Instructionals, Pt. 8: The Mechanics of Writing

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I would like to start this article by stating that I am probably the world’s worst person to tell someone else about grammar! I am pretty good at spelling, and I can usually tell if something “sounds right,” but I admit to never taking a formal grammar course. Thus, I don’t employ extremely accurate grammar rules on a regular basis.

That said, I am well aware of the fact that having good grammar, as a writer, is enormously important. It makes your writing professional, and concise. As a writer, you are a role-model of the English language, and you should represent to the best you can.

Sometimes, grammar correction should be left until editing. Many times, though, it is easier on yourself, your editor, and your readers to simply start writing with good grammar in your first draft. In my case, I do the best I can to come out with my best draft, then I encourage my editors and proofreaders to find all of my mistakes. Again, this is because I severely lack grammar knowledge

Grammar Resources

Here are some external articles that might be nice to look over. They point out some of the more obvious flaws that many people don’t catch. In addition to these posts, you can try to find some sort of grammar course, just so you can know whether the infinitive noun goes before or after an ablative verb clause… Or whatever.
Another thing that helps is to read. Reading, especially with classic literature, can help you get a feel for what “sounds right.” In my case, this is the limit of my grammar training. Soon, I’ll take my eduction further, but for right now– I’m just happy to learn from reading!

The Editing Checklist

I picked up a book from the 50 cent shelf at the library, and I thought it was interesting. In the front cover of this “Literature for Composition (Fourth Edition)”, is the following editing checklist. Keeping these in mind will help with any form of writing, and they are good to keep in mind as you write and edit. Use the list to evaluate your work once you’re done with it, to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered.
  • Is the title of my essay at least moderately informative and interesting?
  • Do I identify the subject of my essay (author and title) early?
  • What is my thesis? Do I state it soon enough (perhaps even in the title) and keep it in view?
  • Is the organization reasonable? Does each point lead into the next without irrelevancies and without anticlimaxes?
  • Is each paragraph unified by a topic sentence or a topic idea? Are there adequate transitions from one paragraph to the next?
  • Are generalizations supported by appropriate concrete details, especially by brief quotations from the text?
  • Is the opening paragraph interesting and, by its end, focused on the topic? Is the final paragraph conclusive without being repetitive?
  • Is the tone appropriate? No sarcasm, no apologies, no condescension?
  • If there is a summary, is it as brief as possible, given its purpose?
  • Are the quotations adequately introduced, and are they accurate? Do they provide evidence and let the reader hear the author’s voice, or do they merely add words to the essay?
  • Is the present tense used to describe the authors work and the action of the work (“Shakespeare shows,” “Hamlet dies“)?
  • Have I kept in mind the needs of my audience, for instance, by defining unfamiliar terms or by briefly summarizing works or opinions that the reader may be unfamiliar with?
  • Is documentation provided where necessary?
  • Are the spelling and punctuation correct? Are other mechanical matters (such as margins. spacing, and citations) in correct form? Have I proofread carefully?
  • Is the paper properly identified– author’s name, instructor’s name, course number, and date?
I will definitely use this checklist all the time!

Break The Rules

Sometimes rule-breaking is okay, and even encouraged. Writing is not like math, where everything must be accurate and precise. Writing is meant to get across a point– to convey a message. It’s an art form. As long as what you write conveys your point, then who cares if you broke a rule? The Grammar Police only exist on Facebook. So go ahead and mess up– on purpose, or by accident! Your editors and proofreaders will (hopefully) catch your accidents!

Next Article – Are You Telling or Showing?

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