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The Importance of Grammar, Spelling, and Punctuation in Your Writing

Be sure to proofread your writing.

If you don't proofread and edit your work, you may not make a good impression or get the grade you hope for.

If you don't proofread and edit your work, you may not make a good impression or get the grade you hope for.

It Is Important How You Say It!

One of my favorite on line activities used to be screening intel at (another site that is no more). It's interesting to see the topics people chose to write about. One night I read one that broke my heart. The writer was obviously bright and creative, but she had a problem with expressing herself clearly in writing. She was trying to explain how to make something useful and her idea and the results she shared in her photograph of the finished product were excellent. Her explanation of how to make the item was far from excellent. As much as I liked her content, and as useful as I found the item she made, I had to rate her intel below average because of all the errors she made in her writing.

One of the most important parts of writing is having something to say. If that is missing, no amount of well-written prose or poetry will attract an audience. This woman had something to say worth reading. The problem was that it was very hard to understand her instructions. Without the photograph, the finished product would be very hard to imagine. Seeing the finished product could help readers better understand her instructions, but that was not able to make up for clear written instructions. Perhaps this woman did not have the opportunity to finish school. Perhaps she had terrible English teachers. It's also possible that she decided that her English classes were a waste of time because she didn't see why they would be useful.

It's definitely an advantage to have parents who model standard English in their everyday conversations at home. Not everyone has that advantage that I had. English is a second language for many people who write on line, and that also makes it hard to compete with those who grew up with standard English as a first language. My husband did graduate work in physics, but he spoke English as a second language. His first language was Serbian, and it has a different grammatical structure than English. I still have to edit anything important that he writes, even though his command of oral English is very good. People do judge you by your use of language.

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Need some help with grammar and writing?

Do what I do. I keep Writers Inc on the shelf above my desk so it's right there to refer to when I'm not sure of something. I believe this is the most user-friendly book for learning all you need to know about writing, grammar, spelling, easily confused words, and whatever else you need to know to improve your writing. Though it was intended as a high school textbook, I still use it as a handy reference, and I am a former English teacher. You will not realize how useful this book is until you start using it.

My Favorite English Handbook

Common Sentence Errors

Some of the most common errors people are sentence errors. A sentence is a group of words that expresses a complete thought. It can be as short as "Birds sing." or as long as "The birds in the tree outside my window were singing so loudly that they woke me up, but I enjoyed their cheerful songs. "

The first sentence has a subject (something or someone who does something or about which something is said) and a predicate (the part of the sentence that says something about the subject.) In the first sentence both subject and predicate are simple. They have no descriptive words with them that explain more about them. That first sentence also has only one complete thought.

In the second sentence, we also have a subject and a predicate. In fact, we have two of them, since that second sentence has two complete thoughts joined with the word "but." "But" acts as a connecting word between the two complete thoughts:"The birds in the tree outside my window" is the subject of the first complete thought. "Were singing so loudly that they woke me up" is the predicate of the first complete thought in the sentence. It tells us what the birds in the tree were doing.

"I enjoyed their cheerful songs."is the second complete thought in that second sentence. The subject is "I" and the predicate is "enjoyed their cheerful songs." The predicate tells us something about "I" that we didn't know. A sentence with two complete thoughts joined by a connecting word such as "but" or "and" is called a compound sentence. Another way two complete thoughts can be joined is with a semicolon (;). We could have said "The birds in the tree outside my window were singing so loudly that they woke me up; I enjoyed their cheerful songs."

The trick is to be able to identify a complete thought. It needs to have both subject and predicate even if one or both of them is only understood from the context. In the command "Come here," the subject is not written but is understood to be "you" as in "You come here." That's why "Come here!" is a complete sentence but "coming here" isn't. We want to ask "Who is coming here?" There is no subject."Coming here" is what we call a sentence fragment -- a group of words which does not express a complete thought. It lacks either a subject or predicate.

Here is an example of another common sentence error -- the run-on sentence. "Jane and Bill went to the store their mother sent them to buy some bread." If you read that sentence out loud, you will find your voice wanting to stop after "store" and start again with "Their mother sent them to buy some bread." That's because a period should be placed after "store" because it is the end of one complete thought. A period tells your voice to stop for a second before starting the next complete thought. You do it all the time when you are speaking, but when you are writing, your ideas may be flowing so fast you forget to put the periods in. When you forget them, your reader may be confused.

A third kind of sentence error is called a comma splice. It joins two complete thoughts with a comma. You can join two complete thoughts with a semicolon if the thoughts are closely related to each other. (The carpet is tan; the walls are off-white.) You can make a compound sentence with a joining word called a conjunction. The most common conjunctions are and and but, So you could say "Jane's mother kept calling her, but Jane didn't hear. " You would not say "Jane's mother kept calling her, Jane didn't hear." because you can't join two complete thoughts with a comma.

Here's why all this is important.

Let's use a recipe as an example.

