How Important Is Grammar and Spelling in Writing?

by Sam H Arnold 4 months ago in teacher

Whether it's an academic essay, novel, or article.

How Important Is Grammar and Spelling in Writing?

It is a question I ask myself daily. As a teacher and writer, spelling and grammar is a constant in my life.

I work with some of the most reluctant students. Many have been excluded from school for behavioural reasons. Students exhibit behaviour for a variety of reasons. One of the most common is that they struggle at school. It is better to be a disruptive student and get removed from the class than admit you don't know something. Teenagers would rather be cool through their behaviour than labelled stupid.

In GCSE exams, both spelling and grammar are important. It is part of the marking criteria. But, with a new student who is picking up their pen for the first time, is it not important to correct these issues? When a reluctant student starts to write, you need to encourage free-flowing thought. Correcting spelling and grammar would interrupt this process.

This is Hemingway's reply to his newspaper editors, when they complained about his bad spelling:

"Well, that's what you're hired to correct!"

He was famous for spelling "loveing" and "moveing" with the "e" still attached.

As writers, how many of us concentrate on grammar during a first draft? I know I don't, especially as good grammar doesn't come naturally to me. I write and let my ideas follow, and then correct spelling and grammar on second and third drafts. I also use programs such as Grammarly to help with this process.

F. Scott Fitzgerald's editors had to correct hundreds of spelling mistakes in The Great Gatsby. One critic wrote,

"I have said that 'This Side of Paradise commits' almost every sin that a novel can possibly commit, but it does not commit the unpardonable sin: it does not fail to live."

Spelling and Grammar are Not Writing.

Writing is the process of transferring what is in your heart and head onto paper. Many famous authors have proven that, despite what teachers say, good grammar and spelling do not make you a good writer.

Within the school at which I work, I allow the rough drafts of student essays to be as rough as possible. As long as the content is there, the students can ignore spelling and grammar. I even encourage the students to use text speak, if they find it easier. This is the rough draft, and is about content and ideas, as it should be for many writers.

When they then polish this draft, I ask them to write in full, removing text speak, and looking at correcting their spelling and grammar issues. This is important, as it encourages the distinction between rough and final drafts.

After We Have Encouraged Students to Write.

They gain the confidence to produce a piece of writing. They have broken the stigma of being a stupid, disruptive student. They have started to achieve, and this feeling is addictive to them. We can then teach them the technical skills later.

Grammar and spelling are taught several terms after they start with us. With this, we teach them the main spelling rules to help them, and show them the basics of grammar. I also show them the programs that can help with this, such as spellcheck and Grammarly. I encourage them to look where they went wrong, and try to learn the skills.

I understand there are several English geniuses who would disagree with me. The English language is beautiful, and should be treated with the respect it deserves.

However, for me, is grammar important when teaching students English? Initially no, definitely not. The process of writing is much more important.

This is true for both students and writers.

If your spelling and grammar are poor, don't lose heart. Write anyway.

Yes, spelling and grammar are important, but not at the initial stage. Use the programs available to polish, after the content has been established. Enjoy your writing, and don't let the technical side of writing slow you down.

Sam H Arnold
Sam H Arnold
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Sam H Arnold
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