Grammar 101: Three Tips to Better Grammar and Proofreading
While looking for a new job, you find the perfect posting and send in your resume. You know that you are more than qualified and it sounds like a great fit. So why didn’t you get called for an interview? You may not know it, but it could be poor grammar.
Your credibility and promotability can be dramatically affected by poor grammar. Knowing what mistakes you frequently make and how to find and correct them is half the battle. The following three tips can help get you on the road to great grammar.
1. Be on the lookout for frequently misused words. Common errors include:
Their: is a possessive noun. Example: They drink their coffee with sugar.
There: refers to a place. Example: There she goes.
They’re: a contraction for “they are.” Example: They’re over there.
To: used for expressing motion or direction toward a point, person, place or thing. Example: He went to the library. He tore it to pieces.
Too: generally means in addition, also or furthermore. It also means to an extent or degree. Example: This time he went too far.
Two: a number. Example: He ate two donuts.
Lose: means to misplace something. Example: I may lose my mind.
Loose: means not fastened or relaxed. Example: Andy wears loose fit jeans.
2. When to use an apostrophe. In general, use an apostrophe in the following three situations:
To show possession
Possessive apostrophes show ownership of something. There is a simple test to determine the location of a possessive apostrophe. Try rephrasing the sentence using have, has or of.
- The company has a logo.
- The company’s logo (The company OWNS the logo).
If the word already ends in s, whether plural or not, it is usually acceptable to add only an apostrophe (rather than an apostrophe and the letter “s”).
- The Smiths have a cold pool.
- The Smiths’ pool is cold (the apostrophe follows Smiths).
- The society of today.
- Today’s society.
- James has a DVD player.
- James’ DVD player or James’s DVD player is acceptable to match pronunciation.
For contraction or to show omission of letters or numbers
- It is = it’s
- She is = she’s
- 1996 = ’96
To make something plural, where leaving the apostrophe out would cause confusion
- Incorrect: Dot your is and cross your ts.
- Correct: Dot your i’s and cross your t’s.
3. Try these proofreading techniques to help catch errors:
- Take a break between writing and proofreading. Set the documents aside for the night – or even 20 minutes.
- Try reading backwards, one sentence at a time. This will help you focus on the sentence, rather than getting caught up in the content.
- If proofing a hard copy, double space the document or change the font to look at it in a new way.
- To help focus your eyes, use a brightly colored piece of paper (called a screen or pacer) to help you go through the document line by line.
- Create memory hooks to help remember your common errors. As silly as it sounds, it really does work.
- Knowing is Half the Battle
We’ve all made grammatical and typographical errors in important documents. Knowing what mistakes you frequently make and how to correct them will take the stress out of proofing your written materials and save you time.