In a world where “everybody writes”—shoutout to Ann Handley—a world full of self-publishing, blogging, social media and real-time reporting, it’s pretty clear that communication is important to us. But as someone who reads a lot of the everything that everybody is writing these days and who spends a large portion of each week editing other peoples’ writing, I think there are a few grammar and style refreshers that could help writers.
While I still contend that some have a true giftedness for writing, there’s no reason all of us can’t write clearly and concisely. And that means knowing a few grammar rules.
Grammar sometimes gets a bad rap. Yes, it can be confusing and weird. But most of the time, it’s truly not hard. And most of all, grammar is designed to help us do one thing: communicate clearly. So, here are a few tips—gleaned from my experience and errors I commonly see online—to help us do so a tiny bit better.
- Than v. Then
If you are an avid texter or user of social media, you may run across this one often. I think autocorrect may cause some of these errors as well as talk to text. But some of it is just confusion on which word to use. In grammar-speak, then is generally an adverb and indicates when actions happened in time. Than, on the other hand, is a plain ol’ conjunction, used to join together phrases and thoughts. In general, it’s a comparison word. So, guys, the phrase: I like Americanos more then lattes is wrong. Rule of thumb: If it’s about conveying a sense of time, use then. If it’s comparison, it’s than all the way.
- Apart v. A PartI read a story the other day where someone was quoted as saying “I’m just so glad to be apart of this!” Well, yay for her, but no, no, no for grammar and communicating clearly. Words have meaning. Apart is an adverb that means separate or separately. I don’t want to be apart from you! A part is a noun, signifying that someone or something is a piece of or segment of something, that they’re involved. So you can be a part of a team, a band or an idea bigger than yourself, but “be apart of” doesn’t really work grammatically and if it did, you’d simply be saying the opposite of what you’re trying to say.
- To v. Too
I think autocorrect is often to blame for this common mistake, but, guys, I see it all the time, and it makes me crazy. So for the sake of my sanity, please take a moment and refresh yourself on to and too. To can be a lot of things: part of an infinitive, a preposition meaning toward or until. But what it does not mean is also, extremely or abundantly. That’s reserved for too. So when you want to text, “I like that too!” to your friend, please use too. “I like that to” is actually an incomplete thought and makes people who love grammar cry.