Don’t Worry Quite So Much About Spelling and Grammar, OK?

You need to focus on writing the story first.

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Spelling and grammar mistakes are still taboo in publishing; social media is a completely different discussion (perhaps we’ll get to that later, let me know if you’re interested in that). At least for me, spotting such an error on a website means I’ll probably be clicking away within the next 30 seconds or so. It completely dismantles credibility.

Yet we either completely obsess over it or disregard it completely … neither of which are good habits when it comes to writing things we intend to eventually publish.

You don’t want to completely ignore proper spelling and grammar – that does not make you look like much of an “expert.” But we can also swing the other way, and pay TOO much attention to it. This, as you might be able to guess, is something that slows down and even “blocks” many writers, preventing them from ever finishing anything at all.

Honestly? Stop worrying so much. It’s okay to let a few small errors go.

As long as it’s readable by the time you send something off to an editor (this is NOT the case for something you are publishing yourself), as long as there’s nothing more than the occasional wrong word used or simple grammatical error fixable by adding or deleting a few letters, there’s really no need to stress about it. Not right away, anyway.

Why? Because you need to focus on writing the story first. There’s nothing to edit if you haven’t actually written anything. What’s most important in the beginning is that you write your story. Then you go back and edit for content, making sure it all makes sense, figuring out what you need to add or take away, tying up all your loose ends. Then, and ONLY then, should you go back and edit for spelling and grammar.

BUT I ALWAYS STOP AND EDIT MY PARAGRAPHS, I CAN’T HELP IT …

Yes, you can. And the only way you can is by training yourself to ignore your red and green squiggly lines … or using a program that doesn’t nag you about your spelling and grammar mistakes, or turning off the feature in programs that do by default.

In many cases, a copy editor will come along later on in the process (I know, because I am one) and fix all your minor errors. But it is NOT fun for them if there are so many that your content is unreadable. Balance. Prioritize.  You have to train yourself to focus on one thing at a time. It takes awhile. Even I still catch myself going back and fixing little things as I’m writing. Try not to. Things are much easier if you take it only one layer at a time.

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

One thought on “Don’t Worry Quite So Much About Spelling and Grammar, OK?

  1. Wow, ok, so, this article just smacked me in the face, then swept my legs out from under me. (There, some humorous visualization for the morning.)
    I HATE grammatical and spelling errors, especially in my own work. A squiggly line means that as soon as I am done writing down my thought, or thoughts, I am going to go back and correct anything wrong. I always thought that you wanted your first copy to be as free from these errors as possible, so you, or someone else, could focus on content, not correcting.
    This has made me stop and think a bit about how I write. I will see if I can begin to “balance” some of it out.
    On the other hand, if you are self-publishing, you should probably write every draft with the spellcheck on. I am reading a series right now where i wonder if there was ever another person going through the drafts to catch any errors. It is so full of grammar issues, misspelled words and incomplete sentences. If the story were not so good, I would not have finished the second chapter.

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