I write like crap

So my current job requires me to write a lot more then I ever have before. One thing that I have started to notice is that my grammer is horrible and I have a serious issue with sentance structure.

Besides taking classes what would be a good way to help me become a better writer. I don’t want to become a professional writer or anything of the sort but I do want to improve my skills.

Anyone have any advice?

PS If there is a way to tie in playing WoW and improving my grammer by all means let me know! Though I expect that playing less WoW would also greatly improve my grammer.

Get “Elements of Style” by Strunk & White. Other than that, I would start a blog and just try to write a lot more, paying close attention to the rules in Elements of Style. The blog could even be about Warcraft! The world is in your hands.

Aren’t you a cop? I thought bad grammar went with police reports like bad handwriting and prescriptions.

Well, playing City of Heroes improved my typing skills. Grammar, not so much…

DC Dynamo couldn’t be bothered to slow down enough to properly conjugate his verbs.

After reading some of the reports that people have written I rather not follow that sterotype.

Get “Elements of Style” by Strunk & White.

Thanks I will check that out!

Something like that. Superspeed plus those energy melee moves were a pretty fun combination until they nerfed it.

Elements of Style I always thought of as more of a reference book. It would be hard to memorize that and then apply it to your writing.

Do you read a lot? I swear that one of the best things for improving your writing is doing a lot of reading. Because then you will see proper grammar and sentence structure and so on and it just gets absorbed into your bloodstream. It doesn’t have to be some super-intellectual reading, sci-fi novels are fine as long as they’re by decent writers (meaning the technical aspects of writing, not that they have to be good stories. Although that doesn’t hurt either!)

The advice to try writing more regularly (like a blog) is also good I think.

Three suggestions:

  1. Read more. And I don’t just mean messageboards. News papers/websites are a good place to start.
  2. If your employer offers business writing classes, take them. It couldn’t hurt.
  3. Try this: Write every messageboard post, e-mail, or blog entry as well as you can. Don’t take shortcuts, don’t be sloppy, and don’t make assumptions. It’s great practice, plus it makes you better understood.

Great. Now you’ve summoned DeepT. Although a new DeepT IHATECOH rant would probably make Marcus feel better about his writing ability.

Speaking of which – Marcus – your posts here are consistently readable and often enjoyable. I can’t recall a single instance where your usage has detracted from your message. You’re probably being a bit hard on yourself if you think your written expression is “crap.”

As far as real advice goes, the only reliable way to improve your natural style is to read more books of recognized literary merit. While there are several quality style manuals available for purchase, none of them will improve your actual writing ability. It’s like the difference between people with those word-of-the-day calendars who awkwardly and not-quite-correctly interject their newfound vocabulary into conversation and well read people who seem to have a “naturally” voluminous vocabulary.

So – knock yourself out and buy a style guide, but great writing really does seep in the more of it you read. It’s basically the GIGO principle. Which means all that Barrens chat will eventually destroy your ability to express yourself beyond the basic LOL CHUCK NORRIS LOL.

edit because lawyer Ryan sort of stole my thunder
The greater variety of writing styles you read, the more your writing will improve. If you limit yourself to pulp fantasy/sci-fi novels it’s unlikely you’ll experience any growth. You already write better prose than Robert Jordan, for example.

… if you need a supply of kindling. I won’t attempt to explain here why this is such a bad book, when Geoffrey Pullum (and others) over at languagelog do it with such humour and quality. Here, for example, some random blog has collected together some choice quotes.

Actually, reading all of languagelog might count as decent advice.

This is half right. It’s not about the variety of styles though; it’s about the quality of the writing. The pulp stuff won’t help you at all in this area. It may even hurt. Read GOOD books. Newspapers won’t work either, as they are full of bad grammar (most notably improper pronoun usage). Read classics. They are better than you think. Plus, they promote deep thinking.

I’ve occasionally come across the argument that once I pick apart someone’s writing skill; their lack of grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc; I’m being overly pedantic. If the goal of writing is to communicate and they have done just that. How flowery, or even stylistically different, do we allow writing? Is a run-on sentence really that terrible? Or is just a quirk of the author’s thought process? Did I just start a sentence with a particle? Is that even acceptable?

