The Write Stuff: Grammar tips to polish your writing skills

Posted by admin on May 20, 2009

Regardless of your industry or position, to be a successful professional you must communicate effectively. Learning to write well is an important part of being a good communicator. Yet in the pursuit of message development, many professionals often overlook the use of proper grammar basics in their communication materials.

Words are powerful tools that can help -- or hurt -- you. Using proper grammar, spelling and punctuation can make a big difference in how people perceive you and how well they receive your message. Much of grammar is based on common sense that, once learned, can help you avoid the most common writing errors. All it takes is a few extra minutes to (a) choose your words carefully and (b) proofread your work before sending it out.

Here are a few of my favorite grammar basics to help you polish your writing skills.

Noun/pronoun agreement

  • Incorrect: ABC Company aspires to do the best for their shareholders.
  • Correct: ABC Company aspires to do the best for its shareholders.
  • Reason: ABC Company is one entity. You need to use “it” to reflect the singular status.
  • However: Executives of ABC Company aspire to do the best for their shareholders.

Dates

  • Incorrect: On June 15, 1836 Arkansas became the 25th state.
  • Correct: On June 15, 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state.
  • Reason: Remember to use a comma after both the day of the month AND the year.
  • However: Do not use commas when there is not a specific day of the month. Example: During June 1836, Arkansas became the 25th state.

Comparisons

  • Incorrect: That girl is older than me.
  • Correct: That girl is older than I (am old).
  • Reason: You wouldn’t say: “Me am old.” Case agreement is essential with pronouns. “Me” is an objective pronoun, and “I” is a subjective pronoun. In comparisons, “I” is the subject. Objective pronouns receive the action of the verb.

Comma splices

  • Incorrect: I was busy, therefore I decided to work late.
  • Correct: I was busy, so I decided to work late.
  • Reason: When you have two complete sentences (independent clauses), you must use a coordinating conjunction to prevent a comma splice or run-on sentence.
  • Coordinating conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so (use the acronym FANBOYS to remember)
  • Do not use conjunctive adverbs: however, therefore, accordingly, consequently, moreover, nevertheless, thus

Everybody is always singular

  • Incorrect: Everybody needs to bring their ideas to the table.
  • Correct: Everybody needs to bring his or her ideas to the table.
  • Reason: Although “everybody” might feel like more than one person, you can remember it is singular by saying “every single body” to yourself.

Here is a great online resource for more grammar tips and exercises: http://owl.english.purdue.edu.

Topics: Mitchell Team