While searching online for tips about writing headlines, I found a Philippine newspaper with a story by Ambeth R. Ocampo, who reflects on how she became a writer.
Ms. Ocampo was introduced to Middle English and Chaucer in high school. “The language was Greek to my classmates,” she recalls, “but I marveled at the mere sound of the Canterbury Tales even if I couldn’t make out what the professor was reading. The same was true for Shakespeare.”
She remembers having to read a play every year in college. Referring to the text on the left pages and obscure footnotes on the right pages, she says with self-deprecating humor, “I marveled at these erudite notes, developing in the process my lifelong love for useless information.”
She also remembers failing a grammar test because she didn’t know a gerund from an adverb. Her insightful teacher gave her a second chance:
She gave me another test that required me to spot mistakes in a text and correct them. I got a perfect score, and when she asked me to explain how I did it I simply replied: ‘It sounds wrong.’ From then on she just made me write, and I have been writing since.
I have read in multiple sources that one of the best ways to learn to write well — and to speak well, for that matter — is to read, read, read.
There are too many grammar rules to know or remember them all. And there are too many variations and exceptions to master what is right in every communication scenario.
That’s why I offer free monthly tips to people who want to expand their understanding of what is considered conventional English: Killer Tips from the Ruthless Editor.
And that’s why I’ve published a book: Grammar For People Who Hate Rules. It is short on rules and long on examples, underscoring what Ms. Ocampo found: You might not be able to recite a rule, but you’ll learn to recognize what sounds right.
To fine-tune your writing and elevate your speaking to a new level, take a look at Grammar For People Who Hate Rules. It’s packed with examples of standard American English. You’ll find it on Amazon, or you can order it at your favorite bookstore.
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