Grammar Tips and Tricks: Great Writing Can Go a Long Way

Image courtesy of Generation Bass photostream

Image courtesy of Generation Bass photostream

I graduated in May with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. I had learned everything from a subordinating conjunction to future perfect progressive tense (that’s a real thing). Even though I learned the Associated Press Stylebook beginning to end, that doesn’t mean I never make a grammar or punctuation errors. You might even find one in this blog.

Proper grammar and punctuation can make the difference between a sale or not. What if you have a major error in your first email with a client? Could it reflect badly on you or the business you are representing? Of course, it can. In this blog article, I will point out the most common errors made and give you some tips and tricks to help you effectively communicate in your writing.

Is there a missing comma?
Check your sentences to see which have an introductory word, phrase or clause. I will you give an example of an introductory phrase.

o    During the holiday season, many employees spend time with their families.
o    Actually, we are just about to leave.
o    John Smith, Owner of Proforma ABC, has reached his sales goal.

You can use your judgment here:  if this sentence was said out loud, would there be a pause after the introductory phrase?

Did you know a missing comma can change the meaning of a sentence?
o    Let’s leave Paul.

Are you going to leave Paul there or do you want him to leave with you? When directly addressing someone, use a comma before or after the name depending on the sentence structure. It should read like this:
o    Let’s leave, Paul.
o    Paul, let’s leave.

Commas give the sentence a different meaning. They allow the reader to see which words go together and which part of your sentences is the most important.

Is it affect or effect?
Every time this comes, I have to sort this out to get it right. Much like other common mistakes, it takes a moment to get it right. What is the difference between the two?

o    Affect is a verb that means “to influence.”
    “The game will affect the standings.”

o    Effect is a noun that means “a result or impact.”
      “The effect was overwhelming.”

A tip to remember which to use is if you can use a, an or the directly before it. Normally, you can’t use articles with affect. If you think in the sense of “the effect,” it should help you differentiate between the two.

You’ve got a marathon sentence.
A run-on sentence is a sentence that has two (or more) independent clauses without the appropriate conjunction or punctuation. A run-on sentence can be fixed by separating the clauses into two sentences, using a coordinating conjunction or using a subordinating conjunction.

o    Coordinating conjunctions – and, but, for, yet, nor, so, or.
o    Subordinating conjunctions – after, although, before, unless, as, because, even, if, since, though, while, where, when, until, than.

Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

o    Incorrect – I love to write blog articles I would write one every day if I had the time.
o    Correct – I love to write blog articles. I would write one everyday if I had the time.
o    Correct – I love to write blog articles and would write one everyday if I had the time.
o    Correct Because I love to write blog articles, I would write one everyday if I had the time.

Using proper grammar and punctuation is important in professional communication. It can make the difference between making a sale and walking away empty handed. Don’t make grammar and punctuation the cause of losing potential business. Identify and fix common mistakes to help you shape up your writing and communicate effectively.

AboutAaron Stultz

Aaron joined the Proforma team in 2014. As a public relations intern, he assists Proforma Owners to showcase their accomplishments through publication and media channels. In May of 2014, Aaron graduated from Indiana University of Pennsylvania with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism. In his free time, Aaron enjoys baseball and hunting.

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