Can you spot the mistakes in this paragraph?
Melissa was excited about her son’s swimming ability. This fall, she asked, “Would you like to join the swim team”? Sammy was thrilled about the idea, accept for one thing: the tight swimsuits. “Why do I have to wear spandex”, he complained, “I’m all ready the fastest swimmer in the pool”!
Grammar can be painful.
Even after years of writing, there are grammatical errors that impede us all. For some, it’s punctuation. For others, it’s word selection. And when you repeat the same mistakes, bad habits get harder to break.
This year, make a mental note to dodge those potholes! Here are three mistakes to avoid in your writing:
Apostrophes indicate possession for nouns and letter omissions in contractions.
Generally, singular possessive apostrophes come before the ‘s’ and plural possessives apostrophes come afterward, like this:
Singular Possessive: Jim’s hat or Mike’s coat
Plural Possessive: Several years’ work or many students’ books
Apostrophes do not indicate possession for personal pronouns, so it is incorrect to add an apostrophe to “it” or “who” when designating ownership.
When contractions are used, apostrophes replace the missing letters. For example:
Do punctuation marks go inside or outside quotation marks?
This one can be tricky because British and American English have different rules (which is why you sometimes see discrepancies). Here are two basic American guidelines:
Remember, if you are INSIDE the U.S., commas and periods go INSIDE the quotation marks. Like this:
If they apply to the quoted material, these marks belong inside the quotation marks. If they apply to the whole sentence, they go outside.
Each of these sentences is correct:
Words that are commonly misused include these pairs:
Rule of Thumb: “Effect” is usually a noun, while “affect” is typically a verb.
Rule of Thumb: “There” refers to a place, while “their” indicates possession.
Example: We’re going to love it there—I heard their breadsticks are the best!
Rule of Thumb: “Accept” typically includes, while “except” usually excludes.
Example: I was proud to accept an award (though everyone except the dog received one).
Rule of Thumb: To “assure” is to make someone confident of something; to “ensure” is to guarantee that something actually happens.
Example: Though Mike assured me that the dog would not escape, I locked Scout’s kennel to ensure he stayed put.
Rule of Thumb: “Farther” refers to physical distance and “further” denotes metaphorical (or figurative) lengths or advancement.
Example: I want to run farther next time, but need to progress further in my training to grow my endurance.
While grammar debates can make your head spin, hopefully, these tips can alleviate confusion. Do small things with excellence, and you’ll make big strides!