55 Grammar Rules

 alt="President Franklin D. Roosevelt with Harry Hopkins, 1938. (Courtesy, Library of Congress)"

President Franklin D. Roosevelt with Harry Hopkins, 1938. (Courtesy, Library of Congress)

Franklin Delano Roosevelt is regarded as one of the very best speakers of all time – largely due to the positive, inspiring and influential nature of his speeches. To be a great speaker – in public or among few – you must master inflection, posture, eye contact and tone just as much as vocabulary, message and rules of grammar. And since your manner is born with you and is largely developed over time, a good place to start with your mastery of speaking is with terrific grammar.  So, here are some general grammar rules that humorously point out the crime in each sentence.  Can you spot them?

1. When you write sentences, shifting verb tense is bad.

2. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. Winston Churchill, corrected on this error once, responded to the young man who corrected him by saying “Young man, that is the kind of impudence up with which I will not put!

3. And don’t start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They’re old hat.)

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies endlessly over and over again

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren’t always necessary and shouldn’t be used to excess so don’t.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not always apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it’s highly superfluous and can be excessive

14. All generalizations are bad.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Don’t use no double negatives.

17. Avoid excessive use of ampersands & abbrevs., etc.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake (Unless they are as good as gold).

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words, however, should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when substituting a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas

26. Use the apostrophe in it’s proper place and omit it when its not needed and use it correctly with words’ that show possession.

27. Don’t use too many quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “I hate quotations.. Tell me what you know.”

28. If you’ve heard it once, you’ve heard it a billion times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly. Besides, hyperbole is always overdone, anyway.

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

32. Who needs rhetorical questions? However, what if there were no rhetorical questions?

33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

34. Avoid “buzz-words”; such integrated transitional scenarios complicate simplistic matters

35. People don’t spell “a lot” correctly alot of the time.

36. Each person should use their possessive pronouns correctly

37. All grammar and spelling rules have exceptions (with a few exceptions)….Morgan’s Law.

38. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

39. The dash – a sometimes useful punctuation mark – can often be overused – even though it’s a helpful tool some of the time.

40. Proofread carefully to make sure you don’t repeat repeat any words.

41. In writing, it’s important to remember that dangling sentences.

41. When numbering in a written document, check your numbering system carefully.

42. It is important to use italics for emphasis sparingly.

43. In good writing, for good reasons, under normal circumstances, whenever you can, use prepositional phrases in limited numbers and with great caution.

44. Avoid going out on tangents unrelated to your subject — not the subject of a sentence — that’s another story (like the stories written by Ernest Hemingway, who by the way wrote the great fisherman story The Old Man and the Sea).

45. Complete sentences. Like rule 10.

46. Unless you’re a righteous expert don’t try to be too cool with slang to which you’re not hip.

47. If you must use slang, avoid out-of-date slang. Right on!

48. You’ll look poorly if you misuse adverbs.

49. Use the ellipsis ( . . . ) to indicate missing . . .

50. Use brackets to indicate that you [ not Shakespeare, for example ] are giving people [ in your class ] information so that they [ the people in your class ] know about whom you are speaking. But do not use brackets when making these references [ to other authors ] excessively.

51. Note: People just can’t stomach too much use of the colon.

52. Between good grammar and bad grammar, good grammar is the best.

53. There are so many great grammar rules that I can’t decide between them.

54. In English, unlike German, the verb early in the sentence, not later, should be placed.

55. Verbs agree with their subjects.


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