Grammar Isn’t Enough: The Limitations of Academic-Style Writing


When developing writing skills, a solid grasp of grammar is fundamental.
In fact, grammar is essential not just to writing well; good grammar will also ensure readers stay focused on what the writer is saying, rather than on its grammatical flaws. When a written document is marred by repeated and distracting errors in areas such as incorrect verb tense, punctuation use, or word usage (like “to” instead of “too” or “two”), the reader’s focus will immediately shift to those issues rather than the document’s message.
Thanks to the sheer importance of good grammar, when businesses want to develop their teams’ writing skills, they often turn to academic instructors well-versed in the intricacies of the English language. In fact, many colleges and universities even offer writing programs specifically aimed at working professionals.

But here’s a word of warning: grammar isn’t enough. 

At most, the rules of grammar are where you start. It’s not where writing training should stop. That’s because teaching the rules of language construction isn’t enough to write professional documents that can reliably achieve desired outcomes.
For example, even grammatically flawless documents can still:
  • Fail to answer the reader’s questions or persuade the reader.
  • Confuse the reader rather than clarify the issues discussed.
  • Be just plain boring, so the reader doesn’t engage with or remember the material.
  • Use too many words, such that the reader stops reading.

So, if your writing skills’ development is academically oriented and mostly focused on writing correctly, your team may fail to learn the skills associated with writing effectively.

Why would academics who specialize in grammar be unable to teach business writers to write effectively? Well, the answer is that they themselves may have never been formally trained to teach writing. Kate Walsh, former president of the National Council on Teacher Quality, told The New York Times that “a scan of course syllabuses from 2,400 teacher preparation programs turned up little evidence that the teaching of writing was being covered in a widespread or systematic way.” Just knowing grammar is, again, not enough.
Worse, too much focus on grammar can potentially even degrade writing quality. The New York Times reports on research that “students exposed to a glut of such instruction perform worse on writing assessments.”
That might be because good writing isn’t going to be just grammatically correct; it’s also going to be readable, understandable, impactful, persuasive, and goal-oriented. But developing those added skills means going far beyond just learning good grammar. Thus, an academic program that focuses entirely or mostly on the rules of good grammar won’t get your business writers where they need to go.
What’s the alternative? Professional, dedicated writing training that’s tailored to and personalized for business writers to help them develop the skills specifically for effective business or technical writing while also delivering high ROI.

Ready to Learn the Tactics for Expert Writing? Explore our courses to find the training your team needs!

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