Friday, July 14, 2017

Essential Grammar and Punctuation

Why you need writing tips to make you a better writer

The world we live in today is run, in part, by writers.  With so many changes happening  on a daily basis, a large number of those are written up by writers of every kind.  To help organisations, companies and governments etc.

Whether you're an author or a content writer you need the right tips to get the best results.  The quality and effectiveness of your writing will, to an extent, be impacted by your writing.  It doesn't hurt to go over and refresh some of your grammar and punctuation knowledge every once in a while.

Writing Errors: How to use the apostrophe

Are you making these writing mistakes? 

The apostrophe and its use is not as difficult as it sounds.  Once you understand it and study it you can't go wrong.

The apostrophe

1. Using an apostrophe in a contraction

Apostrophe's can be shown with at least one letter left out.  This is called contraction - contracting two words into one word.


If Bob had asked me to join the spy ring, I would of said, "No way".


If Bob had asked me to join the spy ring, I would've said, "No way".

Also right

If Bob had asked me to join the spy ring, I would have said, "No way".

Notice how the third example flows better and reads more like a conversation.

2. Using an apostrophe to show ownership.

To show ownership you add an apostrophe then an 's'.

The pen of my uncle
instead use 
My uncle's pen

The letters of the lovers
instead use
The lovers' letters

Bottom line is if the ownership is for one person add an apostrophe and an 's'.

3. When you shouldn't use apostrophes.

Abbreviations don't require apostrophes.

CDs, DVDs and CVs, that's why they're written in capital letters.  Adding an 's' implies that you mean lots of them.

Below are 4 sentences for you to correct.  You can read the answers after them to correct check what you've written.

1. He kept his childrens' bedroom furniture long after they left home for college.

2. Her table and chairs got wet because of the flood which hit her village during the last nights storm.

3. The girls' skateboard was broken, so she asked her brother to fix it.

4. My sister doesn't think she can make it to my party tonight.  She's got to work instead.


1. He kept his children's bedroom furniture long after they left home for college.

2. Her table and chairs got wet because of the flood which hit her village during the last night's storm.

3. The girls' skateboard was broken, so she asked her brother to fix it.

4. My sister doesn't think she can make it to my party tonight.  She's got to work instead.

Writing Errors: Punctuation Part I

Are you making these writing mistakes with punctuation?

This is a basic break down of the problems writers have with punctuation.  It's pretty basic but it should help you with its every day use.

When you should use exclamation marks

Exclamation marks are used to show someone is shouting, adding an exclamation mark shows the sound effect.

Here are some examples:

His dog was huge!
What a massive dog!

My parents' anniversary is today.
Happy anniversary, Mum and Dad!


Full stops and ellipses

A full stop is used to end a sentence.


If I go out early in the morning.

If I go out early in the morning, I could catch the first bus into town.

The first sentence was too short, the second sentence was complete and deserved a full stop.

Using ellipsis

While full stops end a sentence, ellipsis are used to show something is to be continued or trailing off.

Having only 3 dots (...) ellipsis is used just before a full stop.

Quick note:


Using brackets

Brackets can be used in a variety of different ways:

Use brackets to include questions or qualifications within a text.

I had a great time during my visit to America last year.  I had the most fun at a rodeo I saw om Texas last year (or was it Alabama?)

Use brackets around numbers, if you need to write a list.

Use brackets as an interruption within a sentence.

Writing Errors: Punctuation Part II

Are you making these writing mistakes? 

In this article we'll look at the use of the hyphen, semi-colon and colon.  All of the points covered in this article are for those people that may be unsure are may be just want a quick refresher of the use of grammar and punctuation.

When should you use the colon?

Below are two examples of when you should use a colon:

1. Introducing a list, use colon.


I have very little time to learn the language:  my new job starts in six weeks.

All three of their children are involved in the arts: Richard is a sculptor, Diane is a pianist, and Julie is a theatre director.

2. Breaking up a long sentence, use a colon.

If more than one sentence follows a colon capitalise the first word following the colon.


He made three points: First, the company was losing over a million dollars each month.  Second, the stock price was lower than it had ever been.  Third, no banks were willing to loan the company any more money.

When to use a semi-colon

Below are two instances using a semi-colon:

1. Semi-colons can be used to separate lists where more information is given about a particular item.


Some people write with a word processor; others write with a pen or pencil.

2. Semi colons can be used to join two sentences which are connected.


The ants on the picnic scene were noticeably slow; they had started to eat the cheese.

When should you use a hyphen?

