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Cheat Sheet

1,001 Grammar Practice Questions For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Grammar: 1,001 Practice Questions For Dummies (+ Free Online Practice)

By Geraldine Woods

As the old cliché says, “practice makes perfect,” and while you’re on the road to grammar perfection, a quick glance at the rules for proper grammar usage may help. Review some basic — and important — points related to sentence creation, common errors in new media communication, and overall polished grammar.

1,001 Grammar Practice Questions For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Writing Stylish Sentences

When it comes to writing stylish sentences, you have many choices. You can go vintage or opt for the latest thing to hit the runway as long as you don’t violate the rules of grammar. Here are some points to consider:

  • Voice: Active voice (Juliet spoke from her balcony) is generally stronger and better than passive (Romeo was spoken to by Juliet).

  • Parallelism: By the rules of grammar, everything performing the same function in a sentence or list must have the same grammatical identity (all nouns, all phrases, and so forth, as in writing, erasing, printing or to write, to erase, to print). Parallel elements have the same level of importance — a quality you can exploit when you want to emphasize equality.

  • Sentence length and pattern: Have you ever read a paragraph in which all the sentences are long and boring, following the same pattern (usually subject-verb-complement) without a single change? If you have, you probably hate those paragraphs. Everyone does! A small deviation (like the two-word sentence, everyone does) adds interest. To mix things up a bit, drop in some reverse-order sentences (Down the hall ran Bobby!), introductory verb forms (Running blindfolded, did Bobby hit a tree?), and other variations.

New Media, New Grammatical Errors

Texts, tweets, instant messages, e-mails, and visual presentations featuring bulleted lists are relatively new on the scene, and the grammatical rules governing them are still evolving. Nevertheless, most people agree that you should avoid these mistakes:

  • Unclear abbreviations: Especially when you’re “typing” on a keyboard the size of a fingernail, it’s tempting to abbreviate. Go for it, as long as you’re sure the person reading your message will understand what you’re trying to say. Remember cao. (See how this works? Cao is a made-up abbreviation, used nowhere but here, for “common abbreviations only.”)

  • Dropping elements essential to your meaning: Don’t drop a word or punctuation mark that adds an important fact. Dinner 8 p.m. may be a command or an assumption. Dinner 8 p.m.? is an invitation.

  • Inappropriate level of formality: Powerful people can break as many grammar rules as they want, as long as the meaning is clear. If you’re writing or presenting information to someone with more power, however, be careful. Bulleted lists should be parallel, capital letters should be in their proper place, and punctuation should be inserted as needed.

5 Things to Check for Grammatical Perfection

Looking over a piece of writing before you sign off on it is a good habit to form. Remember to check these common spots that attract trouble:

  • Verbs: Are they in the correct tense, shifting only if the meaning requires a change? Do they agree with the subject (singular with singular, plural with plural)?

  • Pronouns: Do they agree with the word they represent (a singular pronoun replacing a singular noun or another singular pronoun, a plural pronoun standing in for a plural noun or pronoun)? If a pronoun is a subject, does it agree with the verb? Is the pronoun in the proper case (subject, object, possessive)?

  • Descriptions: Are they located near the word they describe? Have you attached adjectives to nouns and pronouns and adverbs to verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs?

  • Comparisons: Have you checked irregular forms? Are all your comparisons complete and clear?

  • Mechanics: Are capital letters in the right place? Does every sentence include an endmark? Have you placed quotation marks and commas where they’re needed? Have you removed apostrophes from plurals and possessive pronouns (where they don’t belong) and inserted them in contractions and possessive nouns (where they do)?