Blog Grammar Rules Does It Sound Right?

Does It Sound Right?

Justin Cox

Justin Cox

Administrator at The Writing Cooperative and Eater of Donuts

Published Aug 20, 2018


There are a lot of grammar rules to keep track of. Do you use me or I, than or then, to or too? Let’s not even mention some of the more difficult ones, like split infinitives and dangling modifiers.

We could spend every waking moment learning grammar rules and still not have them all mastered. And that would leave zero time to actually write anything.

Luckily for each of us, there’s a surefire way to avoid learning the majority of grammar rules while still adhering them: read things out loud.

Most grammar rules follow conventions of normal speech. If you read something out loud and it sounds wrong, you’re probably breaking a grammatical rule. However, if you read something out loud and it flows properly, chances are you’re in the grammatical clear.

This assumes you’re a fluent speaker of the language you’re writing in, otherwise you might not catch when things sound off out loud.

This might sound like I’m advising you to join the Grammatical Anarchists Party, or GAP for short. On the contrary. I believe grammar rules are mostly important and worth following, I’m just saying it’s not worth sweating them so diligently.

But don’t just take my word for it, take Steven King’s.

Love or hate the genre, Steven King is one of the best-selling authors of our time. Besides his dozens of novels, King wrote one of the best books of writing advice ever published, On Writing. It’s there that King shares his simple rule for grammar:

Language does not always have to wear a tie and lace-up shoes. The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story… to make him/her forget, whenever possible, that he/she is reading a story at all.

We can obsess over proper grammar or we can write. It is as simple as that. If you read what you’ve written out loud and the story is compelling and sounds right, it probably is. Don’t bother trying to put a tie on it.

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Justin Cox

Justin Cox

Administrator at The Writing Cooperative and Eater of Donuts

Justin Cox is a writer, minister, and donut eater. His words are available online at Wired, Film School Rejects, The Writing Cooperative, The Coffeelicious, and more. Besides writing, Justin is an avid traveler and foodie. He lives in Orlando, Florida with his wife, Carla, and their dog, Mac. Connect with Justin on Twitter, Medium, or at

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This works most of the time - and reading aloud is also good for spotting typos, omitted words, and nonsense sentences. However, consider these two examples, common in British English: saying "you and I" when you should use "me and you", and saying "should of" when you should say "should have". If the writer commits those errors in normal conversation, reading aloud won't help.

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