Do I need to master grammar to be a better writer?

shattered glass from a car wreckThere are hundreds, probably thousands, of books on the market that deal with the craft of writing—learning plot, character development, story arc, and such. But sadly missing from the list is grammar.

I know it’s a school subject many people hated. Do they still make kids learn how to diagram a sentence? Maybe diagramming a sentence is what turned us off.

But lately I’ve been stuck on grammar. So much so that I’m rereading one of my college text books. As an editor I need to know the rules, otherwise how
can I fix the errors in someone’s work? But how does knowing grammar apply to you, the writer?

Every craft and trade have their fundamentals. Photographers study light. Artists study color. Electricians study current. Accountants study math.

For the writer, grammar is a fundamental. I know I’m going to take some flack for this. But if you want to write amazing books people can’t stop talking about, then you need to master grammar. Not whether you can name all those parts of speech, but how all those parts work together to make sentences that explode with creative energy.

nuclear explosion

“When words collide, they can collide like trucks on the highway, all bent fenders and shattered glass. Or they can collide like atoms of uranium, releasing power and force. …The study of grammar is more than the study of the rules and regulations that give order and structure to the language. The study of grammar is the key to the power of words.” ~When Words Collide, by Lauren Kessler and Duncan McDonald

If you choose to rely on your elementary school grammar lessons, then realize the trade off: spending lots of money to have an editor fix your errors.

Maybe I’m way out of line here. But if you want to make writing a career, if you want to hit the best seller list, if you want to win book awards, then spend time learning and mastering grammar.

And since this topic probably nauseates you, why spend money for a book on Amazon? Make a visit to your library. I’m positive they have more than one book on the topic.

Persevere at learning the fundamentals of your craft and you will reap the rewards.

Want to get published but don’t know where to start?

Maybe you have a finished manuscript or just an idea stuck in your head. Email me today at Deb [at] DebraLButterfield [dot] com, and let's discuss how I can help you reach your dream of publication.


  1. Edward Arrington says:

    I am not an author but I read a lot of books. On occasion, I have read a book that appears to have been written by someone who flunked English and failed to use the services of an editor. Or maybe the editor also flunked English. Keep hammering at this, Debra. When I am reading a good suspense novel, I want to devote my brain power to solving the mystery, not trying to sort out what the author was attempting to say. I mentioned a suspense novel because that is a favorite genre, but I would apply this to any book regardless of genre.

    • I’ve had this same experience, Edward. Thanks for being a voice for the reader on how important this subject is.

  2. I’m forever taking some of those grammar quizzes online. I suppose I’m hoping I haven’t forgotten as much as I fear I have. Great advice, Debra. If we are well grounded and constantly refreshed, then even when we purposefully write “wrong” for impact we do that better as well.

    • Vicki, so true about writing wrong for impact. You can’t do that if you don’t understand the rules.

      • Do you have an opinion on the use of Grammarly? Do you think using something like that is helpful? If you’ve commented on it before, sorry I missed it.

  3. Boring… but oh so very very true!

  4. sheriena1951 says:

    Good article. I have two college writing handbooks that I should read, maybe one page a day. That shouldn’t be too much to ask of myself.

    • Sheriena, I take my book to doctor appointments and read during my wait time. Any time I expect a wait, I carry a book.

  5. julielcasey says:

    Fantastic advice! Thanks so much for this post, Debra!

%d bloggers like this: