Clear writing, without doubt, depends on good sentence construction. This in turn requires that you take account of the definition of words and the relationship which words bear to each other. This blog explains why learning word association is important in developing clear writing skills and why memorization of grammar rules, the traditional approach to learning English grammar, is not necessary.
It has been my personal experience that as you train yourself to observe and appreciate good writing, you can likewise train yourself to develop and employ good writing habits in constructing sentences. This result cannot be accomplished by memorization of rules, which will have little effect on learning and understanding the context with which words are used.
The best expression of ideas through good grammar can be learned by observing the association of the right word with the appropriate context in a sentence. The emphasis should be on training yourself to carefully observe how grammar is used in putting sentences together and to constantly practice what you have learned in your writing.
The point was well made many years ago by the late Sherwin Cody, who authored several books and self study courses on writing and learning good English. In his book, New Art Of Writing and Speaking The English Lanaguage, (1933, pp. 58- 59), Cody wrote that in studying grammar, it is first necessary to understand “a few general principles on which sentences are constructed”, and then train your mind to the “logical analysis of word relationships.” He explained that you can learn grammar by “original processes, not by authorities and rules.” In other words, you cannot become an accomplished writer until you can proceed with your writing without “remembering a single rule or definition.” That is precisely my point here.
Clear writing can be achieved even if you are unable to apply grammatical labels to the various parts of speech contained in a sentence. Even if you cannot diagram a sentence to break out the parts of speech or if you don’t know a pronoun from an adverb, you can still learn to write clearly. Studying the logical relationship of words in a sentence as you read is most important in learning the practical skill of word usage. In this way you need not concern yourself with the technical definition of, for example, weak or buried verbs, as long as your eye is practiced enough to pick them out of a sentence.
This level of writing ability can only be achieved through dedicated study and the continued practice of writing. The secret is practice, practice, practice, and also, read extensively. Read books, magazines, and newspapers, to see how experienced writers put words and sentences together. This will help you develop the right “feel” for your writing.
I urge you to follow this approach.
ARNOLD G. REGARDIE
Copyright 2012 Arnold G. Regardie. All rights reserved.