LESSON WRITING Grammarholics Anonymous - Your Grammar Guide!

Discussion in 'REFINING WRITING' started by fatalrendezvous, Aug 23, 2013.

  1. Grammarholics Anonymous - Your Grammar Guide!
    Hello, and welcome to Grammarholics Anonymous! My name is Fatal (or Remi if you prefer), and I'm a grammarholic.

    Hi Fatal!

    Hi! I'll be your host and guide through this crazy world we call English Grammar. I will try to post roughly two times a week, each time with a new micro-lesson that you can read and hopefully keep in mind! Any time a new lesson is posted, I will link to it in a directory in this post to help you quickly find what you're looking for. I will try to cover everything from the very basic to the very complex.

    But in case you're wondering why it's important to learn and use good grammar:

    It makes your writing easier to read and understand. In the world of roleplay here on Iwaku, this is crucial! Being clear and easy to understand is one way of making sure you can make and keep your RP partners! It also serves you well outside of Iwaku because being an effective communicator (whether that is orally or in writing) is a very useful life skill. It also just makes you seem more mature.

    Keep in mind though, that nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes and sometimes they are hard to catch, but hopefully this guide can be a quick and easy reference point for you to help you reduce those mistakes!

    That said, welcome to Grammarholics Anonymous, and enjoy. ^_^

    In The Works
    • Proper semicolon use
    • Who vs Whom
    • Adverb vs. Adjective
    #1 fatalrendezvous, Aug 23, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
    • Thank Thank x 9
    • Useful Useful x 1
  2. Then vs. Than

    The word "then" refers to points in time or the progression of things, whereas "than" is used to compare or contrast two things.

    We are planning to eat lunch, then go to the grocery store.​
    This orange is much bigger than that one.​

    Extra notes:

    As you probably know, "then" also has other uses besides just the one used in this lesson. As a rule, you only use "than" when comparing, and "then" in all other cases.
    • Thank Thank x 3
  3. Your vs. You’re

    "Your" is a possessive pronoun which indicates belonging.

    Your post really shows off your writing skills!​

    "You're" is a contraction of "you are."

    I can tell that you’re a very talented writer!​

    Extra notes:

    The next time you thank someone and they say "your welcome," I suggest you respond with "MY welcome?"
    • Thank Thank x 2
    • Bucket of Rainbows Bucket of Rainbows x 1
  4. There, Their, and They’re

    "There" typically denotes a location. "Their" is a possessive word indicating that there is more than one individual and that they possess something. "They’re" is a contraction of "they are."

    They’re counting all of their money over there.​

    Extra notes:

    Usually, talking out "they are" in the sentence can help you know if you need to use "they’re."
    • Thank Thank x 2
  5. Less vs. Fewer
    (Also Amount vs. Number)

    If you can count how many there are of something, you use "fewer" and "number."

    She makes fewer posts on Iwaku now that she has a job.
    The number of posts she makes has gone down.

    If you can’t count something, you use "less" and "amount."

    She creates less content on Iwaku now that she has a job.
    The amount of content she makes has gone down.

    Extra notes:
    With "more" it doesn't really matter whether or not you can count them. More is always more.
    Also, many grocery stores get this wrong. In fact, I refuse to shop at a grocery store that has an Express Lane that says "Ten items or less." I’m not kidding. I hope they go out of business.
    • Thank Thank x 3
  6. "The Reason Why Is Because"

    This is not so much a grammar issue as it is a redundancy issue. If you really break it down, the words "reason," "why," and "because" all mean more or less the same thing.

    So when you say "the reason why is because," that is virtually the same as saying "because because because."

    While it’s not technically grammatically wrong, it is overly wordy and redundant. Concise writing of "the reason why is because" is to just say "the reason is that." In many cases, you can even just say the reason without even starting the sentence with "the reason is"!

    Extra notes:
    Many singers get this wrong. I assume the reason is that it's easier to rhyme with "why" than it is with "reason."
    • Thank Thank x 3
  7. It's vs. Its

    Unlike with most words, the possessive form of "it" is simply "its." When you use "it's" with an apostrophe, it only ever means "it is" or "it has."

