Communications / October 10, 2018
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Like it or not, words, spelling, and punctuation can leave a lasting impression on others. However, even the most educated people often unknowingly make writing mistakes. Here are some examples of the most common grammar errors.
Confusing it’s and its.“It’s” is only ever used when short for “it is.” “Its” is a possessive that indicates something belonging to something that isn’t masculine or feminine (like “his” and “her,” but used when you’re not talking about a person). If it helps, remember that inanimate objects can’t really possess something in the way a human can. When in doubt, expand the word “its” to “it is” to see if it makes sense.
You’re vs. Your.Even though “your” and “you’re” are homophones, there is a grammatical difference between these two forms. “You’re” is a contraction of you are. “Your” is a possessive adjective of you. This grammatical disparity is the main difference between your and you’re.
When to use Whom vs. Who. “Whom” should be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition. When in doubt, try this simple trick: If you can replace the word with “he”’ or “’she,” use who. If you can replace it with “him” or “her,” use whom. “Who” should be used to refer to the subject of a sentence. Whom should be used to refer to the object of a verb or preposition.
Which and That. The battle over whether to use which or that is one many people struggle to get right. It’s a popular grammar question and most folks want a quick rule of thumb, but the choice is a bit nuanced. The test: If the sentence doesn’t need the clause that the word in question is connecting, use “which.” If it does, use “that.”
Superfluous Commas. It’s a common writing mistake to throw commas around liberally when they aren’t necessary. There are dozens of examples of this error, but here are a few common mistakes. A useful rule of thumb is to place commas where one makes a pause in speech.
No Comma in A Compound Sentence. A comma separates two or more independent clauses in a compound sentence separated by a conjunction, a word used to connect clauses or sentences or to coordinate words in the same clause. The comma goes after the first clause and before the coordinating conjunction that separates the clauses.
Misplaced Apostrophes. Apostrophesaren’t difficult to use once you know how, but putting them in the wrong place is one of the most common grammar mistakes in the English language. Many people use an apostrophe to form the plural of a word, particularly if the word in question ends in a vowel, which might make the word look strange with an “s” added to make it plural. Apostrophes indicate possession – something belonging to something or someone else. To indicate something belonging to one person, the apostrophe goes before the “s”.
When to Spell Numerals and Figures. The general rule is to spell out numbers from zero to nine and use numerals from 10 and up. Like other rules of grammar, there are many exceptions to conveying numbers: age, addresses, years, phone numbers, etc. When in doubt, stick to the AP Style Guide for writing.
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