Five Mistakes You Need to Avoid in Your Writing
One of my previous posts about English grammar (Six Things People Say That Drive Me Nuts) sparked a lot of comments, so I thought it would be fun to follow up with another blog about grammar.
Although I am currently a public relations professional, my first profession was teaching English to adult immigrants. I've always been a strong writer, but my teacher training in English as a Second Language along with the actual teaching of ESL, really boosted my grammatical foundation. They say the best way to learn something is to actually teach it. I found there is a lot of truth in that statement.
When I read people’s written content, I notice that certain errors commonly pop up. People are usually unaware of what they don’t know, so they unwittingly post things that just don’t read as well as they think. I have said it before, and I will say it again: poorly written content is confusing and therefore obscures your message. Here are a few things to watch out for:
Incomplete Thoughts: Although it seems pretty basic, a lot of people don’t seem to realize what constitutes a complete sentence in English.The basic form is Subject + Verb. Every sentence needs to have a subject (either implied or otherwise) and a verb in order to be considered a complete thought.
Then vs. Than: This one gets a lot of people going. Some people don’t seem to realize that “than” is used for comparison. Think of Simon and Garfunkle singing, “I'd rather be a hammer than a nail”. “Then” is used when sequencing action or marking time. “I was thinner, back then.” or “I bought groceries and then cooked dinner.”
Have vs. Of: The reason this is problematic for native speakers is because of the use of reductions in speech. The term “reductions” refers to the natural way native speakers of any language meld sounds together in every day speech. We say, “I would have” but it sounds like “I would of”. We naturally drop the “h” and get lazy with the “a”. Saying it that way is perfectly natural to North American English speakers and is quite acceptable. We don’t speak like robots, after all. Writing “of” instead of “have”, however, is completely incorrect. Don’t do it!
Misusing the Perfect Tense: I hear myself groaning even as I write this. The perfect tense uses “have” plus another verb. I recently read something that said “has came” instead of “has come”. The Simple Past uses “came” as in “He came home.” The form for the Present Perfect with “come” is as follows: Person + “have” in the present form plus “come”. Consider, “He has come home.” The Past Perfect of come is as follows: Person + have (past) + come. Consider, “He had come here before.”
Misusing Present Conditionals: I know you are probably wondering what they are. We use them all the time. Beyoncé sang, ‘If I Were a Boy”, and bravo for her, she got it right! Many people incorrectly use “was” when they use what is referred to as the Present Unreal Conditional. In this instance we are speaking in present time about something that isn’t real and does not reflect our current condition. The correct form is: If + person + were + object + comma + person + would. “If I were a carpenter, I would …” It is incorrect to say, “If I was a boy, I would…”
English grammar can be tedious, I know. Reading poorly written material is also tedious and detracts from the value of your message. FYI, I write a variety of content and proofread for people as well. Maybe you should call me.
If you want to learn more about grammar, Chompchomp.com is a great grammar website I found.
Renée Cormier is a public relations and communications specialist, published author, sales and marketing strategist and all around great gal! Need help with your marketing communications or public relations? Visit www.reneecormier.com to contact.
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