It's time to make some things perfectly clear.

Grammar and spelling are extremely important to a sportswriter. Poorly worded sentences show a lack of respect for your job and for the reader. They can also be confusing. Misspelled words give the same effect. Sports writing is no different than a fifth-grade essay or a college term paper: Errors in grammar and spelling count against the author. In sports writing, or any form of journalism, it's not just your grade that is affected by these mistakes. It is your reputation that is injured.

When readers comes across a story full of grammatical and spelling mistakes, they are likely to ask a very valid question: "If this sportswriter can't take the time to spell words correctly and writes sentences that are incomplete and confusing, then why should I believe they can get the facts straight?"

Grammar Matters

I am not a grammarian (one who teaches grammar) nor am I going to pretend to be one. This article is intended to teach you how to adapt the basic tools of writing that you should already be learning in the classroom—which include spelling, grammar, and accurate language—to a specific skill called sports writing. I am trying to demonstrate how to sharpen these standard writing tools in such a way that you can use the tools to begin building a fun and exciting career as a sportswriter.

I offer a few suggestions called Grammar Tips:
1. Do your best to learn the rules of grammar during the course of your regular schoolwork.
2. Practice good grammar. Whenever you are writing—even if it's a secret note to friends—write in a grammatically correct way. If you keep a diary or journal, write your personal notes correctly. Try to speak in full, complete and descriptive sentences.
3. Read your writing aloud. This often will help you to catch a sentence that is not grammatically correct or is incomplete. It will also help with word choice and making your writing clear and easy to understand. Quite often it is easier to hear a mistake than it is to read one, especially if you are the person who wrote the mistake in the first place.
4. Learn from your mistakes. Trust me, incorrect grammar is sometimes very difficult to detect. Part of the reason is that incorrect grammar is such a part of everyday speech. You won't hear a mistake if it sounds normal or regular to your ears. Therefore, when a teacher or editor points out an error in grammar, learn from it. Find out what exactly makes the phrase or sentence incorrect, incomplete or confusing, then write the same thought correctly.

Spelling Matters

You do not have to be a perfect speller to be a sportswriter. You do, however, need to recognize the problem if you are a poor speller and then take every possible measure to correct your mistakes. Learn how to use a dictionary and make sure you have one handy, even if you're out of town while writing a story.

Many spelling mistakes can be corrected easily with the modern convenience of the "check spelling" programs that are virtually standard on any computer software designed for writing or publishing. Make sure you use the "check spelling" program. Any beginning journalist should make it a part of their standard routine to check the spelling as soon as the final version of the story is saved and before it is ever submitted to a copy editor or for publication.

It's important to remember that spell-check programs are very effective but only to a certain point. You should be concentrating while using any spell-check program. It is fairly easy to mouse-click "ignore"when you should have clicked "change" and corrected a mistake. Even worse is when you change a correctly spelled name into a similarly
spelled word. This can easily happen with names, since many namesclosely resemble a word. For example, the computer would read the name "Towes" and would suggest a change to "tows."

Also, spell-check devices only highlight misspelled words. The software won't catch the common mistakes of misusing words that sound alike but are spelled differently and have different meanings, like using"too" when you meant to write "two," or "their" when it should have been "there," and so on. Spell-check also won't catch typing mistakes that end up in correct words, like "hoe" when you meant to write "how," "the
when it should have been "they," or "its" when it should have been "it's."

That's why a sportswriter should always carefully read a completed story, making sure they are focused on trying to catch mistakes and improve the work instead of congratulating themselves for a job well done.

Remember to double-check hard to spell names, either with your own notes or a media guide. Pay close attention to any statistical figures in your story. You are a lot more likely to catch a typing mistake in your football story that turned 122 yards into 222 yards than any copy editor is.