Lurn too Spel Rite

If you’re anything like me, you’re terrible at spelling, grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Incidentally, those are four key elements of writing that all aspiring authors should master. In fact, as far as obstacles to writing go, this is perhaps the next biggest obstacle next to plotting and story development. Dose speeling cuase you consertarble diffeculty? Do you often find yourself verbifying nouns? Can’t get no good handle on grammar? Is ending a sentence on a preposition something up with which you will not put? Are you unable to find a problem in this sentence, irregardless of how hard you try? Then read on for a few tips from a fellow grammar-challenged soul.

First, the best way to improve your spelling is practice. Practice can never make you perfect, but it will make you better. With modern word processors, any misspelled words will either be autocorrected or underlined for you, as will some instances of poor grammar usage. However, even the best modern spell checkers cannot catch correct words that have been misplaced or incorrect homonyms (such as there, their, and they’re), and grammar checkers frequently fall short for narrative writing styles. In fact, I advise that you simply disable your grammar checker, as it will be more problematic that helpful.

Second, if I say “Strunk & White” and the first thought that pops in your head is anything other than The Elements of Style, then go order that book now and read it twice. It’s cheap, it’s short, and it will make you a better writer. Don’t argue, just read it. Having said that, I do know The Elements of Style is a bit dated and is best treated as an essential supplementary text. After you have studied Elements of Style, read Arthur Plotnik’s Spunk & Bite, the anti-“Strunk & White,” which flips the perspective on Elements of Style. Then pick up a copy of The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation by Jane Straus along with Garner’s Modern English Usage (formerly known as Modern American Usage).

Third, it is most important that you both poorfead proofread your own writing, as well has have someone else proofread for you. When you proofread your own writing, wait at least a few months after having written the work before you review it—you will catch considerably more mistakes than you would by just proofreading a few days later. If you get someone else to proofread, make sure they are good at proofreading and have a thorough grasp of both grammar and spelling.

When proofreading is done, look at every misspelled word and grammatical error, and consider why you made the error. You may discover a pattern, or various areas where you need to improve. For instance, if you keep misplacing, commas, or if you keep adding clauses without a comma but which clearly do need commas or begin to irritate the reader with too many clauses (not to mention the overuse of parentheses (if you know what I mean)) creating long winded run-on sentences that no one wants to read, then study up on the rules regarding commas and clauses (as well as the use of parentheses). And don’t forget my favorite form of punctuation—the emdash (though that probably needed to be a colon).

That’s all I have for now. Please be sure to read all my articles on Writing Tips and check back for more.

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