Spelling and Grammar and Good Writing

Spelling and Grammar, how important are they in good writing?

Spelling and grammar matter! Every writer knows this. But exactly how important are they?

  • Should writers wait to create their masterpieces until after they’ve refined the mechanics of their writing?
  • If spelling and grammar are not a writer’s strong suit, should that person pack up their writing dream? After all, you won’t find a brain surgeon with trembling hands, right? Perhaps, some people just aren’t meant to write.
  • Are there practical steps writers can take if spelling and grammar are holding them back?

If you’ve ever asked these questions, then this article is especially for you!

In this post, you’ll find my thoughts on spelling and grammar. Not only will we answer the questions above, but we’ll also dive into many more. This includes a step-by-step infographic of how writers can improve the readability of their work.

Of course, my humble opinion is not the final word on this matter. However, I share them with you, along with ideas that helped me, in hopes that you’ll find them useful too. Just know that these are the ideas of an imperfect writer. I’m on this journey with you and am still learning along the way.

Should I study spelling first?

Good Spelling and Grammar Increase Credibility

Sometimes, the best way to tackle a difficult topic is to start with what we know. I am 100 percent certain that good spelling and proper grammar add credibility to a writer’s work. I know this because readers have told me.

I’m not a great speller myself. But I do the best I can. Like many people, I wish I were better in both of these areas. And I’ve also come to terms with the gifts and abilities that God has given me. My spelling and grammar are ongoing works in progress. They are sufficient to clearly convey my ideas. And I actually think I’m pretty good at getting my message across in writing. Where I don’t excel is in keeping every spelling error and grammar snafu out of my work. The bright side is this provides an opportunity to see how readers react to spelling and grammar mistakes. I’ve found that most people fall into one of three broad categories.

Spelling and Grammar Category #1: Those Who Don’t Notice Spelling and Grammar Mistakes or Don’t Care

Not everyone is an English expert. If you’re spelling and grammar infractions are minor (like the occasional miss-placed comma), then many readers won’t notice them at all. If your information is solid and your writing style is engaging, others will happily overlook a mild infraction or two. Although there are some loud, rude, and angry people online, there are far more people who are kind. I think the loud ones just get more attention.

If I use tools like spellcheck and Grammarly, I’ve found that many of my remaining infractions are small enough to be overlooked. At least in more casual writings such as emails and blog posts.

Spelling and Grammar Category #2: Those Who are Mildly Annoyed by Misspellings

Readers who are mildly annoyed by spelling and grammar snafus may let you know. Some genuinely want to help. And I’m especially grateful for these readers. I used to be frustrated with myself whenever an early reader of one of my books would inform me of a mistake. Sure, I appreciated the opportunity to fix the error. But I’d always think to myself, Jed, you should be better than this. In other words, I’d mentally beat myself up. I think many writers do.

The truth is self-abuse never improves anyone. And although it’s easy to fall into a negative spiral, there is a better way.

For example, even writing experts like Stephen King still make simple spelling and grammar errors. If you doubt this, just check out point #4 on Stephen King’s “Contact Us Page.” This line informed readers on how to report errors they find in his already published books. Presumably, these mistakes will be fixed in future printings. Knowing this brings a small, self-published author like me hope! If the masters still mess up, then I guess it’s OK for me to have an occasional imperfection, too, right?

If you’re still not convinced, then check out some of these awkward, occasionally inappropriate, and laugh-out-loud misspellings at Boardpanda.com. These egregious and very public errors let me know that I’m far from alone on my spelling and grammar growth journey. They also help me learn to laugh at myself. If others can make spelling and grammar errors this outrageous and survive, then I can make it through the occasional mishap too!

Readers who are mildly bothered by spelling and grammar snafus will sometimes:

  1. Provide constructive feedback that allows you to improve your writing.
  2. Do not say anything because they find your writing valuable, and they make plenty of mistakes themselves.
  3. Be kind enough to overlook the offense, and cheer you on anyway.

Sure, the internet can be a cruel place. But it also contains some of the most gracious, encouraging, and supportive people I know. So never allow a single piece of negative feedback to hijack your writing game.

Spelling and Grammar Category #3: Those Who Care About Spelling and Grammar and Those Who Care a Lot

In category #3 are readers who care and readers who care deeply. These are the readers who will say, “If I can’t trust your spelling and grammar, then how can I trust you at all?”

If you’ve ever received feedback like this, then you know it stings.

But it’s also a ridiculous statement to make. I never reply back to these messages, even though I am tempted to ask,

  • Did you give your car mechanic a spelling test the last time you went in for an oil change?
  • Do you check your physician’s handwriting before getting an exam?
  • Would you refuse to eat at a restaurant if the cook can’t spell?

Spelling and grammar snafus don’t make a person untrustworthy. There are excellent chefs, administrators, leaders, scientists, and astronauts who couldn’t spell their way out of a wet paper bag. Since when did spelling become a prerequisite for being an expert?

