Even if writing is not your strength, you still need to be introduced to proper style, punctuation, and grammar when writing. Writing is an important factor in everyone’s life because the way you write says a lot to clients, employers and even co-workers. The written word is nowadays present everywhere, especially because we live in the electronic age.
There are many grammar, style and punctuation errors found in resumes, applications and even simplest conversation on the social media. Of course, there are grammar rules that are constantly changing, but the general rules rarely do. This is why you need to be introduced to the most common errors people often make that either change the meaning of the sentence or make the person seem less serious and even sloppy.
That or Which?
These two relative pronouns are used almost all the time but are often mistaken.
The first thing you need to know regarding ‘which’ and ‘that’ and their use is that ‘which’ should always come after a comma, while ‘that’ rarely does.
You should actually use which when you are introducing some additional information. In this case, ‘which’ becomes a non-restrictive clause, like in the example ‘This is a maple tree, which grows only in this area’. This means that you could use ‘which’ to include more information, but it is not vital for the sentence to be valid.
You use ‘that’ when the information you are about to introduce is restrictive and vital to the sentence you are writing. A defining clause like ‘the maple tree’ is your indicator that you need to use this relative pronoun.
Comma or Semi-Colon?
There are so many rules you probably learned at school regarding this distinction, but we can rarely remember and implement them all in our writing. Therefore, we really need to introduce a new system of distinguishing between the usage of the comma and the semi-colon in our sentences.
When reading what you are writing, comma should always stand in the spot of the short, natural pause. However, if the pause is longer than the natural one, but still does not lead to a full ending of the sentence, you need semi-colon. Therefore, your best way of determining which one to use is by reading the sentence aloud or in your mind.
Dash or Hyphens?
Setting off a clause should always go with a longer dash. You can always use two hyphens if you cannot use the longer dash on your pc. However, you must always make sure that the sentence continues to make sense even without the dashes you have just included.
The dash is also used instead of a colon when wanting to dramatically emphasize the following words and phrases. Additionally, you can use dashes in order to add some element of surprise in the sentence.
The main difference between these two lies in the sentence parts-word parts difference. The dashes are usually used to set off sentence parts, while the hyphens are used to join words.
Split infinitives are not forbidden, but you should try to avoid them when writing. In some cases, the sentence needs to be split in order to sound better, but in many cases split infinitives sound bad.
Clear and Unclear Referents
When writing, you should always make sure that every referent you use is clear. The reader of your writing must be aware of which point of the text you are referring to. Using ‘he’, ‘she’, ‘this part’ or ‘it’ must clearly refer to a person, point or a thing so that the reader does not have to wonder what you are referring to.
The English language uses capital letters for proper names, but we still do not use capital m for ‘mom’. Why is this? Well, mom is actually a title of a person and not a proper name.
The same thing applies for things that usually use capital letters, such as ‘university’. When you are speaking of the particular university you are studying in or were studying in, you do not need to use a capital letter. However, if you are speaking of a specific university by its name, you do.
The Vague Use of ‘This’
We use ‘this’ very often, without being really sure what we are talking about. This usually happens in cases where many elements are included into something that is more complex.
If you use ‘this’ for vague expressing, it can present you as a person that has mixed thoughts. This is why it is highly important that you start replacing this with certain words in your head; just to make sure that ‘this’ actually refers to something.
Who or Whom?
Very often we hear people correcting others by saying ‘whom’ or ‘who’. This is perhaps the most common mistake we do, both in writing and speaking. The one that performs the action is the one that we refer to as ‘who’, while the one that the action is performed on is ‘whom’.
Apostrophes are really tricky, but they are not so difficult when you understand how to use them.
The two most common uses of apostrophes are for contractions and possessions.
Contractions are very easy because they help us cut down the words we use. They are really infused in the English language. However, people often make mistakes between you’re and your, they’re and their; because of it.
You’re is a contraction of you are, while your is a possessive with the meaning of something belonging to someone.
They’re is a contraction of they are, while their is a possessive with the meaning of something that belongs to ‘them’.
This second use of apostrophes is more confusing than the first one. They usually come in singular and plural. However, they both have the same purpose and that is of showing the reader who is the one owning an object or thing.
The most common confusion occurs when the owner is not only one person. Sometimes, there are two owners, after which the apostrophe goes after the plural ‘s’ in the end of the word (such as ‘cars’).
This is even more complicated with nouns that are plural in general, such as ‘men’ or ‘children’. In these cases, the apostrophe always goes before ‘s’.
We sure learned passive voice for reason, but overusing the passive can make your writing seem bad. Try to avoid passive voice where possible.
Underlines and Italics
Underlines and italics are commonly used, but should never be used together. Underlining and italics actually carry the same meaning. Therefore, if you underline a word that is already put in italic, this means that you want the word to be taken out of the italics. This is something very similar to a double negative.
Grammar, punctuation and style can be very complex when writing but learning to avoid the most common mistakes can make the process much easier. After all, there are many cases where people did not get employed or missed a great opportunity because of some basic mistakes in writing or speaking. Therefore, it is crucial that one understands where they make mistakes and how they can fix them.