First you toast the bread then you slice some tomatoes while it's toasting and slice some cheese when the toast is done you put some sliced cheese on top of the toast and put the tomatoes on top of the cheese, then you sprinkle with garlic salt, And oregano. Put the toast with the tomatoes. And cheese in a toaster oven turn the temperature to 350 degrees and bake. For 10 minutes until the cheese is melted.

Was that easily understood? Could a person become confused trying to follow that recipe? It happens to be one of my favorite fast recipes and could be useful to others who need a quick summer lunch and have fresh tomatoes to use. If I made a recipe hub with those directions, though, it might not be very useful. I would need to write in complete sentences to make the instructions easier to understand.

Here's a better way.

First you toast the bread. Then you slice some tomatoes while it's toasting, and slice some cheese. When the toast is done, you put some sliced cheese on top of the toast and put the tomatoes on top of the cheese. Then you sprinkle with garlic salt and oregano. Put the toast with the tomatoes and cheese in a toaster oven. Turn the temperature to 350 degrees and bake for ten minutes until the cheese is melted.

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Wasn't that easier to read? Wasn't that less confusing? It's amazing what a few punctuation marks and capital letters can do in making your writing easier to understand. If your readers find it hard to follow what you are saying, they are likely to give up and click away from your page.

What you say is important, but how you say it is also important. It determines whether your reader will stay with you, and whether your reader thinks you are credible. The same impulse that makes you want to straighten up your house a bit when you expect company should also make you want to clean up your writing by proofreading and editing when you expect someone to read your work.

Please leave your feedback here.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on December 11, 2020:

Thank you. I'm glad you found it useful.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on December 11, 2020:

I'm not sure how helpful it is to those who aren't fluent in reading and writing in English. It gives a lot of advice that is just wrong. You have to know enough not to follow its misleading advice. It can't deal correctly with many complex sentences.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on December 11, 2020:

I'm glad.

F R A N C H E S C A on May 22, 2020:

This is excellent and helpful, period.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 09, 2020:

It must be so much harder for people to write in a language that is not native to them, but I applaud their efforts. Now there is free online help, such as Grammarly, that can aid a person with spelling corrections, if necessary, and even sentence structure.

Nagendra Kumar from RAWANG on October 28, 2019:

Excellent advice. I learned something valuable today

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on November 20, 2015:

Thank you, Brenda. I appreciate that. I refer to it often.

B Erwin from Texas on November 20, 2015:

Your post is very useful information. I'm purchasing the Writers Inc. book to help me improve my writing skills.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on December 31, 2013:

Thank you.I appreciate that.

Michele Kelsey from Edmond, Oklahoma on August 13, 2013:

Thank you. I added your link to my hupage:

I hope we help some readers! :) Michele

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on August 13, 2013:

DDE So you are from Dubrovnik? My husband loves that place and spend many a summer there when he was young. He'd love to take me there, but I hate flying now. Thank you for your comment.

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on August 13, 2013:

So true about this title you have created such a helpful hub, a useful, and most informative hub and is important to all writers. Voted up!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on August 12, 2013:

I always appreciate links to my pages. Feel free.

Michele Kelsey from Edmond, Oklahoma on July 23, 2013:

I guess great minds think alike. I am also writing on this subject. I didn’t specialize in Spelling as you did, but would love to offer my readers access to your site so they can have additional information that I did not provide. May I add your link to my HubPage? Michele

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on October 05, 2012:

I don't know of any software, but the books are still widely available on line. I sell them myself. I always prefer a hard copy anyway. But I can see why software might be more useful. I've always found the "Word" grammar checker more annoying than anything else.

youthfulecho on October 05, 2012:

I use to have a software copy of Shrunks & Whites," element of style" which I enjoyed very much. However, over time and many computer rebuilds the original copy has disappeared? I have searched the internet but can only find a book edition. The best I can remember I used it with word (which provided the spell checker) and element of style provided additional support by occasionally highlighting my other mistakes. I suffer from a lack of confidence. Does anyone know where I may get a copy? I understand one should learn it all but I am retired due to health and often my mind abandons me. I often try to disguise my inadequecies by saying I think with a limp. Meaning my brain has a right and left hemisphere and are not working in unision or complementing each other. Just as a stone bruised foot might trail left or right so does my brain. Forgive the absurd analogy but I am old and fragmented.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on March 17, 2012:

Yes, a knowledge of grammar does make it easier to communicate with other people and be understood.

maemae on March 17, 2012:

Its wonderful if we have knowledge in grammar, its easy to say something, to communicate other people around you because they understand you

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on March 15, 2012:

Thank you for your kind words.

BlackSparrow on March 15, 2012:

Well done, and well said!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on November 03, 2011:

LearnFromMe, thank you for your kind words. I think it's important even for a small audience, since some mistakes on a cover letter or job application might keep you from getting certain jobs. Unless I'm very tired, I even proofread my posts on Facebook and MyLot. Occasionally I see a mistake just as I'm hitting the send button, and I could kick myself because I was so careless. That's one reason I have switched to Chrome from Safari now. My spellcheck in Safari doesn't underline errors in red, but Chrome does. That doesn't prevent all mistakes, but it sure helps make proofreading easier.

