Master these 7 grammar tips if you want to sound smarter

As the executive editor of Avenue Magazine, a luxury lifestyle publication based in New York City, I see the importance of proper grammar every day. But you don’t have to work in publishing to realize the necessity of good writing. Misplaced commas, an incorrect spelling, or a missing hyphen can change the meaning of a sentence.Language rules exist for clarity. A classic example is the sentence “Let’s eat mom,” which reads much differently from “Let’s eat, mom.” In the first, the writer is having her mom for dinner. In the second, she is urging her mom to eat with her.

Don’t get caught up in an email chain of miscommunication. Read on for seven tips on how to improve your English expertise.

Read frequently

Writing well can become second nature to those who also read well. Pay attention to how authors structure their sentences and how they use commas and sentence length to adjust tone and cadence. Reading can help to increase vocabulary. If you don’t know where to begin, ask colleagues for reading suggestions specific to your field, or browse best-selling book lists (here’s a great list of business books).

To write well, you must also understand the basics of the English language — how sentences are composed, the different parts of speech, subject/verb agreement, tense, and punctuation. Pick up a copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing” for a fresh take on writing rules.

Memorize homophones

There’s no way around it — many rules in the English language require memorization. Among the most frequently committed grammatical errors are misused homophones, which are words that sound the same but have different meanings.

“You’re/your,” “there/their/they’re,” “its/it’s,” and “then/than” are all commonly confused. An easy tool to help with contractions is to remember that they are derived from two words. “You’re” is “you are”; “they’re” is “they are”; and “it’s” is “it is.” “Then” is used to indicate time, whereas “than” is used as a comparison.

Learn first-person singular pronouns

Sentences often call for choosing the correct first-person singular pronoun — either “I” or “me.” Remember that “I” is a subject pronoun, whereas “me” is an object pronoun. A helpful way to determine word choice is to remove any other subjects.

For example, consider the sentence “My roommate and I/me went to the store.” If you think about the sentence as “I went to the store” or “Me went to the store,” it’s more obvious that “I” is correct.”I” is the subject of the verb “to be.”

Learn how to use commas

As a very broad rule of thumb, commas are used to indicate pauses in a sentence. They should not be used in place of a period. For example, “We went to the baseball field, it was fun” is incorrect.

But “We went to the baseball field, and it was fun” is correct, as commas can be used to separate two independent clauses when joined by coordinating conjunctions like “and,” “or,” or “but.” Commas are also used to separate three or more phrases in a series, after an introductory clause or phrase, and to set off nonessential clauses or phrases.

Beware the dangling modifier

A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that doesn’t have a clear subject. “After reviewing your notes, the conclusion remains elusive” contains a dangling modifier. Who is reviewing the notes? The sentence should be rewritten to say, “After reviewing your notes, I am unable to come to a conclusion.”

Stay active

All sentences are identified as being either active or passive. In an active sentence, the subject performs the action. “The girl ate the salad” is an active sentence.

In a passive sentence, the subject of the sentence is also the subject of the action. “The salad was eaten by the girl” is a passive sentence. Though both are grammatically correct, passive sentence structures often lead to more errors, including dangling modifiers, misplaced commas, and run-on sentences. Sticking to the active voice will help ensure clarity.

Proofread, and read your piece out loud

A common cause of poor writing is time, as writers often power through emails and memos, giving a document a cursory glance before sending it to colleagues or clients. Step away from your piece before you submit it, and give it a thorough proofread.

Reading your writing in a new form — for example, on paper instead of on a screen; in a different font; or out loud — can be helpful in finding typos or grammatical errors.

By Kelly Laffey, for theladders.com

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About CMCA ~ The Essential Credential

CAMICB is a more than 25 year old independent professional certification body responsible for developing and delivering the Certified Manager of Community Associations® (CMCA) examination. CAMICB awards and maintains the CMCA credential, recognized worldwide as a benchmark of professionalism in the field of common interest community management. The CMCA examination tests the knowledge, skills, and abilities required to perform effectively as a professional community association manager. CMCA credential holders attest to full compliance with the CMCA Standards of Professional Conduct, committing to ethical and informed execution of the duties of a professional manager. The CMCA credentialing program carries dual accreditation. The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) accredits the CMCA program for meeting its U.S.-based standards for credentialing bodies. The ANSI National Accreditation Board (ANAB) accredits the CMCA program for meeting the stringent requirements of the ISO/IEC 17024 Standard, the international standards for certification bodies. The program's dual accreditation represents compliance with rigorous standards for developing, delivering, and maintaining a professional credentialing program. It underscores the strength and integrity of the CMCA credential. Privacy Policy: https://www.camicb.org/privacy-policy

1 thought on “Master these 7 grammar tips if you want to sound smarter

  1. This gave me a smile this morning.

    For example, consider the sentence “My roommate and I/me went to the store.” If you think about the sentence as “I went to the store” or “Me went to the store,” it’s more obvious that “I” is correct.”I” is the subject of the verb “to be.”

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