I began my career as an editor in the late 1980s with a job as Desk Editor with Macmillan Publishers in Hong Kong. It was quite an awakening. I thought I knew English, but it's one thing to know that a sentence is grammatically incorrect and quite another to be able to explain why to the author. I realised I was profoundly ignorant about grammar as a discipline, and thus began my long journey into the bowels of the beast.
I read every grammar book I could lay my hands on, but I soon discovered that I couldn't easily retain the information and, even if I could retain it, I often found it difficult to apply what I was learning to my work. There seemed to be a disconnect between how the books said the language should behave and how the language actually behaved in the real world. But I assumed it was my fault - I just wasn't clever enough to understand. I felt immensely stupid, but I nevertheless struggled doggedly on because I liked working in publishing and - though it was painful - I still loved working with the written word.
After leaving Hong Kong, I worked for six years as a freelance copy editor for major academic publishers in the UK - Cambridge University Press, Routledge, Macmillan, University College London Press and more. But even though I was a successful editor, I never felt fully confident and was constantly looking to my text books for reassurance.
It was only after I took a position as editor of a magazine and was asked to run some in-house workshops on grammar and writing for my colleagues, that I began to understand what was really going on. By trying to unravel the grammar rules sufficiently well to explain them to my students, I came to the realisation that a great deal of what the books had been telling me was either untrue or - at best - half true. So this was why I'd always struggled to understand! It was a revelation.
Once I'd abandoned the notion that the text books were unquestionably correct, I was free to challenge what they were telling me. Since then, I've subjected all the so-called 'rules' to critical analysis and dived into the realm of linguistics, where I found a lot of answers to my questions. I'm eternally grateful to linguists for shining a light on much of my confusion because - unlike grammarians, who describe the language as they think it should be - linguists try to describe the language as it is. With their aid, I've managed to pin-point the main stumbling blocks to understanding and then to correct the misdirections commonly found in so much teaching material.
It's been a long road of learning for me, but I'm thrilled to be able to share its fruits with you in an easy-to-follow and (I hope) engaging form that will take you from confused to confident in only a few short weeks. If I can help just one person overcome years of confusion and all the associated shame of not 'understanding' grammar, I'll feel satisfied.