Improve your writing with these grammar tips
Hello, my friends! You’re in luck, because today I’m sharing the much-anticipated follow-up to my original post “Do you make these common grammar mistakes?” from just a couple of months ago. What? Too dramatic? Are you not as excited as I am about this topic?
As a quick background, I have a little bit of street-credibility when it comes to grammar. I majored in Public Relations and minored in English at the University of Florida College of Journalism and Communications and also worked as a communications manager, public relations account director and copywriter for a good portion of my professional life. I’ve always been down with letters, word usage and punctuation. And to pull a popular line from my original post on grammar … my history as a word nerd runs deep. So let’s get to it!
Speaking and writing conversationally is a good thing
I want to make sure it’s clear that knowing and using proper grammar can still be done when speaking and writing conversationally, as we do in blogs. These days, it’s okay to begin a sentence with a conjunction, and it’s also okay to use a few slang words every now and then. However, you don’t want to misuse words, because that’s not “informal,” that’s just “bad.”
Today is about the bad. I’ve compiled a few commonly misused words and punctuation with explanations, using examples from my current life. If you get these things right, you’ll instantly improve your writing. Trust me!
1. Since vs. because.
Since is used for time. Because is used to explain something. While since and because can sometimes be considered synonyms, your writing will be much clearer if you use them in different ways for their own specific reasons.
For example: Since this time last week, my days have totally changed because of my new puppy. Since is “time” and “because” is the reason. (And yes, you can start a sentence with either since or because, and it’s still correct.)
2. Your vs. you’re.
I cringe when I scroll through social media and see people use “your welcome.” It’s “you’re welcome.” Your is possessive, and you’re is a contraction for “you are.” These are very different meanings.
For example: Your dog is so cute. You’re good at being a dog owner. When in doubt, ask yourself if it’s a verb or not, then proceed accordingly.
3. Who vs. that.
Who is for people. That is for objects. If you are trying to describe someone, use who. If you are trying to describe something, use that.
For example: Ashley, an annoying blogger who writes about grammar, thinks she is being helpful with her writing and word-usage tips. While replacing “who” with “that” sounds okay, that’s only because we’re accustomed to people saying it incorrectly. You would use “that” if the subject of the sentence is a thing. Here is another example, with that same thought reworded: A Lady Goes West, an annoying blog that features posts about grammar, is actually quite a helpful resource. (See what I did there?)
4. Supposedly vs. supposably.
This one is easy. Supposably is likely not the word you mean to use, and it’s only a valid word in American English, not in other countries. The right word, supposedly, means “what is believed to be the case or purported” and supposably means “capable of being conceived.” They are not synonyms.
For example: Supposedly, my maltipoo puppy will grow to be anywhere between six and twelve pounds. Go with the “edly” not the “ably,” and you’ll be golden.
5. Where to put the punctuation when using parentheses.
In the blog world, many times we want to include additional thoughts, which may not be necessary in the sentence. That’s where parentheses come into play. If you write an entire sentence as a singular thought within parentheses, then the punctuation goes inside those parentheses. If you use parentheses in the middle of a sentence, and it’s not a full thought, then the punctuation goes outside the parentheses.
For example: It’s really hot in the East Bay right now (90-degree temperatures). It’s really hot in the East Bay right now. (We’re experiencing 90-degree temperatures.)
We’re all in a hurry when we write, but taking just a couple of extra minutes to think about your word usage and punctuation can do wonders for how you present yourself. And if you missed the first installment, go back and read, “Do you make these common grammar mistakes?” for my top five tips as well.
Learn more and do what works for you
If you’re (not your) interested in learning more about grammar, I highly suggest that you sign up for the “Grammar Girl’s” weekly email newsletter tips or purchase this book: Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing (Quick & Dirty Tips).
I think that about covers it for today. Of course, how you speak and write is totally your personal style, so make your own choices, my friends. I hope you enjoyed this grammar lesson and perhaps even picked up something new.
By the way, congratulations to the winner of the Title Nine giveaway winner, Suzanne. Thank you to everyone who entered, and I’ll be sure to have another giveaway for you soon. I’ll see you back here tomorrow for a post about food!
Questions of the day
What is one grammar mistake that really bugs you?
Would you like to see more posts on writing tips like this in the future?
What’s one thing that is making you smile today? (For me? Rudy, my little pup!)
I haven’t left a comment in a while, but I’m still here reading! Yes, I LOVE posts like this! Please keep them coming! One thing that annoys me these days is when people email using text speak. For example using “lol.” And it annoys me to no end when professionals do this. I actually heard a speaker not too long ago and she included this in her topic to students. She encouraged them to be professional in their writing and emails. I could not agree more!
Thank you for reading and saying hi today, Amy. Even worse — have you heard someone use “lol” out LOUD? I totally have! They said “lol” in a sentence. I get it that it’s funny, but they meant it. And professional writing should NEVER be informal, unless it’s a short email to a team member or something. I worry about the future of American and our uses of short-hand writing — just not a good way to represent oneself, right? Have a great day, Amy, and go out and correct people!! hahah
You KNOW I love this post! Word nerds unite!
