I Need Your Opinion

WANA: We may not have it all together, but together we have it all.

Today, I’m asking for your input on something. I hope you’ll give me some honest feedback about this. Not what you think I want to hear but what you really think.

Let me start by admitting that substance is more important than form. The story you tell is more important than the grammar you use in telling. I realize that. But in my opinion that doesn’t mean grammar is of no importance at all.

A lot of authors are putting out a lot of good books with powerful stories these days. With the burgeoning growth of e-publishing I expect to see a real explosion in the number of new books coming out. That should provide a lot of good reading. But . . .

(Please don’t take what I’m about to say as a personal affront. This is about all those other writers, not you.)

Most of the books I read seem to be written with fifth grade grammar. I may be alone here, but it takes me out of a story when the author makes gross grammatical errors. I lose track of the story and dwell on the poor grammar. Probably most people are not as OCD about this as I am, but I’ll bet you have a pet grammatical error that puts you off, too.

We can find books and conferences and seminars and online courses about using social media, writing successful blogs, and structuring novels, but there’s little available to help with the use of the language. It’s a situation I’d like to help correct. Several writers I know were talking about fields of expertise recently, and grammar seemed to be the only writing-related field where I possess any real expertise.

I may be given an opportunity to develop an online course in grammar for writers and link up with a source that would send potential enrollees to me. This idea appeals to me, especially if I could develop a large enough customer stream to make it profitable.

In order to develop the course, however, I would have to take time away from other writing. I have no idea how much time, but I know it would be significant. Well worth my while if the course developed enough income for me to offset the loss from delaying getting a book published.

On the other hand, the whole thing would be a colossal waste of time if it turns out no one was interested in such a course. I’d be much better off continuing what I’m doing in that case.

What do you think? Are you satisfied with your own mastery of grammar? Would you be interested in such a course? If you’re satisfied with your own, do you think most writers are okay with their use of the language? Please comment with some honest opinions.


clip_image001David N. Walker is a Christian father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years as a health insurance agent. Most of that career was spent in Texas, but for a few years he traveled many other states. He started writing about 20 years ago, and has six unpublished novels to use as primers on how NOT to write fiction. Since his retirement from insurance a few years ago, he has devoted his time to helping Kristen Lamb start Warrior Writers’ Boot Camp and is currently writing a book of Christian inspiration and insight.


About David N. Walker

David N. Walker is a Christian husband, father and grandfather, a grounded pilot and a near-scratch golfer who had to give up the game because of shoulder problems. A graduate of Duke University, he spent 42 years in the health insurance industry, during which time he traveled much of the United States. He started writing about 20 years ago and has been a member and leader in several writers' groups. Christianity 101: The Simplified Christian Life, the devotional Heaven Sent and the novella series, Fancy, are now available in paperback and in Kindle and Nook formats, as well as through Smashwords and Kobo. See information about both of these by clicking "Books" above.
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52 Responses to I Need Your Opinion

  1. Brian Hicks says:

    Just echoing everyone’s affirmation, David. The challenge is that everyone thinks it’s for “all those other writers.” (as I believe you mentioned)

    While it’s true that we’re not trying to replace the editors, our goal should be to write better, stronger prose and to make our editor’s life a little easier. Semicolon, colon, dash, em dash…Gets a little tedious over 90,000 words, don’t you think? And who wants to THAT writer to an editor?

    Compared to many in my circle, I like to think I had some better English teachers along the way. Then I come across a rule I never knew, and suddenly realize I’m not so much good as just blissfully ignorant.

    Compounding the problem, is that we subconsciously pick up bad habits from blogs, magazines and even books.

    The thing that occasionally keeps me up at night is the recognition that I don’t know what I don’t know. Therefore, my writing is weaker & sentences poorly structured and I’M CLUELESS ABOUT IT! In fact, I actually think I don’t need any help! Meanwhile, someone is out there reading my book with a red pen… if they haven’t already closed it in frustration.

    To me, that’s your marketing hook… and I’d be interested.

    Thanks David!


    • Thanks for your comments, Brian. I think we all flail around when we’re immersed in something we don’t understand. I bug Jenny Hansen and a few others all the time about tech stuff, because I don’t know what it is I don’t understand.


  2. WriteMemphis says:

    Grammar Guy ….. I’ll be looking for you!


  3. M-C. Houle says:

    English is my second language, so I am always looking to improve my skills.
    I would be interested by such a class.


