9 Grammar tips to help you edit through your manuscript.
- Commas: the comma is the most common punctuation mark and the most misused. It’s a tricky one because the rules are scarce, leaving usage up to style guides and writers’ best judgement. In weak writing, there are too few or too many commas. Be consistent in how you use commas and strike the right balance.
- Verb tense:The topic of tense warrants an article of its own (or maybe an entire book). There are multiple tenses beyond past, present, and future, and they are worth knowing.
- Adjectives vs. adverbs:People don’t run quick; they run quickly. The word quick is an adjective; quickly is an adverb. Make sure you’re using adverbs to modify verbs and adjectives to modify nouns. However, I advise not to use adverbs as my lecturer once told me, “using adverbs implies weak writing”. For example, ‘A boy ran quickly to the shops.’ Ran implies it is fast so quickly seems wordy and vague whereas if you want to emphasize on the the speed, use other adjectives – dashed, bolted, paced etc.
- Possessive case or contractions: its vs it’s, their vs they’re. A common mistake in the literary world, it’s is a contraction for it is, ‘It’s my house,’ and possessive its, ‘the bear crawled into its cave.’
- Always use a comma after a prepositional phrase, e.g, ‘After a hard day work, Alan opened the last beer in his loud fridge.’ Separating the phrase shows the reader what/ whom the subject is.
- Passive vs active voice. Using active voice for the majority of your sentences makes your meaning clear for readers, and keeps the sentences from becoming too complicated or wordy. In a sentence written in the passive voice the subject receives the action. In a sentence written in the active voice, the subject of sentence performs the action
Active: The dog bit the man.
Passive: The man was bitten by the dog.
- Semi-colons need to be used properly and limited. Semicolons link to independent clauses but have a relation to one another. For example: His mother sat in the lounge room watching the illuminating television; it was a perfect time to sneak out.
- Vague and Concrete language: This point ties in with the passive vs active point. Vague: The weather was of an extreme nature on the East Coast.
This sentence raises frustrating questions: When did this extreme weather occur? What does “of an extreme nature” mean? Where on the West Coast did this take place?
Concrete: Byron Bay suffered from unseasonable weather last week.
- Consistency is key: Grammar rules don’t cover everything. As a writer, you will constantly be challenged to make judicious decisions about how to construct your sentences and paragraphs. Always be consistent. Keeping a style guide handy will be a tremendous help.
Thank you for reading. If you have any points you would like to expand further, please comment below or if you know anyone that needs guidance with editing. Re-blog or share this to them ASAP.