    I would tell you what is bothering me, but it's complicated.
    I love my new phone! It's so much faster than my old one.
    It's so cloudy outside today.

    The dog was wagging its tail.
    The company is celebrating its 50th anniversary today.
    I love my new phone! Its graphics are so much sharper!

    Extra notes:
    Speaking out "it is" if you're not sure whether or not to use the apostrophe can help. If it sounds wonky saying "it is" where you are planning to write it, leave the apostrophe out.
    In the phone examples, notice the difference - "it's so much faster" is saying "it is so much faster," whereas "its graphics" are talking about the phone's graphics - something the phone possesses.
    • Thank Thank x 1
  8. Love this thread! But for the sake of its accuracy I would like to point out that 'It's' only ever means 'it is'. It never means 'it has' or anything else :/
  9. You could say "it's been that way," meaning "it has" been that way. Slightly more obscure and somewhat informal, but still grammatically accurate.

    Reference 1
    Reference 2
    #9 fatalrendezvous, Aug 27, 2013
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2013
  10. I retract my objection and commence feeling like a fool :(
  11. Alot vs. A lot

    "Alot" is not a word. If you are trying to say that there is quite a large amount of something, the correct usage is to separate them into two words: a lot. There are no exceptions.

    Incorrect: Alot of people seem to make this mistake.
    Correct: A lot of people seem to make this mistake.

    Incorrect: I've seen it happen alot of times.
    Correct: I've seen it happen a lot of times.

    Extra Notes:
    "Alot" is not in the dictionary. I'm not sure why many people (dare I say, a lot of people lol) misuse it, but it is something I see fairly often. Fortunately, this is the type of error that will get caught by spell check (since it's not a word), so I don't see it as much in digital writing as I do in on-paper writing.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Dangling / Misplaced Modifiers

    This is a bit more of an advanced lesson.

    Often called dangling, missing, or misplaced modifiers, this problem occurs when you arrange a sentence in a confusing way. It happens when we attach a description to a word that is actually meant for something else. For example:

    Running down the road, a shot rang out.

    In the above example, the sentence is literally describing that a shot, or a bullet, or something, is running down the road. We all know that bullets don't run, and that really in the example, someone or some creature is running. A more correct example would be:

    Running down the road, I heard a shot ring out.

    This way, the modifier "running down the road" is affixed to something that can actually run, which is I, or a person. That is an example of a dangling modifier; a description which lacks an appropriate subject.

    After rotting in the basement for weeks, my brother brought up some oranges.

    This means that your brother is a rotting zombie who delivers fruit.

    My brother brought up some oranges that had been rotting in the basement for weeks.

    Now you actually have a human brother again, and it's the oranges that were rotting, not him!

    Here are a few extra examples to help you get the idea:

    One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas.​
    One morning, while still in my pajamas, I shot an elephant.​

    The first sentence has a misplaced modifier. "In my pajamas" in the first line grammatically refers to the elephant. Unless the elephant was actually wearing your pajamas (maybe that's why you shot him), the sentence is incorrect. The second sentence makes it clear that you were in your pajamas at the time you shot the elephant.

    After reading the book, the movie will be even more exciting.​
    After reading the book, she thinks the movie will be even more exciting.​

    Notice that the movie didn't read the book, a person did!


    Hopefully this is not too confusing. Someone let me know if I've been unclear and I will try to re-explain!
    • Thank Thank x 7
  13. Literally

    When you use the word "literally," you are essentially saying that something ACTUALLY happened. It is not correct to use "literally" for exaggeration or emphasis.

    Saying "I literally died from laughter" means you laughed so hard you actually died.

    "I was literally crushed by the news" means you actually suffered broken bones as a result of hearing the news.

    When people say these things, like "I died from laughter" or "I was crushed by the news," they are saying them in a figurative or metaphorical sense.


