I can’t believe it’s already been two years’ worth of Grammar Guru lessons! Hopefully, I’ve made you think, “I also can’t stand when people make that mistake!” or “I had no idea I was saying that wrong!” a few times. As this is the last Grammar Guru installment of 2022, let’s recap my current favorite grammar tips and tricks to help you sound smarter in conversation and more confident when writing.
Tip 1: Don’t use the word “myself” to sound fancy.
It’s become a thing to ignore little ol’ words like “me” or “I” in specific scenarios when we are trying to sound … humble? Smart? Misusing a bigger word does not make you sound smarter. Athletes, politicians, and speech-givers use “myself” unnecessarily all the time.
INCORRECT: “Please send the presentation to Chloe and myself.”
ALSO INCORRECT: “Please send the presentation to Chloe and I.”
CORRECT: “Please send the presentation to Chloe and me.”
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Take the other person/people away and rewrite the sentence. “Please send the presentation to ME.”
Tip 2: Don’t combine words just because you can.
“Apart” and “a part” have entirely different meanings. “Everyday” and “every day” are different, too. The pairs sound the same to the ear, so we tend to write them out as one word. But ask yourself if it should be two, particularly when writing.
TRICK TO REMEMBER: If you can say “a BIG part,” it has to be two words.
INCORRECT: “I am so happy to be apart of this team.” — Because you could reasonably say, “I am so happy to be a BIG part of this team,” it must remain two words.
CORRECT: “We are worlds apart” — Because you cannot reasonably say, “We are worlds a BIG part,” you should use the single word, apart.
“Everyday” is misused even more rampantly. You’ll see it on store signs and published all over the place. “Open Everyday” is incorrect. The correct phrase would be “Open Every Day.” “Everyday” is an adjective and is only used in phrases like “everyday occurrence” or “these are my everyday essentials.” If you say you “do something every day,” it should be two words.
TRICK TO REMEMBER: If you can say “every SINGLE day,” it has to be two words.
INCORRECT: “I think about you everyday.” You can say, “I think about you every SINGLE day,” so it has to be two words.
CORRECT: “This is a practical, everyday jacket.” You wouldn’t say, “This is a practical, every SINGLE day jacket,” so it has to be one word.
Tip 3: Get rid of some of these redundant phrases.
Can you see why these phrases are redundant?
- Refer back, respond back, revert back, reply back, retreat back, reflect back, etc.
- New innovations
- Completely annihilate
- Very unique
- 6 a.m. in the morning
- Blatantly obvious
- Advance warning, advance reservation
- Unexpected surprise
- Free gift
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Make sure that each word you say or write serves a purpose. Notice and cut out words that repeat something already inferred in another word.
Tip 4: Use “fewer” and “less” correctly.
If you’ve ever seen a grocery store checkout sign that says “10 items or less,” it’s wrong. “Fewer” is used when discussing countable things. “Less” is used for intangible concepts or abstract nouns you cannot count in a 1-2-3 kind of way, even if the number is mind-blowingly large.
CORRECT: “Fewer people (I can count people) would make mistakes if there were less apathy (I can’t count apathy) surrounding grammar.”
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Use “fewer” for things you can count, such as people, pieces of candy, occurrences, lemons, and users. Use “less” for something you can’t count, such as fear, love, water, air, anxiety, and happiness.
Tip 5: Use “lay” and lie” correctly.
“Lay” means to put or set (something) down. “Lie” means to be in or to assume a horizontal position. You lie down on the mat, but you lay the mat down on the floor. Use “lay” when an object is being placed, and use “lie” when something or someone is reclining on its own or already in a reclined position.
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Say the word out loud. The a sound in “lay” sounds like the a in “place,” as in to place an object. The i sound in “lie” sounds like the one in “recline,” as in “to recline on a sofa.”
CORRECT: “My dog could lie there all day.” My dog could recline there all day.
CORRECT: “Maybe if I lay his favorite toy here, he will move.” Maybe if I place his favorite toy here, he will move.
Tip 6: Always say “anyway” — not “anyways.”
TRICK TO REMEMBER: “Anyways” IS NOT A WORD. End of trick.
Tip 7: Make sure you say “texted” in the past tense — not “text.”
CORRECT: He texted me last night.
INCORRECT: He text me last night.
TRICK TO REMEMBER: The past tense of “text” is “texted.”
Tip 8: Don’t randomly capitalize things (including seasons).
Most of the time, proper nouns are the only words that need to be capitalized in a sentence after the first letter of the first word. Seasons and cardinal directions do not need to be capitalized.
INCORRECT: Let’s drive South to Florida this Winter.
CORRECT: Let’s drive south to Florida this winter.
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Common nouns are not capitalized, but proper nouns are.
Tip 9: Never use an apostrophe to make something plural.
Even when your phone forcefully autocorrects to “Monday’s,” delete that apostrophe and just say “Mondays.” Even words like CDs and DVDs do not need apostrophes.
And when you’re pluralizing a family name, you’re either adding an S or an -ES.
INCORRECT: “Congrats to the Boyd’s!”
CORRECT: “Congrats to the Boyds!”
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Apostrophes ONLY combine two words (“it’s”) or show possession (“Zoe’s biggest pet peeve”). They never make a noun plural.
Tip 10: Just because a name ends in “S” doesn’t mean it’s plural.
I know some of these names ending in “S” sound better as is, but they are not plural just because they end in “S.” The “S” is part of the name, so you HAVE to add an “ES.”
- The Williams Family = The Williamses
- The Cummings Family = The Cummingses
- Holly and Bart Lewis = The Lewises
- The Jones Family = The Joneses
- The Francis Family = The Francises
- The Myers Family = The Myerses
- The Reeves Family = The Reeveses
- The Graves Family = The Graveses
- The Jones Family = The Joneses
- The Stevens Family = The Stevenses
- The Stephens Family = The Stephenses
TRICK TO REMEMBER: Make sure you pluralize last names ending in “S” by adding “ES.”
Give your inbox the Southern makeover it deserves! Subscribe to our daily emails!