Writers On Writing / Eliminating Errors with Tony Spencer-Smith

“Grammar and punctuation are generally as natural to us as the air we breathe. They are the way any language works.” Despite the importance of grammar, many people still struggle.
Join Tony Spencer-Smith for his workshop Eliminating Errors on Saturday 22 September to learn what you need to know in order to write well.

Tony Spencer-Smith, an award-winning novelist and former Editor-in-Chief of Reader’s Digest magazine, is a highly experienced corporate writing trainer. He is a partner in Express Editors and author of the The Man Who Snarled at Flowers and The Essentials of Great Writing. Ahead of his one day course at Writing NSW, Grammar and Punctuation Made Easy, we spoke to Tony about allowing your writing to shine by eliminating grammatical errors.

What is it about grammar that people find scary? 
There are two very different reasons for people fearing grammar. The first is that they were taught it in a way that overwhelmed them with complex terminology and detail they didn’t even need. The other is that they were not really taught it at all, as was the case with many Australians, which leaves them very vulnerable to making errors without even realising it. The good news is that grammar can be taught in a practical way, concentrating only on the areas essential for speaking or writing well. Then it turns out not to be scary at all.

Do people have trouble with recurring topics in grammar and punctuation? The old apostrophe-s (’s or s’?) dichotomy comes to mind.
Very much so. I see the same errors over and over again. The apostrophe is one of the trickiest punctuation marks. People are unsure when and how to use it. Everyone has seen cucumber’s for sale at greengrocers. And what about the unintended cannibalism in Let’s eat grandma? That comes from being careless with commas.

When it comes to grammar, there are certain rules people struggle with. For instance, they might use the plural form of a verb when the singular is needed, as in: Our objective in the next quarter are to increase sales and build our brand. Or they might get the case of a pronoun wrong, as in: Between you and I, he is horrible. Or they might write something silly such as: Beautifully basted and cooked to perfection, the diner tucked into her steak. Learning the rules that are being broken here is quick and easy.

Isn’t it just pedantic to worry about finicky grammar rules?
The reality is that many people get irritated when they see grammar or punctuation errors. And they tend to devalue your writing because of that, which means the important things you are saying might not get through to them. The errors become stumbling blocks to your making a good impression. Eliminating errors will make your writing easier to read, avoid misunderstandings and allow your ideas to shine.

Grammar and Punctuation Made Easy with Tony Spencer-Smith will take place at Writing NSW on Saturday 22 September, 10am-4pm. Book your spot here >

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