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Grammar 101


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Effective communication depends upon consideration toward the audience; specifically, how the audience will receive the information, where they will receive it at and why they are to receive it are important factors. There is not much difference between information in written format vs speech because good speeches require good writing… And good writing requires good editing.

Below, I wish to share the 8 most common grammar issues. This is important because grammar issues are distractions that hinder effective communication. Before I start, I do encourage that the writer waits until after the writing phase before starting to edit. Otherwise, worrying too much about grammar issues can often be a distraction for the unexperienced writer. I highly recommend these tips for essays, case studies, dissertations and work-related emails.

The Big 8

Subject Agreement:
“They are given candy as they approach each house”. Since ‘given’ is past tense and ‘are’ is present, the subject is not in agreement. Sometimes, with this issue, a little reconstructive surgery is necessary.
“They receive candy as they approach each house”.

Past vs. Present Tense:
“The term ‘communication’ is defined as a vehicle that translates, carries the message and returns feedback”.
In this sentence, the term ‘is’ relates to present tense while ‘defined’ relates to past tense.
“The definition for ‘communication’ is”…

Contractions (that do not show possession):
The problem with contractions is that they often fail to translate the appropriate tense that the reader has implied.
“The ball belongs to Jim”. = “That’s Jim’s ball”.
Here, while ‘Jim’s’ is perfectly acceptable, the term ‘that’s’ leaves the audience questioning if the writer meant to say ‘that was’ or ‘that is’.

‘its’, ‘it’s’ & ‘it is’:
Usually, with the ‘its’ family, major reconstructive surgery is necessary for most of (if not) the entire sentence.
It is like taking unnecessary shortcuts while writing because the reader would not know what the writer is referring to”. Usually, the remedy for this type of error is using ‘this’…
“This is like…”

This term was not meant to represent ‘to be’. In fact, the only appropriate way to use this term is when one is referring to a ‘human being’. Usually, replacing this term with ‘feeling’ or some other adjective is a suitable correction.

Very’ & ‘a lot’:
These terms often refer to measuring, but usually unintentionally, they fail to translate a good idea of what the reader is trying to communicate. To offset this deficiency, try using scales, measurements, percentages and analogies so that the reader has a better understand the information.
>“A lot of people in the USA hate to work on Monday” verses:
“About 60 percent of Americans hate …”.
”I like extra butter on my popcorn very much” verses:
“I like extra butter on my popcorn more than watching the movie”.

This term has very few acceptable uses aside from Church. In politics, the speaker has to be extremely careful. This is because, even in written format, members of the audience will feel like the speaker is singling them out. Instead, try using these terms:
>’We’, ‘us’, ‘ours’, etc.: Use when referring to humanity in general or in a close-knit group or team setting.
>’They’, ‘them’, ‘theirs’, etc.

In essays, case studies, dissertations and most books (especially self-help), avoid asking open-ended questions. This error is a form of presumption because the writer is usually assuming what the reader might be thinking at that point in the writing. The most important reason is that communication is more effective when we answer questions instead of imposing them.

"After reviewing a documentary about the inventor of the product, I was inspired by his commitment... Were you Inspired?". Usually, the remedy for this issue is to rephrase the question into a statement or, in this case, completely remove the question since the topic of inspiration was already addressed.

I hope these eight tips help. I am sure if one practices them, the result would be a written work with a low percentage of grammar issues. Please feel free to ask if there are other concerns or let me know if there are any questions.
For more information, pease check out my articles about 'Writing 101' and 'Citing 101'.

Yours in effective communication,


Editing notes: Corrected a typo.
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