Susan McKerihan spent 20 years as the Plain English editor at PwC, and now has her own business training, coaching and advising businesspeople on how to improve the style and impact of their documents. She was a member of the review panel for Style Manual 6th edition (John Wiley, 2002) and her book on clear business writing, Clear & Concise, was published by Black Inc. in February 2015.
What led you to a career in the mechanics of English?
I’ve always been interested in language. I started learning Latin and French when I was very young, and discovered these amazing patterns and logic and rules. Then when I went to France to teach English, I had to learn how to explain structures that native speakers use instinctively. And now I’m finding that people are increasingly keen to understand grammar – many didn’t learn it at school – to help them with their writing and also when studying foreign languages.
Is a knowledge of grammar really essential?
Not essential – but a huge advantage. You don’t necessarily need a detailed knowledge of grammar, but to have credibility as a good writer you do need to get the basics right. And it will also help you understand the nuances of good writing.
What’s one key tip you have for writers interested in improving their understanding of grammar?
Start with the basics (terminology, verbs and tenses, punctuation, etc.) and become comfortable with those first. Then you can go deeper if you find it interests you. You might even become a grammar nerd like me!
Learn the basics of grammar in Susan’s Grammar Essentials workshop, held on Saturday 4 June, 10am-4pm at the NSW Writers’ Centre.