Spelling and grammar matters! Every writer knows this. But exactly how important are they?
- Should writers wait to create their masterpiece until after they’ve refined the mechanics of their writing?
- If spelling and grammar are not a writer’s strong suit, should that person pack up their writing dream? After all, you won’t find a brain surgeon with trembling hands, right? Perhaps, some people just aren’t meant to write.
- Are there practical steps writers can take if spelling and grammar are holding them back?
If you’ve ever asked these questions, then this article is especially for you!
In this post, you’ll find my thoughts on the spelling, grammar, and exactly how important they are. Not only will we answer the questions above, but we’ll also dive into many more. This includes a step-by-step infographic of how writers can improve the readability of their work.
Of course, my humble opinion is not the final word on this matter. However, I share them with you, along with ideas that helped me, in hopes that you’ll find them useful too. Just know that these are the ideas of an imperfect writer. I’m on this journey with you and am still learning along the way.
Good Spelling and Grammar Increase Credibility
Sometimes, the best way to tackle a difficult topic is to start with what we know. I am 100 percent certain that good spelling and proper grammar add credibility to a writer’s work. I know this because readers have told me.
I’m not a great speller myself. But I do the best I can. Like many people, I wish I were better in both of these areas. And I’ve also come to terms with the gifts and abilities that God has given me. My spelling and grammar are an ongoing work in progress. They are sufficient to clearly convey my ideas. And I actually think I’m pretty good at getting my message across in writing. Where I don’t excel is in keeping every spelling error and grammar snafu out of my works. The bright side is this provides an opportunity to see how readers react to spelling and grammar mistakes. I’ve found that most people fall into one of three, broad categories.
Spelling and Grammar Category #1: Those Who Don’t Notice Spelling and Grammar Mistakes or Don’t Care
Not everyone is an English expert. If you’re spelling and grammar infractions are minor (like the occasional miss-placed comma) than many readers won’t notice them at all. If your information is solid, and your writing style is engaging, others will happily overlook a mild infraction or two. Although there are some loud, rude, and angry people online, there are far more people who are kind. I think the loud ones just get more attention.
I’ve found that if I use tools like spellcheck and Grammarly, many of my remaining infractions are small enough to be overlooked. At least in more casual writings such as emails and blog posts.
Spelling and Grammar Category #2: Those Who are Mildly Annoyed by Misspellings
Readers who are mildly annoyed by spelling and grammar snafus may let you know. Some genuinely want to help, and these are the types of readers I’m especially grateful for. I used to be frustrated with myself whenever an early reader of one of my books would inform me of a mistake. Sure, I appreciated the opportunity to fix the error. But I’d always think to myself, Jed, you should be better than this. In other words, I’d mentally beat myself up. I think many writers do.
The truth is, self-abuse never improves anyone. And although it’s easy to fall into a negative spiral, there is a better way.
For example, even writing experts, like Stephen King, still make simple spelling and grammar errors. If you doubt this, just check out point #4 on Stephen King’s “Contact Us Page.” This line informed readers on how to report errors they find in his already published books. Presumably, these mistakes will be fixed in future printings. Knowing this brings a small, self-published author like me hope! If the masters still mess up, then I guess it’s OK for me to have an occasional imperfection too, right?
If you’re still not convinced, then check out some of these awkward, occasionally inappropriate, and laugh out loud, misspellings at Boardpanda.com. These egregious and very public errors let me know that I’m far from along on my spelling and grammar growth journey. They also help me learn to laugh at myself. If others can make spelling and grammar errors this outrageous and survive, then I can make it through the occasional mishap too!
Readers who are mildly bothered by spelling and grammar snafus will sometimes:
- Provide constructive feedback that allows you to improve your writing.
- Not say anything because they find your writing valuable and they make plenty of mistakes themselves.
- Be kind enough to overlook the offense, and cheer you on anyway.
Sure, the internet can be a cruel place. But it also contains some of the most gracious, encouraging, and supportive people I know. So never allow a single piece of negative feedback to hijack your writing game.
Spelling and Grammar Category #3: Those Who Care About Spelling and Grammar and Those Who Care a Lot
In category #3 are readers who care and readers who care deeply. These are the readers who will say, “If I can’t trust your spelling and grammar, then how can I trust you at all?”
If you’ve ever received feedback like this, then you know it stings.
