A Writer’s Rant on Why Grammar Matters

As a writer who makes her living writing marketing materials, I am frequently exposed to the idea that grammar doesn’t really matter.

Usually, this statement is made in the context that effective sales writing may not always conform to the rules of grammar.

I personally find myself wandering slightly from the path of strict adherence to those deadly rules when breaking them works.  For example, a sentence fragment may be used to create emphasis or get my point across.  I’ve definitely had to loosen up a bit, and try not to imagine the glowering face of Miss Isabel Keith, my seventh grade English teacher, as I write.

It was Miss Keith who assigned hours of homework diagramming sentences, which, I must admit, I had a love/hate relationship with.  Now, however, I am glad for all those hours spent understanding the structure of the English language.

The Dalai Lama XIV is quoted as saying “Learn the rules well, so you can break them effectively.”  That’s particularly true of writing in English.

Our language is a complex one, and the rules are sometimes hard to comprehend.  The rules, though, give us a framework so that our readers can easily understand what we are trying to communicate.

Just yesterday, I was reading something that came up on an internet search.  The article was so badly written that I had a hard time following the writers meaning.  For example, there was a word that was either incorrectly used or incorrectly spelled.  I figured out what the writer intended to say (I think), and continued to read on.  They obviously failed to use a spell check program, which would have found the mistake, whether is was a spelling or a usage error.

There were numerous other mistakes that make the writing hard to understand.  While there were a few nuggets of useful information, my estimation of the writer’s credibility was so low, I would never recommend it to my readers.  The viral potential of such a shoddy piece of “information marketing” is negligible, in my opinion.  The point of submitting articles is to become know as an expert.  An article that has incorrect usage and/or spelling, and sentences which are so badly crafted they baffle the reader, won’t enhance your reputation as an authority.

When we recommend, link to or forward an article, we are, by implication, giving the seal of approval to whoever published it.  If they don’t take the time to verify their work and to run a simple spelling and grammar check , how can you trust their professionalism?

The purpose of writing is to communicate.  Knowing and following the rules of grammar make reading easy for your audience.  For me, reading well done writing is one of life’s greatest pleasures.  Conversely, struggling to determine the meaning of badly written communication is a source of irritation.

What are your thoughts?

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