Knowing a few easy grammar tips goes a long way toward improving your writing. Learning grammar basics will make it possible for you to write clearer, more effective papers. Here is a little grammar tutorial to get you started.
Beware of Commonly Misused Words
One sure way for a writer to look like he doesn't know what he's talking about is to use the wrong word. Beware of these commonly mixed up words; when in doubt, check yourself with a dictionary.
End Sentences with Proper Punctuation
The punctuation you use can completely change the meaning and tone of your sentence, so be sure you are using it correctly. Consider these three sentences:
The first sentence simply tells us to look under the couch; you might find what you're looking for there. The second sentence urgently commands us to look under the couch. The third sentence suggests that there's something happening under the couch. The fourth one asks if we should bother looking under the couch.
As you can see, the same set of words can have very different meanings, depending on the punctuation.
Know when to Capitalize
The first word of every sentence is capitalized. You must also capitalize all proper nouns. Days of the week and months of the year are always capitalized.
Capitalization gets tricky when it comes to writing titles. The first and last words of the titles must always be capitalized, as well as any other words in the title except for articles and conjunctions, such as "the," "an," "or," etc, unless those words are the first or last words in the titles. Here are some examples:
Beware of Fragments
Every sentence must contain a subject and a verb. It must be a complete thought. If it doesn't have a subject and a verb, it is a fragment that needs to be rewritten to be able to stand alone and make sense. Look at these two examples:
Although it is short, "Amy jumps" is a complete sentence. It has a subject and a predicate. We know what Amy did. In the second example, notice there is no action; we have no information about what Harry and the monkey are doing, thus it is not a complete thought. To make it correct, we must add a predicate: Harry and the monkey went to the store.
Beware of Run-on Sentences
Sometimes, in an effort to make complex sentences, a writer may end up with run-on sentences, where you have more than one subject and predicate. These can be fixed in a couple of different ways. You can choose to make them two complete sentences, or, if they are closely related, you may choose to separate them with a semicolon. For example:
This is a run-on, which can be corrected like this:
Mastering these rules will give you a good foundation for building grammar skills. Although proper writing can be tricky and sometimes seem strange, good grammar is something that you'll need throughout your life.
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