10 Grammar Rules for Every Writer

Filed in Ask the Editor, Writing Tips by on September 9, 2020 0 Comments

Here’s a trusty list of grammar rules. Keep them at your writing workspace, so you can easily refer back to the list any time you get stuck: ... 1. Use...

Seasoned writers will tell you it’s okay to break grammar rules as long as you know the right way to break them. Lazy writers often quote that same phrase to avoid learning correct grammar in the first place. I’m a firm believer that you must know the rules before you bend them. So, here’s a trusty list of my favorite grammar rules. Keep them at your writing workspace, so you can easily refer back to the list any time you get stuck:

1. Use “All right” not “Alright.”

Alright isn’t actually a word even though it turns up in a Google spelling result.

2. Are contractions okay?

If you’re writing an academic paper, avoid contractions. If you’re writing fiction (especially dialogue), then it’s okay to use contractions. If you’re questioning the formality of your piece of writing, always lean more formal and avoid apostrophes.

3. Excessive formatting is bad.

Don’t include a bunch of bold, italic, underlined (or all of the above) when trying to show emphasis.

4. Don’t get spacey.

You only need one space between sentences. Typesetters (interior book designers) will remove any extraneous spacing.

5. The use of “into” and “in to” depends on how the word is used.

“Into” means something or someone is entering another space: “He walked into the cave.” The phrase “in to” should be used when the word “in” happens to appear before “to” in a sentence: “Go in, to your right.”

6. The debate between “more than” and “over” is still strong.

Both phrases are now interchangeable. You can say “He’s over a week late on rent” or “He’s more than a week late on rent.” Don’t be surprised, however, if you notice your editor still prefers “more than.”

7. Do you use “a” or “an” with that word?

The correct usage is to place an “a” before consonant-sounding words: “A baseball flew over my head.” The correct usage of “an” is to place it before a word that starts with a vowel sound: “It was an honor to speak with you today.”

8. Is it a “compliment” or “complement”?

A “compliment” is when someone says something nice about you. A “complement” is when a person or object completes or makes something better. “She is the perfect complement to me” is an example.

9. Watch your capitalization.

Only proper nouns should be capitalized.

10. Don’t rely on adverbs.

If you see a bunch of words that end in -ly in your writing, it means you like adverbs. To break this habit, rephrase these sentences with strong verbs that carry the action. An adverb example: “She unapprovingly looked at John.” A strong verb example: “She stared without flinching.

What are some tried and true grammar rules you use when writing? For more writing and editing advice, visit our “Ask the Editor” posts.

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About the Author ()

Erika Bennett has been a freelance editor for nearly half a decade. Before joining the Xulon team in 2010, she worked with several first time authors who wanted to test the waters of self-publishing. Her aim is to make sure great books find their way into readers' hands.

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