Grammar Tips

Written by Helen Glenn Court
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Starting small is a good way to tackle improving your writing skills, and grammar tips are a good example. With a so-called "cheat sheet" of the 10 or 20 or 37 most frequently encountered errors in writing, you can take on one at a time without feeling overwhelmed. It's a psychological game, but it's effective. The point with grammar tips is to solidify your grounding in the fundamentals. Developing a graceful and clear style of writing is a separate effort. The first is critical. The second is a bonus.

The definition of grammar differs a bit from language to language and linguistic perspective. Sometimes punctuation and spelling are considered part of it, sometimes usage is as well. Semantics aside, grammar tips will include anything from advice on split infinitives, ending sentences with a preposition, when to use a semicolon, subject-verb agreement, and word use.

A Few Favorite Grammar Tips

Word choice and spelling issues never seem to go away. The difference, for example, between affect and effect trips up most people. The difference is fairly simple and moderately safe if you work on the principle of using affect only as a verb and effect only as a noun. English being the flexible vibrant language that is, of course, this isn't the full story. Affect is also a noun, but only in a narrow psychiatric context. Likewise, effect is a verb, meaning to accomplish.

Another one we see frequently is the misuse of ensure, assure, and insure. The definitions overlap somewhat, naturally. In many cases they are nearly interchangeable. To be safe, however, it's worth heeding nuances and sticking to the primary definition of each. Ensure means to promise or guarantee. Assure means to give confidence to or to convince. Insure means to take measures beforehand, as in financial protection against loss.

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