Read these 48 Grammar Tips tips to make your life smarter, better, faster and wiser. Each tip is approved by our Editors and created by expert writers so great we call them Gurus. LifeTips is the place to go when you need to know about Writing tips and hundreds of other topics.
A misplaced modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that is mistakenly separated from the word it is supposed to describe. As a result, the sentence is awkward, confusing, illogical, and sometimes humorous.
A misplaced modifier can be corrected by moving the modifier to a more sensible place in the sentence, usually next to the word it describes.
1. Misplaced: Mary almost read every book in the library. (This means she contemplated reading every book but didn't.)
Correct: Mary read almost every book in the library. (This means she read most, but not all, of the books.)
2. Misplaced: Fred kept a black book of all the girls he had dated in his desk. (This means that Fred dated girls while in his desk.)
Correct: Fred kept in his desk a black book of all the girls he had dated. (This means Fred kept the black book in his desk.)
3. Misplaced: I showed my dog to the veterinarian with the fleas. (This means the veterinarian has fleas.)
Correct: I showed my dog with the fleas to the veterinarian. (This means the dog has fleas.)
4. Misplaced: The fans were told at midnight the concert would begin. (This means the announcement came at midnight. The start time of the concert is ambiguous.)
Correct: The fans were told the concert would begin at midnight. (This means the concert would start at midnight.)
5. Misplaced: Jane only ate bread for dinner. (This means that all Jane did with the bread was eat it; she did not knead the dough or bake it in the oven.)
Correct: Jane ate only bread for dinner. (This means Jane ate bread for dinner and nothing else.)
If you're old enough to remember Richard Nixon, you may think "expletives" means naughty words. But, in the sentence- structure sense, an expletive is simply a sentence that begins with "There are" or "It is." It is acceptable to use this structure on occasion, but using it too often will signal a lack of strength and creativity on your part.
Unless you are writing a children's book or cartoon strip, exclamation points should be avoided. They suggest effusiveness, not a prized quality in business writing. The period is the mark you need for almost all the writing you do--especially business writing. Remember, the exclamation point should be reserved for those rare occasions when you needs to express surprise or excitement.
A fragment is a group of words posed as a sentence. However, these word groupings cannot stand alone and make sense.
"Tangled in the jewelry box."
When fragments appear next to other sentences in a specific context, they can be difficult to spot.
"That's when I saw the necklace. Tangled in the jewelry box."
The fragment is usually missing either a subject or a verb. In this case, the question would be what is lying in the middle of the floor? We can answer that if the fragment is in context. In this case the answer is the necklace. To fix the fragment, many times you can put the fragment with another sentence or transform it into a sentence.
"That's when I saw the necklace tangled in the jewelry box."
"That's when I saw the necklace. It was tangled in the jewelry box."
Some writers use fragments to emphasize other sentences or certain points. If you choose to do so, always make sure the fragment will be easily understood from the surrounding text so your reader will not be confused.
"Myself" should never be used as a substitute for "me" or "I."
"Myself" can be used reflexively and a reflexive pronoun can be used in three situations. 1)When the subject and object of the sentence are the same. Ex. "I love myself." 2)As the object of the preposition referring to the subject. Ex. "I bought dinner for myself." 3)Emphasizing subject. Ex. "I'll do it myself."
Now, on to when you should use "me" and when you should use "I."
Use "me" when you are referring to the object of the sentence (someone who has had something done to them. Ex. "Read a story to Timmy and me." It is incorrect to say, "Read a story to Timmy and I."
Use "I" when you are referring to the subject of the sentence (someone who has done something) Ex. "Jerry and I just bought a new house." It is incorrect to say, "Me and Jerry just bought a new house."
Here's a good guide to use in case you can't remember the rules: Take out one of the pronouns to see if the sentence sounds right. With the first example, if you took out Timmy, does "Read a story to I" sound right? No, but "Read a story to me" does. With the second example, take out Jerry. "Me bought a new house" doesn't sound right, but "I bought a house" does.
A phrase that acts as a noun (such as a gerund phrase, infinitive phrase, or prepositional phrase).
I like "running my own business." (Gerund phrase as object.)
"To provide the best service" is our goal. (Infinitive phrase as subject.)
"Before 8" is the best time to call me. (Prepositional phrase as subject.)
A common error involves the use of compound personal pronouns that end in "self" or "selves." Use of these pronouns requires a noun or pronoun expressed, to which the compound personal pronoun refers, in the same sentence.
Correct: The report was read at the meeting by me.
NOT: The report was read at the meeting by myself.
Correct: I will read the report myself.
A word that may stand alone as an adjective or combined with helping verbs to form different tenses.
Present Participle: Ends in "ing"; for example--jumping, reading, playing
Past Participle: Regularly ends in "ed" (looked, walked) but may be irregularly formed (lost, seen, written)
Perfect Participle: "having" plus the past participle (having found, having worked)
A pronoun must agree with the word for which the pronoun stands regarding number, gender, and person. This is easily one of the most common grammar errors.
Correct: Each writer can come by my office at his convenience.
Correct: Each writer can come by my office at his or her convenience.
Correct if the group is all female: Each writer can come by my office at her convenience.
NOT: Each writer can come by my office at their convenience.
A verb introducted by "to." An infinitive may be used as a noun, adjective, or adverb.
Noun: To find a good job is a long process. (subject)
She is trying to find a job. (object)
Adjective: I still have two more letters to write. (modifies letters)
Adverb: He went to buy a car. (modifies went)
A word used in place of a noun.
Demonstrative: this, that, these, those
Indefinite: each, either, any, anyone, someone, everyone, few, all, etc.
Intensive: myself, herself, etc.
Interrogative: who, why, how, etc.
Personal: I, you, he, she, it, we, they
Relative: who, whose, whom, that, and compounds such as whoever.