Making Improvements to a Sentence at Word Level (Part 2)

Dealing With Pronoun Problems

For some writers, pronouns can be problematic.

What is a pronoun?

Pronouns such as I, me, he, she, herself, you, it, they, that, each, few, many, who, whoever, whose, someone, everybody, all of these can be used to replace a noun.  

Here are some rules to follow when you're using pronouns in a sentence.

1. Subject pronouns are applied when the pronoun is the subject of the sentence.

Example:

..... did the assignment.

I, he, she, we, they, who, whoever, are all pronouns and can be applied.

2. Subject pronouns are often used if they rename the subject.

Example:

It is she.
This is he speaking.

Quick note:  More commonly used phrasing that people tend to follow to be verbs with object pronouns like them, her, me.

Example:

It's just me at the door. (Mostly commonly used).
It is just I at the door.  (Technically correct).

3. When using who to refer to a personal pronoun (they, we, she, he, you, I), it requires the verb that agrees with that pronoun.

Example:

It is you who are mistaken.  (Correct).
It is you who's mistaken. (Incorrect).

4. Alongside subject pronouns are object pronouns which you will know as indirect object, direct object and object of a preposition.

Example:

Tonia saw her.  (Her is the direct object of the verb saw).
Give him the book.  (Direct object is the book, him is the indirect object).

5. Depending on the subjects the pronouns who, that and which can become plural or singular. 

Example:

She is the only one of those women who is always on time.  (Who refers to one, therefore a singular verb is used).

6. Singular pronouns always require singular verbs.

Example:

Each of the boys talks well.
Either of us is capable of doing the job.

The exception to the rule 1. Singular pronouns I and you take the plural verbs.

Example:

I play well.
You play well.

The exception to the rule 2.  When each is used in certain sentences it is not a subject, rather an adjunct which illustrates the true subject.

Example:

The men each gave his approval.  (Incorrect).
The men gave their approval.  (Correct).

7. Possessive pronouns like his, hers, its, ours, and yours don't need apostrophes.

8. The best time to use it's is when it is a contraction for it is or it has.  Likewise, the best time to use who's is when it means who is or who was.

Example:

It's been a warm evening.
Keeping oneself prepared is important.

9. Reflexive pronouns such as myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself are normally used when the subject and the object of a verb are the same person or thing.

Example:

David helped himself.

Use a reflexive pronoun when the object of the preposition refers to the previous noun or pronoun.

Example:

David bought it for himself.

Words that Cause Trouble for Writers

Just because your spellchecker tells you the word is spelt right doesn't mean it's the right word you're using.  The English language can be baffling to an English speaking native, and many words can be easily misused because they share similar meanings.  

Let's take a look at some of the most typically misused words.

Accept - to agree
Except - not including

Adverse - unfavourable or harmful
Averse - strongly disliking

Advice - a recommendation about what to do
Advise - to recommend something

Affect - to make a difference or change
Effect - to bring about a result

Aisle - a passage between a row of seats
Isle - an island

All together - all at once
Altogether - on the whole

Along - moving horizontally on
A long - Indicating to something of great length

Aloud - out loud
Allowed - something that is permitted

Altar - a sacred table in a church
Alter - to change something

Amoral - no concern for right or wrong
Immoral - not following accepted moral standards

Appraise - to assess something
Apprise - to inform someone

Assent - an agreement or approval
Ascent - to rise or climb up something

Aural - in relation to the ears or hearing
Oral - relating to the mouth, or something spoken

Balmy - pleasantly warm
Barmy - to be foolish or crazy

Bare - to be naked or to uncover something
Bear - to carry something or put up with

Bated - in great suspense
Baited - to attach bait or inserted

Bazaar - a Middle Eastern Market
Bizarre - something strange

Berth - a bunk on a ship
Birth - the arrival of a baby from the womb

Born - having started life
Borne - to be carried

Bough - the branch of a tree
Bow - to bend the head or the bow of a ship

Brake - to stop a vehicle or a device used to stop a vehicle
Break - a pause or to separate into pieces

Breach - to break through something or break a rule
Breech - the back part of a gun barrel

