Grammar Rules

Do I Use Lay or Lie? Let's Get it Straight

by Kathy Edens Nov 03, 2017

Do I Use Lay or Lie? Let's Get it Straight

Lay and lie can trip up the most seasoned writer. Let's do a quick and dirty here so it finally makes sense.

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Grammar Rules You Should Ignore

by Kathy Edens Oct 20, 2017

Grammar Rules You Should Ignore

Some rules were made to be broken, right? There are a few grammar rules that don't hold water in today's world of tweets and conversational writing styles. Since the focus of most writing on the web is to get your reader's attention, writing in a relaxed voice is common…and necessary.

Here are 6 grammar rules you should ignore when writing for the internet masses.

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7 Grammar Rules Your Editor Wants You to Know

by ProWritingAid Sep 18, 2017

7 Grammar Rules Your Editor Wants You to Know

You don't want to send an overworked and underpaid editor a manuscript with glaring grammar and punctuation errors. Especially if the editor decides whether your piece runs or not. Send in a poorly edited piece, and you will end up in the slush pile. No editor has time for drastic rewrites.

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Know Your Tenses: Past Progressive

by ProWritingAid Aug 02, 2017

Know Your Tenses: Past Progressive

How do you build the past progressive tense? Simply use the "to be" helping verb in the past tense and add on the present participle of the verb with an "-ing" on the end.

If this sounds complicated, it's actually not. Here are some examples:

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What the Heck are Auto-Antonyms? And Why Should You Worry About Them?

by ProWritingAid Jul 21, 2017

What the Heck are Auto-Antonyms? And Why Should You Worry About Them?

Auto-antonyms are words with multiple meanings of which one contradicts or reverses another. What, you say, how can that be? Let's go through a couple examples.

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Licence vs. License: Which One is Right?

by ProWritingAid Jun 28, 2017

Licence vs. License: Which One is Right?

Well, it depends on which side of the pond you're on.

If you're American, license is both a noun and a verb, and licence is not used at all.

If you're anywhere else speaking English, licence is the noun meaning a permit from an authority figure to do something particular, like driving, and license is the verb form.

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Affect vs. Effect: When to use each

by ProWritingAid Jun 12, 2017

Affect vs. Effect: When to use each

When to use "affect" or "effect" is so confusing that people are switching to "impact" to use in its place.

Never fear—it's not difficult to use "affect" and "effect" properly. Here is what you need to know:

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Wrestling Run-On Sentences Into Shape

by Kathy Edens May 26, 2017

Wrestling Run-On Sentences Into Shape

ProWritingAid's sentence length check is one of the most important reports I use for every piece of writing. I have a tendency to write long, flowing sentences that meander around, trying to connect numerous ideas together that perhaps don't belong. (The latter sentence a case in point.)

But did you know that's not a technical run-on sentence? It's more of a run-off-at-the-mouth sentence.

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Gender Neutral Pronoun Consistency—Is This Still a Thing?

by ProWritingAid Apr 10, 2017

Gender Neutral Pronoun Consistency—Is This Still a Thing? How many times have you written a sentence using a gender-neutral antecedent (the word a pronoun replaces) and stumbled? Which pronoun do you use—he or she?The student may borrow whichever book he (or she?) needs. The Traditional Solution

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Hyphenation: When Nouns Become Adjectives

by ProWritingAid Feb 20, 2017

Hyphenation: When Nouns Become Adjectives

Compound adjectives are made up of a combination of noun plus adjective, noun plus participle, or adjective plus participle. More often than not, these are hyphenated. Let’s look at a few.

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"Which" or "That": Know When to Use Each

by ProWritingAid Jan 25, 2017

"Which" or "That": Know When to Use Each

Do you use "which" and "that" as interchangeable words in sentences because they mean the same?

That couldn't be further from the truth. We're here to help you determine when to use each word.

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Should Dialogue Stand Alone?

by ProWritingAid Dec 27, 2016

Should Dialogue Stand Alone?

