March 4th is National Grammar Day, a day when all of us word nerds geek out for grammar. While the day serves as a celebration of language, that celebration also inherently raises awareness of what it means to write and speak well.
The Internet has changed the way we write and speak. Part of the reason that blogging has become such a useful way for businesses to humanize their brands is because of the conversational tone that it allows. People researching products and companies would much rather read something with some character (read: brand humanization) than something that’s sterile and lacking personality.
Still, just because blogging is a bit more relaxed than, say, academic writing, it doesn’t mean you can get sloppy. Blogging is still writing, after all, and writing skills are among the most important to have. It’s important to be cognizant of grammar rules so that you sound interesting and intelligent! Remember, especially if you’re blogging for your business, that how you write says as much about your personal brand as it does about your company.
In honor of this year’s National Grammar Day, here are some little tips that you can start implementing today (and every day) to help you make a big difference in your writing.
1. Stop using apostrophes to make things plural.
Please. For the love of everything that is good in this world, please stop using apostrophes to indicate plurality. This is such a common mistake, but there’s no excuse for making it.
Simply put, apostrophes indicate possession:
- Kate’s kite
- Albert’s car
- Estelle’s wig
This shows that the kite, car, and wig belong to Kate, Albert, and Estelle, respectively.
Apostrophes are also used as a kind of placeholder in contractions:
- Kate’s kite didn’t fly.
- Albert’s car wouldn’t start.
- Estelle’s wig isn’t very realistic.
In these cases, you see how an apostrophe is used to replace the ‘o’ in ‘not’ when the words become a contraction.
Look at these example pictures. Hopefully you saw “words” like mom’s, dad’s, chef’s, and cook’s and recognized that these were supposed to be plural nouns. For the life of me, I really can’t understand why mom’s and dad’s both have an apostrophe to indicate plurality, but grads is correct. Don’t make these mistakes!
2. Understand reflexive pronouns.
We’ve all seen this one. Maybe you get an email that says something like this:
We’re taking up a collection for Sally’s birthday so that we can buy her a cake from the whole office. If you like Sally and you like cake, please consider making a donation. You can give the money to Ronald or myself.
Insert screeching tire sounds here. The funny thing is that, when you really stop to think about it, you can’t give anything to myself. You can give something to me, but I am the only person who can give myself anything. I can’t give yourself anything. Only you can give yourself something, but I can give you something.
If that just really confused you, I apologize. Simply put: a reflexive pronoun (myself, yourself, ourselves, himself, herself, etc.) is used to refer back to the subject of a sentence or clause. “I” was not the subject of that sentence in the example, so there’s no reason to use “myself.”
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You can also use reflexive pronouns as intensive pronouns. Some examples of this include:
- Charles himself built the house.
- Harry fixed the leak himself.
- If you aren’t going to help me, then I guess I will just do it myself.
When reflexive pronouns are used as intensive, they don’t change the meaning of the sentence. Instead, they provide emphasis.
3. Everyday ≠ every day.
This might be my biggest pet peeve because I see it plastered incorrectly all over the place. Apparently it’s a little known fact that everyday and every day have two completely different meanings and are not interchangeable. I couldn’t let National Grammar Day go by without pointing out the differences.
This is something that’s not really a tiny problem. In fact, businesses and pop culture alike are helping to promote the misuse of these two terms on a regular basis. I’m looking at you, Phil Collins, Buddy Holly, James Taylor, Sheryl Crow, Hobby Lobby, and countless others.
Billboards, bags, promotional materials, titles… you name it, it’s somewhere on public display, using “everyday” when it means “every day.” Interestingly enough, Walmart is one correct example:
In short, far too many people and businesses are using the term everyday to mean “each and every single day.” In reality, everyday is an adjective that means commonplace. Waking up to an alarm, brushing your teeth, and driving to work are all everyday activities. They’re commonplace.
On the other hand, if you want to convey that something happens each day, you’re looking for every day, an adverb.
There is a super easy way to distinguish between the two. Add the word “single.” If it fits, you want every day. For example:
- I take the back roads every (single) day I go to work.
- My mom packs me a peanut butter sandwich every (single) day.
- Spilling coffee on myself is an every (single) day occurrence.**
**You’ll note that the last one doesn’t quite fit and would sound better and more natural as “an everyday occurrence.” In that case, everyday is the one you want.
Don’t let the National Grammar Day party stop now! Check out some of these sites and party on:
- Olivia Roat of Mainstreethost always writes amusing grammar-related posts.
- Grammar Girl’s site is entertaining and informative when it comes to grammar.
- The Red Ink, Grammar Chic’s blog, is a great place for writing tips.
Those are my three top tips for improving your grammar in celebration of National Grammar Day. What tips would you add? Are you celebrating National Grammar Day, as well? If you’ve got a post, video, or anything else to share, leave a link in the comments!
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