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Helpful Grammar Tips

  • Trouble with apostrophes? They're used in contractions ("I'm" instead of "I am") and possessives ("Tim's computer" instead of "Tims computer"). They are NOT used to make a word plural ("wagon's" to mean more than one wagon). In the case of plural possessives, use the plural form of the noun plus an apostrophe-s ("The Petersons's new house" or "The Petersons' new house" - either is acceptable.)
  • "He and I" or "Him and me"? Not sure which to use? It's easy to determine whether you should use "me" or "I" by replacing it with "him" or "he". Which makes more sense? "Tim and I are going to the movies." ("Him and Tim" doesn't make sense, does it? "He and Tim" does.) If "him" makes sense in the sentence, use "and me." If "he" makes more sense, use "and I."
  • "Alot" has never been a word. The particle "a" and the noun "lot" are two separate words. In the same way you would never write "acow" to refer to a cow, do not write "alot" to refer to a lot of things.
  • What is an Oxford comma and why is it important? The Oxford comma is an additional comma placed before the "and" or "or" in a series of nouns. Leaving it out can change the meaning of a sentence. Example (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal): "The greatest influences in my life are my sisters, Oprah Winfrey, and Madonna." Now, without the Oxford comma: "The greatest influences in my life are my sisters, Oprah Winfrey and Madonna." The latter implies that your sisters are Oprah Winfrey and Madonna.
  • "Affect" versus "effect": This one is pretty simple to remember. Affect is a verb: "The lack of sunshine in winter affects my mood." Effect is a noun (a thing): "Our lower revenue is one effect of the poor economy."

Have a grammar tip of your own? Submit it to waswebsite to add to this list.