Grammar Cheat Sheet: Rules to Help You Write Well
As a writer, MS Word has made me lax over the years. I type out the thoughts quickly and expect the autocorrect to take care of the mistakes. The good part is I also recognize the mistakes that the software misses. For example, if I wrote ‘The girl was pail’ and not pale, I can still run my over-the-years honed spell checker to catch it.
Let’s get one thing straight. English may be a language I really like but it isn’t the easiest when you are learning the rules of spelling and grammar. Their and there, effect and affect… it can get you running to Google for answers. While we don’t have to by heart Wren and Martin, let me share a quick reference sheet that you can bookmark to avoid the most common mistake.
I, Me, Myself
Use I when you are referring to yourself in subject of the sentence i.e. you are the one taking action
Example: I am reading Ikigai and I like it
Use me when someone else is performing the action for / to you
Dana gifted me the book
Use Myself when you are performing the action on yourself
I taught myself the rules of Ikigai
Different to / than / from
Different from is considered a safe bet in the usage of Different with a preposition
Different than and Different to are also used, but more often in British English
Seven Square is no different to / than any major CBSE school or This house is very different to your last one.
In American English, it is more common to use Different Than.
For example: This coffee tastes very different than the one I usually drink.
Because some rules are meant to be broken
I’ve always been one of those errant children who think rules can sometimes be broken. Feels good to know that can happen with grammar too. Here are some set rules and why it is ok to break them
- Don’t begin a sentence with a conjunction
However, this is a great example on how to break that rule 🙂 And then, don’t we all have exceptions.
- Don’t end your sentences with prepositions
Then what do you end it with? Without a preposition, that would be ‘Then what do you end it’ which is just not right!
- Avoid sentence fragments
She heard that. It broke her heart. She choose to walk out.
Creative and narrative writing can bend the rules just enough to convey the meaning.
A lot v/s Alot v/s Allot
‘A lot’ represents a number that is uncountable. There are a lot of bees
Alot isn’t a word… at least not yet
Allot is to assign to a person. For example, ‘The land is alloted
Should’ve, Could’ve, Would’ve
There is something you should’ve done in order to explore what possibilities could’ve manifested and how we would’ve utilized them
Here are the top 10 ones where spell checker comes to our rescue
- Seperate | Separate
- Definately | Definitely
- Occassion | Occasion
- Refered | Referred
- Entreprenur | Entrepreneurs
- Recieve | Receive
- Untill | Until
- Exceptable | Acceptable
- Embarass | Embarrass
- Paralel | Parallel
Z or S
As an Indian writer, this conundrum is more pronounced as we practice British English which uses Z. If you are writing for a global audience, ‘Specialize’ would be better but if you are writing for an Indian audience, ‘personalise’ would be appropriate.
After a long day at work, the dog welcomed Shawn with slobbery kisses
Wait a minute, did the dog go to work?
After a long day at work, Shawn was welcomed by the dog with slobbery kisses.
The right usage of Comma
When a , can put a fullstop to your writer dreams
A comma in the wrong place can change the meaning of the sentence.
Comma with quotes
In the series “The Walking Dead,” the lead character is played by Andrew Lincoln.
Though this is a strange rule, the comma always goes inside the quotes. So does a fullstop.
Comma in dates
He was born on July 4, 1990
He was born on 4th July 1990
If you have 2 number units side by side, separate them with a comma.
Comma and suffixes
The most famous of them all is Kunal Mehta, Jr.
Here it is fine to write Kunal Mehta Jr. Without the comma
The essential comma
Many men want to be the actor, Shah Rukh Khan.
Here you aren’t talking about men wanting to be actors but wanting to be a specific actor (by using the). In this case the comma is non-essential as the meaning of the sentence remains the same without it.
The correct usage is ‘Many men want to be the actor Shah Rukh Khan.’
The overused comma
Some flowers, such as, sunflowers and lilies, brighten up the room.
The extra comma after a transitional phrase such as (or including) should not be used. The correct usage is Some flowers, such as sunflowers and lilies, brighten up the room.
Comma with compound elements
She liked to read, and danced a lot too.
When you are using a conjunction like ‘and,’ ‘but.’ or ‘or,’ don’t use a comma unless the subject (she) is used twice.
The correct usage here is ‘She liked to read and danced a lot too.’
‘She like to read and, she danced a lot too.’
I want to eat, I want t drink.
The sentences, as such, are independent of each other and without conjunction. The best way to write it would be ‘I want to eat. I want to drink.’ or ‘I want to eat; I want to drink.’
In marketing we often capitalise what best pleases the eyes or needs to be highlighted. If you are a stickler for grammar, here’s what you can use
- Capitalise the first letter
- Capitalise nouns
- Lowercase articles (a, an, the)
- Lowercase infinitive (to)
Much v/s Many
Many is used for plural nouns. Much is used for collective or singular nouns.
I have many quite friends
Much of my friends have very little to say.
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