Grammar: Things to Remember

Numbers:

  • All numbers between 21 and 99 (except 30, 40, 50, etc) should be hyphenated. Examples: Twenty-three and two hundred and eighty-nine.
  • Numbers should be written in full at the start of a sentence.

One or Two Words:

anyone = any person
Hint: Try replacing the word anyone with any person. If it sounds right, it’s the correct word. If it does not sound right, use any one.

everyday = normal
Hint: Try replacing the word everyday with normal. If it sounds right, it’s the correct word. If it does not sound right, use every day.

everyone = every person
Hint: Try replacing the word everyone with every person. If it sounds right, it’s the correct word. If it does not sound right, use every one.

maybe = perhaps
Hint: Try replacing the word maybe with perhaps. If it sounds right, it’s the correct word. If it does not sound right, use may be.

Okay, I think you get the gist of it. Do the same thing for the following words:

nobody = no person (if it doesn’t sound right use no body)
everybody = every person (if it doesn’t sound right use every body)
sometimes = occasionally (if it doesn’t sound right use some times)

Confusing Words:

Affect = to change (Hint: Try using to transform instead of affect.)
Effect = outcome, consequence or appearance (Hint: Try using either outcome, consequence or appearance instead of effect.)

Allude = refer to indirectly
Elude = to avoid

Already = prior to a specified time
All ready = completely prepared
Hint: The word ready can replace all ready but not already.

Alright = is a nonstandard variant of all right and all use of the word should be avoided.

Bare = exposed
Bear = for every other use except when the meaning is exposed

Breathe (rhymes with seethe) = inhale and expel air from the lungs
Breath (rhymes with death) = the air inhaled or exhaled during breathing

Fewer = not as many, when there is more than one item (i.e. fewer animals)
Less = not as much, when there is one item (i.e. less time)

Lead (rhymes with seed) = to lead, being in charge
Lead (rhymes with bed) = a metallic element
Led (rhymes with bed) = past tense of to lead

Licence = UK/Aus use this word, relates to card/papers
License = US only use this word, relates to allow
Hint: Try using card or papers. If it sounds right use licence. If it doesn’t, use license.

Passed = past tense of to pass
Past = used at all other times
Hint: Try using went past. If it sounds right use passed. If it doesn’t, use past.
But: If the word has is before passed (might be a word or two before), try using gone past instead. If it sounds right use passed. If not, use past.

Grammar: The Parts of Speech

If we examine the words in any sentence, we observe that they have different tasks or duties to perform in the expression of thought.

Savage beasts roamed through the forest.

In this sentence, beasts and forest are the names of objects; roamed asserts action, telling us what the beasts did; savage describes the beasts; through shows the relation in thought between forest and roamed; the limits the meaning of forest, showing that one particular forest is meant. Thus each of these words has its special office (or function) in the sentence.

In accordance with their use in the sentence, words are divided into eight classes called parts of speech,—namely, nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, and interjections

  1. A noun is the name of a person, place, or thing. Examples: John, brother, Sydney, table, car, anger, song.
  2. A pronoun is a word used instead of a noun. It designates a person, place, or thing without naming it. Examples: I, he, she, that, who, myself, themselves, it, which.

    Nouns and pronouns are called substantives. The substantive to which a pronoun refers is called its antecedent. Some examples are:

    Frank introduced the boys to his father. [Frank is the antecedent of the pronoun his.]

    The book has lost its cover. [Book is the antecedent of the pronoun its.]

    James and Peter served their country in different ways. [Their has two antecedents, connected by and.]

  3. An adjective is a word which describes or limits a substantive.

    The noun box, for example, includes a great variety of objects. If we say wooden box, we exclude boxes of metal, of paper, etc. If we use a second adjective (small) and a third (square), we limit the size and the shape of the box.

    Most adjectives (like wooden, square, and small) describe as well as limit. Such words are called descriptive adjectives.

    We may, however, limit the noun box to a single specimen by means of the adjective this or that or the, which does not describe, but simply points out, or designates. Such words are called definitive adjectives.

  4. A verb is a word which can assert something (usually an action) concerning a person, place, or thing. For example:

    The Wind blows.
    Tom climbed a tree.
    The fire blazed.

    Some verbs express state or condition rather than action.

    The treaty still exists.
    Near the church stood an elm.

    Sometimes a group of words may be needed, instead of a single verb, to make an assertion. This is called a verb-phrase.

    You will see.
    The tree has fallen.
    Our driver has been discharged.

  5. An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb.

    Example: “The river fell rapidly,” the adverb rapidly modifies the verb fell by showing how the falling took place.

    Most adverbs answer the question “How?” “When?” “Where?” or “To what degree or extent?”

    Adverbs modify verbs in much the same way in which adjectives modify nouns.

    Example:
    Adjective: A bright fire burned.
    Adverb: The fire burned brightly.

    Adjective and adverbs are both modifiers. Adjectives modify substantives; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, or other adverbs.

  6. A preposition is a word placed before a substantive to show its relation to some other word in the sentence.

    The substantive which follows a preposition is called its object.

    A preposition is said to govern its object.

    In “The surface of the water glistened,” of makes it clear that surface belongs with water. In “Philip is on the river,” on shows Philip’s position with respect to the river.

    A preposition often has more than one object.

    Over hill and dale he ran.
    He was filled with shame and despair.

  7. A conjunction connects words or groups of words.

    A conjunction differs from a preposition in having no object, and in indicating a less definite relation between the words which it connects.

    In “Time and tide wait for no man,” “The parcel was small but heavy,” “He wore a kind of doublet or jacket,” the conjunctions and, but, or, connect single words time with tide, small with heavy, doublet with jacket.

