Blissful Belle

Be Happy, Feel Beautiful

How To: Perfect Your Grammar and Punctuation


 

Style is important to many blissful belles, but there’s an often-neglected aspect to style: writing style. While crucial during our school years, good writing style retains its importance throughout our lives: the way we present ourselves through writing impacts the way others perceive not just our message, but us. The best way to polish up your writing is to perfect your grammar and punctuation. Read on for tips.

Why Should We Care?

In our world where texting and Facebook are the everyday media of writing, things like grammar and punctuation aren’t exactly mandatory. But online, where we don’t have the benefits of body language, attire and tone of voice on our side, the only thing that communicates our personalities is our words. And although the content of our words remains most crucial, it’s the way we use them that conveys who we are, especially to those who don’t know us, like potential employers. So even though more and more of our communication is shifting to online forms, good writing style is tremendously important and could mean the difference between getting the job and losing it to a more eloquent and polished candidate.

Spelling mistakes can also cause damage beyond just harming the way people view us: BBC reported that internet businesses lose millions due to bad spelling.

Good writing style isn’t restricted to grammar enthusiasts, either. Most writing rules are simple, and once you learn them, it’s hard to forget. Here are a few ways anyone can clean up their prose.

Spelling Counts

There, their, they’re. These examples are both classic and common, and they illustrate how spelling can cause some serious problems with clarity. They are also insidious, because the spelling and grammar checks on word processors aren’t likely to pick up on them. The same applies to any misspelling that creates another perfectly legitimate word that is plain wrong in the context (air vs. err; ate vs. eight). This is a tricky category, because the only way to know them is to memorize them. But as for there, their and they’re, remember: there refers to a place, their implies ownership and they’re means they are.

Comma Chameleon

As a writing tutor, I often encounter students who complain that they have no clue where to put commas. But luckily, comma rules are quite simple. Here are some you’ll use most often.

  1. Lists. If you have three or more items on a list, separate each with commas. Whether or not the item before “and” requires a comma depends on the style or personal preference (Example: feel happy, healthy and beautiful).
  2. Between independent clauses separated by coordinating conjunctions. If two independent clauses (that is, they stand alone because they have a subject and a verb: Joey [subject] runs [verb]) are separated by one of the FANBOYS coordinating conjunctions (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so), you’ll need a comma after the first independent clause and before the FANBOYS conjunction. (Example: Punctuation is wonderful, so I think I’m going to learn more.) Caution: in formal writing, be careful not to separate two independent clauses with just a comma, so as to not create what’s known as a comma splice. You’ll need to use either a period or a semicolon to separate them, or you can use a coordinating conjunction and a comma.
  3. Introductory elements. Example: Because it’s so beautiful today, I think I’ll go outside.
  4. Non-essential elements. If the part of the sentence is an aside or otherwise not essential to the meaning or structure of the sentence, set it off with commas. Example: The blissful belle, known for her excellent grammar, charmed the crowd with witty remarks.
  5. Before quotations. If you quote someone, set it off with a comma. Example: She told us, “Life is sweet.”

These are not the only rules, but it’s important to remember that even though they are called rules, there’s a certain degree of art to comma usage. As with all writing, the most important rules are clarity and consistency. Although many English teachers insist on traditional punctuation, many rules become less relevant in the real world. In fact, once you know the rules, feel free to break them, as long as you keep your writing clear and your style consistent. For more information on commas, visit the Purdue Online Writing Lab’s guide.

Possessed with Possessives

Possessive forms are another category that cause confusion, particularly when it comes to personal pronouns (such as his, hers and, the most common trouble-maker, its). Possessive personal pronouns do not have apostrophes. So – the bird has its problems, but normally it’s content with life. With plural nouns, place the apostrophe after the S: both the girls have lots of memories, and the girls’ memories are sweet. What about irregular plurals, like women? Treat them like regular singulars, adding apostrophe S after them: women’s. With singulars that end in S, like actress, do the same: actress becomes actress’s, while actresses become actresses’.

Follow these rules, and your prose becomes that much cleaner – and you will be that much further from losing your thriving Internet business millions of dollars! Of course, these are just a few of the many conventions of grammar and punctuation, and the Internet is full of advice for those who are eager to learn more. Visit The Grammar Girl  or follow her on Twitter for entertaining writing tips.

Though the rules of grammar and punctuation may seem intimidatingly complicated, there’s really not much to them, and once you’ve learned them, they become really simple to use. Most importantly, clean writing helps make a great impression, whether your reader is a professor, boss or even an acquaintance. Stand out from the crowd with your blissfully beautiful writing style.

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This entry was posted on July 25, 2011 by in How-to, Savvy Belle and tagged , , , , , , , .
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