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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

Me

Use me when someone else is performing the action for / to you

Dana gifted me the book

Myself

Use Myself when you are performing the action on yourself

I taught myself the rules of Ikigai

Also Read: A tried-and-tested guide to becoming a better content writer

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

  1. 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.

  1. 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!

  1. 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.

 

Confusing words

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

Also Read: The 10 mistakes your clients don’t want you to make as a freelance writer

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

Common misspellings

Here are the top 10 ones where spell checker comes to our rescue

  1. Seperate | Separate
  2. Definately | Definitely
  3. Occassion | Occasion
  4. Refered | Referred
  5. Entreprenur | Entrepreneurs
  6. Recieve | Receive
  7. Untill | Until
  8. Exceptable | Acceptable
  9. Embarass | Embarrass
  10. 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.

 

Dangling modifiers

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.’

Alternatively,

‘She like to read and, she danced a lot too.’

Comma Splice

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.’

Also Read: The content writer’s easy grammar cheat sheet

Title Case

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

  1. Capitalise the first letter
  2. Capitalise nouns
  3. Lowercase articles (a, an, the)
  4. 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.

Did this blog help you as a professional writer?

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Payel Mukerjee
About The Author

Payel Mukerjee

Payel dreams about travelling the world and relaxing in quaint beach cafes – when she is not helping brands find real growth through powerful content experiences. She loves waging the war against mediocre content marketing and is passionate about entrepreneurship and startups. She is also a Darjeeling tea junkie and the founder of Justwords.

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