The Nitty-Gritty of Writing: Grammar Rules Matter

I’ve written some posts before about those boring basics of writing, like punctuation, capitalization, and troublesome words like “it’s” versus “its.” In today’s world of texting abbreviations and rapidly-changing slang, it seems almost pointless to bother with proper grammar and spelling. But if you want to be a professional writer of any kind (or even just sell a few books on the side), this boring stuff matters.

Yes, that’s what editors are for. Us writers are the artists who construct heroic characters and amazing worlds, so why should we bother with accurate spelling and making sure the tenses match? Isn’t it an editor’s job to fix all that tedious stuff?

Well, yes, it is. Which brings up an excellent point: if you’re planning to publish a book – even self-publish – you should hire an editor. Getting your mom to glance through your manuscript, even if your mom was an English teacher back in the day, is not the same thing as having a professional editor go through your work line by line.

So why bother with all those grammar rules and such yourself? Well, first of all, your editor might appreciate not having to make a correction on every single sentence in your 300-page manuscript. Yes, it’s their job, but you want an editor as your friend, not as someone who hates you because of the amount of work you dump on them.

But more importantly, knowing a few basic spelling and grammar rules is important for more than just your book manuscript. If you have a blog, and it’s riddled with misspellings and run-on sentences, this sends a message to your readers that you don’t know what you’re doing.

The same goes for any social media posts you put out there – whether it’s on your professional writer Twitter account or your personal Facebook profile. If you want people to know that you’re a writer, but you can’t be bothered to write properly on social media, how many people will be excited about reading your book if they think they’ll be seeing more of the same?

Now I’m not talking about suddenly sounding like an English professor, or neutralizing your own unique voice to textbook-perfect prose. It’s okay to still use slang and throw in an “OMG” or “LOL” for good measure when you’re posting on social media. People expect authors to be real people, and social media posts are more appealing when they sound like they were written by real people.

But even so, keep in mind that as an author, you are your brand (whether you’re fully indie or you have a contract with a big publishing house). If your Facebook updates and blog posts are riddled with careless mistakes or formatted so poorly that they’re hard to read, you may sound “real,” but you also sound like you don’t care about the quality of your writing.

You don’t have to be perfect, but the rules of written language really do matter. Anyone who wants to sell books or have people enjoy reading their writing should have at least a basic understanding of proper English (or whatever language they write in). Buy some grammar books, follow editors’ blogs, and do whatever you can to put your best foot forward and make your writing shine!

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