The important thing to know is that writers will come across readers in bucket #3. Some will kindly let you know you blew it. Others are self-proclaimed grammar Nazis and will let you know you messed up—big time!

Sure, this is a blow to the writing ego. But truth be told, most of us are not professional writers. We didn’t go to school to study spelling and grammar or to work professionally as writers. Instead, we had a burning message to share. One day, we opened our laptops, sat down at the sticky dining room table, and began to write. At least, this is how my story goes.

Spelling, Grammar, and What Writers Do

Writers write! This is our key responsibility. So put together your writing plan and get to work!

When I set out to write my first book, I was clueless. I knew my spelling and grammar were bad. After all, I once failed to get hired as a teacher’s assistant because I couldn’t pass the spelling portion of the T.A. exam. Nevertheless, I knew I had a message I had to share. So I began writing anyway.

Sadly, when my negative thinking got the best of me, I stopped writing to study spelling and grammar. Yep, I actually stopped writing my own book to try to improve in this area.

Soon, growth became a distraction, and my message stagnated.

Then, I heard the words “Writer’s write.” After this, I laid my fears aside and began to write daily. This allowed me to finally finish! Next, I handed my manuscript over to the experts to be proofread. That’s when I discovered the writer’s spelling and grammar nightmares.

I learned that:

  1. As a writer, I’m often too familiar with my own message to see my own writing mistakes. This means I sometimes have some pretty bad, silly, and outright ridiculous spelling errors. If this sometimes happens to you, too, then you get a high-five from me. You are normal!
  2. Although tools like spellcheck and Grammarly can be useful, they are also imperfect tools. Sometimes approving a suggestion by the machines actually puts more mistakes into the work. And, if you use two or more of these mechanical writing tools, you’ll learn that even the machines fight with one another. One program suggests a spelling or grammar change, and the other suggests changing it back!
  3. Editors and proofreaders don’t always live up to their claims. Many will miss egregious errors. This may result in you getting email suggestions to “Hire a proofreader!” To which you’ll think to yourself, Can you please send this scathing email to my proofreader instead!

In short, no matter how a writer works, the manuscript will probably never be entirely error-free. My shocking opinion is that writers should and must continue to courageously publish anyway!

Our Shocking Conclusion on Spelling, Grammar, and Shame

Since starting this writing journey a little over six years ago, my books have reached well over 100,000 readers. For some writers, that’s small potatoes. For this author, who attended seminary and was informed the average church has less than 50 members, it’s awesome! I like to think this means 100,000 lives have been changed by my words, in both small and big ways. One of the best parts is I never had to leave the comfort of my own home nor spend time apart from my incredible family to accomplish this!

In addition, writing is a gift. Like many writers I know, books impacted my life in many positive ways. I consider it an incredible honor to be able to continue this legacy of life change through the words I write!

My conclusion is that when it comes to spelling and Grammar, writers should do the best they can with the gifts God blessed them with. If you’re not great at spelling and grammar—like me—then get a book on the subject and dive in. Just don’t stop writing in the process. The best way to learn is by doing. And it’s completely acceptable to study the craft of writing as you write.

A famous quote says, “The harder I practice, the luckier I become.” The same is true for writers. The more you practice, the better your spelling, grammar, and overall writing will be. So practice often, use the tools, and watch your writing skills grow!

Spelling, grammar, good writing, and God's gifts

The more you write, the better you’ll get!

A second writing strategy that helps me is using spelling and grammar tools. Spellcheck and Grammarly are helpful. While I realize they won’t catch every mistake, they will catch a few. And these tools will also help you improve your writing. The more I write, the better I get, and the fewer atrocious spelling and grammar mistakes I make. I’ve connected with many authors who report the same thing. The act of writing makes up better. So don’t stop for anything!

Another obvious writing tip is to get a proofreader. Even if it’s just your dad. Mine happens to be a retired English teacher and always helps me weed out additional errors from my books.

Realize that even if your dad is a retired English teacher and your mom proofreads the book after him, the family will not catch every mistake. This is what I love about self-publishing. Last year, I sent my most-read books to a professional proofreader. This process was both helpful and horrifying. It’s utterly astounding how many mistakes my self-editing, Grammarly, and my family missed—oops!

The good news is many of those errors are now corrected. The even better part is this entire process has changed me. I’m learning. I’m growing. And I’m a writer who is less fearful of making occasional mistakes.

8 Quick Spelling and Grammar Wins

Below, you’ll my spelling and grammar-checking process. Like all systems, it’s imperfect. It’s also a whole lot better than not having a process at all.

The journey starts at point #1, which is all about engaging our creative brain and not paying too much attention to spelling and grammar. With each step, improvements are made. And the process ends with publication. Popular writing advice says, “A piece of writing is never finished, only abandoned.” The value of this statement is understanding that it is possible to continue to edit, revise, and improve our works into infinity—but it isn’t wise. So, don’t fall into this trap!