But it’s also a ridiculous statement to make. I never reply back to these messages, even though I’m am tempted to ask,
- Did you give your car mechanic a spelling test the last time you went in for an oil change?
- Do you check your physician’s handwriting before getting an exam?
- Would you refuse to eat at a restaurant if the cook can’t spell?
Spelling and grammar snafus don’t make a person untrustworthy. There are excellent chefs, administrators, leaders, scientists, and astronauts who couldn’t spell their way out of a wet paper bag. Since when did spelling become a prerequisite for being an expert?
The important thing to know is that writers will come across readers in bucket #3. Some will kindly let you know you blew it. Others are self-proclaimed grammar Nazi’s and well let you know you messed up—big time!
Sure, this is a blow to the writing ego. But truth be told, most of us are not professional writers. We didn’t go to school to study spelling, grammar, and to work in the writing field. Instead, we had a burning message to share. One day, we opened our laptops, sat down at the sticky dining room table, and began to write. At least this is how my story goes.
Spelling, Grammer, and What Writers Do
Writers write! This is our key responsibility. So put together your writing plan and get to work!
When I set out to write my first book, I was clueless. I knew my spelling and grammar were bad. After all, I once failed to get hired as a teacher’s assistant because I couldn’t pass the spelling portion of the T.A. exam. Nevertheless, I knew I had a message I had to share. So I began writing anyway.
Sadly, when my negative thinking got the best of me, I stopped writing to study spelling and grammar. Yep, I actually paused my own book, to try to improve in this area.
Soon, growth became a distraction, and my message stagnated.
Then, I heard the words “Writer’s write.” After this, I laid my fears aside and began to write daily. This allowed me to finally finish! Next, I handed my manuscript over to the experts to be proofread. That’s when I discovered the writer’s spelling and grammar nightmares.
I learned that:
- As a writer, I’m often too familiar with my own message to see my own writing mistakes. This means I sometimes have some pretty bad, silly, and outright ridiculous spelling errors. If this sometimes happens to you too, then you get a high-five from me. You are normal!
- Although tools like spellcheck and Grammarly can be useful, they are also imperfect tools. Sometimes approving a suggestion by the machines actually puts more mistakes into the work. And, if you use two or more of these mechanical writing tools, you’ll learn that even the machines fight with one another. One program suggests a spelling or grammar change and the other suggests changing it back!
- Editors and proofreaders don’t always live up to their claims. Many will miss egregious errors. This may result in you getting email suggestions to “Hire a proofreader!” To which you’ll think to yourself, Can you please send this scathing email to my proofreader instead!
In short, no matter how a writer works, the manuscript will probably never be entirely error-free. My shocking opinion is that writers should and must continue to courageously publish anyway!
Our Shocking Conclusion on Spelling, Grammar, and Shame
Since starting this writing journey a little over six years ago, my books have reached well over 100,000 readers. For some writers, that’s small potatoes. For this author, who attended seminary and was informed the average church has less than 50 members, it’s awesome! I like to think this means 100,000 lives have been changed by my words, in both small and big ways. One of the best parts is, I never had to leave the comfort of my own home, nor spend time apart from my incredible family to accomplish this!
In addition, writing is a gift. Like many writers I know, books impacted my life in many positive ways. I consider it an incredible honor to be able to continue this legacy of life-change though the words I write!
My conclusion is that when it comes to spelling and Grammar, writers should do the best they can with the gifts God blessed them with. If you’re not great at spelling and grammar—like me—then get a book on the subject and dive in. Just don’t stop writing in the process. The best way to learn is by doing. And it’s completely acceptable to study the craft of writing as you write.
A famous quote says, “The harder I practice, the luckier I become.” The same is true for writers. The more you practice, the better your spelling, grammar, and overall writing will be. So practice often, use the tools, and watch your writing skills grow!
The more you write, the better you’ll get!
A second writing strategy that helps me is using the tools. Spellcheck and Grammarly are helpful. Realize they won’t catch every mistake, but they will catch a few. And, these tools will also help you improve your writing. The more I write, the better I get, and the fewer atrocious spelling and grammar mistakes I make. I’ve connected with many authors who report the same thing. The act of writing makes up better. So don’t stop for anything!
Another obvious writing tip is to get a proofreader. Even if it’s just your dad. Mine happens to be a retired English teacher and always helps me weed out additional errors from my books.
