Dr. Judith M. Newman

Spelling, Punctuation, Grammar & Style

Spelling, punctuation, grammar and style are often the primary concern of many writers—that's a holdover from school days where teachers emphasized "correctness".

In actual fact, a writer's first concern should be fluency—developing the ideas of any piece of writing. The second concern then becomes clarity—making the writing make sense to others. Finally comes correctness—making the text conform to the conventions of standard written English.

In other words, the developmental sequence for any piece of writing ought to be:

  • fluency
  • clarity
  • correctness

These three dimensions, of course, continually overlap; even experienced writers can have problems with fluency—particularly when writing on a new topic or in a new genre. Under those circumstances, focusing on correctness won't help with the problem; what you have to do is focus on invention and shaping ideas.

Once you have your ideas sorted out, the writing more or less clear, it does become appropriate, even mandatory, to think about the conventions of standard written English—to proofread to make sure spelling is correct, that grammar is conventional, that punctuation aids in making meaning, that word usage (or style) is acceptable.

There are a ton of resources online to assist you with spelling, punctuation, grammar, and style. One of the most comprehensive is:

As well check out other URLS:

Online Quizzes

Are you sure you have a handle on spelling, punctuation, and grammar?
Try the online quizzes below! Some of them are quite challenging. Answers are provided for all of them, explanations are provided with some.

This last quiz is an example of the GMAT - Verbal Assessment Test. Try the sentence correction portions. This quiz is challenging.