Okay so I will get to the crux of it. I want to write. However that being said I have only a natural instinct as a native speaker and little technical experience in writing. Here are just some things that spring to mind: I don't with 100% accuracy know how to determine where to use a colon vs a semicolon, where should I put commas, should I hyphenate this word or that?, and being honest I don't really know what a participle is. Of course these are just difficulties that arise in language, but I don't really have a great desire to spend years learning all the intricacies of the English language. I just want to tell a compelling story.

Should I let this dissuade me from writing?

My initial instinct is to say: who cares?

I want to write so I will write. I will try my best using what sounds right and mess about with punctuation in order to make it flow nice in my head at least. Meanwhile my writing will improve and obviously I will keep reading lots to see how other authors do certain things.

If it makes any difference I am not in the game to get published and have little to no desire to share my work with anyone besides myself.

After all my work will be garbage most likely.


  • 2
    docs.google.com/presentation/d/… this is a powerpoint that explains some of your problem, I'll get back to you with more Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 18:28
  • docs.google.com/document/d/… Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 18:29
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    If you ever did want to be published an editor will take care of those sorts of things. In the meantime, have fun writing!
    – CramerTV
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 1:22
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    Write your story and hire a proofreader. Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 12:44
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    > My initial instinct is to say: who cares? Me! For example, I cannot physically read any Dan Brown book, especially if it is about computer security, cryptography etc. It gives me physical pain. But obviously this is not a problem for Mr. Brown, he is very well known, has movies for his books and so on. So, just go ahead. Most people don't have a clue and won't notice.
    – AnoE
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 14:19

7 Answers 7


Ryan, I was once like you. A programmer by trade and the only time writing has been helpful for me is saving my butt in college courses (bout the only reason I got A's half the time). The more you write the better you get! Keep writing to get better if this is a passion you want to follow!

If you wake up in the morning and you have a story in your head that you want to write, then you write it! It doesn't matter if it is good or bad, you write it because that's what you WANT to do. For the longest time, I had no faith in myself about my writing skills outside of academics. I thought no one would bother reading it, and everything I put down on paper I thought was utter trash.

One day, I had a writer friend of mine (a journalist) read over my first chapter that I thought was horrible and she was absolutely floored with how well written it was for a first draft piece and how interesting the story was. Asked me several times if I had anymore to go with it. Maybe she was just being nice? Maybe she was being honest. Either way, it gave me the motivation I needed to continue to writing the story I have in my head and heart.

Will I try to get published? I will try. Doesn't mean I actually will. In the end though, I will be able to say I wrote a story. I took the time, dedication, and commitment to writing a full story.

Keep writing. Start writing. Even when you feel crappy, keep writing! My therapist (and friends here on this site) really encouraged me to just go for it and I have never regretted that choice since. I have been happier, and enjoying telling my story to anyone willing to read what I have wrote so far. Now, I have friends lining up waiting for the next chapter to see what happens next.

Maybe not everyone will have that magical "AHA!" moment like I did. But until you get that story out of your head, and gave it everything you have, you will be cheating yourself and potential fans from what could be a great one.

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    Your answer makes me feel happiness.
    – SFWriter
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 19:09
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    Very inspiring and positive thinking answer, ggiaquin!
    – Liquid
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 20:44
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    I want to upvote this again! Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 8:28
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    This answer makes me want to read your story. Could you share it ? :)
    – Christoph
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 10:50
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    @Christoph Been super busy at work! unfortunately... I have had some major projects come through, I have made some progress since this was posted, but it's still only in the early stages of the story and of the writing process.
    – ggiaquin16
    Commented Apr 20, 2018 at 16:05

My mother is a writer, or has been trying to be a writer for over 40 years. She's written books that have never been printed, a newspaper column for many years, short stories that some have been printed, and even self published a few things on Amazon.

While she is a native English speaker and always correcting people with their grammar and spelling, she still uses other people to help her find mistakes. Proof readers, editors, text editor programs (like Office), and friends will all help you figure that part of it out.

But the first thing you have to do is to get the story out of your head and onto "paper". It doesn't matter if it's actual paper, your computer, or a mobile device, it just needs to be written or even spoken into an audio recorder.

