For many people, thinking about grammar when writing can be an annoying technicality. But writing well includes good grammar.
Below I’ve compiled a list of some of the common grammar mistakes I see when copy editing and proofreading. They’re the little ‘technicality’ ones that I too have made at least a hundred times.
Who vs. Whom
‘Who’ is used when it is the subject of a verb – so words like I, he, she, we and they. ‘Whom’ is used when you’re talking about an object of a clause – so words like me, him, her and them.
When you’re trying to decide whether to use ‘who’ or ‘whom’, ask yourself if the answer to the question would be ‘he’ or ‘him’.
Example: They are checking out who is viewing their profiles and who is connected to whom.
Which vs. That
‘That’ is a restrictive pronoun vital to the noun to which it’s referring. It binds together both parts of a sentence, neither of which you can get rid of. ‘Which’ introduces a relative clause and allows qualifiers to a sentence that may not be essential.
My favourite example comes from the Grammar Girl website:
Example: Gems that sparkle often elicit forgiveness.
Diamonds, which are expensive, often elicit forgiveness.
Semi-colons separate two related thoughts. Most commonly, they separate two main clauses that are closely related to each other – thoughts that could stand on their own as sentences if you want them to.
One reason you might choose to use a semicolon instead of a period is if you wanted to add variety to your sentence structure, for example, if you thought you had too many short, choppy sentences in a row. And often, a comma is mistakenly used in its place.
Example: You are probably well versed on social networking; lots of people log into some of the popular social networking sites every day.
Em dash use
An em dash actually replaces other forms of punctuation. In informal writing, an em dash can replace a comma, a semi-colon, a colon or parentheses to indicate added emphasis, an interruption or an abrupt change of thought.
Example: In the last few years, we stopped staring at the stars – even closed the doors to our flagship store in 2012 – and started staring at the sun.
i.e. vs. e.g.
These two are not interchangeable. The simple way to remember the difference is that i.e. means ‘In other words’ and e.g. means ‘for example’. I=In other words and E=Example.
Want more grammar tips? Here’s my favourite website.