As noted in an earlier blog (see Writing with Style), writing with impact requires excellence in the areas of structure, style and engagement. This series focuses on improving your writing style as painlessly as possible – but it’s a good idea to keep in mind that good writing is not always completely painless; it often involves the selection, examination, dismissal, replacement, repositioning and deletion of what could amount to hundreds, if not thousands, of innocent words. It can take hours of writing and rewriting to get it all just perfect. And even then it’s possible someone else might be able to find ways to improve the text. We give it our best shot, though, and having organized our information well, (see my series on structuring your writing for maximum impact), we can then segue into the fascinating area of writing with style. That means focusing on:
At first blush grammar might not seem like an important part of style – but it’s impossible to write delightfully without it. In the context of business, if you mess up your tenses or verb conjugations, you risk confusing your reader; worse still, you will sound unprofessional. Good grammar leads directly to credibility and although that’s changing with texting, twittering and our increasing reliance on video messages, writing with proper grammar is still a competitive advantage.
This is a subject that frightens many people, either because they didn’t learn it properly in public school or because grammar was out of fashion when they passed through. But there is nothing magic about grammar – it’s simply a set of rules and conventions about how to build sentences that are logical, straightforward and easy to understand. Each rule or convention is simple to learn and easy to follow – but you do have to invest whatever time is necessary to develop a strong competency in the subject.
Here are some ways you might do that:
- Juvenile as it sounds, buy a set of public school grammar exercise books (Grade One to Grade Eight) and work your way through them one lesson at a time. This is an old-fashioned form of information delivery and it works.
- Visit an English-as-a-Second-Language website – About.com offers some excellent resources – and work your way through the lesson plans and online tests.
- Read one paragraph of the “Manual of Style” by William Strunk Jr. every day. Absorb the wisdom each section imparts and then practice what you’ve learned. I like my hardcopy version but you can also find it on bartleby.com.
- Visit your local Literacy Council (real or virtual locations) and find out if you are a candidate for a literacy training program.
- Read. But don’t just read to consume the words, read to observe how the writer put the words together.
Polishing your grammar may seem dreary but it’s one of the easiest ways to improve your style as a writer, which will inevitably enhance your reputation.
What do you think? Is grammar a blessing or a nuisance? Are you good at it and if so how did you get there? Please share – I’d love to hear your grammar tales and I’m sure other readers would too!
Contact me today for more information on how I can help you along your writing continuum.