  4. I think that’s a great idea. I have to stop and correct grammar as I read, which jars me from the story. Hate that.

    I love Grammar Girl because she makes it simple, so if you could create a class that brings the tougher issues down to an easy to understand (AND REMEMBER) level, you’ll have a class I’d sign up for.


  5. Jess Witkins says:

    I’m not so sure much of this is taught in school anymore. Perhaps in grade school, but then we’re all expected to just know. And like you pointed out, with the increase in e-publishing, texting, facebook status reports, all our writing is getting more and more slang. I think this class would be very beneficial for those looking to get professional assistance and build their own career up. Knowing the craft can only help us more. I’d be down for a class like this!


  6. Jenny Hansen says:

    It’s funny, David. I know what good grammar looks like but I don’t know what it’s called. My spelling is excellent but my sentence construction is pretty medium.

    I’d love to hear more about your class. 🙂


  7. cctexasskies says:

    I feel I’m great in grammar so long as my critique partner reads and fixes me! She never fails to find errors even though I’m positive the page is perfect! I should and will sign up for classes if you take the plunge. From the comments, it seems others will beat down your online door to enroll. I’ll be looking for a tweet!! Thanks, David


  8. Barb Estinson says:

    You certainly got a lot of support for your grammatical services, David. It will be interesting to see how you develop the class. I had to shake my head when reread my earlier post, as there were some obvious typos. Duh!!! Apparently my i key is sticky and I have to hit it hard for it to work. Oh well.



  9. Thanks, Ashley. I’ll be posting the announcement on Twitter and maybe writing a blog about it when the first class is ready.


  10. I agree with everyone. As Jillian mentioned, we are wearing many hats and have limited budgets. If you offered a service/class that was affordable, I think you might have a group of us standing in line : )


  11. Jeff says:

    Oh…I guess I should have said that you should definitely go for it!


  12. Jeff says:

    At the risk of sounding arrogant, I’m pretty well satisfied with my own command of grammar and the English language. Occasionally, something will slip by, and I will go back later, read my blog, and say, “AAAUUGH!! Did I type THAT??” I definitely understand your frustration, though. I became dissatisfied with Southern Baptist Sunday School literature decades ago, because it was written at about a sixth-grade level. For adults. I found it shallow and insulting. It got to a point where I wouldn’t even read it.

    It is my opinion that the Earth is most certainly doomed. 🙂


  13. Karlene says:

    Most definitely I would be interested in improving. The question would be,… how will you plan to implement. I learn from reading books. And use my internet for writing and interaction with others.
    I could see a great value in this if each lesson enabled someone to submit examples and learn from their work. I love taking classes, but the reason I do is learning from interacting, discussions, real time stuff. Otherwise I read for the flexibility with my time.
    I’m thinking this is a good thing to do. Are you ready for the job? Oh…by the way… my book is out! Nook coming soon. Kindle up. Amazon out of stock. Check out my blog today. Hopefully when you read my book you won’t be dragged down by grammar issues. 🙂


  14. I have to concur with everyone above. I think this is a fabulous service and much needed. Some of the people who need the service/course most might not get that they are indeed perfect for it, but others who want to better their craft will. We jokingly refer to my husband as my ‘technical editor’ because he reads my work with a fine eye to all things grammatical. My major is in Writing and Literature, but not English, so I am thankful my husband is as OCD as you!

    I definitely think there is a market for this, but I also think you should consider calling it something else besides a grammar class.


  15. Sherry J. Walker says:

    I think that developing a refresher course in grammar is a wonderful idea. Unfortunately, I did not get a good grounding in basic English in high school and college was a real struggle. I would like to take a refresher course in English grammar and relearn some basics I should have learned years ago.

    If you do this best of luck!


  16. I would suggest that not just grammer, but how to add polish to your book? That’s one thing I really notice is that so many books just lack polish, that shine of crisp writing and a smoothness that takes you into the story instead of being aware you are reading.


  17. The idea is innovative enough to attract those in need. And, from what I see in the self-publishing arena, there are many wonderful writers that would benefit from such course. In addition you could also offer editorial services.
    English is my second language and, despite studying it for many years, I would like to have an option of a grammar and punctuation class right at my fingertips 🙂
    Go for it, my friend! The writing community will thank you.


  18. susielindau says:

    I was educated in the Catholic school system and they were sticklers for grammar.

    When I think I am ready to publish my WIP, I plan to pay for a thorough cleanse with an editor who will go through it with a fine tooth comb. I can’t believe writers aren’t doing that.

