Even though I enjoy writing quite a bit, I still have a long way to go when it comes to my grammar. It is partially because I found my love for writing much later in life and partially because I write so fast that I am often not paying attention to the details.
Even as you read through this blog post, I am sure a trained eye would find at least a dozen little mistakes and errors that need fixing. I have mostly come to the realization that I will never be perfect, but I am also trying to improve my skills every day just like you.
I want to show you that we all make mistakes and that those mistakes or perceived flaws in your skillset are holding you back from achieving awesome content. So here I am, writing a blog post probably filled with grammatical mistakes about all the grammatical mistakes I make…
1. Quotation marks at the end of sentences.
I have never understood this and probably do it wrong on a REGULAR basis. Quotes at the end of sentences have some very unique rules.
Take this as an example:
Then she asked, “What are we having for lunch today?” I didn’t have an answer.
This is grammatically correct.
But this is what I want to do:
Then she asked, “What are we having for lunch today?”. I didn’t have an answer.
I want to put that second period in there so badly and it hurts my heart that I can’t. Why would I end that thought on a question mark? There is no completion of the overall sentence…
This is just one of what feels like thousands of rules when it comes to quotation marks and punctuation. You can find all the answers to those questions here.
When I first started content writing, a person I worked with had to sit me down and have a conversation with me about hyphens. It wasn’t that I was using them wrong, I just wasn’t using them at all and apparently, that’s a “no-no!”
The rule-of-thumb (nailed it) she taught me that I keep to this day is to hyphenate words when an adjective (normally preceding a noun) is compound (i.e. two or more words). Hyphens are also used in compound nouns to lessen confusion.
Here are two examples with the same word used in two different grammatical contexts:
We visited a Korean-American supermarket. (“Korean-American” is a compound adjective that describes the noun “supermarket.”)
There are many Korean-Americans in Los Angeles. (“Korean-American” in this case refers to people, making it a compound noun).
I have gotten much better at this, but again, far from perfect. Here are more rules about hyphens to help.
This is less about grammar and more about the flow of writing. Have you ever realized how many times you type the word “that” when it isn’t necessary? I never noticed it until someone proofreading for me called me out for it.
Look at what I mean:
“It’s one of those things that people don’t realize”
“It’s one of those things people don’t realize”
See? “That” is just a filler word adding no value to the sentence. I always have to go back after I write something and remove the “thats” and let me tell you, it makes your writing flow SO MUCH BETTER.
4. Than and Then
“Than” is used for comparison, and “then” is used to indicate time.
“I said pepperoni pizza is better than plain cheese pizza, then you agreed.”
“Than” is comparing pepperoni and cheese pizza. “Then” is indicating a sequence of events in time. In other words, first I mentioned the pizza comparison, THEN “you” agreed.
Bonus trick to remember: Time has an “e” and so does “then.”
Here are some other ways to improve your writing:
- Use Grammarly (it’s a free browser extension) to check over your work. It helps with grammar mistakes, word choice, and sentence flow. As you may have noticed, they also write easy-to-follow blog posts about all sorts of grammar rules (Did you see that hyphenated adjective?!).
- Have someone proofread your work. To proofread your own work, set your writing aside for a few days and come back to it with a fresh set of eyes.
- Read your work aloud to make sure your sentences make sense. If you find yourself fumbling or sounding awkward, that’s how it will read. It’s a great way to improve the tone and sound of whatever you are writing.
Whether you are a writing novice or a seasoned wordsmith, practice makes perfect. Keep at it and over time, your grammar and skills will improve.
Note: Dom (who doesn’t struggle with grammar as much as Kevin) had the privilege to proofread this blog!