English grammar: Six ways to improve your writing

It’s essential to have a good English grammar guide so you can avoid those embarrassing grammatical errors. 

People may perceive you as less intelligent if your writing has bad grammar and spelling mistakes. Many employers admit that they will routinely reject — before they get to the interview stage — job applications full of spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.

Furthermore, proper spelling and grammar increase your chances of making a valid point, especially on social media.

To and Too

Grammar mistake: Gerard Batten of Ukip sent a Tweet with the words: Life is to precious. The word to should have an extra O.
Gerard Batten of Ukip was on the receiving end of brutal trolling after he made a grammatical error in his tweet to LBC Radio

It’s not uncommon to confuse ‘to’ with ‘too’ and vice versa.

‘To’ is a preposition. It can be used for many things. For example:
I’m going to London.
I intend to vote.
I’m warming to the idea of a no-deal Brexit.
That belongs to me.
I’ll be there in ten to fifteen minutes.

Too is an adverb that can mean ‘excessively’, ‘also’, ‘as well’, ‘additionally’, ‘besides’.

So, Gerard Batten should have written ‘Life is too precious to tune in’!

The trolling of Batten illustrates an important point. People who don’t like you will point out your errors to attack you and undermine your position.

English grammar: Its and It’s

A red sign has the words 'Its the law,' but there's a missing apostrophe in the word its. There's a difference between its and it's
Grammatical mistake: A sign states ‘Its the law’ but it’s wrong!

This grammatical error is probably the most common that I see on social media.

Confusion arises because apostrophe+s  usually indicates possession — John’s hat, David’s car, the government’s betrayal.

However, it’s is a contraction of ‘it is’ or ‘it has’.

For example:
It’s going to be sunny today = It is going to be sunny today
It’s been raining = It has been raining.

‘Its’ is possessive (belonging to it) as in:
The British National Party is a legally registered party, and its policies make sense.

English grammar: There and Their

A Sign has the words: Employees must wash there hands, but there's an English grammar error. There's a difference between there and their
There are two grammatical errors on this sign. Can you spot them?

‘There’ refers to an idea or place. Hence: There are traitors in Parliament. Look over there.

‘Their’ is possessive: For example, I like the British National Party because their policies make sense.

The above sign should state ‘…Must wash their hands before returning to work!’

Keep reading to the end to discover the other error.

‘Should of’ and ‘Should have’

English grammar: School blackboard has the words: There's no such phrase as 'should of' or 'could of'. It's 'should have' or 'could have'

A widespread error is to write ‘should of‘ instead of ‘should have‘ (or should’ve).

For example, ‘I should of been here’ is wrong. Whereas, ‘I should have been here’ is correct.

It’s also correct to write ‘I should’ve been here earlier’ because should’ve is a contraction of ‘should have’.

This mistake happens because the English language is not phonetic. In other words, English words are rarely pronounced the way they look. ‘Could have’ becomes ‘could of’ when the phrase is spoken quickly. Therefore, people tend to write ‘could of’ instead of ‘could have’ (or could’ve).

Additionally, be careful not to write ‘could of‘ or ‘would of‘.

English grammar: Your and You’re

English Grammar error: A sign has the words "Caution: Your Under Surveillance," because there's a difference between your and you're
Spot the error!

The word ‘your’ means something belongs to you. A noun usually follows it.

‘Your choice, your vote…’

However, You’re = ‘You are’.

It’s a mistake to write, ‘Your under video surveillance’.

It should, of course, be: You’re under video surveillance, or You are under video surveillance.

English grammar: Apostrophes

An apostrophe can be used to replace dropped letters.

It’s = It is
We’re = We are
Haven’t = Have not
They’re = They are
Doesn’t = Does not

Using Apostrophes to Show Possession

English grammar: Two street signs displaying the words King's Road. One sign has a missing apostrophe.

The correct answer to the above question is King’s Road.

King Charles II had the road built in 1694 and therefore it was indeed the King’s Road (the road of the King).

Richard’s car = The car of Richard.

If the subject’s name ends in s then:
Dave Jones’s car = The car of Dave Jones,
or less formally:
Dave Jones’ car = The car of Dave Jones.

The farmer’s crops = The crops of one farmer.
The farmers’ crops = The crops of many farmers.

A sign in a London park has the words: Childrens' Garden, but the apostrophe should be after the letter N, not after the letter S.
This sign from Hackney Council’s Parks Department has an apostrophe error.

If the subject is already plural (for example, people), then you should write people’s and not peoples’.

Those calling for a people’s vote on the EU should wait until the result of the 2016 EU referendum is enacted. A people’s vote (second referendum) would be an affront to our democracy, pure and simple.

Similarly, it should be Children’s Garden not Childrens’ Garden.

When Not to Use Apostrophes

English grammar: Deli has a neon sign which states: Best Rib's In Town but the word Rib's doesn't need an apostrophe
Classic apostrophe error!

Don’t use an apostrophe if the word is a plural. Hence:

“Best Ribs in Town” not “Best Rib’s in Town”.

However, there’s an exception to the above rule. If the word is a single letter then adding the letter s could confuse. For example:

There are two bs in ABBA.

Although strictly grammatically correct, it’s better to write:

There are two ‘b’s in ABBA.

English grammar: A blue street sign shows (in white lettering) the phrase: Unsuitable for HGV's, but the apostrophe is an error
How many times have you seen this error?

Additionally, the modern convention is to avoid using apostrophes in plurals wherever possible in the plural of numbers and abbreviations.

For example, “He likes 70s music” rather than “He likes 70’s music”.

Additionally, the blue sign shown above should have “Unsuitable for HGVs” rather than “Unsuitable for HGV’s”.

Did you catch the other grammar mistake in the image shown earlier? The image had the sentence: Employee’s must wash there hands before returning to work!

The first error we discovered was the incorrect use of the word there. The other error is the incorrect use of the apostrophe in the word Employee’s.

Therefore, the correct sentence should be: Employees must wash their hands before returning to work!

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