How you format dialogue is a matter of style rather than a rule. There are a few guidelines, however, that make dialogue easier for your reader to follow. And we want our work to be easy to read.

Some novelists like Cormac McCarthy do their own thing with dialogue. For example, McCarthy doesn’t use quotation marks, which is his style of choice. Most of us need to follow our publishing house’s rules, or at least accepted standards. Here are 3 unequivocal standards for starting new paragraphs in dialogue.

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Cut “That” Out—Seriously

by ProWritingAid Oct 28, 2016

Cut “That” Out—Seriously

You want clear, concise writing, so make every word count. Cut out extraneous words, especially “that,” taking up space without adding value. This practical post is full of examples where the word "that" could be cut, and other times when it should be included for clarity.

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Do Your Subjects & Verbs Always Agree?

by ProWritingAid Oct 24, 2016

Do Your Subjects & Verbs Always Agree?

We know that a singular subject goes with a singular verb, and a plural subject goes with a plural verb. This is fairly straight forward and won’t throw most people off balance.

There are some instances, however, when you might confuse what is the actual subject of the sentence and choose the wrong verb.

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When to Underline & When to Use Italics

by ProWritingAid Oct 12, 2016

When to Underline & When to Use Italics

To italicize or underline. That is the question. How do you handle the titles of magazines, books, newspapers, academic journals, films, television shows, long poems, plays, operas, works of art like paintings and sculptures, music albums, etc.?

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How to Punctuate and Format Inner Dialogue

by ProWritingAid Oct 07, 2016

How to Punctuate and Format Inner Dialogue

Inner dialogue is an excellent way to give your readers a peek inside the heart and mind of your characters. Readers can’t get this depth of character strictly from the actions you include in your story. You should give them inner thoughts to create 3-D characters with which your readers will fall in love.

The bad news is that there is no hard and fast rule about formatting inner dialogue. Depending on which author, editor, or publisher you talk to, there are as many ways to handle inner dialogue as there are people writing it.

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Hyphen, En Dash & Em Dash: Do You Know the Difference?

by ProWritingAid Sep 28, 2016

Hyphen, En Dash & Em Dash: Do You Know the Difference?

Are you aware of these three little lines and how they’re used in punctuation?

-Hyphen

⎻En Dash

—Em Dash

Let’s talk a little more about each.

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Future Perfect? Past Continuous? What are All the Verb Tenses?

by ProWritingAid Sep 14, 2016

Future Perfect? Past Continuous? What are All the Verb Tenses?

Much like the specters Scrooge faced in A Christmas Carol, writers face 3 different verb tenses when constructing sentences: Past, Present, and Future.

Just like the Ghost of Christmas Past, a past tense verb refers to something that has already happened. The most commonly used verb tense is present, which talks about what’s going on right at this very moment. And the final, future tense tells us what might or will happen in the future. But that's not where it ends. There are three additional ways to talk about past, present, and future tense verbs: Continuous, Perfect, and Perfect Continuous. Sometimes referred to as aspects rather than tenses, these tell us about an action that happens once or repeatedly and if it’s completed or still continuing

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What are Word Classes?

by ProWritingAid Aug 31, 2016

What are Word Classes?

Word classes are parts of speech. They’re the building blocks that form every sentence ever uttered. They are categorized by the role they play in your sentences.

Everyone agrees on the following four main word classes: 1. Noun 2. Verb 3. Adjective 4. Adverb

There are varying opinions as to whether the following five categories are word classes or word forms. So we went straight to the experts: the Oxford and Cambridge Dictionaries. Per these two highly learned sources, the following are considered word classes also:

  1. Pronoun (e.g. I, you, me, we, mine, someone, he, she)
  2. Preposition (e.g. at, in, on, across, behind, for)

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Are Your Adjectives Powerful?

by ProWritingAid Aug 02, 2016

Are Your Adjectives Powerful?

An adjective is a word that names an attribute of a noun. Some are strong and paint clear, specific pictures of the thing they are describing. Some are weak and vague and don’t tell us much. Let’s start with an example...

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