(Almost) Everything You Need to Know About Grammar
Improve Your Writing Instantly With These Tips and Tricks
The ability to effectively communicate through the written word is more important today than maybe any other time in human history.
With our world more connected now than ever before thanks to the power of the internet and our mobile devices a significant amount of our day-to-day communication is handled via digital text. Emails, text messages, tweets, and social media posts are all opportunities to clearly communicate with our friends, family, coworkers, neighbors, and even complete and total strangers.
Interestingly enough, this has led to a major refocusing on proper grammar - particularly for those that want to communicate more effectively. Grammatical errors and a lack of clarity while communicating through the written word can sink personal and professional relationships.
To help you prevent some of the most common grammatical errors we have come up with a bit of a "grammar primer" in this quick guide.
Common Grammar Errors
Writing in the Correct Voices
There's a world of difference between writing in the active voice or the passive voice, and you want to know when each is appropriate. The passive voice is used when the action is happening to the object of a subject leaving the subject a little less emphasized. An active voice puts the subject of the sentence in the action in a more prominent position it is therefore seen as stronger, more direct, and provides more clarity than the passive voice.
Mixing Up Modifiers
It's important that you are smart about how you use the descriptive words in your sentences correctly. You'll want these modifiers to be located directly next to the words or words that they are actually modifying. When they get lost in the sentence a lot of confusion is caused.
Subjects and Verbs Work in Lockstep
If the subject of your sentence is singular the verb you use should be singular as well. The same is true if the subject is plural - these keep components of grammar are intertwined with one another always.
Construct Parallel Sentences Correctly
If an individual sentence is going to have more than a singular concept in it you should use the same grammatical style throughout to keep everything parallel.
The pronouns that you use are also intertwined directly with the nouns in a sentence. If your noun is singular your pronoun needs to be singular as well, and if it is plural that your pronouns need to be plural as well.
Proper Forms of Commonly Misused Words
Plenty of folks use the word "your" and the word "you're" interchangeably for variety of different reasons, not least of which is that they sound identical when spoken. There's a world of difference between the meaning of these words, however, and you'll want to make sure that you are using the correct form in your sentences.
Other words that are commonly mixed up and interchanged incorrectly with one another include, but aren't limited to:
- There, Their, and They're
- It's and Its
- Then and Than
Could've Isn't Could Of
While "could've" definitely sounds like "could of" it's actually the contraction for the two words "could have". It's important to make sure that you aren't swapping out new words for these kinds of contractions.
Common Punctuation Errors
Punctuation can also be a tricky thing when you are trying to communicate with the written word, especially since there are so many different types of punctuation that we usually don't use on a day-to-day basis.
It certainly doesn't help that we never punctuate our own sentences when spoken, either!
- Commas should be taken advantage of to separate independent clauses as well as introductory clauses. You can use this form of punctuation to delineate lists, quotes, phrases, and a whole host of other sentence components that you want to make easier to read (where appropriate, of course).
- Colons as well as semicolons should be used to introduce lists or items in a list whenever appropriate. Apostrophes are used to delineate possessive nouns and are also used to form up a contraction. You don't want to use apostrophes when working with oral nouns, however.
- Quotation marks can be used in a variety of different ways, helping to highlight quoted text as well as to help bring attention to slang or colloquial language. Dashes and hyphens can be used in different ways, with dashes take advantage of to replace the word "to" and sometimes the word "through". Hyphens join two different words together as well.
Rules That Can Be Broken
At the end of the day, while grammar rules are intended to give a lot of structure to our written language and a lot of structure to the way that we communicate through text the truth of the matter is they can be broken in a variety of different ways as well as the meaning behind what you are trying to convey is crystal-clear.
Yes, you can begin sentences with conjunctions, something that your second or third grade teacher would have liked to slap the back of your hand with a ruler over when you were learning your grammar rules back in school.
You can also end sentences with prepositions. There is a standard "rule" in the world of grammar that says you cannot do this, but nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of opportunities to end a sentence in a proposition, and it's kind of something that you "feel out" when you are putting together your sentences.
Sure, you'll want to do your best to avoid sentence fragmentation as much as possible. However, it can be very persuasive to write the way you speak. This is especially true when using colloquial language or looking to influence or persuade people through the written word.
Persuasive writing feels like someone is talking directly to you. It's critical to remember that when you are writing you are communicating. Never let traditional rules of grammar get your way of getting your point across as best you are able to.