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Advice for writers

Overlooked Grammar Tips Every Writer Should Know

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Grammar Tips to Elevate Your Writing

When writing, it’s easy to be fascinated by the power of language to convey emotions, paint vivid pictures, and transport readers to different worlds. In the pursuit of literary greatness, focus often falls heavily upon the grand elements of storytelling, but let’s not forget the unsung heroes that hold our narratives together: grammar and punctuation. Today let’s take a moment to shed light on some overlooked grammar tips that can elevate your writing to new heights!

1. The Mighty Semicolon

Ah, the semicolon—often misunderstood and underused. This humble punctuation mark can bridge two related independent clauses, adding a touch of sophistication to your sentences. It’s the subtle pause between ideas, a wink to your readers that there’s more to come. Embrace the semicolon; let it be the glue that binds your thoughts in harmony.

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Example: The storm raged outside; inside, a calm determination settled over me.

2. The Enigmatic Em Dash

Meet the em dash, the chameleon of punctuation. It can replace commas, colons, or parentheses, offering a dramatic pause or a sudden shift in tone. Use it sparingly to add emphasis or to create a sense of immediacy—it’s the secret weapon in your arsenal of punctuation marks.

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Example: The forest—lush and mysterious—beckoned me to explore its depths.

3. Dangling Modifiers

Beware of the elusive dangling modifier, a common grammatical faux pas that can turn your carefully crafted sentence into a comical blunder. Ensure that your modifiers are properly anchored to the subject they intend to modify, preventing unintentional hilarity and maintaining clarity.

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Incorrect: Running through the meadow, the flowers seemed to dance with joy.

Correct: Running through the meadow, I watched as the flowers seemed to dance with joy.

4. Subject-Verb Agreement

In the dance of grammar, subject-verb agreement is the graceful waltz that ensures harmony in your sentences. Pay close attention to the number of your subject and match it with the appropriate verb form. Singular subjects call for singular verbs, and plural subjects demand plural verbs. Keep the rhythm flowing seamlessly.

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Incorrect: The team are preparing for their next match.

Correct: The team is preparing for its next match.

5. Parallel Structure

For a symphony of words, employ parallel structure in your writing. This means aligning similar elements in a sentence to maintain balance and clarity. Whether it’s a list, a series, or a comparison, parallel structure ensures that your readers can follow the cadence of your prose effortlessly.

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Incorrect: She enjoys hiking, reading, and to swim.

Correct: She enjoys hiking, reading, and swimming.

6. Consistent Verb Tenses

Time travel may be an exciting concept in fiction, but when it comes to grammar, consistency is key. Keep your verb tenses aligned to avoid confusing your readers. A seamless transition through time ensures that your narrative unfolds smoothly.

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Incorrect: She walked into the room, takes a deep breath, and started to speak.

Correct: She walked into the room, took a deep breath, and started to speak.

7. The Intricacies of Punctuation with Quotations

Punctuation can be tricky when it comes to quotations. Place your commas and periods inside the quotation marks, but colons and semicolons outside. Mastering the nuances of punctuation within quotations adds a polished touch to your dialogue.

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Incorrect: “Are you coming with me,” she asked.

Correct: “Are you coming with me?” she asked.

8. Wordy Phrases and Redundancies

In the pursuit of eloquence, we may fall prey to unnecessary verbosity. Trim the excess fat from your sentences, eliminating redundant phrases and wordy constructions. Your writing will emerge lean, powerful, and more impactful.

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Wordy: He had a feeling in his gut that something was wrong.

Concise: He felt something was wrong.

In the grand tapestry of writing, these overlooked grammar tips are the threads that weave brilliance into our narratives. Embrace them, refine your craft, and watch as your words dance across the page in perfect harmony.

For more tips on grammar, check out the following resources!

Grammarly Blog: Offers articles covering various grammar topics, punctuation tips, and writing advice.

Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL): A comprehensive resource for writing, including grammar and punctuation rules, exercises, and explanations.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary: Provides clear explanations of grammar and punctuation rules, along with tips and examples in their language section.

Happy writing, fellow wordsmiths!

Chandler Kidd

Chandler Kidd, Social Media Manager at Atmosphere Press (submit your manuscript here!), lives in Brooklyn, New York, with her three cats. She is a yogi and an avid horror and dark fantasy reader. During the day, she loves creating social posts for Atmosphere Press and connecting authors online. By night she can be found learning music production, DJing, or at a concert. 

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