Helpful tip on the since vs. because for me. As critical as I am, I’ve probably messed that one up a time or two.
And supposably is like hearing nails on a chalk board for me. I didn’t even know it was an actual word!! You know who messes this one up all the time? Every single Real Housewife…
I was going to say the same thing! Supposably is an actual word?!
Yes it is, I have NEVER used it, and it’s not a common word at all. But it’s not a word in other forms of English, so I’d like to think of it as a non-word. 🙂
Hi Courtney! The good thing about being confused with since vs. because, is there is still a 50 percent chance you are CORRECT, just not as clear. And I doubt many people would notice. But those Housewives? Oh they use supposably, they probably write “your welcome” and UGH, I don’t want to know what else. 🙂 hahahha! Happy Tuesday! I KNEW you’d love this one. Any requests for future posts???? Any topics???
Well, since you asked…..!!!!
I know you talk about food and healthy eating often, but I’d love to know your thoughts on the various eating plans out there, for example tracking macros vs. just clean eating. I see so many incredibly lean and fit girls out there who do that #iifym plan eating Pop Tarts and pints of ice cream. But then I eat a handful of Teddy Grahams one Saturday night and I’m bloated all of Sunday! So I would love to know your input on something like this, even if it’s not exactly my question.
Totally great suggestion, Courtney! I am inspired and work on something like this!! 🙂 Love it!
Oh yes!!! That is a great suggestion!
I took several English classes in college along with my Spanish and business degrees. I am a huge stickler for grammar. Not that mine is perfect as I’m usually rushed. Something that bugs me is regardless and irregardless. Regardless is the proper word. Irregardless is not a word. It’s like nails on a chalkboard when I hear it.
Yes, Megan, that one gets me too! And we don’t have to be perfect, just ATTEMPT to use the right word. 🙂 hehehe! Your grammar seems to be quite good!
I can’t stand the your and you’re mix ups! Drives me crazy. I have received invitations written by adults saying “your invited.” (Is that where that period goes – inside or outside the quotation marks??). I worked at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego for a few years editing appellate briefs from the U.S. Attorneys to the 9th Circuit. However, I would not consider myself well versed in correct grammar, so feel free to edit my post! I was taught that the period goes inside the quotations, but I’ve seen it the other way so many times I’m confused. Also, I was taught only one space after a period. But, I have yet to do that in my own writing.
Hi Melissa! There used to be a hard “two spaces” after a period rule, but it was relaxed by the Associated Press several years ago, so now I go with one space. And as far as periods and commas, yes, they almost always go INSIDE the quotes. Depending on the sentence use, the exclamation or question mark may go inside or outside. That’s where it gets tricky! Nice gig working in the SD U.S. Attorney’s Office, lady! 🙂
Number 2 without a doubt really gets under my skin! There was even a Friends episode where Ross yelled at Rachel after she wrote it incorrectly n her letter to him and they broke up/didn’t get back together. It’s hysterical.
Ha,I just watched that episode last week, love it!!
How do I not remember that episode? I will go back and watch ahha!
I seriously need to watch that episode? How can I not remember it? But I’m laughing just thinking about it! Thanks, Lauren!
Mixing up you’re and your drives me crazy!
Me too! And it’s such a common mistake, isn’t it, Sam? 🙂 AHHH!!
I love this post! I have a BA in English and I was an English teacher prior to having my daughter. I love that you point out that there is room in the blogosphere for correct word usage.
Hi Heather! I’m all for casual blog-speak, but flat-out mis-use? No way. Not here! 🙂 hahah English lovers unite!!
Love this post! Thanks for tips!! The “your and you’re” one always drives me nuts!
Totally crazy! I know, Marielle! Oh and happy 3-months (????) to your little one!! 🙂
Great tips lady! So many of these things drive me crazy!!!
Ditto, Carissa!! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed this one.
I totally stink at grammar, ugh!
Hi Pinky! Hey, it’s not easy to get the words right. That’s why there are people like me to be dorks about it. I’m not so good at numbers hehhe …. 🙂 Happy Tuesday!
Your vs. You’re drives me nuts! Same with “their” there” and “they’re.” Different words people! As another word nerd, I love these posts.
Yes, Chrissy those ones get me too! Glad you enjoyed this one. It’s definitely a topic close to my heart. Happy Tuesday!! 🙂
I love these posts! They make me laugh and nod in agreement.
The constant misuse of your / you’re and there/ their / they’re drives me NUTS. It sticks out of any piece of writing like a blinding light to me. Also, to / two / too, new / knew… they’re all different words, people!!
I’m not sure if it’s a regional thing, but when I moved to the city I now live in, I noticed a lot of people use the word “seen” incorrectly (both written and verbally) and it’s like nails on a chalk board. “I seen that the other night”… huh?
Hi Ashleigh — that’s definitely a regional misuse. I’ve heard that before in some backwoods areas of Southwest Florida actually. TOTALLY not cool. hahaha. 🙂 Rants always welcome here. No judgement zone.
