Learning to write

This might sound like a strange title for a post. After all, I do make my living from writing and I’m also doing very well in a subject that involves lots of writing at university.

I know we’re all supposed to get our grammar education while we’re at school, but it’s often not quite that simple. I seem to remember having English lessons that attempted to teach us the difference between a verb, a noun, and an adjective but I was never really that interested. I always figured that as long as I could express myself and be understood then it didn’t really matter. You see, there was just so much to learn about the world that grammar rules seemed to just not really be that important in the grand scheme of things.

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But the reality is that I’m now a writer and that means I have to hold myself to some sort of professional standard. So I invested in the Oxford style guides and have the Guardian version on the way . Now I can look up words and see if it should be newborn, new-born, or new born. I can see if it’s the right time to use an Oxford comma or if I should be using an Em rule or an En dash.

While the main reason for spending £40 on style guides is to improve my professional writing I’m also looking forward to improving my academic writing. I’m very good at what I do. I routinely have been getting marks of 75+ on both essays and exams. My grasp of the content of the modules we study is pretty good but I feel it’s my writing that lets me down.

I struggle to express myself in a nuanced way sometimes and find that I can’t write down exactly what I want to say. The words seem clumsy and inelegant too much of the time and they don’t do justice to the arguments I’m making.

So in the future I’m hoping that whenever I write academically or professionally I’ll just spend an extra bit of time checking things against the style guides and making the words play nicer together. And occasionally I’ll just dip into a few pages for fun to try and learn something new.