Sometimes mistakenly used as a dash, the hyphen is used when you want to shorten the pause between words, a dash on the other hand lengthens the pause.

1. Make a meaning clearer with a hyphen.


Yesterday we had a two-hour long tutorial.

2. Use a hyphen to link words together to make a compound adjective.


State-of-the-art design

3. Change the meaning of a word with a hyphen.


I asked to re-take the driving test because the instructor's wig made be lose my concentration.

4. Break up a word at the end of a live with a hyphen

Remember the small rule of not breaking up one syllable words (like pawn, step etc) peoples names, words that are already compound words and other proper nouns.  Also never divide a word leaving only one or two letters on one line e.g. 'res-pect', not 're-spect'.

Here are three sentences to correct in your own time.  See the answers below and check how you did.

1. I asked my tutor to remark the test because I was not happy with the 'D' she gave me.

2. His sister in law, a well known blogger, made her fortune writing about personal accounting on the web.

3. In this lesson we discussed the following. Colons, semi-colons; and hyphens.


1. I asked my tutor to re-mark the test because I was not happy with the 'D' she gave me.

2. His sister-in-law, a well-known blogger, made her fortune writing about personal accounting on the web.

3. In this lesson we discussed the following: Colons, semi-colons and hyphens.

How to use inverted commas, capital letters and brackets

This is a quick reminder about the use of brackets, capital letters and inverted commas.

1. Using quotation marks or inverted commas.

Mostly used to enclose direct speech or a quotation mark.


My boss said to me "You were paid last week."

"Are you going to finish that?"  Shrek asked Fiona.

2. Using inverted commas to enclose quotations.


I was terrified the first time I read Stephen King's 'The Stand'.

Using brackets

1. Brackets are used to enclose a statement inserted into a sentence.


My friend persisted for months (even though I expressed no interest) about joining a dance class.

2. Brackets are useful for enclosing numbers.


A knowledge of SEO

(1) Content writing is king as far as SEO is tightly in place.

(2) Excellent material will go unread unless people know its there.

Using capital letters

1. Start a sentence with a capital letter.

2. Start a proper noun (Johnson, England, Jupiter) with a capital letter.

3. A capital letter should always be used to start days of the week and months of the year.

When should you use commas?

The use of the comma in sentences is not always clear, I probably use the comma too much at times.  It's useful to point out that too many commas can slow down an article or story and may even put your reader off.

1. Before your quotation marks for direct speech a comma should be used.


Daniella said, "I really like that jumper.  Does it come in pink?"

2. When you're writing a list use a comma.


I've almost packed my suitcase for my holiday, but I still need to put in some shirts, a hat, sun cream, sandals and my toiletry bag.

3. Separate two or more adjectives which refer to a particular noun with a comma.


Her curries tend to be tasteless, cold, thick and chewy.

4. When you put a phrase into a sentence to give more explanation, use a comma.


When he broke my black stilettos, which were brand new, I became very upset.

The correct time to use a full stop

One of the easiest punctuation marks to use, and is used at the end of a sentence/thought and also commands the longest pause.

1. Use a full stop at the end of a sentence.

A full stop ends a sentence as everyone knows.  A capital letter is then used to start a new sentence.

2. Use a full stop after an abbreviation.

Using a full stop after an abbreviation, a capital letter doesn't need to start the next word unless it's a proper noun, which will naturally require a capital letter.

Writing Errors: How to use nouns, verbs, pronouns and adjectives

There are eight different parts to speech in the English language.  When you start to grasp these different parts you can start to understand how sentences are joined together, making them readable and enabling you to punctuate any sentence.

These eight parts consist of nouns, verbs, pronouns, and adjectives.


You can define a noun as person, place or thing.  With the exception for example of love, which isn't a concrete thing that can't be seen or held, but plainly exists, so this is also a noun.

You can divide nouns into two categories: common and proper nouns.  A proper noun is the name of a person or place that is capitalised (Plymouth College, Rachel Smith, etc.).  A common noun is a name that isn't capitalised (school, chair, book, etc.).


A verb can describe an action or state of being.  It's important to understand that verbs are not only action verbs: walk, run, jump, play, sing etc.

They can also be linking verbs, which don't express action, but instead express classification, identity or existence (Common linking verbs are is, am, was, were and verb phrases which end in being, be, been).


You can use a pronoun, to replace a noun.  For example, you could say "Peter likes pie" you can substitute Peter with "He".  Writers should only use a pronoun after a noun has been used first because it needs to be clear which noun the pronoun is replacing.


