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10 Helpful Tips When Writing or Proofreading

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As a lecturer, writer, blogger and proofreader, I often have heated discussions about proper ‘grammar’ rules with my colleagues.

First rule before you start is to find out if your client or potential employer has corporate and/or proofreading guidelines and make sure to abide by these. They can often be found on a company’s website. Discrepancies are normally to do with upper and lower case letters and the use of the word ‘and’ as well as ‘commas’. I found the most common mistakes best summarised by blogger Bernard Marr.

Use fewer when you can count the number of things being discussed. “Fewer than the required number of people completed the survey.” Use less when describing intangible concepts, like time. “It took me less time to finish the report.”

Use then when talking about time. “We’re going to grab some lunch, then finish the TPS reports.” Use than when making a comparison. “We thought the first hamburger place was better than the second.”

Technically, impact is not a verb. You can’t impact anything.  (You can make an impact, but in that case make is the verb and impact is still a noun.) If you want to use impact as a verb, what you really mean is affect.  Affect is the action (easy to remember because they both start with A). “His contributions really affected the outcome of the conversation.” Use effect when discussing the end result of something. “The net effect of the changes was positive.”

This one trips people up, because normally an apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive and a contraction. But with it’s the apostrophe is only used for the contraction, it is. “It’s a shame that no one came to the party.” “The company exceeded its balloon budget by forty percent.”

Hate to break it to you, but “alot” is not a word. If you’re talking about having mass quantities of something, you have a lot. “We have a lot of problems, but grammar isn’t one.” To portion something out is to allot it. “George has used up his allotment of silly questions for the week.”

The best trick for determining whether to use who or whom in a sentence is to ask yourself whether the answer would be “he” or “him”. If the answer is “him,” it should be whom (easy to remember because they both have an ‘m’). “Ask not for whom the bell tolls.”  (Who does it toll for? Him.)“She is a woman whom I admire greatly.” (Who do I admire? Him. Or, her in this case.) “I don’t know or care who did it, but I want it fixed.” (Who did it? He did!)

While there’s nothing absolutely wrong about passive voice, it’s considered weak writing. Generally, writing with active verbs is less complicated, more compelling, and easier to understand. The best way I have found to know if you are using passive voice was invented by a schoolteacher who clearly knew her audience: if you can insert “by zombies” after the verb, you are using passive voice. “The review of the meeting minutes was completed (by zombies).” passive

“We reviewed (by zombies) the meeting minutes.” active

Into always indicates movement. “I walked into the office twenty minutes late.” In and to, however, can be used in lots of different ways that have no relation to movement. “I was called in to go over the reports.”

Periods are only used to end a sentence. “That’s pretty simple.” A semicolon is used to connect two thoughts that could live independently as complete sentences but are still related. “I’m sure I learned about semicolons in school; that was a long time ago.” A comma is used when the second half of the sentence wouldn’t be a complete thought on its own. “I’m sure I learned about semicolons, commas, and all that other grammar stuff in school.” A colon is used to indicate a list is coming. “We must have learned about grammar in school: commas, semicolons, periods, and my favorite, the interrobang.”

When talking about a person, use who. When talking about an object, use that. “I follow this blogger on LinkedIn who was going on and on about grammar rules.” “I decided to leave a comment on the blog that was about grammar rules, because it was awesome.”

And most of all, don’t get the title or name of the person who you are specifically writing to wrong or misspell the name of the company. If you need help in preparing a media release, report, blog, letter or other communication, contact Hall of Fame Marketing Bendigo..

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