Why Knowing Grammar Doesn't Make You a Good Writer


We hear it all the time: "My team needs help with their grammar! They don't write well." Here's the truth: being a good grammarian has little to do with writing coherent, readable documents. I know that some of you are shocked, and I get it, but let me explain.

Why Grammar isn't Important

Okay, I used this particular heading to shock you and get you to continue reading. Grammar is important , but it is far less important than the ability to develop cogent ideas. If we think about this logically, it makes sense: you can hire an editor to fix someone's grammar, but you can't hire an editor to fix someone's thinking.

I would far prefer to have a team that can develop good ideas and content than a team that can't but whose documents have no grammatical or mechanical errors. This is not to suggest that grammar, contrary to my heading, isn't important, it is, as it provides a structure for language. But since we're talking about professionals here, not schoolchildren, I would argue that they should already have a sound foundation of fundamental grammar; thus, grammar isn't the problem.

Why Thinking is Important

Grammar is usually blamed for poorly written documents primarily because it's an easy target. Again, this isn't to suggest that workplace professionals don't write documents with poor grammar; in fact, many do. But the real issue is that it's the thinking, or lack thereof, that is the real cause of dismal documents, not grammar. As I posted in an earlier blog , lazy thinking produces lazy writing.

Most workplace professionals are intelligent; in fact, the ones we work with are brilliant, creative people who are successful and who are great problem-solvers. The issue for many is that they simply lack the tools they need to take those problem-solving skills and apply them to writing. Consequently, their documents are often a muddle of disjointed, unconnected thoughts that the reader is forced to unscramble if she has any hope of understanding the document at all.

Teaching Problem-Solving

The solution to overcome disjointed, unreadable documents is fairly simple: your team needs to understand how to apply the problem-solving and critical thinking skills they use every day to the writing process. Teaching them prewriting strategies (they don't have time to prewrite!), rather than delay the writing process, can actually streamline it and make them more efficient. Helping them articulate their goals for the document is another strategy that's quite successful.

Want to learn more secrets? We have them! For over 25 years, we've been teaching professionals how to use their problem-solving skills to write more effective documents. In fact, our clients hire us again and again because of the long-term improvement they see in their staff's writing.