LearnFromMe on November 03, 2011:

Great hub! Editing is so important, especially for writing on the internet. When you're reaching out to an audience that's so vast, you need to be careful with your writing and not have any mistakes that take away from the meaning.

Thanks for sharing!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on November 03, 2011:

achu, It's necessary today to have good communication skills in today's world.

achu on November 03, 2011:

its very useful to develop the communication skills

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on November 01, 2011:

kerlynb, it is very easy to make typos, especially when one works late at night, and not notice them. I was proofreading two hubs tonight that I wanted to be perfect, and I found errors in both hubs I had not spotted on two previous readings . So proofreading is necessary for everyone.

kerlynb from Philippines, Southeast Asia, Earth ^_^ on October 31, 2011:

Checking for grammar, spelling, and punctuation is something I learned to do the hard way. After some years, I realized that many of my blog posts about English as a Second Language actually had several obvious mistakes. What a shame :( How could people believe what I wrote in my English posts when many of them were so flawed.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on May 10, 2011:

Brinfr3sh, I love that you are already applying this and caught your mistake. It's so easy to make mistakes typing into these forms and not see them until you've already clicked the send button.

Brinafr3sh from West Coast, United States on May 09, 2011:


Brinafr3sh from West Coast, United States on May 09, 2011:

Thanks WannaB Writer, neat hub. I just started checking my grammer recently. And it helps me to remember where puncuations are to be placed. (voted up and useful)

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on March 11, 2011:

Mrs. J. B. Please see the newest text capsule above the comments. I wrote it in response to your confession of guilt, above. It's for people who feel threatened when the grammar police drive by. I, of course, never make mistakes. It's that keyboard of mine. If it doesn't like what I type, it changes it -- often before I notice what it's done in changing a misspelled word into a word I never intended to use. Then it will remove the red line so the mistake won't be so noticeable. Computers are smart, but they cannot always read our minds.

Mrs. J. B. from Southern California on March 11, 2011:

Wanna: OKAY I AM GUILTY!!!!!!!!!!!!! I do edit my hubs but but but I misuse puncuation ( OH NO ) all the time!!!!

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on February 17, 2011:

grammar grampar, you're right. I made the correction. I sometimes forget to proofread the headers. Thank you.

grammar grampar on February 10, 2011:

Shouldn't an article discussing proper grammar have a headline of "Be sure TO proofread your writing" rather than "Be sure AND proofread your writing" ?

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on December 09, 2010:

I thought I just did give you some pointers. If that wasn't enough, you might want to buy the recommended book, since it says more than I can in a short hub. But I really think you were teasing me.

hmmm on December 07, 2010:

im havin troble w/ wat ur sayin will u hlp me plz?

sum1 plz giv me sum pointers

tawing on November 08, 2010:

i thing one of us can deliver a perfectly explanations about this importance of grammar in I will promise my self to continues my education so I can have my successful mission..hope that more in simple meaning in this topic.I'm just a student reliving my self in this topic.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on August 28, 2009:

But they do also often learn to use convoluted spelling and grammar to do it. I suppose they have already learned to do that when they text message. Thanks for your comment.

axeny on August 28, 2009:

Very helpful Hub - Thanks for it.

@SimeyC - Twitter have also positive effect on writers - they learn to be concise and learn to express their ideas in only 140 characters.

Barbara Radisavljevic (author) from Templeton, CA on August 27, 2009:

SimeyC, You are correct that reading is the best way for most people to improve spelling and usage issues, since you become accustomed to seeing how things are supposed to look. However, many juvenile fiction writers today, in their attempt to be relevant, cool, or "with it," use a lot of dialogue that models whatever version of "kid talk" is currently in style, and reading that dialogue may only reinforce bad habits. Another factor is that when good readers read, they may not be paying close attention to details such as spelling or punctuation, since they will tend to see blocks of words that communicate ideas directly to the brain. That's why reading your work back to yourself aloud is a good way to proofread. When you have to read every word aloud, you have to notice the words and the way the sentence structure sounds. That will help you catch the most common errors in sentences, words that don't agree with each other, etc.

Sandy Mertens from Wisconsin, USA on August 27, 2009:

I like screening people on too when I find the time. I find it interesting how some people will write a few sentences and others will write on one long page.

You are right, grammar is important. I know myself that I often think faster than I type.

DoodleLyn from Upstate New York, USA on August 27, 2009:

THANK YOU for publishing this hub! How true it is that good grammar and punctuation are all-important. Our English teachers couldn't have said it enough; edit, edit, edit! (Did I punctuate that correctly? (smile) Great hub!

Simon from NJ, USA on August 27, 2009:

This is an interesting article on a very important subject. With the advent of twitter and instant messaging, grammar and spelling is becoming less important and that is sad! All I say is that to help improve grammar and spelling, the best method I found is to read, read and read! The more books you read, the better your English will be!

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