When we published our last grammar blog, we didn’t realize everyone would be so excited about the titillating topic. Sure, we love grammar, but it’s not every day that people get stoked to see a blog on rules.
So, for all of our fellow grammar-loving weirdos out there, we decided we’d pull together more thought-provoking tips for you. Don’t worry. We’ll make this just as easy to understand as the last blog was, so if grammar stresses you out, we’ve got you covered.
Enough talk. It’s grammar time.
1. Have vs. Of
This is one that we see a lot, especially from writers in the Midwest. Our great Michigander accent makes these two words pretty hard to tell apart when we speak, but that doesn’t mean they’re interchangeable in text.
Here’s the general rule. It’s simple, write this down.
It’s “have.” Always.
- I could have done that.
- I might have done that.
- I should have done that.
You can also write it as a conjunction:
- I could’ve done that.
- I might’ve done that.
- I should’ve done that.
Why? Well, because of a lot of weird grammar rules. It’s about helping verbs vs. prepositions, but that’s a lot to explain. So, let’s just stick with this: use “have.” Always. Simple? Good.
2. It’s vs. Its and Who’s vs. whose
For starters, if you haven’t read our apostrophe guide, do that first. If you have, let’s keep on going.
Like we said in the last guide, apostrophes are used to show possession, but they’re also used in place of omitted letters, in conjunctions (“don’t” instead of “do not”). That can make things a little confusing when it comes to words like “its” and “whose,” because these words are talking about people.
So! Even though apostrophes are used for possessive forms, when used with “it” and “who,” apostrophes are used in place of an omitted letter.
We’re bolding that, because it’s hard for people to remember. Check this out:
- It’s = it is (the apostrophe is in place of the letter i in is)
- It’s getting late outside.
- Its = something belongs to it
- My shoe fell and its heel snapped.
- Who’s = who is (the apostrophe is in place of the letter i in is)
- Who’s coming with me to the party?
- Whose = possessive who
- Whose dog is this?
This one’s a little tricky, practice makes perfect.
3. Hyphenated Words
Hyphens are one of those things in our language that make people lose their minds. Typically, if you don’t know how to use hyphens, you probably avoid them at all costs.
Stop being afraid of the dash. It won’t hurt you.
Keep in mind, we’re talking about the hyphen (-), not the en dash (–) or the em dash (—). Those are completely different punctuation marks that have their own set of rules. Fascinating, right?
For hyphens, there’s a pretty simple rule. If you’re putting a phrase before a noun (so if it’s a compound adjective, for all you grammar people out there), you toss a hyphen in it. If the phrase goes after the noun (so if it’s still a compound adjective, but later in the sentence), you don’t need to use the hyphen.
To illustrate, we’re going to bold our nouns again, so you can follow along better.
- We make high-quality strategies.
- The strategies we make are high quality.
- She made out-of-this-world graphics.
- The graphics she made were out of this world.
Here’s another tip: if the adjectives have a “-ly” at the end, you don’t need a hyphen, no matter where it is.
- That was a hotly debated topic.
- That topic was hotly debated (you know what’s hot – grammar!).
Bonus Grammar: Singular They
You’ve probably heard that Merriam-Webster added singular “they” to the dictionary in the middle of September. And, since grammar isn’t normally a hot topic in the news, we’re going to show you how to use singular “they” in a sentence:
- I was talking to her.
- I was talking to him.
- I was talking to them.
- She spilled on herself.
- He spilled on himself.
- They spilled on themself. (singular)
- They spilled on themselves. (plural)
Do you need help getting your points across while adhering to grammar rules? Turns out, as nerdy of a sentence as that is, we’re here to help. Contact us. We promise we won’t judge your writing skills when you do.