The point is, start writing the story first, then go back and fix anything that doesn't work isn't correct. You're likely to have errors besides grammar and spelling, so you'll have to work those out, too.

Writing is a process, and that doesn't necessarily stop even after it's published. Good luck and have fun!


You don't have to be a technical expert to write --many great storytellers are not great technicians.

As with anything else, you may come to a point where technical study becomes worth it to you, either towards a specific goal, like publication, or just so you can write better for your own satisfaction, but it doesn't sound like you're there today.

You don't need a license or permission to write, and no squad of English teachers will descend on you with red pens (unless, of course, you specifically seek them out), so clear your mind of all worry. And try to be a little more positive, it's never a good frame of mind for any project to assume the results will be "garbage."


Your initial instinct is correct; who cares?

My advice is to re-read some best selling popular fiction. Stephen King, JK Rowling, Orson Scott Card, Dan Brown, or others you like.

But switch off your brain's entertainment mode, and do this with an analytic eye. See how they mix dialogue and action. See how they handle "fast" action, like a fight. See how long they go without describing something visual. See how long their visual descriptions are.

Heck, use them for your punctuation reference, how to do quotes and where to put the commas in dialogue.

Write like that. Even if you are doing it for yourself, so when you come back to it and read it cold someday, it won't seem like crap, and you will like the story.


So, the first question to assess your ability to write is and will always be "Can I tell a story?"

Editors are there to correct your story, but writing is more about finding the right story and less about the correct format. And you can take your Grammar and spelling book and chuck it out the window when you get to your first line of dialog. People usually do not speak in 100% perfect diction and with grammatical correctness in real life (And if they do, they tend to be the people who deserve to be standing right on top of the landing spot of your previously discarded books).

I would suggest to use the best consistency you can muster. And lots of important writers weren't classically trained English majors. Hell, the emphasis on correct spelling in English really didn't occur until the late 19th century. It's been said that The Bard himself, William Shakespeare, spelt his name inconsistently, with his birth certificate spelling it differently than documents he signed (famously his marriage license) and his Death Certificate.

Write your story with the intention of letting others read it. As the old adage says, the quickest way to find the write answer is to post the wrong answer on the internet.


You are nowhere near as technically poor as you think you are. I can tell just from reading your question. It's clear, it makes sense, and is far better constructed than a hell of a lot of the writing I've seen self-pubbed on Amazon (from people who genuinely think they are amazing).

Hardly anyone actually does know what a participle is. You don't really need to unless you are arguing with a copy editor over changes they've made and need to use the correct grammatical jargon in order to argue your point convincingly. Likewise with semicolons -- if you aren't comfortable using them, you don't have to use them. They don't make anyone's writing any better purely from being included. Comma usage and so on can often (but not always) be a stylistic choice, so there can sometimes be several "correct" ways to use commas in a sentence depending on what the effect you want to create is.

Having said this: the most important thing that technically proficient writing will do for you is get your point across clearly. Clarity is really important because if there is a way in which a sentence can be misconstrued, then someone will misconstrue it. You don't want someone momentarily thinking that the fridge is talking if it isn't, for example. (Honestly, things like that can and do happen).

So definitely write if you want to write. Just check over your work afterwards to make sure that all the verbs are referring to all the right nouns, that you don't use the word 'it' if you're talking about something plural, and so on. You can break down your sentences into small chunks of meaning and then check that they make sense when combined as a whole.

On a slight side note: there's absolutely no point studying English grammar if you don't want to because it's pretty dry, but the thing that most improved the technical quality of my writing was learning foreign languages, because they work differently to English and it gets you thinking about the ways things are structured in language generally (in terms of words having to agree with each other in gender in French, or in gender, case, and number in Russian).

Sorry if this post was far too long and nerdy but I hope at least some of it was helpful! If you don't intend to publish anywhere or show anyone anyway, you know what you meant to write so technical ability doesn't matter too much. Good luck!


I know writers who are technically perfect but don't tell interesting stories. Telling the story is what matters. I'm publishing one author who has typical punctuation problems and can't spell reliably because of learning disabilities, because this author knows how to tell an engaging story. I consider the editing work worth it.

Your job as a writer is to tell your story as best you can. Keep writing and keep reading, especially if it's what you love to do.

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