    Extra Notes:
    For a short period of time, Google actually added the figurative definition of "literally" to its dictionary. Fortunately it is gone now, but apparently some dictionaries have kept it. I almost had a heart attack when I heard the news, but didn't literally have a heart attack.
    #13 fatalrendezvous, Sep 5, 2013
    Last edited: Apr 18, 2017
    • Like Like x 2
    • Thank Thank x 2

    Try "And" vs. Try "To"

    This one is more about syntax. When we say "try and," we are usually being informal. Somewhere along the lines, grammarians actually accepted this informal usage as appropriate, but it's still important to know the formal usage.

    The correct usage of the verb "try" is "try to." When we say it as "try and" we are actually being confusing.

    Charlotte is going to try and run two miles today.
    Charlotte is going to try to run two miles today.​

    In the first example, because of the use of "and" it's not entirely clear. Sure, we understand the sentence, but it could just as easily mean:
    • Charlotte is going to try.
    • Also, she's going to run two miles.
    Whereas the second example makes it clear exactly what Charlotte is trying.

    Extra notes:
    It appears that the usage of "try and" is primarily in the United States. So if you are abroad and you really want to give away that you're an American, "try and" might do it (never mind other things like your clothing or your accent)!

    This lesson applies in some other situations as well, like with the verb "to be," for example when saying "be sure to" rather than "be sure and." Be aware of this! It seems like a small point but in your professional life it will make your writing more clear and concise.
    • Thank Thank x 1
  15. Whose vs. Who's

    Here's a quick one. "Who's" is a contraction where the apostrophe takes the place of a letter - in this case meaning "who is" or in very informal cases "who has." In contrast, "whose" denotes possession or belonging.

    Who's that girl over there browsing Iwaku on her laptop?​
    Does anyone know whose laptop this is?​

    In the first example, "Who's" is of course asking the question, who is that girl? In the second, "whose" is being used to question whom specifically the laptop belongs to.

    Extra notes:
    The easiest way to figure out which of these you need to use is to remember that the apostrophe is like a replacement for letters that have been taken out. In the case of "who's," the apostrophe represents the missing I in "who is."
  16. The Oxford Comma

    How can a comma, of all things, have its own name? Aren't all commas, well... commas?

    The answer is: kind of.

    The Oxford Comma refers to a specific usage of the comma that makes sentences more concise.


    We invited the rhinoceri, Washington, and Lincoln.
    We invited the rhinoceri, Washington and Lincoln.

    In the first sentence, the Oxford comma serves as a clear indication that you are continuing a list rather than assigning a name to someone or addressing someone. That is, you invited two presidents and some rhinoceri.

    In the second sentence, without the Oxford comma, it could be misunderstood that you invited two rhinoceri, whose names were Washington and Lincoln.

    There is also a different opportunity for confusion in the second sentence. It could be talking to the people you mention at the end. In that case, it could be misunderstood that you only invited rhinoceri, and are addressing Washington and Lincoln directly.

    When you are writing lists of things, the Oxford comma can help reduce confusion and improve clarity!

    Extra notes:
    This is not always necessary. In fact, many styles of journalism and other forms of professional writing don't require the use of the Oxford comma (sometimes referred to as a serial comma). But, it's a good tool to know and to have in your arsenal!
    • Love Love x 2
    • Like Like x 1
  17. i.e. vs. e.g.

    This one probably won't show up in your RP as much but is still a good thing to know for your professional and student careers.

    "i.e." is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase "id est," meaning "that is."

    "e.g." is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase "exempli gratia," meaning "for example."

    "i.e." is used for clarification, whereas "e.g." is used to provide examples.

    Fatal loves helping people improve their writing (i.e., by fixing their grammar errors).​

    Fatal loves helping people fix their grammar errors (e.g., improper comma usage, improper apostrophe usage).​

    These are not great examples, but they're the best I can think of right now x.x

    In the first sentence, i.e. takes the place of "that is," implying that I help people improve their writing by fixing grammar errors and not by some other means of improving writing.

    The second sentence offers examples of grammar errors that I help to fix!
    • Love Love x 2
    • Thank Thank x 2