Editors use grammar that is current and clear

Effective editors appreciate good grammar

(and avoid unnecessary alliteration, among other things)


Grammar convention must be current

Because language changes over time, our writing needs to reflect this. We often associate grammar with English teachers and authors, but editors and proofreaders also have the skill to identify problems in sentence construction or ways to improve the order of words and phrases. Editors stay abreast of common trends and current conventions in language through commitment to ongoing professional development.


Good grammar improves your message

I recently attended a grammar webinar and was reminded of numerous factors affecting what we write and how we write. This is particularly important in the context of professional or business writing and academic work. An editor corrects grammar with the following positive effects:

  • Understanding current grammar convention makes sentences clear;
  • Correct grammar, suited to context and within best practice, prevents confusion and does not lead your audience astray;
  • A grammar edit makes writing consistent and accurate in its message;
  • Good grammar enhances how readers perceive you – if the writing makes sense, it suggests you will too. This protects your reputation.


Some common problems with grammar today (not exhaustive)

Trying to sound fancy with nounisms:

We all want to convey a good image in our writing so that we seem knowledgeable and confident in our field. This can lead to changing words incorrectly or even making up new words. An example of this is nominalisation or nounisms – changing words into nouns without good reason. For example: The teacher’s determination of good writing rests on an assessment of… In this example the verbs ‘determine’ and ‘assess’ have been changed into nouns, ‘determination’ and ‘assessment’. In this context, it would be clearer and easier to understand the sentence if it read: The teacher determines good writing by assessing… .Straightforward communication, achieved through a good edit, instils confidence and trust in your reader and goes a long way to protecting your credibility.


Nominalisation, as discussed above, also lends itself to long sentences with unnecessary words. Information stated concisely can have a stronger impact on the reader than long-winded sentences. If the meaning is clear, you have your reader’s attention. Attention, in turn, increases comprehension. This is important, particularly in business, professional and academic writing, where the content must reflect knowledge and expertise. Which is easier to read, keeps your attention and makes more sense? The company embarked upon a long-anticipated undertaking to expand its services and interests into the upper regions of the continent or The company extended its activities into Africa.

Not-so-plain language:

Many people are not aware of the extent to which language practice develops and changes over time. Plain language, and its promotion across business, statutory, academic and professional sectors, is a good example of this. Plain language is the ability to say something so that the reader understands it the first time it is read. It ensures that what is written can be understood by everyone and, in South Africa, is even entrenched in law. Both the National Credit Act and the Consumer Protection Act encourage the use of plain language. Editors who commit to ongoing professional development can make writing more inclusive in its message so that it says what it means and is easily accessible to everyone.


Along with wordiness, nounisms and flowery language, archaisms, too, belong in the past. Words can become old-fashioned and no longer play a role in the modern world of writing and communication. Removing archaisms keeps writing clear and makes it accessible to a wider range of readers. Whereas we need to embrace change, whereby plain language is adopted, for example, it therefore makes sense that the adoption thereof happens speedily. As such, please stop using the words underlined in this sub-point, in order to foster clarity and understanding, as these are good examples of archaisms still running amok!


The final word

Nounisms, wordiness and archaisms, among many other grammatical slips and slurs, need the attention of an editor, even after your diligence in avoiding them. A second eye can clean up texts, protect your reputation and convey your message as it was intended. Never underestimate the value of a final copy-edit and proofread.

Leave a Comment