- Don’t start sentences with conjunctions, such as “and” – And is a conjunction (as are, but, or, and so). Conjunctions generally link things together, such as items in a series (hats, socks, and sneakers) or clauses (Joe went to the movies and had the best seat in the house). Generally, you can remove and and the sentence has the same meaning. To replace and at the beginning of a sentence, try additionally, furthermore, etc. For more on conjunctions, see suite 101.com
- Keep it brief – In business and professional writing, keep sentences to 20 words or less. The longer the sentence the greater the chance you have in losing your audience and diluting your message. Break long sentences into two or more sentences. (In creative writing, longer sentences are more acceptable.)
- A vs. an – This seems like an obvious one, right? “A” goes before words beginning with consonants (e.g., a mouse) and “an” goes before words beginning with a vowel (e.g., an octopus). However, there are a couple of exceptions dealing with how the beginning of the word sounds. For example, you use “an” before a silent h because the beginning of the word makes a vowel-type sound (e.g., an honest mistake). Another exception is when the letter “u” at the beginning of a word sounds like a y—a consonant sound. In this instance, “u” should be treated as a consonant and would have an “a” in front of it (for example, union and useful). Additionally, “o” sometimes sounds like a “w” and should have “a” in front of it (for example, “my son is a one-man wrecking crew).
- Good vs. well – Why do we say I played well as opposed to I played good? For starters, good is an adjective and well is an adverb. Adjectives describe, or modify, nouns only. Adverbs can describe verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. In other words, you’d say I played well because you’re modifying the verb play. Still confused…
- When it’s okay to end a sentence with a preposition – As kids, we were taught in school to never end sentences with prepositions (such as on, at, with, and for), otherwise, the grammar police will hunt you down. For the most part, it’s good advice to avoid ending sentences with prepositions. However, there are times when a sentence is extremely awkward when you attempt to remove the sentence-ending preposition. For example, there is a famous sentence attributed to Winston Churchill, “This is the kind of thing with which I will not put!” Obviously, this sentence is clearer and less awkward by moving the preposition to the end of the sentence: “This is the kind of thing I will not put up with!”
- Fewer vs. less – When do we use fewer and when do we use less? Sparksnotes.com makes it simple and easy to remember: “If you can’t count it, use less. If you can count it use fewer.
Cain has less love in his heart than anyone I know.
Cain gives fewer hugs than anyone else I know.”