I am a TOTAL GRAMMAR NAZI!! ha ha!
That’s a good thing to be, GiGi! 🙂 hehehe
I really appreciate these posts. Grammar is not my strong suit. I definitely was unclear about where to put punctuation with parentheses. Thanks for clarifying that.
Hi Jen! It’s not easy stuff! You’re so welcome, I’m glad this was helpful! Hope you have a wonderful day! 🙂
Love these tips! I also get annoyed by your vs you’re, or they’re, there and their! It’s so easy to mess up and I can’t stand it!
Selma made me happy this morning- I was getting ready for work and about to leave, and I found her snuggled up in her cage already asleep. She’s such a good dog and loves laying in her cage! She may be the only dog who actually likes going in there…
Have a great day, Ashley!
Hi Gretchen! That’s awesome about Selma. I’m already learning that having a dog to care for before leaving the house can make you a little later than usual?? ahaha so nice work on Selma’s part for making your job easier!!
Awesome tips! I could definitely use a few… makes me feel like I should’ve paid a lot more attention in high school! Haha. I am no grammar expert but your vs you’re and they’re vs. their drives me nuts. I’m smiling today because I get to see my pup this weekend!
Hi Jamie, Well now that I’m a pup-lover, I know how exciting that can be hehhe! And I wish I could go back to school and appreciate classes more heheh. But as a college student, you’re just trying to get through it! 🙂 Have a great day, lady!
Great tips! Something that makes me smile today is thinking of people saying ‘proportion’ instead of ‘portion’. 🙂 Too funny!
Hi Bethann, So funny! I actually don’t think I’ve noticed a lot of people doing that — but I would not like it heheh. Happy Tuesday, pretty lady!
I love this post. My posts are usually thrown together at 10pm and quite rushed. I have to find a better system. Dave reads all my posts for me and you can hear him sigh over and over again on my punctuation. Thanks for the tip on the parenthesis. Honestly, I never thought I would be writing as my major form of communication (I’m a CPA for goodness sake) so these little nuggets of help are great!
Hi Sam! I feel you. Sometimes it is difficult to correct your own writing anyhow, so it’s good you have that extra set of eyes. What a good man! And hey, blogging doesn’t have to be perfect, so cut yourself some slack hehe (or have Dave do it??)! Happy Tuesday, lady!
Although I am not perfect with grammar, you mentioned one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate when people use the wrong your, you’re, their, there or they’re.
Hi Samantha! I don’t think anyone is perfect with grammar, so don’t worry about that. And of course, those “there” issues bother me too! hehehe 🙂
Your and you’re. How do people still mess these up! I actually just received an invitation in the mail that had your invited. I cringed! These grammar mistakes are great to read from another person’s perspective. I feel the same way but never knew if it was just me 😉
Oh my gosh, Heather! That’s nearly grounds for saying NO to the invite. hahaha! 🙂 Glad you are a grammar-girl along with me!
#2….I turn into total grammar Nazi with that one. I just die.
Good work, Brittany! Sometimes we’ve got to put people in their place when it comes to grammar! 🙂
I love Grammar Girl. I write formally at work and while I am a bit more lax on my blog, there are some “conversational” things I just can’t let go!
Hi Coco! That’s exactly how I feel. I like to keep it informal around here, but I really try not to misuse anything. Glad you feel the same. Thanks for saying hi! 🙂 Have a great night!
I see “loose” in place of “lose” often! Obviously sometimes it’s just a typo, but other times it’s throughout an entire post! I am by no means spectacular at grammar, but I do feel like the more we write the more we question how we do it. I love Grammar Girl too — her podcasts are great as well.
Thanks for sharing your tips!
Hi Erin, Oh yes, I see that mistake too. And I’ve never listened to the Grammar Girl podcasts. Well truthfully, I’ve never listened to a podcast from anyone! haha ! I should get on that. Thanks for saying hello. 🙂
oh man, I love grammar posts! Your/you’re is probably the grammar point that bothers me the most. Recently I saw someone spell torture as torcher and that really made my day!
Love this post! I totally cringe about the you’re/your thing aswell. I did linguistics as my second major in uni and it was sooo hard but the grammar subjects were my fave! 🙂
Hi Jessica! Linguistics? Very cool, I’m guessing that is a challenging and interesting field of study. Cheers to you as a fellow grammar lover!
Your vs. You’re is one of my pet peeves. But, since you already said that affect vs. effect. Also, misusing e.g. and I.e. bothers me too.
Yes, that’s (i.e., i.g.) another one that is commonly confused — but I almost see that one as advanced ahahah! 🙂 Have a great day, Janelle!
Aw, poor Rudy! Hopefully he gets used to the Nutribullet soon.
Coco’s scared of wind, of all things. I think it might have to do with her aging because she wasn’t always that way.
But she definitely makes me smile every day! 🙂
Hi Sarah! I can see how dog fears would change as they grow. My parents’ dog is deathly scared of thunderstorms and rain, because he had to live through a hurricane once! Rudy is just a little bundle of joy! I can see why people are so obsessed with their dogs now:) Happy Wednesday!