How to Be Grammatically Correct

by Kahlea Pendleton

It can be extremely embarrassing to have someone correct your grammar. Maybe you had problems with subject/verb agreement, or maybe you used the word "your" instead of "you're" in a piece of writing. There are many potential grammar errors and commonly misused words that can trip you up when you are writing or speaking. However, you do not need to fear. You can avoid embarrassment by learning how to distinguish commonly mistaken words and how to use correct grammar.

Know the difference between "affect" and "effect." These two words are commonly misused in writing or in speaking. "Affect" is a verb that means to cause a change, and "effect" is a noun that refers to the result of something. For example: "Tom's lack of water during rehearsal affected his singing voice." "The medicine did not have any effect on the patient's health."

Understand the difference between "it's" and "its." "It's" is a contraction of "it is" or "it has." "Its" is a possessive pronoun. For example: "The dog lost its bone." "It's difficult to hear you when you mumble." Read sentences aloud and change "it's" to "it is." If the sentence sounds a bit funny, you are using the wrong word.

Work on subject/verb agreement. Understand that a verb must agree in number with its subject. Add an "-s" to a verb if its subject is a singular noun or a third person singular pronoun, such as he, she, it, this, that. For example: "She sings very high notes." "Mold develops in unusual places." "He enjoys spicy foods."

Avoid adding an "-s" to the verb if the subject is the pronoun I, you, we or they. For example: "We drive fast." Do not add an "-s" if the subject is a plural noun. For example: "The students stay after class to ask questions." Do not add an "-s" if two subjects are joined by the word "and." For example: "Jack and Jill feel like dancing."

Fix any pronoun/antecedent agreement errors. Pronouns and antecedents agree when they are both written in the same person and are both either singular or plural. For instance: "If Sarah wants to succeed as a singer, she has to practice singing everyday." An error occurs when the antecedent and the pronoun do not agree in number or do not agree in person. For instance, in the following sentence, the pronoun and antecedent do not agree in person: "In order for a student to receive financial aid, you must fill out the application." The noun "student" is in third person, but the pronoun "you" is in second person. To fix this error, you must change the pronoun to either "he" or "she." In the following sentence, the pronoun and antecedent do not agree in number: "To qualify for aid, a student must fill out their application truthfully." The noun "student" is singular, but the pronoun "their" is plural. To fix this error, either change the noun from "a student" to "students" or change the pronoun to "his" or "her."

Learn when to use "I" or "me." "I" is the first person, singular pronoun, and it refers to the person performing the action of a verb. For instance: "I went to the store" "I like the guy next door." The pronoun "me" refers to the person that the action of a verb is being done to. For instance: "Jane told me to run" "My mom gave me a hug."

Watch out for double negatives. Double negatives occur when you use two negative words in the same sentence. For example: "Khalif hasn't met nobody who can spell his name." Fix this problem by removing the second negative word and replacing it with an indefinite pronoun. An indefinite pronoun refers to things or people without specifying what or who they are. For example: "Khalif hasn't met anybody who can spell his name."

About the Author

Kahlea Pendleton has worked as a freelance editor since 2008. She has edited content for a well-known, fast-moving texting company as an expeditor and has served as a homeschool teacher assistant for the past two years. She also has her degree in music education.

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