Reading Good Stuff Translates to Writing, Speaking Well

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 and 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 my book. 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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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)