Important grammar tips that will help you look (and feel) smarter when you write your next email.
Look, I get it. Day in and day out, my typical 9-5 is full of meetings, projects, goals, interruptions, phone calls – and of course, emails. In fact, I probably have quite a few emails waiting for me right now.
While it may be easier to shoot back a few poorly written sentences that barely get your point across, you only have one chance to make a good first impression. In today’s digital world, most of our relationships are built through online, written communication. With email communication or quick social media posts, you don’t have nonverbal cues shaping your opinions. What you do have is words on a screen. Taking the time to use proper grammar shows your professionalism rather than leaving your audience to question your abilities.
So we took the time to bring back Grammar 101. Yes, grammar is confusing, and we know the English language is extremely complicated. But here are a few of the most important grammar tips that will help you look (and feel) smarter when you write your next email.
Grammar Tip #1 – Spaces
- Use only one space after a period. Using two spaces is outdated— it started when typewriters were around. Don’t out-date yourself by using two spaces: Nothing says over 40 like two spaces after a period.
Grammar Tip #2 – Capitalization
Correct capitalization is important. Random capitalization can make you look bad. Use capitalization for:
- The first word of a sentence
- Proper nouns
- Companies/Brand Names
- Days of the week or months of the year
- Names of: mountains, bodies of water, buildings, monuments, bridges, streets
- Titles of books, movies, magazines, newspapers, articles, songs, plays and works of art
- The pronoun “I”
There are other reasons to use capitalization, but this is a list of common uses.
Grammar Tip #3 – Then vs. Than
- Use then to reference time. ie: “We will have our meeting, then we will go to lunch.”
- Use than when making a comparison. ie: “We like sushi more than any other food.”
Grammar Tip #4 – Affect vs. Effect
- Affect is the action (hint: they both start with A). ie: “His contributions really affected the outcome of the conversation.”
- Use effect when discussing the end result of something. ie: “effects.”
Grammar Tip #5 – It’s vs. Its
- Normally an apostrophe is used to indicate a possessive word or contraction. But in this case, you only need the apostrophe for the contraction it is. ie: “It’s going to be a great holiday party this year.” or “The company will have its party downtown.”
Grammar Tip #6 – Alot vs. A lot
- This one is easy because “Alot” is not a word. If you’re talking about having many things, it is always “a lot.” ie: “A lot of people will learn a lot of things from this grammar guide.”
Grammar Tip #7 – Into vs. In to
- Into always indicates movement. ie: “I ran into my old boss at lunch.”
- In and to can be used together when there is no relation to movement. ie: “I was called in to cover for another shift.”
Grammar Tip #8 – Semicolons vs. Colons vs. Periods
- Periods are only used to end a sentence. They should be inside the quotation marks if you are using a quote. ie: “That’s simple.”
- A semicolon is used to connect two independent thoughts that are related. ie: “I have a lot of work to do; I can’t go out for lunch.”
- A colon is used to indicate a list is coming, but only when the list is preceded by an independent clause. ie: “We have a few choices for where to go to lunch: McDonalds, Applebees or The Sandwich Shop.”
- It is also appropriate to use a colon after a complete sentence to expand or clarify on what came before the colon. ie: “I have two favorite things: grammar and punctuation.”
Grammar Tip #9 – Commas
Commas are a little more complicated than the other punctuation marks. Use a comma:
- Separate the elements in a series. ie: “We have pens, notebooks and highlighters in the supply closet.”
- With a comma and a conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, or, so) to connect two independent clauses. ie: ”We have pens, but we do not have pencils.”
- Set off introductory elements, as in “Walking towards the supply closet, he forgot what he was looking for.”
- Set off parenthetical elements, as in “Insight Squared, which tracks our metrics, is a great tool.”
- Separate coordinate adjectives. If you can put an and or a but between the adjectives, a comma will belong there. “That tall, distinguished, good-looking fellow”
- Set off quoted elements. ie. Aaron Grossman always says, “Let’s unlock unrealized potential!”
There are more uses for commas, but these are the most common uses.
Grammar Tip #10 – Who vs. That
- Use who for people and that for objects. No exceptions. Companies are objects. ie. “There are people who care about grammar.” And “I want a guide that is all about grammar.”
Grammar Tip #11 – Their vs. They’re vs. There
- Their shows multiple people own something. ie: “The workers wanted to spend their lunch outside.”
- They’re is the contraction of “they are.” ie: They’re going to drive to lunch together.”
- There is a place. ie: “We love to go there for lunch.”
Grammar Tip #12 – Your vs. You’re
- Your is possessive, meaning you own something. ie: “Your ideas in the meeting were great.”
- You’re is the contraction of “you are.” ie: “You’re really good at making flow charts.”
Grammar Tip #13 – Two vs. To vs. Too
- Two always refers to the number. ie: “There are two of them.”
- To is typically a preposition. “I want to go to the mall.”
- Too is used to indicate an excess and as a synonym for also. “I have too much work to do,” or “I want to go to the zoo, too!”
Grammar Tip #14 – Should of vs. Should Have
- “Should of” is not a phrase. You would always say should have. ie: “I should have read these guidelines before writing that last email.”
What other grammar mistakes drive you crazy?