Category Archives: Grammar Tips

Want to improve your writing and speaking? Start here!

people communicating at workYou’ve been out of the classroom for how long?

Your English teacher’s name was … ?

Why am I asking? I’m starting to think about New Year’s resolutions. (I know, I know, it’s still early December.)

If self-improvement is on your 2019 radar, and if fine-tuning your writing and speaking skills is among your targets, make brushing up on basic grammar your first step.

My definition of grammar: the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we punctuate them to make sense. Continue

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What’s the Difference: Incident and Incidents, Incidence and Incidences

incident_incidence_of_wildfiresAs the United States has struggled with catastrophic hurricanes, wildfires and mass shootings, I’ve heard people stumble over the use and pronunciation of incident and incidents, and of incidence (a valid word) and incidences (not a valid word in plural form).

The following definitions and examples will help you tell the difference.

incident: a noun meaning an event or occurrence; synonyms are episode, happening, escapade, occasion, adventure, proceeding, circumstance, development

These examples show how to use incident and incidents:

Continue

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Sending Holiday Greetings? Ditch the Apostrophe!

sign_holiday_card_no_apostrophe_family_nameIf you send holiday greetings, or if you ever sign a gift card on behalf of your whole family, here’s a tip about writing a family name.

No apostrophes, please!

An apostrophe in a name indicates possession. A signature does not imply possession. When you send a card on behalf of your family unit, use care with how you express your last name — your surname — in plural form.

Here are samples of an assortment of last names and how to make them plural. Continue

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What is Syntax, and Why Does it Matter in Writing and Speaking?

guy_edits_syntaxIf you haven’t heard my definition of grammar, here it is:

Grammar encompasses the words we choose, how we string them together, and how we punctuate them to give them meaning.

The stringing-words-together part is called syntax: the arrangement of words and phrases to create well-formed sentences.

Why should you pay attention to syntax? Because the order of your words can be critical to making your message clear.

Consider these examples from a variety of online sources. You’ll find the original sentence, what’s wrong with it in terms of syntax, and a rewrite. Continue

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Can Google Be a Verb?

woman thinking about Google searchAs is the case with many nouns in the English language, frequent usage dictates that Google has evolved to a status of both a noun and a verb.

As a noun, Google is a search engine you can use to find a variety of online information. As a proper noun (a specific person, place or thing) and a trademark, it is capitalized.

As a verb, google is the action of using the search engine Google to find information on the internet. When used as a verb, google can be capitalized or expressed in lowercase letters.

Example: If you want to know who founded Google, just google it!
(Answer: Larry Page and Sergey Brin, in case you really want to know.) Continue

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How to Spot Redundancies

I have a thing about redundancies.

They are a grammar pet peeve I’ve blogged about before, but the world apparently hasn’t gotten my message.

I’m not giving up, darn it!

A redundant word is one that could be omitted without loss of meaning; it repeats something already written or said.

We are in communication mode day in, day out. The least we can do in our word-dense world is to avoid extra words that add neither meaning nor clarity to our messages.

My guideline for spotting a redundancy:
Consider what using its opposite would do to the sentence.

Here are my latest real-world examples. The second sentence of each will help you spot the redundancy in the first that should be omitted. Continue

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When Does ‘and’ Need a Comma?

“We’re judged by the way we write and speak,” I often say.

Jeff Rubin, who founded National Punctuation Day in 2004, agrees:

“People judge us by the way we present ourselves — how we act, how we look, how we speak and how we write. When we are professional in all of these areas, we get our feet in the door for our choice of college, scholarship, job, promotion or business deal. If you’re unprofessional in any of these areas, it can cost you.”

As National Punctuation Day approaches — Monday, Sept. 24 — I’m sharing what I’ve found online about which punctuation mark is misused most often. Continue

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Have You ‘Pleaded’ or ‘Pled’ in a Court of Law?

If you are puzzled by recent news reports and their use of pleaded or pled, these sources can help you decide which is right — or maybe I should say which is preferred.

If you enter a plea of not guilty today in response to a charge or indictment — in other words, if you plead not guilty — would you say tomorrow that you pleaded not guilty or that you pled not guilty?

Here is information taken directly from five sources: Continue

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How to Create and Punctuate Bullet Points

bullet_pointsBullet points help readers scan what you’ve written, quickly drawing attention to key issues and facts. They can tell readers what needs to be done, provide step-by-step instructions, highlight important elements, or list features.

Bullets can be round, square, triangular, diamond, or even customized or whimsical graphics. When listing steps to take, numbers can serve as bullet points to emphasize the correct sequence.

There are no fixed rules of grammar about how to use bullet points, but here are some guidelines. Continue

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