Grammar 101: A Quick Guide (page 3)

Grammar 101: A Quick Guide

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Updated on Feb 14, 2009

Yes: Whose obituary did I see in the newspaper this morning?

  • End a sentence with a preposition if necessary. If your writing sounds unnatural, it’s okay to end with one – the grammar police won’t come after you!

Correct (but awkward): My daughter has nothing of which to be ashamed.

Informal (but better): My daughter has nothing to be ashamed of.

Style at a Glance

Writers use guides, like the Chicago Manual of Style, to brush up on the “laws” of language. Here’s a cheat sheet with tips from Burckmyer:

Punctuation: Don’t overuse the exclamation point. Use a hyphen for compound adjectives (well-read student, orange-striped kitty). Avoid using the ampersand (&) in writing.

Capitalization: Capitalize (and italicize) titles such as books, movies, and TV shows. Don’t “cap” a word because its abbreviation is capped (SUV, but sport utility vehicle). Cap a person’s full name, but lowercase terms like mother or uncle.

Apostrophe: Don’t tack an apostrophe to the end of an abbreviation or family name to create a plural!

No: CEO’s, DVD’s, The Wilson’s

Yes: CEOs, DVDs, The Wilsons

Collective nouns: Beware of nouns that include numbers of persons or are viewed as units, such as staff: “The staff opposes the principal’s announcement.” The use of media is disputable. Some sources say it’s always plural; others have embraced it as singular: “The media is biased.”

Numbers: Write out numbers one to nine, but use numerals for 10 and up: “My nine-year-old sister has 12 hamsters.” Follow this rule for ordinals, too: “He was the sixth guest to meet the 44th president.”

Wordiness: Use to instead of in order to, or because in place of the reason why is because. Burckmyer’s list of redundant phrases includes advance planning, cooperate together, general overview, and new innovation.

21st-Century Terms: Avoid words that suggest a single sex (firefighter, not fireman; resources, not manpower). Capitalize Internet and Web. Use quotation marks sparingly, especially for terms adopted into our lexicon, or vocabulary: green, social network, and text (as a verb) are now familiar expressions and don’t need to be inside quotes.

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