This writing thing confuses me.

Clearly ;)

Read books from the time before they used computers, and stay away from the internet
for a while to help purge the power it has to reduce your writing to the pre-school level.

Yes.

The “quirk” of not knowing about paragraphs makes me skip people’s posts,
and if they’re repeat offenders, put them on ignore. Kitsune’s famous Puke Information Attack
are OK, though. He knows about punctuation. He accepts paragraphs.

Marcus,

Writing as someone who has been writing for money for four decades, I would agree with many of the comments here.

Writing, like medicine, is a skill that develops with practice. You may not notice your style changing all that much as you improve, but you will notice that you can put things on the page that much more quickly.

Reading outside your area of interest can also be useful. You will likely find yourself paying more attention to how the sentences are built.

Classes could help because they will require you to write more and your writing will be evaluated for its structure rather than its content.

As for reading books on writing, I would recommend On Writing Well by William Zinsser.

Just do it like you are a teenage girl writing in her diary.

July 17th, 2006

Dear Diary,

Today I was out driving around and I totally saw this guy who looked completely suspicious. His car was totally grody and his tail light was more busted than Stephanie’s grill. Needless to say, I totally ran his plates and he came up like, totally suspended on his license. And get this, the plates on the car? Diary, they like, weren’t even registered to a car that looked ANYTHING like the car I was looking at.

So I totally pulled this guy over. I’m all like, license and registration? He’s all like, I don’t have any, I know I’m suspended. And I was like, “you know I can totally arrest you for this?” He’s all like, “yeah, wouldn’t be the first time.” I was like, “Well I’ll tell you what.”

And I was totally about to just write this guy a ticket when I saw him trying to jam a pastic baggie down between his seat cushions. So I totally know that he’s hiding drugs, but I played all dumb like, “Excuse me sir, please step out of the car.” He totally did, like a dumbass and then I asked him if I could look through his car, which he said was fine, which was like, I dunno, ok.

So at that time, Diary, I asked my partner to let him try on those fancy bracelets that my dad makes us carry everywhere. He put them on and they looked good. So I’m scrounging inbetween his seat cushions, totally finding like, cassette singles of 80’s songs that I totally loved but hadn’t thought about in a long time.

Anyways, I found the guy’s pot, but I’m supposed to act dumb about what it is until some scientist does some crap with it. So I’m all like, “I observed a greefy leafy substance in a small plastic baggie.” I asked the guy if it was his, and he was like, “no.” And I was all like, “Seriously? Then can I have it?” And he’s all like, “Sure.” So then I was totally like, “HA! Then it is yours! If it was somebody else’s, you would have said you’d have to ask them before I could have it!” He totally looked down at his feet and I know he felt dumb.

I was all like, if it’s your pot though, you have to tell me. Because I can’t write you a ticket for simple possession if it isn’t yours, I have to take you to the station and do a bunch of stuff to you and make you sit there for a while and get yelled at. If you want to get yelled at by Detective Jarkovitz, that’s fine, but whaTEVS.

http://www.bartleby.com/141/

I don’t think Elements of Style is a total waste. It’s worth passing through, at least, as is available online for free.

If you do it like Flowers suggests, you have to pretend it’s your first time or it just won’t work.

My brother is a cop and apparently has a lot of fun with his reports. His peers all love to read them because he tries to make them exciting. I always laugh when I hear this. Where do these reports go? I am sure most of them sit on a computer somewhere, but don’t they occasionally go to court or (god forbid) SmokingGun.com or something. If you’re writing stuff like, “the firey red camaro came screaming around the corner…” aren’t judges and lawyers going to be like CASE DISMISSED!

I agree with the suggestion to write more. It doesn’t have to be a blog. It can just be ten minutes a day in a journal. Like anything, the more you practice, the better you get. I also agree with reading more. Don’t worry about reading anything fancy or literary, but just read what you enjoy.