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Secrets of Writing Like a Pro
Are you a grammarphobe? I coined this term for people who would like to write for publication but are holding themselves back because they are worried about grammar. They mistakenly believe that writing is a basic process: first you get a thorough grammar background and then you are allowed to start writing.
Let me give you one reason why most of us think so (I used to do it myself). Most of us have spent years in the classroom trying to master tasks like underlining subjects, circling adverb clauses, diagramming sentences, and labeling parts of speech. And most of us, frankly, never get good at any of these things. When I got my Ph.D. In English, university students requested a traditional grammar course because they felt overwhelmed by these skills.
I decided not to take the course – and not for the reasons you might expect. To be honest, I don’t really believe in drawing sentences either. But I’ve already done some writing for publication, worked with some of the best editors in the business, and discovered a secret that deserves to be more widely known: Every minute you think of adverb clauses and predicate nominatives. The minute you are No Thinking about what really matters: showcasing your ideas.
Here is an analogy. Suppose you are learning how to drive a car and your instructor insists that you memorize the parts of an automobile engine and learn how they work together. No one will deny the usefulness of that information. This can be really helpful, for example, when you’re talking to a mechanic who’s trying to sell you a repair you don’t need on your car.
But while you’re waiting for your driver’s license, wouldn’t your time be better spent learning how to handle your car in real driving situations? In my opinion, you need instructions about blind spots, four-way stops, flashing yellow and red lights, and similar real-life driving situations.
Back to writing. Will ground-up grammar instruction help you become a better writer? Hire professional writers and you will be able to answer this question yourself.
Most professional writers are busy people and are often running against deadlines. If you could look into the brain of a professional writer (which you are right now!), you wouldn’t find words like “adverb clause” and “subjunctive case” thrown around. Instead you’ll hear questions like:
- How can I attract readers who need the information I share?
- How can I win over readers who disagree with what I’m trying to convey?
- How do I organize my materials?
- Do I have enough support material? If not, how can I find more examples and ideas?
- what do i leave
- What kind of tone will work best? For example, do I seem personable and knowledgeable, or friendly and down-to-earth?
So what are some practical ways you can improve your writing skills? My first suggestion is don’t buy a grammar workbook. Here is what I recommend:
1. Read, read, read. Reading is the best way to develop the language and thinking skills you need to become a top writer.
2. Analyze what you have read. What did the author do well? What didn’t work? What can you learn?
3. Plan each writing task. Before you begin your first draft, take a few minutes to answer these questions:
- Who will read your piece?
- What does your audience already know?
- What new are you going to tell them?
- How can you identify their interests?
- What can you give up?
- What are some stories and examples that can bring your ideas to life?
- How do you organize your ideas? For example, can you use the concept of “three” to create logic and flow? (Three Ways…Three Examples…Three Elements of…)
What about usage issues? Yes, usage errors can be a problem. But there are tricks to fixing them that don’t require a technical grammar vocabulary. Check out books and websites that offer quick writing solutions in everyday language and you’ll learn quickly.
Be patient, persevere and keep revising. You’ll soon realize you’re on the direct path to writing like a pro–and it feels great to finally be on your way.
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