Repeat after me: Good grammar matters.
I know that, but I can see why others wouldn’t. After all, if you’re not an accountant, why would you need to know accounting? If you’re not a writer, why would you need to know the rules of written language? It doesn’t seem logical until you realize that in some form or another, at some time or another, writing – and therefore grammar – will represent you on some level. Whether it’s email communication at work, printing off fliers to promote your new business, or crafting an Instagram caption of monumental importance, every word you make public (and all the accompanying punctuation) creates an impression.
As far as its basic function, written language is just like oral: to communicate. You might communicate in person, make a phone call, send an email or a text all to say the same thing. And you may be excellent at doing the first two. But if your grammar couldn’t pass in grade school, it’s definitely making a (bad) impression in real life – test or no test. Poor grammar often does make you come off as uneducated, which people naturally apply to other areas (“If she can’t use an apostrophe correctly, how is she going to come off to clients?”) of your skill set. Don’t let misplaced punctuation and incorrect spelling be what grinds your career to a halt.
GRAMMAR IS YOUR FRIEND… Your vs. You’re.
The basics: Your is possessive, and you’re is a conjunction, meaning it’s two words put together (you + are).
I love what you did with your hair.
You’re going to love your new hairstyle.
The trick: When you find yourself spelling out Y-O-U-R-E, stop and say “you are” aloud to yourself. For example “I love what you did with you are hair” clearly doesn’t work.
THERE, THERE… There, They’re, & Their.
The basics: The three words sound the same, but have different meanings – therefore, they are not interchangeable! There has many meanings, and can refer to a place (or area – like here nor there) or act as a pronoun (“Are there cookies?”). Their is possessive, and they’re is – once again – a conjunction representing “they are”.
The cat is hiding over there. (and) Are there cookies?
Their party decorations impressed the guests.
They’re all coming to the party later.
The trick: If you’re not sure about “there”, first test out the other two, less confusing options. Are you talking about something possessive, like the party decorations? If not, there’s no reason to use their. And when you put your sentence together does THEY ARE make sense? If that “are” sounds awkward and out of place, it definitely doesn’t belong.
COULD’VE, WOULD’VE, SHOULD’VE.
The only reason these exist is because they read how they sound. If you say things like, “I could’ve guessed” or, “I should’ve known” you’re really saying I could have guessed or should have known. You’re not saying could of or should of – even if it sounds that way. So next time you want to write this phrase out – either stick with the formal “could have” or combine the two for an informal “could’ve” but never go with of.
Apostrophe’s where they don’t belong. Hint: There’s one at the beginning of that sentence.
Putting apostrophes where they don’t belong may seem like a minor offense, but it’s just another little mistake that may have coworkers, clients, or strangers judging your communicative capabilities. Apostrophes are acceptable in several places, but there’s one BIG place they’re not: PLURALS. Never, ever just add an apostrophe simply because you’re writing a word that has an S on the end, or multiple of something (such as the world PLURALS itself). DO add one if it’s possessive – “Nick’s phone died on the way home – or when writing conjunctions– the “you’re” and “could’ve” we talked about before, plus words like “don’t” and “it’s”.
Does grammar trip you up?