Are We Losing Our Ability to Write Well?


In the last couple of weeks the concept of good grammar has been showing up all around me.  The first incident came in the form of a colleague wanting to use more active verbs in one of his articles.  When I read the example he sent of a passive and active verb, it didn’t look right to me.  To verify my suspicions I went to my references and yes, indeed, his example of an active verb was incorrect.  It was as much a lesson for me as it was for him.

The second occasion was when I attended a tele-class entitled “Tightening Your Text Like a Pro” with Arielle Ford and Linda Sivertsen (it was fabulous).   What a great reminder of how many filler words we use (really, actually, that, etc.)  I took a look at some of my recent writing and realized I had fallen off the concise-writing wagon.  I went back to my exercise of cutting my word count in half whenever possible.

Then I read this article, “Many English Speakers Cannot Understand Basic Grammar”. Yikes.  Here was another reminder that we have not mastered the basic elements of English grammar.

All this was a wake-up call for me to revisit some of my trusted resources.  A thorough reference guide with easily skim-able content is Edit Yourself: A Manual for Everyone Who Works with Words by Bruce Ross-Larson.  If you don’t have a copy, check it out!

For instance, when was the last time you looked at your writing and thought, “Do I have any overweight prepositions?” Or have you wondered, “Do I use premature pronouns?”

Overweight Prepositions:

…with reference to                         Substitute: of, on, for, about

…in relation to                                   Substitute: on, about

Premature Pronouns:

If he scores a goal, Mario will be named MVP     Change to: If Mario scores a goal, he will be named MVP

Digest a few sections of this book at a time otherwise you will question your choice to be a writer at all!  My advice is to always look at your word count and find areas to delete.  Set a goal of cutting at least 30% on your first edit.  You will be surprised at how many extra words you have that take away from the potency of your text.

5 Responses to “Are We Losing Our Ability to Write Well?”

  1. 1 JoAnne Berg

    Thank you Christine! I am forwarding your post to all of my writer and blogger friends. I am sure they will appreciate it eventually…..

  2. 2 Shima

    Great content! Thanks! Editing on my 50,000 second book begins. Cutting 30% will add a few more chapters of quality content. how timely!

  3. 3 Pat Wooldridge

    This is an excellent, badly needed article. It is very timely for me, as I wrestle my novel down to 15% fewer words. (I expect that sentence flunked me as far as Grammar is concerned. :) ) Onward, upward, however. I aim for 15% fewer words at this point, because this is the second round of cutting. It’s as difficult for me to part with favorite words as to part with a much-loved purse.

  4. 4 Shirley

    I am more aware of what I am writting. Thanks

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