Successful writers need to know grammar & spelling


Once upon a time, the uneducated writer had a chance. If a publisher decided he was a good writer in spite of his bad grammar and spelling, there were loads of qualified proofreaders to bring the book up to a literate level.

Today, the problem is that most younger people were raised by wolves (the public school system) where basic skills were neglected even when they had teachers who actually knew grammar and spelling. Now that the new generation of teachers believe ‘speling doesint counte’ school children don’t have a chance.

But readers tend to judge writers by their correct grammar and spelling skills. Most habitual readers pick up a certain amount of knowledge of these things from reading properly proofread books. They may not know all the rules, but when a writer violates a rule the reader knows, trust is lost.

The writing world today is divided between indie and traditional publishers. The indie writer without English skills can’t self-edit or self-proofread. He can hire an editor or proofreader, but if that editor or proofreader misses 50% of the writer’s mistakes, how will the writer know?

In traditional publishing, a publisher may still take a chance on an uneducated writer, especially if that writer is poor, a racial minority, and/or progressive enough. But where do traditional publishing houses get enough good enough proofreaders when their old ones retire or die? I’ve noticed books seem to have more uncorrected errors of spelling and grammar than they did when I was younger.

The solution for the aspiring writer with poor English knowledge is to LEARN! You must learn correct spelling. You must learn correct grammar. If you can produce mostly-correct manuscripts, you can come up with a better final product than if you were spelling-and-grammar impaired.

Most of us are familiar with spell-check software. If you have a spelling problem, look up every word marked as incorrect in a dictionary. Write down the correct version of the word you want. Practice spelling it correctly. Also look up ‘spelling demons’ to find the misspellings that your spell-checker doesn’t catch.

If you have grammar problems, you need to study grammar. Using a grammar-check program like Grammarly might help, but you need a basic understanding of English grammar to really master good grammar.

One additional method that I have used myself is to learn a foreign language. I took German classes since junior high school, and the classes were full of German grammar. Since the English classes at that level were more about making me read the right books (not classics, but books with Black characters and civil rights themes) I learned more about grammar from studying German grammar than taking English class.

Creativity and originality are great qualities in a writer. Just not when it comes to grammar and spelling. You want your readers to have confidence that you are a ‘real’ writer and know the English language well. Spelling and grammar help. And, as in the example in the graphic above, can keep you out of prison.

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