when I first began.
After completely immersing myself in the lessons I would be sharing, my nerves slipped away. Teaching was no problem anymore because I had become comfortable with the material.
One of the biggest reasons you may not feel comfortable writing is because you aren’t familiar with the rules. When you learn about grammar, writing will be faster and easier. The process will be more natural for you.
In her book The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students, Mignon Fogarty (aka Grammar Girl) says:
“I think of grammar as rules for the game of writing. Knowing these rules will give you the confidence to produce the best writing you can and make sure your ideas are taken seriously.”
How To Learn About Grammar Without Taking an English Class
I wrote a whole post about ways to improve your grammar, but I’ll mention some of my favorite resources and why I love them:
Woe is I is a book created for “grammarphobes.” As a lover of grammar, I’m not a grammarphobe, but I still love this book. O’Conner explains the seemingly boring rules with a humorous approach. She teaches grammar and punctuation in a way that makes sense.
I’d buy this book just for the humor, but her grammar lessons are definitely on point!
I’ll mention Grammar Girl’s books, articles, and podcasts a lot. Mignon Fogerty, the woman behind Grammar Girl, explains grammar clearly. She also provides information that can affect people in everyday situations, such as conversations, work emails, etc.
I mostly use her website as a guide and also follow her on Facebook for lots of motivation and helpful posts. However, I’ve also found her book The Ultimate Writing Guide for Students to be a useful, comprehensive grammar guide. The title claims this book is for students, but The Ultimate Writing Guide is perfect for anyone who needs a basic understanding of grammar.
One website I use frequently is Purdue OWL. You can search a grammar principle you need help with, and Purdue OWL will likely have a page with a clear explanation of the rule as well as helpful examples.
Purdue OWL is where I turn if I’m in the middle of writing and have a quick question about something I’m unsure of. It’s great for quick, concrete information.
If you need to improve your writing, I feel comfortable enough to promise you that learning grammar will help (as long as you apply what you learn).
I’m also not saying you have to be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, including me. But by learning grammar, you’ll receive all of the above benefits, plus you’ll know when it’s okay to break rules. 😉
You don’t have to become a grammar snob, but you can become comfortable enough with grammar that writing no longer has to be a struggle.
What are your grammar pain points? Comment below!