An adjective is used to change a noun or pronoun.  Basically it provides more information about a place, thing or person.  For example, in the sentence Harry is tall, skinny mantall and skinny are the adjectives used to describe Harry.

Writing Error: How to use adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions and interjections


Very similar to an adjective, an adverb modifies a verb, an adjective or any other adverb.  In this example Lucy ran quickly towards the fence, because the word quickly describes how she ran.


The relationship between a noun or pronoun can be described with a preposition.  This relationship is usually directional, temporal or spatial.  As an example John walked towards the gate, the word towards is the preposition showing direction.  When pronouns, prepositions and nouns are linked together they create word groups, which are referred to as prepositional phrases.  In the preceding example, towards the gate is a prepositional phrase.


You can link words or parts of sentences together with a conjunction.  There are four contrasting types of conjunction: Correlative, adverb, subordinating and coordinating.
  • Correlative conjunctions combine a coordinating conjunction with another word (e.g: In the sentence both Peter and I are having a difficult time with the homework, both... and are the correlative conjunctions.)
  • Conjunctive adverbs are erratic words used to connect one sentence to another.  Ordinary conjunctive verbs include in addition, additionally, also, moreover, consequently, also, furthermore, instead, otherwise, for example, for instance, on the other hand, however, nevertheless, conversely, accordingly, therefore, generally, in other words, in fact, in conclusion and finally.#
  • Subordinating conjunctions start at the beginning of subordinate clauses and are usually used to connect the subordinate clause to the rest of the sentence (furthermore can be referred to as the independent clause).  Natural subordinating conjunctions can include although, as, after, before, because, even though, once, if, rather than, that, since, though, until, unless, whenever, when, while, whereas.
  • Coordinating conjunctions you can connect similar words or independent clauses (sentences) together with for, and, or, yet, so. FANBOYS is the acronym often referred to for coordinating conjunctions.

A word added to a sentence to convey emotion and not grammatically related to any other part of the sentence, this is an interjection.  You can use them as a single word sentence (e.g. Wow!).  Seldom used in academic writing, their use should be avoided.

Parentheses, acronyms and abbreviations how to use them

Consistently used in pairs, parentheses, allow a writer to provide additional information.  This might include a fragment, a single word, or multiple complete sentences.

The material inside the parentheses does not need to be grammatically integral to the surrounding sentence.  If the material is changed the sentence must be amended.  You can avoid this by reading your sentence without parenthetical content.  If it feels right the parentheses are acceptable, if not, the punctuation must be changed.

Incorrect: The prime minister (and his secretary) were expected to arrive by 11.00 a.m.

Correct: The Prime Minister (and his secretary) travelled by private jet.

Arrangement of other punctuation

When the closing punctuation mark for the sentence is placed inside the closing parentheses, the sentence stands on its own.


The idea that theoretical physics can be taught without reference to complex mathematics is patently absurd. (But don't tell that to the publishers of such mathematics-free books - or the people who buy them).

In a larger sentence parenthetical content occurs at the end and the closing punctuation mark for the sentence is placed outside the closing parenthesis.


After four weeks on set, the cast was fed up with his direction (or, rather, lack of direction).

In a larger sentence parenthetical content occurs in the middle and the surrounding punctuation should be placed outside the parentheses, as it would be if the parenthetical content were not there.


We verified his law degree (Harvard, class of 2010), but his work history remains unconfirmed.

When parentheses occurs in the middle of a larger sentence, it should never be capitalised or end with a period - nevertheless a question mark or exclamation point is acceptable.


We verified his law degree (none of us thought he was lying about that) but not his billion-dollar verdict against Exxon (how gullible did he think we were?).

Abbreviations and acronyms

When you first use an abbreviation or acronym the full term can be provided in parentheses.


Harry Gardner has been appointed CKO (chief knowledge officer) of the merged company.

An acronym or abbreviation, on reverse, can be provided in parentheses upon its first use, and then used in place of full term in the remainder of the document


In conducting the study, researchers relied on position emission tomography (PET) and, to a lesser extent, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Em dash how to use it

It's not hard to understand why most writers love using em dashes, like most tools they're unique.

The difference between em dash and en dash

Em dashes differ in appearance, mostly because its named after its length-about the same length as a capital M.  En dash its alphabetical cousin is about the same width as the capital N.


When most other punctuation seems awkward, em dash saves the day.  For example, em dashes can replace parentheses at the end of a sentence, or when multiple commas appear in a parenthetical sentence.


After a split second of hesitation, the goal keeper leaped for the ball (or, rather; limped for it).

After a split second of hesitation, the goal keeper leaped for the ball-or; rather; limped for it.