13 Common Grammar Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

We all have something that trips us up, grammar-wise, in writing, whether it’s the use of lie/lay or adding apostrophes with plurals. I want to share a wonderful resource with you, Mignon Fogerty’s GrammarGirl . Here is an article she wrote for Writers Digest, “The 13 Trickiest Grammar Hang-Ups.”

by Mignon Fogerty

I trust that you all know the difference between who and whom, and I trust that typos are the only reason you use the wrong it’s. It happens to the best of us. For most writers, if you can just maintain your focus (perhaps with caffeine and frequent breaks), you’ll get the basics right. The following problems, however, may have you scrambling for a refresher.

1. Half can be both singular and plural.

Typically, subjects and verbs agree: If the subject is singular, the verb is singular. If the subject is plural, the verb is plural. Easy peasy. However, sentences that start with half don’t follow this rule.

Half alone is singular: My half of the pizza is pepperoni. Yet although half is the subject in a sentence such as Half of the pizzas are missing, we use a plural verb because of something called notional agreement. It simply means that although half is singular, half of the pizzas has a notion of being plural, so you use a plural verb. Follow this rule when half is the subject of a sentence: If half is followed by a singular noun, use a singular verb. If half is followed by a plural noun, use a plural verb. Half of the pepperoni is ruined, but half of the tomatoes are missing.

Compound words that start with half are quirky too. They can be open, closed or hyphenated (e.g., half note, halfhearted, half-baked). There’s no rule that applies across the board, so you’ll have to check a dictionary.

For more tips, go to the article at Writers Digest.

More on Finding Your Writing Voice

What is a writer’s “voice”? That is a question we all ask when we begin writing and maybe even after we’ve written for awhile.

In the words of Grammar Girl, Mignon Fogerty: “Voice is the distinct personality, style, or point of view of a piece of writing or any other creative work. Voice is what Simon Cowell is talking about when he tells “American Idol” contestants to make a song their own and not just do a note-for-note karaoke version. Many musicians have played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” for instance, but there’s a world of difference between the Boston Pops’ performance and Jimi Hendrix’s, even though the basic melody is the same.”

I want to also share a great interview with Les Edgerton on Kristen Lamb’s blog. Edgerton has a book out on the writer’s voice, FINDING YOUR VOICE: How to Put Personality in Your Writing.

He says there are at least three ways to tell if you have written in your true voice.

  1. Are the Word Choices, Sentence Usages, and Phrases Employed Yours?
  2. Sentence Structure: Do you talk and think in fragmented sentences? Then you should use these in your writing.
  3. Clarity: The trick to writing well? Write simply; write clearly. Eschew flowery language.

To read the full article, go to Kristen Lamb’s Blog.

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