Grammar Tips for Writers

Grammar Tips for Writers

If you are a writer who wants to get your work published, it’s important that your grammar is at its best. Tips on grammar can help your writing sparkle. These will make it shine.

Be on the Lookout for Misused Words

There are several words you may think are correct, but oftentimes they are commonly misused. You may find words like a and a hard to choose between at times, so listen to the word that will come right after one of these two to hear which one sounds best. If this word has the sound of a consonant, put a before it.

If it has the sound of a vowel, choose an. Other tricky words to look out for include accept and except, advice and advise, aid and aide, all ready and already, altogether and all together, among and between, beside and besides, cite and site, elicit and illicit, fewer and less, hanged and hung, healthful and healthy, its and it’s, lay and lie, lose and loose, who’s and whose, your and you’re, and others. When in doubt about which word to use, refer to a dictionary.

Beware of Sentence Fragments

On occasion, you may erroneously write a sentence fragment. A sentence such as this is incomplete and leaves the reader trying to guess what the writer is trying to say. A sentence fragment is obvious and should never appear in a professionally written piece. These are some examples:

  • A talented woman who works very hard.
  • His fine motor skills.
  • Justifying an illegal act.

These three sentence fragments have the same thing in common. Each one leaves you wondering where the rest if the sentence is.

Do Not Make Two Sentences One

Never hesitate to break up a sentence with a period if the sentence doesn’t make sense. One good example is:

  • Very much delighted, Annie started to prepare Thanksgiving Day dinner her husband rested on the couch.

Written correctly, the sentence should have a period after the word dinner.

Hyphenate Words When Necessary

There comes a time in writing when certain words need to be hyphenated. This time is when two words modify a noun that comes after them. Examples include:

  • Eat at this all-night diner.
  • This is a high-risk stock.

Because the words all-night and high-risk act as compound adjectives, they should be hyphenated.

Match Subject with Verb

The subject of a sentence should always agree with the verb in that sentence, so make sure you keep this in mind whenever you write. Examples of sentences with correctly matched subjects and verbs include the following:

  • Has half of the wall been replaced?
  • Once a month the PTA holds a meeting.
  • Each coffee shop is listed on the map.

In the first example, the subject half agrees with the verb has, not have. In the second example, the subject PTA matches the verb holds, not hold. In the third example, the subject each agrees with the verb is, not are.

Punctuate Sentences with Direct Quotes Correctly

When you write a sentence that reveals someone’s exact words, enclose those words inside quotation marks. Put periods and question marks at the end of the sentence inside the last quotation mark. Place colons as well as semicolons outside of the last quotation mark. Also, put a comma before the first quotation mark. Here are some sample sentences with direct quotations:

  • She said, “Take me to the grocery store.”
  • He said, “I’m going to graduate at the end of the year.”

Interrupted quotes should have quotation marks at the beginning and the end of both sections of the quote.

  • “I want to buy you a birthday present,” Mom said. “What type of gift do you want?”
  • “Give me the paintbrush,” he demanded. “This is a man’s job.”

Use Commas to Set Off Nonessential Phrases

A nonessential phrase can be left out of a sentence. The sentence will still make sense without it. A comma at the beginning of a nonessential phrase and one at the end of it separates it from the rest of the sentence. The following is a nonessential phrase:

  • The boy’s mother, Francine Appleton, works in an elementary school.

To confirm that the phrase is not essential, read the sentence out loud without the nonessential phrase to see if it still makes sense.

Use Commas Wisely

A comma helps a reader understand what a writer is trying to say. If it is left out when it should be inserted into a sentence, the meaning of that sentence can change. A perfect example of this is the title of a book written by Lynne Truss. This book is called “Eats, Shoots & Leaves”.

After reading this title with the comma, you can see that shoots and leaves are verbs, and looking at the picture on the cover of a panda holding a gun conveys the message that the panda ate, then fired the weapon and left. If the comma wasn’t there, however, these words would be nouns indicating that the panda simply ate shoots and leaves.

This example shows just how powerful and important a comma can be. You, the writer, may also want to decide whether or not to use the Oxford comma when making a list. For instance, if in your sentence you mention that a podiatrist, chiropractor, and acupuncturist were present, you’d be listing three types of doctors.

Take the comma away and you’d be listing two. Since the use of the Oxford comma is optional, the choice is yours and what you want to say should be the deciding factor on whether or not to use it.

In Conclusion

These helpful grammar tips can be used by new writers as well as those that have been writing for years. They can be used as a handy reference, and they can help you polish your work. Refer to them often, and always remember to check your spelling before submitting your work. Also, remember to use a plagiarism tool when you’re done to make sure your work is unique.