Avoid looking like a fool with these eight grammar tips

November 20, 2012

The English language is a tricky one, with confusing rules and many “but in the case of…” exceptions. How often have you read a press release, article or blog post and spotted a typo that you couldn't look past? Clear writing is integral to increasing the value of your content and attracting readers. Here are eight tips to get you started on your way to writing perfection.

  1. Improve the readability of your writing and make it more enjoyable for readers: use an active statement rather than a passive one. Be aware that even if your statement is technically active, it might read with a passive tone. Ask yourself: who is responsible for the action? Instead of using a verb-turned-noun (like “reconstruction” or “movement”), use a verb for a stronger, active statement.

  2. Use caution with adjectives and adverbs. What is the difference between “awesome” and “really awesome”?

  3. Choose crisp prose over wordy phrases. Instead of, “Widgets have been proven to work,” simply write, “Widgets work.”

  4. Remember that a singular noun must be matched with a singular pronoun. A plural noun needs a plural pronoun. So, no matter how much you want to write, “If an IT leader wants to upgrade, they have to make a case to the CEO,” the statement is not grammatically correct. It should read either as:
    • If an IT leader wants to upgrade, he or she has to make a case to the CEO; or
    • If IT leaders want to upgrade, they have to make their cases to the CEO.

  5. Here's a dilemma that frequently trips people up: “That” versus “which.” If the clause in question can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence, then use “which.” If the clause cannot be omitted, use “that.” Also note: clauses using “which” should be offset with commas.

  6. Avoid making claims you can't back up. Saying, “everyone can agree” is a trap. Words like “everyone,” “always,” “never” and “no one” are hard to prove, so don't open yourself up for an argument.

  7. Avoid beginning statements with “we are excited” or “we believe.” Your point will be stronger without the introductory phrase, so jump right to the main idea.

  8. When it comes to acronyms, avoid alphabet soup. Spell out the acronym on the first reference, and on the second reference, use it if necessary.

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