Realize that even if your dad is a retired English teacher and your mom proofreads the book after him, the family will not catch every mistake. This is what I love about self-publishing. Last year, I sent my most read books to a professional proofreader. This process was both helpful and horrifying. It’s utterly astounding how many mistakes my self-editing, Grammarly, and my family missed—oops!
The good news is many of those errors are now corrected. The even better part is this entire process has changed me. I’m learning. I’m growing. And I’m a writer who is less fearful of making occasional mistakes.
8 Quick Spelling and Grammar Wins
Below, you’ll my spelling and grammar checking process. Like all systems, it’s imperfect. It’s also a whole lot better than not having a process at all.
The journey starts at point #1, which is all about engaging our creative brain and not paying too much attention to spelling and grammar. With each step, improvements are made. And the process ends with publication. Popular writing advice says, “A piece of writing is never finished, only abandoned.” The value of this statement is understanding that it is possible to continue to edit, revise, and improve our works into infinity—but it isn’t wise. So, don’t fall into this trap!
Even if you don’t move through all of these editing stages, be sure not to skip point #8. Once you have done the best you can, ship your work and move on to your next piece of writing. After all, your amazing words can’t influence readers and change lives until you publish!
Finally, know that not all of these steps are needed. It’s nice to move down the entire spelling and grammar improvement path. But this may not always be possible due to limited time, energy, or budget. Simply do the best you can. The more of these steps you take, the clearer your writing will become.
Releasing Spelling and Grammar Shame
Today, I’m much less concerned about spelling and grammar than in the past. Of course, I always do my best to create clean books, emails, and blog-posts. But the truth is, spelling and grammar are not my strength. And, even if I had a professional team checking my work—like Stephen King—errors would get overlooked. Good writing is not about grammar perfection. In fact, sometimes, the flaws and humanness of our words a good thing. If you’ve used Grammarly, then you’ve likely discovered that famous quotes are often prime targets for this program’s correction meter. In other words, writing something correctly and writing something well are two entirely different beasts.
Good grammar doesn’t always make a great quote. And great quotes don’t always follow proper grammar rules.
Slowly but surely, I’m learning to release spelling and grammar shame. Perhaps the cavemen and ancient Egyptians wrote in stone. But you and I do not. The great news is that today’s spelling snafus are fixed more easily than ever.
So exactly how important are good spelling and grammar? My shocking conclusion is that these things matter. They are just not as important as many people think. Ideally, the words we write will be clean enough that others are not distracted from our message. Yet, our words are always a work in progress. Bad writing is a prerequisite for good writing. And messy writing is a prerequisite for clean writing. My conclusion is that while spelling and grammar matter, they also shouldn’t keep us from sharing our message with the world.
Are you shocked by this answer? I have no doubt that a few will be offended, as some people take the correct usage of the English language extraordinarily seriously. I, however, prefer a more moderate approach.
So, if you love to write and have an important message to share, then keep writing. Spelling, grammar, and everything else will fall into place along the way. Just as dancers dance, and singers sing, writers write! Of course, spelling and grammar difficulties are not the only brick walls that writers face. For more great writing tips, check out these 7 blogging hacks for getting unstuck.
These are my thought’s, on spelling, grammar, and writing. What are yours?
Let’s Continue the Spelling, Grammar, and Writing Conversation
- How important are spelling and grammar really? I know this is a touchy subject. Regardless of whether we agree or not, I’d love to hear your honest opinion.
- What are the most important things you’ve learned on your spelling and grammar journey? I’m always looking to improve, and I’d love to learn from you!
- Which buck are you in as a reader? Are you oblivious to most mistakes (like me)? Do you kindly offer help, graciously overlook the offense, or do you consider yourself a grammar Nazi?
- Have you ever received spelling and grammar feedback, and how did you respond? Everyone loves a good story. Even if it’s a long one, we want to hear yours!
I’d love to hear from you! Just add your spelling and grammar thoughts to the comments below!
Writer’s Link-Up Guidelines
Now it’s time to see what you’ve been up to. Let’s link up those posts!
Thanks for joining in the ITHRIVE Writer’s link-up. We’re thrilled you’re here. A new blog party starts every Monday. Know that we hold to the guidelines below with a very ridged commitment to flexibility. We’re all here to cheer each other on, and I’m a big believer that it’s OK to color a little outside the lines.
I also know that if you’re new to link-ups, its nice to have a few guidelines in place. So here is the quick and easy rundown of how link-ups work 🙂
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