top of page
< Back

Basic Rules of Grammar

Basic Rules of Grammar

Computers usually come prepared to help your writing ventures with built in grammar checks, but you should have a basic knowledge of the English language to make your writing flow and read smoothly.


The number one rule of grammar that you should remember is to use complete sentences. “When I read a book,” is not a complete sentence because ‘when’ makes it an incomplete thought.


“I read a book,” is a complete sentence that has a subject, ‘I,’ and a predicate that makes it a complete thought, ‘read a book.’


Now thanks to relaxed online writing, there are times when it’s perfectly okay to break this rule of proper grammar. Whenever you’re asking your readers a question, either on your blog, in an email autoresponder, in an eBook or whatever, you might answer with an incomplete sentence like this:


Why do gurus think it’s okay to lie to get your money?


Because you keep converting for them time after time.


Now technically that second sentence is incomplete. But it’s okay to do this in certain circumstances. Just double check to ensure that after it’s all written, it makes sense when read aloud.


Some of the most common grammatical mistakes writers make are the following:


·         Who or Whom? – These two words are called “subjective pronouns,” and they have a tendency to confuse writers. A good way to remember the proper way to use who and whom is to think of which is the subject and which is the object.




Who is that lady?

‘Who’ is the lady - definitely the subject of the sentence.


The ladies, four of whom were tall, entered the room.

In this sentence, ‘whom’ is the object.


Jerry made an appointment with a psychic, whom he met on vacation.

In this case, whom is interchangeable with ‘he.’


Martha is the one who interviewed best.

‘Who’ is Martha, the subject of the sentence.


When in doubt about when to use who or whom in writing, think about changing who to the subject of the sentence – or whether it works best as an object.


At first, you may have to think about the rules of when to use who and whom in a sentence, but eventually, it will become natural to the process of writing.


·         There, Their or They’re? - Sometimes it’s difficult to know how to spell a word correctly, especially if they’re all pronounced the same. These three words all have the same pronunciations, but they have entirely different meanings.




‘Are you going there today?’ and ‘There is a girl who knows her stuff.’

‘There’ should always be used when referring to a place. A little trick to remember is to think about replacing ‘there’ with ‘here.’ If it works, you’ve used it correctly.


The children have scattered their toys around the room.

Use ‘their,’ when referring to possession. Imagine replacing ‘their’ with ‘our’ or replacing ‘they’re’ with ‘they are.’ If it works, you have used the correct form.


They’re going to eat out tonight.

‘They’re’ is a contraction that refers to the combination of the words ‘they’ and ‘are.’


·         Me, Myself or I? – ‘I’ and ‘me’ are personal pronouns. ‘I’ is used as the subject of a sentence and ‘me’ is used as an object after a preposition.




Janie and I would like to see the house.


Walk to the store with Dylan and me.


‘My mind becomes clearer when I talk to myself’ or ‘I, myself, never know the best time to call him.’


The simplest way to remember how to use ‘I’ or ‘me’ when writing or speaking is to delete the other person from the sentence and see how it sounds.


‘Myself’ is an often-misused word that should, in no circumstances, be used in place of ‘I.’


·         It’s or Its? - A common mistake in writing is to confuse the contraction, it’s, with the possessive pronoun, its. An easy way to remember the rule of which to use is to know that it’s is reducing two words, it is, to the contraction, it’s.


When you’re writing a sentence that might use it’s or its, think about switching it’s to it is and see if it makes sense.




The tree is losing its leaves.

‘Its’ is used as a possessive form.


It’s not a problem if you’ll be here on time.

This form works when you replace ‘it’s’ with ‘it is.’


·         e.g., i.e., or vs?Latin, anyone? These Latin abbreviations are misused so many times in writing that it’s difficult to keep them straight. But, if you know their meanings, it’s easy to work with them.




I enjoy some vegetarian foods, e.g., veggie sub sandwiches, salads, hummus and lentils.


Use ‘e.g.’ when you’re giving examples that explain or add to your statement.


She wants highlights in her hair, i.e., color some strands of hair a slightly different color.


In this case, ‘i.e.’ is the shortened version of ‘that is.’


Tonight, the game is going to be Texas A&M vs. Notre Dame.


‘vs’ is used in place of versus, which means ‘against.’


·         Affect or Effect? – It’s simple to remember how and when to use these two words if you remember that ‘affect’ is a verb and ‘effect’ is a noun.




The new tutor is having a wonderful effect on Laura’s grades.




Dark, rainy weather can affect your mood.


·         All right or alright? – When in doubt, use ‘all right’ in its two word form rather than the one word, ‘alright.’ Most grammatical style guides don’t recognize ‘alright’ as a word, but it’s becoming more common in writing. If you choose to use it in writing, keep in mind the general usage of the word.


Everything is going to be all right now that she’s home from the war.


Using ‘all right’ in this sentence means that all will be good or perfect.


“It’s not alright for her to speak to me like that.”


‘Alright’ is meant to mean satisfactory or permissible and is okay to use in this sentence.


·         Advice or Advise? – These two words are easy to remember how to use if you know that advice is a noun and advise is a verb.




His counselor gave good advice about his college curriculum.




I wouldn’t advise you to go down that path.


·         Latter or Later? – Latter means the last thing on the list or the last item mentioned. Later means at a later time.




We gave him three examples on the test and he picked the latter, which was correct.




Let’s have the party at a later date.


·         Attain or Obtain? – These two words are often misused when writing. They’re so close in meaning that it’s easy to do, but there are subtle differences in the meanings.




He can attain any goal he sets if he only will apply himself to his studies.


You could just as easily use the word, ‘reach,’ in this sentence.


She wants to obtain enough business so that she can open a shop.


‘Obtain’ is used in place of ‘get,’ in this sentence.


Those are some of the most common grammatical mistakes that people make when writing. Now that writers have access to online references and helpful websites, there’s really no excuse for poor-caliber writing.


It’s better to pause and think about the proper rule or to research for a minute or two to find out the proper grammatical procedures rather than get it wrong and embarrass yourself.

bottom of page