Communication is effective when we follow certain rules. These rules make the written words understood. A writer should make the reader's job easier by communicating what he or she wants to communicate. If you also want to write, pay respect to your readers. Don't take them for granted. Learning and understanding the basic rules of English Grammar, you will surely be able to avoid ill-formed, confusing sentences. Hence, following and applying the rules of English Grammar and thereby producing a good writing can help the readers save their time from trying desperately to guess what you mean. This article covers the top 5 rules of English Grammar.
Subject-Verb Agreement – Errors in agreement are the most common mistakes made in writings. To avoid this, just follow the simple rule: A singular subject requires a singular verb, and a plural subject requires a plural verb.
Wrong: Identification of these goods have been difficult.
Right: Identification of these goods has been difficult. (‘Identification’ is the subject here)
Wrong: The best way to keep your children happy are to give them enough responsibilities.
Right: The best way to keep your children happy is to give them enough responsibilities. (Use a singular verb if the subject is a phrase or clause)
Awkward: Neither John nor I am interested in this project.
Better: John is not interested in this project; nor am I. (If you write an awkward sentence, consider rewriting it)
Exception: Use a singular verb if a compound subject refers to the same person or thing.
Example: Milk and breads is a typical breakfast for many people.
Tense – Tense refers to time. It tells when an action is happening: in the present, in the future, or in the past. Whatever time it is, it should remain consistent throughout your whole piece of writing. There are three main tenses - Past Tense, Present Tense and Future Tense.
Here is an example of writing with mixed tenses:
Wrong: John wanted to know why Rebecca is sad, but she will not tell him.
Right: John wanted to know why Rebecca was sad, but she would not tell him.
Present tense, Past tense and Future Tense each has the following four forms. The examples below will help you understand that:
Simple Past – I spoke
Past Continuous – I was speaking
Past Perfect – I had spoken
Past Perfect Continuous – I had been speaking
Simple Present – I speak
Present Continuous – I am speaking
Present Perfect – I have spoken
Present Perfect Continuous – I have been speaking
Simple Future– I shall/ will speak
Future Continuous – I shall/ will be speaking
Future Perfect – I shall/will have spoken
Future Perfect Continuous – I shall/ will have been speaking
Double Negatives – Two negative words create a positive meaning, which may be just the opposite of what you have intended to convey.
Wrong: I don’t have nothing to say.
Right: I don’t have anything to say.
Wrong: Tom couldn’t hardly believe what Jack said.
Right: Tom could hardly believe what Jack said.
Modifiers – Words that describe or limit other words are called modifiers. Adjective is a word or group of words that modifies a noun or pronoun, whereas Adverb is a group of words that modifies a verb, adjective or other adverb. Avoid misplaced and dangling modifiers.
Wrong: Thomas told her that he wanted to marry her frequently.
Right: Thomas frequently told her that he wanted to marry her.
Wrong: Nicole picked up a girl in a blue jacket named Agatha.
Right: Nicole picked up Agatha, a girl in a blue jacket.
Wrong: Walking across the busy street, a bus almost hit me.
Right: As I walked across the busy street, a bus hit me.
Usage – If you are going to use a word, you must know how to use it. Use simple words. Many people have the tendency to use big, difficult words while writing. Avoid fancy words and phrases when simpler ones convey the idea. Omit unnecessary words. A piece of writing, containing long words strung together in complex sentences, turns out to be poorly written and not impressive. You will have fewer chances for grammatical errors if you can cut a word out which can be cut out.
Stuffy: I will make modifications in the document.
Simple: I will change the document.
Wordy: You should remember to consult your watch in order to keep a person from waiting for you when you have decided to meet him at a particular time.
Translation: Be punctual.
To conclude, the more you remember the basic rules of English Grammar and practice good writing, the better your writings will be. The process is simple and easy. Keeping a good dictionary is essential in searching for the right word and finding out the actual meanings that will help you in selecting the right words. Usage of proper English Grammar and selecting the right words will make it more likely that your writings stand out from the rest. So, keep enjoying the process and keep writing.
Author: Rumki Sen. This article was first published on Rumki Sen's own website at http://www.perfectediting.com/rules-of-english-grammar.htm