    Even though I think I understand grammar for the most part, I still make stupid mistakes! Being human sucks.

    I think you should go for it David. I bet you will get a great response.


  19. Barb Estinson says:

    Ah yes, David. You and I were raised by the Grammar Police. I have the same reactions when reading somethng with poor grammar or spelling. That said, sometmes I think it isn’t as important as my reactions merit. In published works though, I do think it is important. I’m currently reading a mediocre book which has more than its share of mistakes. It’s a chore to read it anyway … but I want to finish it. I like the idea of offering your services as editor … I think more people would take advantage of that. In writing dialogue, I’m sure it’s important to use language appropriate to the character … and that may mean acceptng colloquialisms and/or poor grammar … but other than that, I’m all for the form being correct. Barb


  20. Marcia says:

    There is certainly a need. I’m a stickler for grammar and spelling, too. I’ve proofread books and found tons of errors made by very intelligent people.
    I think some might have too big an ego to take the class, but the majority of those out there, who know they aren’t proficient with grammar, would be relieved to have this sort of help.
    I agree with Renee. Proofreading/copy editing might be a more accepted and profitable way to go about it. Egos wouldn’t be potentially bruised. I would also definitely be up for that! I’ve considered doing it myself.
    Great idea, David. Definitely keep us all updated!


  21. The problem with such a course is that those most in need of it, would be least likely to attend, IMO.

    I’m a big fan of grammar sites like Missed Periods and Other Grammar Scares, Grammar Girl, and a few others. Despite that, I still make some mistakes. If such a course was a) affordable, and b) looked like fun, I would consider joining. But like every other writer, so many demands on my time, it would have to be *really* enticing.

    I think some writers do have serious grammar issues, but I don’t *read* many of them. If it’s a book, I stop reading. If it’s a blog, I will visit and not follow. I don’t purchase many books unless I have either downloaded a sample chapter or browsed it, and know I like the writing, or already like the author, or in some way it’s “homework,” something I need to read for research purposes.

    P.S. Like many people, you’re joking about perhaps being *OCD*, but the mental disorder where people nitpick and obsess over small mistakes is *OCPD*, a small, but important distinction.


    • Thanks for your comments, Beverly. I’m sure a lot of the people who need it the most will avoid it like the plague, but I’m humbled by the number of good writers commenting here see the need for it and indicate an interest in taking such a course themselves.


  22. Jillian Dodd - Glitter, Bliss and Perfect Chaos says:

    I think that is a great idea. As more and more writers are self publishing, this will become more and more valuable. When you self publish, you often have to wear multiple hats, simply because you can’t afford to pay someone to do it for you. So you do it all. You are writer, editor, proofreader, cover designer, and marketer. So any reasonably priced class that allows you to do it yourself will do well!! I hope it all works out!!


  23. There certainly appears to be a need. As a former teacher, spelling and grammar errors leap off the page when I read, as though I have radar. When I first became involved in indie publishing, I was shocked to discover there were so many books that needed serious editing. I’ve never understood why writers would publish without it. Your idea is a good one and I wish you the best of luck with it. I’ll be happy to promote your services on my blog any time so please keep me updated!


  24. Leonie Lucas says:

    It’s been many long years since I was taught grammar in school and while I still know a semi-colon from an apostrophe I also know that my skills have depleted somewhat. The short answer is: heck, yes! I want in!

    Yes, the content is key but if you lose readers through poor grammar then the content just doesn’t matter any more.

    (Oh and I had to go back over this comment to check my grammar, giggle)


  25. As an English Prof, I agree: many writers with great content put out poorly edited books. I’m not sure if the goal would be to fix the writers so much as to offer your services as a copy-editor or proofreader.


    If you do this, I so want in.

    I think I’m better at this than writing looks. Don’t get me wrong, my WIP is going to be awesome (and error-free), but I’m a teacher.

    Just give me a red pen.

    I’ll fix it. For a price.


  26. This is a great idea. I know my writing could always use some work. I know the difference between there, their and they’re, however, someone read my blog and said they “loved the plain spoken English of my site” and went on to say that I “speak for the belligerent in us all.”

    I wasn’t quite sure how to feel about that.

    I do own “Elements of Style” but I think an online group with other writers would be wonderful.

    And, I have read some self-published e-books that were simply dreadful as far as grammar go.

    So… yes! I think you should give it a go. 🙂


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