Deborah Bancroft

Editor & Writing Coach: Making Words Behave Since 1996

Editorial Services

The Good News About Grammar
(and all the other boring details about writing)

It is my firm belief that grammar and spelling are the least important aspects of writing.

There. I said it, and it can’t be unsaid.

Punctuation is only the tiniest bit more important, but only so we can tell the difference between “The editor said the writer is brilliant” and “The editor, said the writer, is brilliant.”

If you get stuck when you’re writing because you can’t remember the proper use of the semi-colon, I know one thing for sure: somebody was mean to you about semi-colons. And probably every other “essential” writing skill.

Here’s the good news: Ignore it. All of it.

You don’t need to know the proper use of the semi colon, or whether a range of dates takes an em-dash or an en-dash, or whether the subjunctive is appropriate when the action is possible…

You don’t need to know any of that stuff. Why?

Here’s a little story:

I was always the annoying kid who asked “Why do I need to know this?” in math class. My geometry teacher said that one day I might want to put in wall-to-wall carpet and how would I figure out the square footage?

I said, “I don’t need to figure out the square footage. That’s what the carpet guys do.”

Why don’t you need to know all those twiddly little rules about grammar and punctuation and usage?

Because that’s what I do.