Thanks to ‘text speak’ and the myriad of ways instant messaging has diluted the English language, good grammar is rarely on display these days.
You’ll find it in well-written blogs, newspaper articles and, of course, books, but when it comes to emails and other forms of internal and external business communication, witnessing correct use of the English language is a bit of a lottery.
With that in mind, it’s probably time we all brushed up a bit on grammar!
Our handy rules below should always be by your side (or at least in your mind) whenever you sit down to write anything.
If you’re writing about something that isn’t true, and therefore starting the sentence with the word if, you need to use a subjunctive.
For instance: “If I were a millionaire”, rather than “If I was a millionaire”.
However, when using the word if for a different purpose, such as a question, there’s no need to use a subjunctive.
For instance: “The policeman asked if the man was ok.”
It’s tricky to know when a semicolon is required, but there’s usually only two instances where it makes sense.
The first is if you need to separate two complete clauses, which are essentially sentences that could stand on their own. For instance: she knocked on the door; there was no answer.
The second is when you need to separate list items. For instance: I added my favourite songs to the playlist: Yellow Brick Road; Lady Madonna; Jumping Jack Flash.
Adverbs and Adjectives
It’s incredibly easy to mix up adverbs and adjectives, but doing so can lead to some pretty clumsy sentences.
For instance, Dave didn’t run quick, he ran quickly.
“Quickly” is an adverb whereas “quick” is an adjective. A simple mistake to make – particularly if you’re writing quickly and without thought. A proofread should sniff such instances out, though!
It might not surprise you to hear that commas are the most used punctuation mark in the English language.
Unfortunately, they’re also the most misused.
The rules for commas aren’t particularly forthcoming, leaving most writers to govern the use of this punctuation mark themselves.
Don’t be too generous with your use of commas. Instead, insert them only where you feel it’s necessary and if, during a proofread, you think they make for an awkward reading experience, remove a few!
Hey – perhaps that last paragraph could do with a comma review. What do you think?
Correct use of “’ve”
When you add “’ve” to the end of a word, such as “could’ve”, what do you think it stands for?
Many people think it’s in place of the word “of”, but that’s unfortunately not the case – it replaces the word “have”.
This is fine, of course, until you decide to separate the two words and end up with a sentence like “Jenny could of had the salmon but chose not to”.
There’s one omission from the list above, which is the dreaded “their, they’re, there”, but we’ll leave you with that thought!