Are You Checking Your Grammar?

All throughout our school years we are forced to study and practise grammar rules. Complacency sets in once we graduate as part of us longs to feel grown up, leaving thoughts of grammar lessons and thorough checking behind. This false pretense that grammar is an innate sense that we have acquired, never to be forgotten is simply wrong and can come back to bite you at the most inconvenient moment!

So why is grammar so important? It’s an email, not a tattoo, so what if I use the incorrect version of ‘there’? If people understand what I’m trying to get at surely that’s the main thing? Well, let’s take for example a job application or a personal ad you want to post at the local grocery store. If there are noticeable hiccups in grammar the reader will immediately gauge the credibility and reliability of the writer as lower. If the reader has to put up with more mishaps then it’s possible they might not fully understand the meaning of the text and eventually give up reading altogether. Not what you want if you are relying on the reader’s attention! Even the most talented of writers hire editors to check over their work...mistake making is human after all.

In all languages there are different ways of saying things. While it may make sense to you it may not actually be grammatically correct. Do I ‘order’, ‘book’, ‘take’ or ‘reserve’ a table at a restaurant? This becomes an especially tricky point if you are not writing in your native language. While there is a built in automatic spell checker in every device nowadays these are mistakes that are impossible for it to pick up on. Human checking is a must.

Trying to seem more proficient in English than you really do by using well-known phrases that you have heard? Be aware that you might have heard it wrong, even by a native English speaker. Heartbreakingly the phrase ‘heart-wrenching’ isn’t actually a correct term. Although used widely in everyday culture the correct phrase is ‘heart-rending’. Ok so it’s not such a big deal if you get that one wrong, but phrases like ‘You’ve got mail’, or ‘Try and stop us’ are also incorrect and could make you look careless.

Busy lives mean that we are trying to do everything at once and don’t have enough time to finish that presentation and make it to pilates, never mind taking an extra 30 seconds to check over that email that you just sent to your boss. Checking is actually easier than you may think; taking the time to give those few extra precious seconds could actually make the difference between ‘deal or no deal’. Here are a few tips on how to check your writing quickly and efficiently:

  1. Read aloud - does the text flow smoothly or are there stuttering moments? If so is this due to grammatical errors?

  2. Don’t skim - your mind can often breeze over mistakes it assumes aren’t there. Reading thoroughly is the only surefire way to check for mistakes.

  3. Ask for help - If you are checking a language that is not your own then it may be advisable to get a native speaker to give it a look over for you.

Have a look at our next article about how to Learn English.

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