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.

Here’s a review of the basic elements of the words component of grammar:


a person, place or thing

girl | downtown | car


Proper Noun

specific people, places or things; capitalize them

Sarah | The Loop | Ford Fusion


Collective Noun

a group of people or things

team | committee | flock



used in place of a noun

she | him | they | who | it


Possessive Pronoun

indicates ownership

my, mine | your, yours | her, hers  |  his | its | ours | their


Indefinite Pronoun

refers to nonspecific persons or things

all | another | any | anybody  |  nobody | several | some



shows action; can include being or having something

The girl runs. She is smart and has brown hair.



an –ing form of a verb that is used as a noun

Walking is good exercise. My yelling upset him.



describes or tells you more about a noun

The tall girl was late for school. The historic church is on the corner.



gives extra information about verbs; tells how, when or where things happen; often ends in ly

The girl walked quickly to the entrance. Her teacher immediately greeted her.



receiver of action

He kicked the ball. She slung her tote over her shoulder.


Complete (or simple) Sentence

has subject and verb and just one thing to say

She placed the order today.


Compound Sentence

has two things to say; each idea is a complete sentence (independent clause) and is connected by a conjunction

She placed the order today, and it will arrive next week.

I would have walked, but it started to rain.


Complex Sentence

has two things to say:
• one idea is an independent clause (has subject and verb and can stand alone)
• one idea is a dependent clause (has subject and verb but derives its meaning from the independent clause)

She returned her iPhone when she discovered its camera didn’t work.

Because my coffee was cold, I heated it in the microwave.



connects words or thoughts

for | and | nor | but | or | yet | so  |  because | when | while | unless | whether

He wants to visit Paris, Rome and Berlin.

The order will ship on Monday, so it should arrive on Wednesday.

I told him to go home whether he wants to or not.



tells where or when things happen

on | in | under | over | before | during | after

She set her books on the table before she sat down.



considered an adjective because it provides information about a noun

a | an | the

She read book. He ate an apple. They took the bus to the movie.



words that express emotions

Hey! Oops! Yay! Wow! Yikes!


Standard American English

the form of English generally used in professional communication by educated people in the United States; the form of English taught in American schools

A solid foundation of grammar basics will help you fine-tune your communication skills. This review can help remind you which language elements you should be able to identify as you work toward mastery of better writing and speaking.

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Kathy Watson

Kathy Watson has a love/hate relationship with grammar; she loves words and the punctuation that helps them make sense, yet she hates those pesky rules. A self-proclaimed ruthless editor, she prefers standard usage guidelines of The Associated Press Stylebook. Her easy-to-use Grammar for People Who Hate Rules helps people write and speak with authority and confidence. She encourages and welcomes questions and comments. (Email)

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