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Top 7 Grammar Errors That Can Undermine Your Credibility -- And How To Fix Them

By Elisabeth Kuhn

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Perfect grammar guarantees nothing. Grammar errors, however, can seriously undermine your professional image. They may well rob you of the opportunity to prove yourself. While it might be a bit of an overstatement to say that shortcomings such as apostrophe errors, faulty subject-verb agreement, dangling modifiers and misused words actually guarantee failure, why risk losing sales, prospects, and jobs when all you need to do is fix them? Here are the top seven trouble spots to check before you send out that letter or publish that article:

  1. Subject-verb agreement

    A third-person singular subject requires an “s” at the end of the verb – IF the verb is in the present tense. Plural subjects require that there be NO “s” at the end of the verb:

    Examples:

    “People enjoy great articles.”
    “Any writer enjoys positive feedback.”

    What to do if you’re not sure? Change the verb into another tense, i.e., past tense, or add a modal (will, may, can, should, must, etc.), as in the following example:

    “People will enjoy great articles.” “Any writer will enjoy positive feedback.”

  2. Incomplete sentences

    This is a rule that can be broken – in the right place and if done correctly. Sometimes, for example, a statement may be the answer to an obvious question, and so the first half of the following incomplete sentence is clearly implied: “Because I said so.”

    However, as a rule, especially in formal contexts, be sure to include the main clause as well:

    “You must include the main clause because I said so.”

  3. Run-on sentences

    Run-on sentences occur when you combine two independent sentences without connecting them properly or at least separating them by appropriate punctuation.

    Example: “The weather was nice we went to a concert in the park.”

  4. Comma splices

    Adding a comma between the two sentences will not fix a run-on sentence but merely create a comma-splice instead, which is yet another faux-pas.

    Here are two ways to to fix run-on sentences or comma splices:

    a) Separate the two sentences by a period or a semicolon.
    b) Add a suitable conjunction:

    “The weather was nice, so we went to a concert in the park.”

  5. Misspelled or misused words

    Be sure you know how to use “there,” “they’re,” and “their” correctly:

    “There is a book on the table.”
    “Go and say ‘hello’ to Matt and Miriam. They’re in the kitchen.”
    “They enjoy showing off their photos from their last vacation.”

  6. Apostrophe abuse

    For proper nouns and common nouns, the rule of thumb for apostrophes is as follows:

    If the noun refers to the possessor of something, use an apostrophe:
    “My friend’s new car is in the garage.”

    If it is a plural noun, do NOT use an apostrophe:
    “My friends live in Frankfurt.”

    However, in the case of a plural noun that also indicates possession, place the apostrophe AFTER the “s”:
    “My friends’ visit in the U.S. was all too brief.”

  7. Dangling or misplaced modifiers

    Here, the possibilities are just about endless. Read your sentences carefully, preferably aloud, and you will probably catch any problematic modifiers. Here’s an example:

    “Running across campus, my coffee spilled all over my blouse.”

    Unless you’re actually referring to a Disney-esque animated cup of coffee, you may want to fix this sentence in one of the following two ways:

    a) Insert the missing subject:
    “As I was running across campus, my coffee spilled all over my blouse.”

    b) Rewrite the main clause so that its subject is identical to the “missing” subject in the modifier:
    “Running across campus, I spilled my coffee all over my blouse.”

And if you're ready to power up your writing, get Elisabeth Kuhn’s FREE report with more quick tips for editing and proofreading. It's yours at no charge if you sign up for her newsletter at http://www.linguisticleverage.com. A linguist and writer, Elisabeth believes that a solid understanding of how language actually works from the inside out will go a long way towards making your writing much more effective.

Source: http://Top7Business.com/?expert=Elisabeth_Kuhn

Article Submitted On: April 29, 2008