How can I improve my grammar… without hardly trying?

Like to improve your grammar? Who wouldn’t.
We’ve all been caught out by the grammar police. That terrible smile when they remind you of your mixed tenses, clumsy constructions, and split infinitives. Wouldn’t it be nice to get a real understanding of grammar?

How to improve your grammar

As someone who’s struggled with dyslexia through school (when the condition wasn’t even known) and my professional career, grammar proved to be a minefield.
The paradox at school was that while I loved language, I was often felt let down by the clumsy way I’d apply the rules of grammar to essays, short stories and (later on) novels.
Something I sidestepped for many years was getting to grips with the basics of grammar. In my heart, I felt it would be too difficult. Try as I might, I knew I’d defeat myself if I tried.
In reality, I was probably a bit scared of failure and… lazy.
Finally, I got tired of my own excuses and tackled it.
So, here’s how to get started:

  1. Admit to yourself that your grammar isn’t the best, and that you’d like to improve it. That’s enough to get started. Once you recognize it’s a problem, you can look for a solution.
  2. Sign up for a few newsletters about writing, grammar and words. Anything that stretches you a little. Surround yourself with new sources of information that develop your skills in a nice, steady way.
  3. Keep a dictionary next to your desk. Go sell yourself short. Buy a nice book that you’ll keep for years. Even better – buy an antique dictionary. It’s hard not to leaf through a lovely old book and learn new words… without really trying.
  4. Learn a new language. The enthusiasm of learning new words will carry into other areas and improve your grammar skills in the process. Again, keep it light. Enjoy the process.
  5. Focus on one topic every week. For example, learn the difference between a colon and a semicolon. Really nail it so you never have to think twice about this again. Then move onto another area, for example, adjectives. Jump in deep (just for one week) and learn everything you can about this one area.
  6. Read a newspaper with a highlighter in hand. Circle every word you don’t understand. Look up those that catch your attention. The more you do this, the faster you’ll zip through the dictionary.
  7. Identify errors in newspapers. Or what you think are errors. Look them up and work out for yourself if they’re correct.

Don’t:

  • Try to do too much too soon.
  • Expect overnight result.
  • Let it slide after the first week.

Finally, reward yourself when you see little victories.
Here’s three books that might help:

PS: be your own best friend when you try to go this. Surround yourself with quality materials, and enjoy the process of learning. And before you know it, what seemed impenetrable will suddenly become clear 🙂

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