  8. An interjection is a cry or other exclamatory sound expressing surprise, anger, pleasure, or some other emotion or feeling.

    Interjections usually have no grammatical connection with the groups of words in which they stand; hence their name, which means “thrown in.”

    Examples: Oh! I forgot. Ah, how I miss you! Bravo! Alas!

Source: An Advanced English Grammar with Exercises by George Lyman Kittredge and Frank Edgar Farley, 1913. Now in the public domain.

Difference between “passed” and “past”

Recently, I came across some old critiques other people had written about my work. It was much like walking down memory lane, but for one thing…

I noticed a trend that I don’t think I picked up on at the time. Now, I am worried that I still don’t “get it”. What trend? Well, what is the difference between “passed” and “past”?

I know “passed” relates to movement and “past” relates to time. No issues there. However, when we start talking about adverbs and prepositions, the confusion sets in. Is it?

A lot of ambulances have gone passed, or,

A lot of ambulances have gone past.

Well, “gone” is a movement word and so is “passed”. There are two movement verbs in the one sentence, when you only need one, so the correct one is “past”.

Thanks to Grammar Monster I think I’ve got it straight in my head now. And it’s all because of the following top tip:

Substitute with Went Past

When referring to movement (i.e., not passing tests or handing stuff over), only use passed when it is the past tense of the verb to pass. To test whether passed is correct, substitute it with went past. If your sentence still makes sense, then passed is the correct version.

  • He passed the shop.
  • He went past the shop. (Still makes sense – passed is correct)
  • He skipped passed the shop.
  • He skipped went past the shop. (Not correct – passed is wrong)

Substitute with Gone Past

On occasion, it may be necessary to use gone past to test whether passed is correct. This is because passed is also the past passive participle of to pass.

  • He has passed the dockyard.
  • He has gone past the dockyard. (Still makes sense – passed is correct)

15 Grammar Goofs that Make You Look Silly

Everyone makes mistakes. It’s life! But when you’re an aspiring writer then you should take the time to learn the basics in grammar. Using the wrong word in a sentence can change its meaning. More importantly, it can also make you look silly to the reader.

Here are some basics you should know:

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly
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Editing Course: Good Grammarian II

One of the problems with grammar is that words and their usage can change.

Hyphenation

There are two types of hyphenated words:

1. Those that are double-barrelled because it is their normal spelling.
2. Those that become double-barrelled only when they directly describe an object or person.

For example, these words are always double-barrelled:

by-line – The publisher checked the author’s by-line.
jack-of-all-trades – He is a jack-of-all-trades.
dry-clean – The girl picked up her dry-cleaned clothes after work.
cold blooded – They were attacked by a cold-blooded shark.

And these change according to useage:

take you through it step by step a step-by-step approach
it has a hairy back a hairy-backed creature
has blue frames blue-framed windows

The Word “That”

Many people prefer to remove the word “that” from their work. However, sometimes the word is required for clarification.

Example: John said yesterday, he had an accident.

In the example, the sentence implies that John made a comment yesterday about having an accident. But the next sentence shows what was actually meant.

John said that yesterday, he had an accident.

Editing Course: Good Grammarian I

Before I get started on this topic I must admit that this area of writing is my weakness, especially passive writing (which isn’t covered here but will be covered later in the course). Yesterday I wrote a short post on Editor and Proofreader’s Tools but I strongly believe one item is missing from that list. Every writer and editor should have a really good (localised) grammar reference book. This is something I don’t have (oh, I have books on the topic but nothing localised) and I need to rectify this oversight. Can anyone recommend an Australian grammar reference book please?

8: Good Grammarian I

No matter why you write — author, journalist, business person, student — and no matter why you may be checking another person’s writing — editor, copyeditor, proofreader — you need to understand grammar.

Grammar is language, it’s words and how they are used, it’s sentences and how they are arranged. As a writer or editor you need good grammar skills.

A Person or People

A person can’t help their birth.

-William Makepeace Thackeray, Vanity Fair (1848)

Apparently, over the years there’s been a lot of debate about how this one sentence should have been worded.

Some say he should have written:

A person cannot help his or her birth.

Others say:

People cannot help their birth.

Since the twelfth century dozens of famous authors have chosen use words such as “them”, “theirs” and “they” as single, gender-unspecific words. However from a grammar point of view all these are wrong. The correct useage are those in bold above.

I or Me

Often people use “me” when the correct grammar requires the word “I”. The best way to check which word should be used is to remove the other person.

Example: Me and my friend watched a movie.

When we take out the other person we get:

Me watched a movie.

Obviously this is incorrect so the correct word to use is “I”.

I and my friend watched a movie.

As awkward as this sounds, it is correct grammar, but it sounds better to put the friend first.

My friend and I watched a movie.

Can a thing “see”?

It has become a trend to have non-living things “see”.

Example: The company will see a change of policy next year.

However, the company is not a person and cannot see so the sentence is incorrect. The only way to correct the sentence is to reword it.

The company will have a change of policy next year.

Split-Infinitives

Now this is a difficult one!

An “infinitive” is regarded as a single word.

Example: to go

A split-infinitive is when an adverb is added which separates the infinitive.

Example: to quickly go

From a grammarian’s point of view “to quickly go” is incorrect. However, writers steadfastly claim that split-infinitives are rhetorical faults that can effect writing styles.

There is no actual rule on this one.

Most people have heard of the following:

To boldly go where no man has gone before.

To write this same sentence and have it grammatically correct, it would read:

To go boldly where no man has gone before.

Incorrect or not, the first sentence is the much better choice as it has much more punch.

From an editing point of view, split-infinitives are wrong but an editor should never override the author. The best policy is to avoid them (split-infinitives, not authors) as much as possible, but if it is the clearest and best way to go, use it.