Writing Right: Tricky Little Grammar and Spelling Tricks

Posted on August 8, 2015 by Lara S

grammarChances are, your last high school English class was more than a few years ago. So, like a lot of adults, you’re probably a little rusty when it comes to grammar, spelling and punctuation. But, proper grammar is one of the things that clients rightly expect from every writer, no matter how inexperienced. Need some writing help in this area? These little tricks can make it easier to remember a few grammar rules:

Is it lay or lie?

Lying down is only something someone can do to oneself. You lie down for a nap. You only use lay when there’s a direct object. You can lay a book on a table or your coat on a chair. A good rule of thumb is to look for multiple nouns. If you see more than one and something is being done to one noun by the other, lay is the right word to use.

“Weird” is weird.

Everyone knows the “i before e, except after c” rule. But, there are so many exceptions that many teachers don’t use it anymore. One of those notable exceptions is “weird” and a lot of people misspell it because of that. But, as long as you remember that “weird” is one of the weirdly spelled words, you’ll always spell it right.

Where and when is the apostrophe’s place?

Apostrophes have only two purposes: contractions and showing possession. Take the sentence “Bryan’s taking his dog to the park.” You can rewrite it as “Bryan is taking his dog,” so, you need the apostrophe. They are (almost) never used for pluralizations. While they are a few cases where the apostrophe is used to pluralize, they are rare enough that you’d do well to avoid them for that purpose all the time.

The Effect of Affect

Affect is nearly always a verb. If you are talking about something’s impact, you want to use effect, which is usually a noun.

It can take some time to build up your grammar skills. A few tips to help yourself improve:

  1. Don’t use grammar checkers. They can make you lazy and, frankly, they don’t really work. They’ll miss a lot of things and give false positives on others.
  2. Read what you write out loud. You’ll often catch errors with your ears that you miss with your eyes.
  3. Read books about writing. You’ll learn a lot about the craft, including ways to improve your grammar.
  4. Look at grammar blogs and websites. Grammar Girl is a great one. Purdue OWL has a lot of great writing help such as many grammar exercises to help you memorize the rules.
  5. Write. The more you do it, the better you’ll get.

Writer Bio: Lara S is a freelance writer available for projects at WriterAccess.


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