Whether you’re a novice or professional writer, you should know that your use of grammar can make a break your text. If you misuse it, you risk losing readers. When you use it skillfully, you create fans. Following are some ideas to help improve your grammar.
What is grammar?
Grammar may be defined as the set of structural rules governing the composition of words, phrases, and clauses in a spoken or written language. Simply put, grammar is the way words are put together to form proper sentences. Grammar subjects include word usage, punctuation, and conjugating verbs.
While many people study grammar as part of a school class in their native language, most people’s use of grammar is acquired by hearing other speakers of their native tongue.
Review the basics
If you’ve never taken time to really study grammar basics, either formally or informally, you’re neglecting an important writing skill. Read a grammar book (okay, it may be dull), take a course or a refresher course (in person or online). Among the most abused subjects that you might want to review when and where to use commas and when to use apostrophes.
Commas are used to separate thoughts within a sentence and to help clarify meaning. They’re also used after introductory clauses or to separate a description from the main text. All too often, authors forget or misplace a comma, making the reader stumble.
Apostrophes are used to show possession (e.g., Jane’s book) or in a contraction (e.g., can’t, isn’t), where the apostrophe replaces the missing letter. They are not used to change a noun from singular to plural (e.g., The book’s are on the table is wrong).
Don’t just read what you always read. Read a number of different genres. This will let you see how various writers share their ideas, as well as checking out their writing styles. And yes, you can look for ways to improve your grammar.
Pay attention to sentence structure and sentence length (long, short, varying). Do the same for paragraphs. Look for specific phrases and punctuation the author uses to make a point. How might you use some of these techniques in your own writing? Get a feel for how the style of various authors is used to set the tone, while still following grammar guidelines. All of this reading and learning will improve your writing.
But beware: Not all reading material contains high-quality writing. So, choose your reading carefully. If you read widely, you’ll soon be able to tell what’s written well and edited well.
Proofread out loud
This is a great way to improve your grammar skills. When you speak your words, somewhat slowly and deliberately, you can usually spot errors in grammar that you might miss when you’re skim reading. You’ll also be able to spot any issues with wording and flow. It will also give to a chance to replace stiff or artificial wording with more natural-sounding speech.
Alternatively, instead of reading your work yourself, ask someone else to read it to you out loud. This can be effective in a number of ways, but, certainly, you’ll hear how another person interprets your writing. That person might also give you some suggestions for improving your words, but also some possible ways to improve your grammar.
Improving your grammar skills is a major step in improving your writing. Using the above suggestions might be a great first step.
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