Even if you don’t move through all of these editing stages, be sure not to skip point #8. Once you have done your best, ship your work and move on to your next piece of writing. After all, your amazing words can’t influence readers and change lives until you publish!

Finally, know that not all of these steps are needed. It’s nice to move down the entire spelling and grammar improvement path. But this may not always be possible due to limited time, energy, or budget. Simply do the best you can. The more of these steps you take, the clearer your writing will become.

Spelling and Grammar Wins
Permissions: If you find this graphic helpful, feel free to use it on your site
with a link back to this post. Or print a copy for personal use.

Releasing Spelling and Grammar Shame

I’m much less concerned about spelling and grammar today than in the past. Of course, I always do my best to create clean books, emails, and blog posts. But the truth is, spelling and grammar are not my strength. And, even if I had a professional team checking my work—like Stephen King—errors would get overlooked. Good writing is not about grammar perfection. In fact, sometimes, the flaws and humanness of our words are a good thing. If you’ve used Grammarly, then you’ve likely discovered that famous quotes are often prime targets for this program’s correction meter. In other words, writing something correctly and writing something well are two entirely different beasts.

Good grammar doesn’t always make a great quote. And great quotes don’t always follow proper grammar rules.

Slowly but surely, I’m learning to release spelling and grammar shame. Perhaps the cavemen and ancient Egyptians wrote in stone. But you and I do not. The great news is that today’s spelling snafus are fixed more easily than ever.

So exactly how important are good spelling and grammar? My shocking conclusion is that these things matter. They are just not as important as many people think. Ideally, the words we write will be clean enough that others are not distracted from our message. Yet, our words are always a work in progress. Bad writing is a prerequisite for good writing. And messy writing is a prerequisite for clean writing. My conclusion is that while spelling and grammar matter, they also shouldn’t keep us from sharing our message with the world.

Are you surprised by this answer? I have no doubt that a few will be offended, as some people take the correct usage of the English language extraordinarily seriously. I, however, prefer a more moderate approach.

So, if you love to write and have an important message to share, then keep writing. Spelling, grammar, and everything else will fall into place along the way. Just as dancers dance and singers sing, writers write! Of course, spelling and grammar difficulties are not the only brick walls that writers face. For more great writing tips, check out these 7 blogging hacks for getting unstuck.

Just as runners run and singers sing, writers write!

These are my thoughts on spelling, grammar, and writing. What are yours?

Let’s Continue the Spelling, Grammar, and Writing Conversation

  • How important are spelling and grammar really? I know this is a touchy subject. Regardless of whether we agree or not, I’d love to hear your honest opinion.
  • What are the most important things you’ve learned on your spelling and grammar journey? I’m always looking to improve, and I’d love to learn from you!
  • Which buck are you in as a reader? Are you oblivious to most mistakes (like me)? Do you kindly offer help, graciously overlook the offense, or do you consider yourself a grammar Nazi?
  • Have you ever received spelling and grammar feedback, and how did you respond? Everyone loves a good story. Even if it’s a long one, we want to hear yours!

I’d love to hear from you! Just add your spelling and grammar thoughts to the comments below!

Help Us Keep the Writing Tips Comming

Jen and I are thrilled you stopped by! Kind words and coffee fuel this blog. If you enjoyed our thoughts on spelling and grammar, please help us keep this great content coming. Let us know what other writing tips you would add. Or partner with us by using the buy us a coffee button to help fuel our next project. To dive even deeper, you can also check out our books and resources for writers. We honestly couldn’t do this without you!

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Jed Jurchenko

Jed Jurchenko is the husband to an incredible wife, daddy to four amazing girls, and a foster dad to one more. He's served as a children's pastor, marriage and family therapist, psychology professor, award-winning writing coach, and life coach. Jed is the author of 23 books on relationships, parenting, writing, and doing life well. In his free time, you'll find Jed reading, preparing for an upcoming marathon, barbecuing, paddle boarding, and enjoying life with his incredible family. Find out more about Jed's books, coaching, and courses at www.ithrive320.com.

2 thoughts on “Spelling and Grammar, how important are they in good writing?”

  1. I completely agree! I have been teaching all three of my boys for years to focus more on the content of their writing than the mechanics of it especially when trying to get their thoughts down. Don’t get me wrong; I teach grammar and spelling too but it is much more important to develop your voice especially with helpful inventions like spell check and Grammarly. #MMBC

    1. Hey Joanne. Making this switch was certainly a game-changer for me. Creating writing first, with a focus on spelling and grammar later, keeps me in that creative writing zone. I hear that we don’t switch back and forth between creative writing and corrective writing well. From my own experience, I’ve found this to be true. I love your focus on developing that creative writing voice with your kids!

      Thanks for stopping by!

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