How Is Learning Grammar for Writing Different from Learning Grammar for Speaking?

By Professor iEnglish

Learning grammar for writing or composition is NOT the same as learning grammar for speaking. In some ways, it is actually EASIER.

 Learning grammar for writing can be easier than learning grammar for speaking

When you are writing, you usually have some time to think about the grammar that you are using, especially during the REVISION stage of your work. You can go back over what you have written to revise and improve your grammar.

The same cannot be said for speaking, because when you are speaking, everything happens in REAL TIME. There is no time for revision. You can't go back and undo what you have said.

Learning grammar for writing different from learning grammar for speaking

Practice, practice and MORE PRACTICE is what helps you to improve your writing. You must actively use the knowledge and understanding that you already have about English grammar during any revision process. This is one of the best ways to improve your grammar for writing.

The same cannot be said about speaking. Simply practicing grammar structures in oral exercises, for example, is NOT enough to help improve your speaking. And if you try to think too much about grammar as you are speaking, chances are, you will not be able to speak very fluently at all.

I believe that focusing on grammar for writing is the BEST way to study grammar, and as you improve your writing, your speaking accuracy will also begin to improve.

Actually, the best way to improve your speaking is to not get 'hung up' on grammar points in the first place. LOTS of reading and listening, as well as speaking with foreigners--if this is possible for you--will work wonders to improve your speaking skills.

However, the same cannot always be said about the connection between grammar and writing. While LOTS of reading, especially academic reading, definitely helps to improve your academic writing, this area of grammar usually requires some degree of systematic study.

How to improve your grammar for writing

I said earlier that to improve your grammar for writing, you must practice applying the knowledge and understanding that you already possess about English grammar when you are revising your work.

To do this, then, you need to have a basic understanding or grasp of what constitutes a good English sentence. So how do you gain such understanding?

1. Read, Read, Read

This may surprise you, but possibly the very best way to gain an intuitive and useful understanding of English grammar is through LOTS and LOTS of reading. Reading helps you to develop a good 'feel' for the English language.

It's not necessary to study grammar in order to gain an intuitive understanding of grammar. Just read books and articles in English that are interesting to you! The more you read, the stronger your intuition or instinct for English grammar becomes...naturally.

So develop reading in English as a favorite hobby. Read anything written in English that you enjoy in your spare time, as much as you can.

If you're a college or university student and want to improve your academic writing, then you need to do both, read as a hobby and read academic materials in English for your studies. Don't read only translations of English textbooks. Read the original English versions as much as you can!

2. Study Grammar in Writing Contexts

In addition, it is helpful to study grammar systematically with the help of grammar books or workbooks, because studying English grammar systematically will help to clarify the intuitive grasp of the English language system that you gain through reading, which is especially helpful when you are trying to apply your grammar knowledge to writing.

Some examples of grammar workbooks are:

(i) The Grammar in Use series by Cambridge University Press.

(ii) How English Works by Swan, Oxford University Press.

And there are many others.

Unfortunately, one disadvantage of many of these books is that they lump grammar for writing and speaking together as though they were exactly the same.

A much BETTER way to study grammar is to read books that have been written specifically to teach grammar in a writing context.

One such series of books is the iEnglish® 201 to 205 grammar workbooks for intermediate to upper-intermediate learners.

You may go to THIS PAGE to sample the first few lessons of each book in the iEnglish® 201 to 205 series to see for yourself!

Aside from this series, there aren't many books that teach English grammar for writing, especially academic writing.

So if you DO know of a good book that teaches grammar in a writing context, then please share it! Just CLICK HERE and SCROLL DOWN to recommend your favorite book!

3. Search for Answers While Revising

Finally, you should actively search for answers to the questions that come to mind about your grammar or writing when revising. To find answers, you may consult the iEnglish® 201 to 205 books if you have read them, or other references like grammar handbooks and learner dictionaries. You may also ask your teacher and classmates, and even search the Internet.

Actively seeking answers to your grammar questions when revising is an excellent way to improve your writing.

Always remember...

  • Just studying or knowing English grammar is not the same as being able to actuallyuse it in your writing!
  • You must be READING a lot in English!
  • You should study grammar in the context of writing!
  • You must actively use the grammar that you already know when revising!
  • You should actively seek answers to questions
    that come up when revising!

Study, Succeed and Shine!