Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Getting in touch with your inner grammatical Goddess (or God)

As we’ve often seen, there are plenty of freelance writing myths which hound us to our early retirement. One such myth is that you have to have a journalism background or an English degree to become a successful freelance writer. If this were the case, most freelance writers would be out of a job. It doesn’t matter you’re background, but what matters is that you put it to good use. A stay at home parent with two kids? Look for ideas that would appeal to parenting magazines or websites. A yoga instructor with an interest in acupressure? Holistic websites will welcome you.

What you do need to have is a good grasp of the English language (or language you’ll be writing in) and ensure your work is grammatically correct. If you rely on MS Word spell check tools, you could be in a lot of trouble. As a writer, your editing skills need to be perfect. Nothing will annoy an editor or employer more than receiving a query letter or proposal which is filled with grammatical errors, and sentences which don’t read well.

Invest in a few dictionaries and grammar guides and use them, or ask someone to help you edit your work before its sent out.

And if you think you never make mistakes, read on to see if your guilty of any of the following:

It’s versus Its : The former is a contraction of It is, or It has. The latter is a possessive pronoun. If you are unsure, say the sentence out loud, e.g. It is a lovely morning (It’s a lovely morning), and The cat chased its toy around the room.

Your versus You’re: Again, this is a fairly simple mistake to avoid. Your is a possessive pronoun- This is your book, and You’re refers to You Are, as in, You’re disturbing me, let me work.

Affect versus Effect: This one is probably one of the most common mistakes made, and I always have to think twice before I use either word in a sentence. Affect is a verb. For e.g. Your inability to articulate will affect the outcome of this meeting. Effect is a noun as in The effect it had on him was magical.

I, Me and Myself: I is a subjective pronoun and as such it belongs in the subject of a sentence. A simple way to figure this out is to remove the second person from the sentence: Give the toy to Bob and I – remove Bob and you are left with, Give the toy to I. Is that correct? Of course not, so replace I with me. Myself is a reflective pronoun and should be used only when you’ve referred to yourself already: e.g. I myself would not do this.

Still think you’ve got it all in the bag. Have you spotted the FOUR grammatical mistakes in this post?

1 comment:

Chris said...

I'll admit, I had to do a double-take to find the errors in your post & I rather think I found them all :). Just goes to show how our brain edits stuff for us without our knowing it...