March 3, 2017 @ 11:55 AM

Seven sensible steps to success as a writer

Step 3: Understand how words work...

If we writers necessarily erect those constructs we call our books on the foundations of all that has gone before, words are the straw in the bricks we use to build them.

The initial idea might provide the blueprint – grammar and syntax give the cement and plumblines. But without the strength and cohesion of the words themselves, there is always a risk of the edifice collapsing to the ground.

Over the past few decades I got the impression there had been less emphasis in the schools on the rules of (English) spelling and sentence construction.

The philosophy seemed to be that the child would pick these things up when required.

But having seen many young adults struggle with written language, I was always somewhat dubious.

Certainly I’m glad there now seems to be a shift the other way in recent times.


Not that we should allow correct grammar and spelling to become prisons of self-expression. Properly understood they can become liberating – even broken in ways that allow the words to soar. Consider the flights of James Joyce.

But as somebody once said, you have to know the rules in order to break them. And without that understanding of words to begin with, even the bravest ideas can end up becoming mute in the ears of those whom a writer most wants to hear them.