Grammar & Usage

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How to Use Commas to Join Two Complete Sentences

In English, when you join two complete sentences with the conjunctions and, or, but, nor, yet, so, or for, place a comma before the conjunction. If you use just a comma, you create a comma splice and your [more…]

How to Use Long and Short Dashes in Your Writing

Long dashes — what grammarians call em dashes — are dramatic. Those long straight lines draw your eye and hold your attention. But long dashes aren’t just show-offs. They insert information into a sentence [more…]

Basics Rules for Using Capital Letters in Writing

In formal writing you don’t want to sprinkle caps in indiscriminately, nor do you want to neglect to cap proper nouns and names that should be capped. English rules for using capital letters aren’t all [more…]

How to Use Colons in Your Writing

A colon is one dot on top of another ( : ). It appears when a simple comma isn’t strong enough. (It also shows up in those smiley faces — the so-called [more…]

How to Use Possessive Pronouns

Possessive pronouns show possession. Not the movie head-twisting-backwards kind of possession, but the kind where somebody owns something. Possessive pronouns include [more…]

Dealing with Pronouns and Gerunds

The rule concerning possessive pronouns and gerunds is broken so often that it may be a losing battle. However, the rule isn’t completely useless, like many of the other rules that people break. Moreover [more…]

How to Improve Your Writing with Active Verbs

Unless you’re trying to hide something, or unless you truly don’t know the facts, you should make your writing as specific as possible. Specifics reside in active voice. In English, using active verbs [more…]

Adding Meaning with Strong Verbs

To add meaning and detail to your sentences, use strong verbs. You can also water down your writing with blah, weak verbs. So why doesn’t everybody use strong verbs? The trouble is too many people don’t [more…]

Choosing a Verb Tense When Summarizing Speech

When you are telling a story, you may what to summarize someone else’s speech. Although you can use just about any verb tense to do so, in English different tenses create a different experience for your [more…]

Expressing Eternal Truths in Present the Tense

Some things are always true. For example, the earth has always been round and two plus two always equals four. English speakers use the present tense to discuss these eternal truths. Look at the following [more…]

Where to Place Descriptive Phrases

English doesn’t have as many word forms for you to memorize as many other modern languages have. But English speakers have to be careful about word order. Most people do all right with nouns and verbs, [more…]

When Do You Capitalize Terms about Time?

You use terms about time to describe historical events and eras, to distinguish morning from afternoon, and to write about the season of the year. But what do you capitalize if you want to impress your [more…]

What Do You Capitalize in Titles?

How do you decide what to capitalize in the title of your book or research paper? Well, you have to be able to recognize verbs and nouns when you see them, but even so, the English rules about using capital [more…]

Grammar Rules for Texts and Instant Messages

Do you want to read this now, or save it for L8R? If that last “word” is a mystery to you, you haven’t been using typing on a Blackberry, a cell phone, or a similar device. Although texting and tweeting [more…]

Using Good Grammar in E-Mails

Some e-mails are written to friends and family, and as long as you are clear, following grammar rules is not important. But business e-mails, or e-mails to superiors can be treated much like formal letters [more…]

How to Choose Subject Pronouns

In English, a subject is the person or thing that is doing the action or being talked about in the sentence. You can’t do much wrong when you have the actual name of a person, place, or thing as the subject [more…]

How to Pick Pronouns for Comparisons

Even very correct English speakers tend to take shortcuts, by chopping words out of their sentences and racing to the finish. This practice is evident in comparisons and can lead you to make a mistake [more…]

Using Pronouns as Direct and Indirect Objects

Many people have trouble choosing the correct pronouns for direct and indirect objects. English pronouns that may legally function as objects include me, you, him, her, it, us, them, whom, [more…]

How to Avoid Vague Pronoun References

You can improve your writing a lot by taking care not to use vague pronoun references. One pronoun may refer to one noun. A plural pronoun may refer to more than one noun. But no pronoun may refer to a [more…]

How to Select Pronouns for Collective Nouns

Collective nouns (committee, team, squad, army, class,and the like) refer to groups. How do you choose a pronoun to refer to that committee, squad, or team? When the group is acting as a unit — doing the [more…]

Writing and Placing Your Subordinate Clauses

Finding the correct place to put your subordinate clauses is simple. Clauses acting as subjects or objects nearly always fall in the proper place automatically. Don’t worry about them! Put the subordinate [more…]

When to Use Subordinate Clauses

Subordinate clauses, which can’t stand alone, have three main purposes in life. A subordinate clause can describe nouns and pronouns; describe verbs, adverbs, and adjectives; or at act as the subject or [more…]

How to Use Verbals in Writing

In grammar, the new, improved blend of two parts of speech is a called a verbal. Verbals are extremely useful hybrids. Verbals come in three forms: gerunds, infinitives, and participles. [more…]

Spice Up Boring Sentences with Clauses and Verbals

Using clauses and verbals helps you vary your sentence structure and that makes your writing interesting. You should read your writing aloud from time to time to check how it sounds. The old saying, variety [more…]

Write Better Sentences by Deleting Clutter

Sentences stuffed with filler sound silly or (even worse) condescending to your readers. You should take care not to be repetitive. It bores your readers, and wastes their time. Concise writing sounds [more…]

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