English is a strange language, and you could probably spenda lifetime coming to grips with its grammar. (If you want to have a reallynormal one, visit a magazine office and listen to the sub-editors argueover the Oxford comma.) It’s even more complicated because there aredifferent rules in England, America, Canada and Australia – which means you can’talways trust websites to have the “right” answer.
But don’t give up! As long as you get these fundamentals correct,you can leave the finer points to those grammar geeks…
Know your apostrophes
They’re easy to get wrong, and tricksy little things. For starters, they don’t belong in plurals ever. There are basically two reasons to use an apostrophe. The first is when you’re leaving letters out of a word (in this paragraph, we have “They are”, “do not” and “you are”). The other reason is to show ownership: Shane’s bike, the dog’s breakfast or the computer’s space bar. One last thing – if you’re talking about something that belongs to more than one creature, you put the apostrophe on the other side of the S… so if there was a pack of them, you would write about the dogs’ breakfast.
We don’t mean “infundibuliform” – we mean those words that are easy to mix up because they sound similar (or exactly the same, because English is a mean language). The most obvious example is there/their/they’re, but you might also run into trouble with your/you’re, then/than and affect/effect. Get them right in your head by any means possible. (Probably study.)
“Watch my what?” you ask, and fair enough, too. Malapropism is a fancy name for using the wrong word when you mean a different one. Now we just have to think of a Pacific example. Umm… a specific example. While we’re here, a quick reminder that it’s “could have” not “could of”. As in, “I could have been a Brownlow winner if I had been born with any talent.”
Don’t get it twisted
In the same way, if you’re going to use a famous saying,make sure you’re (a) saying it right and (b) know what it actually means. “Icould care less” is one of those American things people say when they reallymean they couldn’t care less. Thiscan happen easily if you’ve only ever heard someone say a phrase, too, andhaven’t seen it written down. Like, say, “for all intents and purposes”, whichpeople often think is “for all intensive purposes”. If you’re in doubt, look itup. The internet has no shortage of grammar Nazis…
Want some more hints’n’tips? Check out this cheatsheet that someone else has made just for you. Well, probably not youspecifically, but they did make it. For you.
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