The Importance of Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation in Your Writing
Be sure to proofread your writing.
It Is Important How You Say It!
One of my favorite on line activities used to be screening intel at Qondio.com (another site that is no more). It's interesting to see the topics people chose to write about. One night I read one that broke my heart. The writer was obviously bright and creative, but she had a problem with expressing herself clearly in writing. She was trying to explain how to make something useful and her idea and the results she shared in her photograph of the finished product were excellent. Her explanation of how to make the item was far from excellent. As much as I liked her content, and as useful as I found the item she made, I had to rate her intel below average because of all the errors she made in her writing.
One of the most important parts of writing is having something to say. If that is missing, no amount of well-written prose or poetry will attract an audience. This woman had something to say worth reading. The problem was that it was very hard to understand her instructions. Without the photograph, the finished product would be very hard to imagine. Seeing the finished product could help readers better understand her instructions, but that was not able to make up for clear written instructions. Perhaps this woman did not have the opportunity to finish school. Perhaps she had terrible English teachers. It's also possible that she decided that her English classes were a waste of time because she didn't see why they would be useful.
It's definitely an advantage to have parents who model standard English in their everyday conversations at home. Not everyone has that advantage that I had. English is a second language for many people who write on line, and that also makes it hard to compete with those who grew up with standard English as a first language. My husband did graduate work in physics, but he spoke English as a second language. His first language was Serbian, and it has a different grammatical structure than English. I still have to edit anything important that he writes, even though his command of oral English is very good. People do judge you by your use of language.
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Need some help with grammar and writing?
Do what I do. I keep Writers Inc on the shelf above my desk so it's right there to refer to when I'm not sure of something. I believe this is the most user-friendly book for learning all you need to know about writing, grammar, spelling, easily confused words, and whatever else you need to know to improve your writing. Though it was intended as a high school textbook, I still use it as a handy reference, and I am a former English teacher. You will not realize how useful this book is until you start using it.
My Favorite English Handbook
I love this book because it not only covers all you need to know about grammar, usage, and mechanics, but it also covers the entire writing process for anything you may need to write. There's also a section on the most frequently misspelled words and the most commonly confused words. Best of all it's user friendly and doesn't look like a dull textbook or your average college handbook. I used to teach English, but still use this for reference when the gray matter is no longer working is well as it used to and I need a quick refresher.
Common Sentence Errors
Some of the most common errors people are sentence errors. A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It can be as short as "Birds sing." or as long as "The birds in the tree outside my window were singing so loudly that they woke me up, but I enjoyed their cheerful songs. "
The first sentence has a subject (something or someone who does something or about which something is said) and a predicate (the part of the sentence that says something about the subject.) In the first sentence both subject and predicate are simple. They have no descriptive words with them that explain more about them. That first sentence also has only one complete thought.
In the second sentence, we also have a subject and a predicate. In fact, we have two of them, since that second sentence has two complete thoughts joined with the word "but." "But" acts as a connecting word between the two complete thoughts:"The birds in the tree outside my window" is the subject of the first complete thought. "Were singing so loudly that they woke me up" is the predicate of the first complete thought in the sentence. It tells us what the birds in the tree were doing.
"I enjoyed their cheerful songs."is the second complete thought in that second sentence. The subject is "I" and the predicate is "enjoyed their cheerful songs." The predicate tells us something about "I" that we didn't know. A sentence with two complete thoughts joined by a connecting word such as "but" or "and" is called a compound sentence. Another way two complete thoughts can be joined is with a semicolon (;). We could have said "The birds in the tree outside my window were singing so loudly that they woke me up; I enjoyed their cheerful songs."
The trick is to be able to identify a complete thought. It needs to have both subject and predicate even if one or both of them is only understood from the context. In the command "Come here," the subject is not written but is understood to be "you" as in "You come here." That's why "Come here!" is a complete sentence but "coming here" isn't. We want to ask "Who is coming here?" There is no subject."Coming here" is what we call a sentence fragment -- a group of words which does not express a complete thought. It lacks either a subject or predicate.
Here is an example of another common sentence error -- the run-on sentence. "Jane and Bill went to the store their mother sent them to buy some bread." If you read that sentence out loud, you will find your voice wanting to stop after "store" and start again with "Their mother sent them to buy some bread." That's because a period should be placed after "store" because it is the end of one complete thought. A period tells your voice to stop for a second before starting the next complete thought. You do it all the time when you are speaking, but when you are writing, your ideas may be flowing so fast you forget to put the periods in. When you forget them, your reader may be confused.
A third kind of sentence error is called a comma splice. It joins two complete thoughts with a comma. You can join two complete thoughts with a semicolon if the thoughts are closely related to each other. (The carpet is tan; the walls are off-white.) You can make a compound sentence with a joining word called a conjunction. The most common conjunctions are and and but, So you could say "Jane's mother kept calling her, but Jane didn't hear. " You would not say "Jane's mother kept calling her, Jane didn't hear." because you can't join two complete thoughts with a comma.
Here's why all this is important.
Let's use a recipe as an example.
First you toast the bread then you slice some tomatoes while it's toasting and slice some cheese when the toast is done you put some sliced cheese on top of the toast and put the tomatoes on top of the cheese, then you sprinkle with garlic salt, And oregano. Put the toast with the tomatoes. And cheese in a toaster oven turn the temperature to 350 degrees and bake. For 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.
Was that easily understood? Could a person become confused trying to follow that recipe? It happens to be one of my favorite fast recipes and could be useful to others who need a quick summer lunch and have fresh tomatoes to use. If I made a recipe hub with those directions, though, it might not be very useful. I would need to write in complete sentences to make the instructions easier to understand.
Here's a better way.
First you toast the bread. Then you slice some tomatoes while it's toasting, and slice some cheese. When the toast is done, you put some sliced cheese on top of the toast and put the tomatoes on top of the cheese. Then you sprinkle with garlic salt and oregano. Put the toast with the tomatoes and cheese in a toaster oven. Turn the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for ten minutes until the cheese is melted.
Wasn't that easier to read? Wasn't that less confusing? It's amazing what a few punctuation marks and capital letters can do in making your writing easier to understand. If your readers find it hard to follow what you are saying, they are likely to give up and click away from your page.
What you say is important, but how you say it is also important. It determines whether your reader will stay with you, and whether your reader thinks you are credible. The same impulse that makes you want to straighten up your house a bit when you expect company should also make you want to clean up your writing by proofreading and editing when you expect someone to read your work.
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