Broach - to raise a subject for discussion
Brooch - an item of jewellery

Canvas - type of strong cloth
Canvass - to pursue people's votes

Censure - to strongly criticise
Censor - to ban something like a book or a film

Cereal - a type of grain or breakfast food
Serial - a number of objects or people coming one after another

Chord - a group of musical notes
Cord - a flexible string or rope made from several twisted strands

Climactic - reaching a decisive moment or point of greatest tension
Climatic - something that relates to climatology

Coarse - having an irregular or uneven surface
Course - the way in which something develops or a series of lectures

Complacent - to be smug or self-satisfied
Complaisant - willing to please

Complement - an addition that improves something
Compliment - to express approval

Council - a group of individuals who manage or advise
Counsel - to give advice or advise someone

Cue - a signal for action
Queue - a line of people or vehicles

Curb - to control or limit something
Kerb - the stone edge of a pavement (British English)

Currant - a dried grape
Current - a flow of water or electricity, or something happening now

Defuse - to make a situation less tense
Diffuse - to spread over a wide area

E.g. - is an abbreviation of example
I.e. - means that is

Empathy - the ability to understand another person's perspective
Sympathy - a person who agrees with a particular ideal or cause

Their - possessive form of "they"
There - indicates a place
They're - a contraction of they are

To - a preposition that can indication direction
Too - used in the infinitive form of verbs

Who's - a contraction of who is
Whose - a possessive pronoun means "belonging to someone"

 

Using Capitalisation


1. Always capitalise the first letter in a sentence.

An uncomplicated rule of capitalisation and the easiest to remember.  Every time you start a new sentence, capitalise the first word.
 
Example:

A day without sunshine is like night.

2. Always capitalise proper nouns and adjectives.

This means particular places, people or things should be capitalised.

Example:

Names of groups and institutions (NHS)
Gods and religious texts (the Bible)
Time periods and events (the Industrial Revolution)
Companies and trademarks (Pepsi)
Nationalities and languages (French)
Schools, colleges and universities (Harvard University)
Street names (Downing Street)
Names of buildings, monuments, bridges, and tunnels (the Statue of Liberty)
Names of bodies of water, like rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, streams, and creeks (River Tyne)
Cities, countries and continents (London)
Names of mountains, mountain ranges, hills and volcanoes (Mount Etna)

3. Always capitalise the pronoun I.

No matter where the pronoun I is in a sentence it should always be capitalised.

Example:

Lee and I are going to the cinema later tonight.

4. Always capitalise books, movie titles, short stories, newspapers, radio programs, poems, plays, and television shows.

Creative works usually require capitalisation in their titles.  You capitalise the following words:

the first word
adjectives
nouns
verbs
the last word

Example:

Man of Steel
Spiderman - Homecoming
Anne of Green Gables
The Silence of the Lambs
Forrest Gump
Braveheart

5. Always capitalise the first, last word and every other word except conjunctions, prepositions in quotations.

Always capitalise the first word in quotations.

Only capitalise if it's a complete sentence, or a quotation within a larger sentence.  If it's a phrase that's going to sit in a larger sentence it doesn't need capitalisation.

Example:

Richard said. "In that case, I'm going for a jog!"

"Keep smiling, because life is a beautiful thing and there's so much to smile about." - Marilyn Monroe

6. Always capitalise the first, middle and last letter of a person's name, and also suffixes.

Example:

President Abraham Lincoln

Senior Marketing Director

You can use the same rule for family titles such as "Uncle Matthew"; however, if you're not using the title as a name you don't need to capitalise it.

Example:

Aunt Margaret
My grandma bakes the best cakes

7. Always capitalise acronyms, initialisms and initials.

Acronyms example:

NASA
FIFA

Initialisms example:

NHS
USA

Another example of initials is when someone (usually famous) goes by their own initials instead of their name.

Example:

JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy)
FDR (Franklin Delano Roosevelt)

8. Always capitalise days, months and holidays

All calendar days, months and holidays are capitalised.

Example:

Sunday
Tuesday
February
March
Easter
Christmas
Yom Kippur
Thanksgiving

9. Always capitalise when closing a letter

When you end a letter you usually end it with some kind of farewell.

Example:

Yours sincerely
Yours truly
Regards
Warm regards
Yours respectfully
Sincerely

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Making Improvements to a Sentence at Word Level (Part 1)

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