5 Things to Think About Apart from Spell Check

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It is known that to become better writers, you can’t stop writing; the more you write, the more you grow and improve in your skills. However, everyone starts with some foundation, and the foundation for all writing begins with knowledge and skills of your language. Essentially, everyone who writes needs to do so with a carefully. Sure, the spell check function on your laptop or personal computer may catch most of your errors, but it’s not going to catch everything. What better place to start than to review the basic rules of grammar to help make your writing process a little easier?

Here are 5 things to think about when writing apart from spell check:

1. Pronouns

 

Subject Pronouns:

(Singular) I, you, he/she/it

(Plural) We, they

 

Object Pronouns:

(Singular) Me, you, him/her/it

(Plural) You, us, them

Pronouns are arguably one of the most important things to worry about when writing. Writers use them to substitute for names or other nouns that introduce a person, place, or thing. You must be careful to use the subject and object pronouns in the correct place in the sentence.

E.g.

Subject Pronoun

Jane loves to attend her dance lessons. Jane is a talented dancer.

Jane loves to attend her dance lessons. She is a talented dancer.

Object Pronoun

Jane wanted to lend her tap shoes to Sally. Jane lent her tap shoes to Sally.

Jane wanted to lend her tap shoes to Sally. Jane lent her tap shoes to her.

It’s a simple substitution, really.

Although this is correct grammatically, some are moving away from the traditional substitutions – more specifically, those of the LGBTQ community. For people who consider themselves as relating to neither the male nor female sex, they asked to be referred to using the they/them pronouns rather than he/him or she/her. People have respectfully been open to their personal choices and grammatical change. According to Cornell University, language is even evolving as far as to include gender inclusion pronouns.

2. Verbs

Verbs, or action words, can be tricky – especially if English is not your first language. Every sentence must have a verb, and each verb must match with the tense of the sentence (i.e. past, present, future). Most works are written in the active (present) rather than passive (past) voice, which makes it easier for readers to understand. See below for examples of verbs even in this past paragraph.

E.g.

Verbs, or action words, can be tricky – especially if English is not your first language. Every sentence must have a verb, and each verb must match with the tense of the sentence (i.e. past, present, future). Most works are written in the active (present) rather than passive (past) voice, which makes it easier for readers to understand. See below for examples of verbs even in this past paragraph.

Irregular verbs, such as run, ran, has/have/had run, can be trickier. Yuliya Geikhman from fluentu.com gives an excellent overview from Harvard professor Steven Pinker detailing the top 8 tricks that make irregular verbs easier to learn.

3. Conjunctions

FOR, AND, NOR, BUT, OR, YET, SO 

A.K.A. F.A.N.B.O.Y.S. 

Conjunctions, or connecting words or phrases, act to connect one sentence with another or one word or phrase with another. Each conjunction connecting a sentence follows a complete thought and is accompanied by a comma in front of it. See below for examples with a conjunction.

E.g.

Silver and gold

Bring either a pen or pencil.

My dog loves to go on long walks, so we try to take her to the dog park on days with nice weather.

For more details on conjunctions in the English language, Elizabeth O’Brien offers her advice in her work What is a Conjunction?

4. Commas

I feel as if commas are the bane of most people’s existence, to be honest. Whenever reading over someone’s work, I take my red pen and make grammar corrections all over; most of these corrections refer to commas. So, what are they, and how are we supposed to use them? Well, according to the Extended Rules for Using Commas from Owl.Perdue.edu, there are a ton of ways to correctly use commas.

As we see above, commas are used to connect separate, independent thoughts when followed by a conjunction. Commas are also popularly used for connecting items in a series. See an example of this below.

E.g.

Charlotte ordered vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream.

In this example, we see three different items connected by commas. The last comma is followed by a conjunction to show that the following item is the last in this series.

Commas are also most commonly used to set off phrases at the end of a sentence that can refer to the beginning or middle of a sentence. This being said, this phrase can exist anywhere in the sentence and should be set apart with commas for easier reading. See below for an example of commas used to set off phrases.

E.g.

Lila laughed at her teammates’ success, skipping around the room happily.

In the prior example, the phrase ‘skipping around the room happily modifies the subject of the sentence Lila.

5. Double Negatives

To finish this list, I wanted to speak about double negatives. These are words such as not and never and any instance where these words are connected with other ones using contractions (e.g. don’t, won’t shan’t, etc.). When two negative words are used incorrectly in the same sentence, it negates the meaning of the sentence. See examples of sentences using double negatives below.

E.g.

Sophia did not never re-read her work.

Michael didn’t know nothing about when his science project was due.

See here for the correct way these sentences should be formed.

E.g.

Sophia did not ever re-read her work.

Michael didn’t know anything about when his science project was due.

There are many examples of double negatives to be found. Sometimes, it is used in literary work to show how people speak rather than for the actual meaning of a sentence, but that is another matter entirely. See here for Your Dictionary’s examples of sentences with double negatives. Oxford Dictionaries also proves to be a useful resource regarding the explanation and use of double negatives.

Share Your Thoughts! 

And so, Reader, we have reached the end of our list! Keep in mind, these are only some, dare I say the most popular, rules to be mindful of when writing.

Was there anything here you found helpful or thought was missing? Please, feel free to reach out and chat regarding this article, any tips you find helpful, or just for more insight! Don’t forget to leave a comment below and follow my blog and Instagram @thereadywriter.blog.

Happy writing!

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13 thoughts on “5 Things to Think About Apart from Spell Check

  1. Great blog post! I think grammar, specifically rules like the ones you mentioned above, can be disregarded so easily by many people because they become so adamant on just getting their point across that they hope spell check will correct any major mistakes and the rest will go unnoticed. The truth is that having strong grammar skills will take you far, especially in your future endeavors and professional career! I’m glad I took the time to read this because it definitely helped me brush up on a few things as well as completely understand your pain regarding commas. I find that commas are the one thing most people use incorrectly but never stop using. You did a great job refreshing my mind on these key grammar points and I will definitely be referring back to it!

    Like

    1. Aww, you’re welcome! Thanks for the nice comment. I tried to think about how I would go about editing my sentences and took it from there. The building blocks/foundation for any language are really important.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Ava! This post was so helpful to me considering although I consider myself a pretty decent writer, grammar was always an issue for me. I’m so happy I read this post as now I have great tips to keep in mind when writing my next paper, thank you!

    Like

  3. This was a great post! Going back to the basics and making sure your foundation is strong is always key to being a successful writer. This post is a great resource for someone starting out in a writing career or looking to brush up on their knowledge. I will definitely be using these posts as a resource to help me in continuing to hone my writing skills!

    Like

  4. Thank you for sharing, I really love your comprehensive explanations on English grammar. I often struggle the grammar in English writing, and this is definitely a good check list to follow!

    Like

    1. Hi, Tong!

      So glad you found this helpful. If there’s anything you think I should highlight in the future, let me know! I’m open to ideas, always.

      Like

  5. Wow Ava, you made grammar so much fun. I am someone brought up in a very British kind of English, so I sometimes struggle with both grammar and spelling while writing the American way. Your posts will be a ready reckoner for me for a live checklist to write correctly! Thank you!

    Like

    1. If it makes you laugh, I wrote ‘colour’ instead of ‘color’ the other day, and I’ve never been to Britain once. I am glad that you liked this post though! Thanks for checking out my blog. 😄

      Liked by 1 person

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