As an English teacher, I have witnessed a myriad of grammatical atrocities committed at the hands of my students. I’ve seen adverbs used as nouns and whole paragraphs written without a capital letter in sight. I have nightmares about run-on sentences that are longer than a classic Russian novel. Grammar tends to take a backseat in education, which is evident by all of the poorly written Facebook status updates riddled with nonexistent punctuation and misused yours.
Grammarly is a nifty online proofreading tool that helps you find all of those pesky grammatical mistakes – no more sneaky prepositions or passive voice lurking in your papers. Having Grammarly at my fingertips while in undergrad would’ve made writing my seminar papers three thousand times easier, but it’s still a nice tool to have on hand post-college for formal emails, blog posts, and days when my proofreading brain decides to revolt.
I use Grammarly for proofreading because otherwise, I would lapse into the oh-so-wrong text-speak of my 7th grade students. If I see “kinda” written one more time…
To be honest, I’m pretty lenient when it comes to writing style. A fragment here or there for effect never hurt anybody, and I myself dole out commas without much of a second thought. But there are some grammar faux pas that are downright unacceptable, even for a comma abuser like myself.
- It’s vs. its – Every time you use “it’s”, you’re saying “it is”. So say it. Literally. Out loud. Replace “it’s” with “it is”. Does it make sense? Good. “The spider spun it is web”? Not so good.
- A lot vs. alot – ‘A lot’ will never be one word. Unless you’re Allie Brosh and are talking about the elusive creature, the alot.
- Subject/verb agreement – This one can get confusing, especially if you have a lot of clauses. Your verb should align with your subject; don’t get distracted by other nouns in a phrase or clause. “The cake, as well as the cupcakes, was delicious”.
- The Oxford Comma – This is a point of contention among many, but, love of commas aside, I’m a strong supporter for using the Oxford Comma to avoid ambiguity. What exactly is the Oxford Comma? Take a look at the following list of items: coffee, bacon, and ham. That comma after “bacon”? That’s the Oxford Comma. Now imagine this. A waitress asks if you would like coffee, bacon, green eggs and ham. Are you getting green eggs and green ham? Regular ham? Is “green eggs and ham” one dish? What if you don’t like green ham? Without the Oxford Comma, you’re not sure what items are grouped together. But if the menu says brunch consists of coffee, bacon, green eggs, and ham, don’t you have a better idea of what you’re ordering? Use of the Oxford Comma is not mandatory in most places, but it does help prevent ambiguity, which is why I say just make it a habit.
- Could of, would of, should of – No, just no. Even though “could of” and “could have” might sound similar when spoken aloud, it is always could have, would have, should have.
How many times have I expressed my exasperation in this post? Too many.
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