Check out these 8 grammar rules you won’t believe you’re missing:
Stop Adding a Scale to Absolute Adjectives
While some adjectives, such as big, small, and tall, are scalable, some are not. Words such as perfect, permanent, and pregnant are all absolute adjectives, but we sometimes add unnecessary words regardless. Examples of this include:
- Very Unique
- Almost Perfect
- More Complete
These mistakes also creep in when referring to hair colours, microblading, and some tattoos as “semi-permanent”. As explained above, permanence isn’t something that is gradable or scalable, so something cannot be semi-permanent; it is permanent, or it isn’t.
Check Your Hyphens
“Springfield Has Little-Town Charm”
As you can see in the example above, using hyphens correctly can be the difference between two completely different meanings. With the hyphen, the sentence tells you that Springfield has the charm of a little town, as you can see: “Springfield has little-town charm”. Without, it would tell you that it had very little charm at all, as seen here: “Springfield has little town charm”.
The role of hyphens is to remove doubt about what is being said, as you can see in some of the sentences below:
- The Lady Had a Concealed-Weapons Permit
- The weapons are the items that are concealed, rather than the permit. Without a hyphen, this could have been ambiguous.
- A Long-Standing Friend
- The friend has been familiar with this person for a while, as the hyphen shows. Without the hyphen, it could be assumed that the friend had been literally standing for a long period of time.
When it comes to using compound hyphens properly, you should also know about words that end in “ly”, such as highly, vastly, and other words that describe how something is done. While you would hyhenate “high-quality”, you wouldn’t hyphenate “highly qualified”. The “ly” acts in place of the hyphen, so it’s not required.
Keep Your Capital Letters Correct
Capital letters have a number of uses in the written language, including:
- The Start of a New Sentence
- Writing a Proper Noun e.g. The European Union, Oxford University
- Writing Acronyms e.g. BBC, ITV, FIFA
Using capital letters correctly ensures that impact is included in the right places. It’s also an effective way to keep your content neat and tidy, rather than it being all over the place. Block capitals should be avoided at all times, as they appear shouty and, sometimes, rude.
While it is correct to use capitals in standalone job titles, such as Director, Copywriter, or Detective, you shouldn’t capitalise these titles in the body text. For example:
- “Captain Raymond Holt will return to the precinct with his squad for Brooklyn 99 Season Six”. Due to the job title preceding Raymond Holt, it would be capitalised because it’s used as part of his name.
- “Jake Peralta is a detective in Brooklyn 99, played by Andy Samberg.” In this context, the term “detective” is used as additional detail, so it doesn’t need to be capitalised.
Use the Correct Homophones
Homophones are notorious for being spelt incorrectly, especially on social media, in comment sections, and on blogs. Some of the most notable are listed below, along with explanations:
- Their, There, and They’re
- Their - Something That Belongs to Someone Else
- “Look at their car.”
- There - A Place
- “Let’s go over there.”
- They’re - A Conjunction of They Are
- “They’re getting married on Saturday.”
- To, Too, and Two
- To - A Proposition Tool
- “People are travelling to France this summer.”
- Too - An Adverb That Means “Also” or “Additionally”
- “I want a dessert, too.”
- Two - This Is Only Used as a Number
- “I’d like two tickets for the show please.”
- By, Bye, and Buy
- By - Indicates the Means of Achieving Something
- “I Can Get Fitter by Exercising More”
- Bye - Short for Goodbye
- “Bye, see you next time!”
- Buy - To Purchase Something
- “I’d like to buy a new car.”
- Here and Hear
- Here - A Place
- “Let’s go over here.”
- Hear - To Distinguish Sound
- “I can hear a noise coming from that house.”
- Your and You’re
- Your - Relating to You
- “We’ll come over to your house for dinner.”
- You’re - A Conjunction of You Are
- “You’re never going to believe what she said.”
By using the correct homophones, you’re able to ensure that your meaning is clear and that your grammar is impeccable. This will show authority and make sure that your clients know exactly what you’re talking about.
“Should of” vs. “Should Have”, What’s the Difference?
A mistake that seems to slip through on a regular basis is using “should of” instead of “should have”. This is prevalent in sentences such as “I should have tried this restaurant sooner, it’s amazing!” The phrase indicates a missed obligation or opportunity, and only “should have” is acceptable in this context.
“Should of” can be used in other circumstances, usually when the “should” is followed by an expression that starts with “of”. An example of this is:
- “You should, of course, compare prices.”
Consider the Effect of “Affect” vs. “Effect”
“Affect” and “effect” are two of the easiest words to mix up. There are a few things to remember to ensure that you’re using the right ones, including:
- “Affect” Is Usually a Verb
- It means to impact or change something.
- “Effect” Is Usually a Noun
- It is the result of the impact.
A good example of each is below:
- “The UK’s decision to leave the European Union could greatly affect British farmers.”
- “The effects of Brexit will only become apparent after March 2019.”
Make Fewer Mistakes with “Less” and “Fewer”
While grammar lessons typically come from the classroom, some helpful wisdom can also be found in one of the decade’s most popular television shows. In Game of Thrones, Jon Snow can be seen talking to Ser Davos Seaworth about the number of soldiers they have for the coming conflict. Jon says: “How many men do we have in the North to fight him? Ten thousand? Less?” Davos replies: “Fewer.”
The correction that he makes refers to the fact that if you have a countable number of things, in this instance ten thousand men, you should use “fewer”. The term “less” should only be used for more general things, such as salt, money, or love. In simple terms, if you can count it, use “fewer”.
Make Sense by Using the Correct “That” or “Which”
Many people struggle with which word to use when it comes to “that” or “which”. In basic terms, if the sentence doesn’t need the clause that comes after the word, use “which”. If it needs it, use “that”. An example is provided below:
- “Our office, which has two floors, is located in London.”
- Because the sentence would have said “Our office is located in London” without the clause, you’d use “which”.
- “The Harry Potter book that has the Triwizard Tournament in it is my favourite.”
- Your favourite Harry Potter isn’t just any of the books, it’s the one with the Triwizard Tournament in it.