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The importance of proper grammar

The importance of proper grammar
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Your probably making grammar mistakes on accident. Did you catch the two gaffes in the previous sentence? Remember to always use the contraction ‘you’re’ when you mean ‘you are.’ ‘Your’ is a possessive pronoun, as in ‘fix your grammar mistake.’ Also, be sure to use by accident instead of on accident – ’by accident’ is grammatically correct.

Grammar errors are easy to miss, and they’re often habitual. However, it’s important to fix them because they drive readers crazy. They make you look bad, especially in a professional setting. If you’re corresponding with a grammar purist – and there are plenty out there – you could even be causing unintended rage. Here are some of the most common grammar mistakes with tips on how to correct them.

Everyday vs every day

Everyday vs every day

Grammar errors may be an everyday part of your writing. The adjective ‘everyday’ means commonplace, daily or ordinary. In noun form, you can use it to designate a routine occasion. However, this compound word does not refer to the unit of time known as a day. When you mean ‘each day,’ remember to separate the words, as in ‘I proofread my writing every day.’

Lay vs lie

Lay vs lie

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary forgives you for mixing up these common verbs – they’ve been confusing English speakers for centuries, in part, because ‘lay is the past tense of lie, and laid is the past tense of lay.’ One way to keep track of the difference is to consider if you mean ‘to place’ or ‘to be.’

‘Lay’ is transitive (it requires an object) and means to place down in a flat position. ‘Lie’ is intransitive (it makes sense without an object) and means to be in a flat position or to be moving toward one. As Grammarly puts it, ‘You lie down, but you lay something down.’

Use parallel form

Use parallel form

Appealing sentences employ parallel structure, use correct grammar, and adopt proper punctuation. Use parallel structure to put each item in your sentence in the same form, especially if you’re using a series or list. Sentences come across as unwieldy and awkward when forms don’t match. Consider a sentence like, ‘Good writing uses great wording, having good ideas, and no mistakes.’ Ugh. Parallel structure (with each phrase in the same noun or verb form) is grammatically correct, and it also sounds better. Parallel form delivers controlled sentences, streamlined ideas, and polished phrasing.

Me vs I

Me vs I

Copy Editor Laken Brooks’ biggest grammar pet peeve happens when writers misuse ‘me’ and ‘I.’ She explains that ‘I’ is a subject pronoun while ‘me’ is an object pronoun. To understand the difference, consider who is doing the action in the sentence. Brooks says, ‘A rule that helps me remember the difference is to use a subject pronoun when it is the subject of the sentence. If I am doing the acting, then I’ll use ‘I.’ If I’m not doing the acting or if I’m being acted upon, I’ll probably use ‘me.’

For example, ‘Jeremy hit the ball to me or I?’ Me/I is not the subject because Jeremy is doing the acting; Jeremy is hitting the ball. So, use the object pronoun and write, ‘Jeremy hit the ball to me.’

Got it? Now check out these words that are their own opposites.

Using ‘that’ when you mean ‘who’

Using ‘that’ when you mean ‘who’

It’s highly possible you’re being annoying when you use ‘that’ instead of ‘who.’ For example, which of the following sentences sounds right to you? ‘People that make grammar mistakes annoy me’, or ‘People who make grammar mistakes annoy me’? It turns out, using ‘that’ may not be technically incorrect, but when referring to people, use the pronoun ‘who’ to emphasise that they’re human.

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It's vs its

It's vs its

You learnt a long time ago that an apostrophe indicates possessive form, as indicated in the difference between phrases like ‘the book’s cover’ and ‘the books cover’. Apostrophes also link two words together in a contraction. A common grammar error uses the contraction ‘it’s’ (which means ‘it is’) as the possessive form of ‘it’. Have you ever been annoyed by incorrect sentences like ‘it’s mouth was open,’ which really means ‘it is mouth was open’? For the possessive form of ‘it’, no apostrophe is required.

Don’t miss the most misused words in the English language.

Effect vs affect

Effect vs affect

These two words are easy to confuse because they each exist in noun and verb form. To keep it simple, try to remember that ‘affect’ is usually going to be a verb, and ‘effect’ is usually going to be a noun. That’s not always the case, but it will help you keep the two words straight. It gets extra confusing because the verb ‘affect’ literally means to produce an effect, a result. You can think of it as ‘Affect with an A is an Action’ and ‘Effect with an E is an End-result’.

There, they're, and their

There, they're, and their

When you use all the different kinds of ‘there’ interchangeably, you’re going to drive the person reading your writing crazy. ‘There’ is a pronoun, adverb and more rarely, a noun and adjective. ‘There’ doesn’t mean the same thing as ‘they’re’ (the contraction for ‘they are’), although it’s often used as a substitute – incorrectly. Keep in mind that ‘their’ is the possessive form of ‘they’, for example, ‘The couple jumped into their car and drove to the wharf. Now they’re over there in their boat.’ Got it?

Who's vs whose

Who's vs whose

Contractions, meant to simplify language, really mess things up when it comes to grammar errors. The mixing up of ‘whose’ and ‘who’s’ is a popular grammar pet peeve. ‘Who’s’ is a contraction for ‘who is’ or ‘who has’. ‘Whose’ is a possessive pronoun, usually for ‘who’ or ‘which.’ You’ll look bad if you switch them around. The correct way to use them is: ‘whose error was this?’ and ‘who’s the hero who caught the error?’.

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