Two Easy Ways to Avoid Sending Your Readers into a Grammar Rage

February 11th, 2013 by Tracy Stoller

I am terrified to write this post. As anyone who has ever corrected someone else’s grammar in writing can tell you, I’m going to make a mistake. I have no doubt that someone will notify me of my horrendous grasp on the English language via irate (hopefully misspelled) comments. I assume the ensuing grammar rage will look a little like this:

 

Angry... ?

Bring ‘em on, I say (reluctantly)!

So, on to the main event! I have chosen a job that has me spending whole days explaining the differences between dependent and independent clauses, your and you’re, which and that, etc. We’ve already gone over why clear content is so important, so this means that the edits are sometimes extensive. I have noticed that I end up saying the same things over and over.

The two things I tell writers everyday:

1. Read over your work….. out loud

I cannot express enough the importance of proofing your own work. It even helps to let some time go by between writing and reading it. But sometimes, you need to go even further. Yep, get your vocal cords involved.

Web copy (and all writing, really) should sound like people sound when they speak. Sure, it can be a more polished version of what you would say, but it still needs to follow natural speech patterns and syntax. I’m certain that most of the awkward sentences I come across when editing would have been caught by the writers if they would have heard them and not just read them. Reading aloud can also help you feel out where the natural pauses are, showing you where you need to add commas. And that brings me to my next constant correction…

Low pressure system over the eastern United States

2. Commas! Commas! Commas!
(aka LOOK IT UP!)

Though you should always use some type of spell checking program, do not rely on it to fix all of your grammar errors. Most people know whether comma usage is a weakness for them. If this is the case for you, there is help. Fortunately, all you need to know about grammar (and everything else, I guess) is online. Seriously, if you question what you are writing or whether that comma is in the right place, LOOK IT UP! Purdue has a great online resource you can refer to for comma questions, and Grammar Girl is super helpful when you have a quick question about almost any writing topic.