18 Tips to Have the Best Operational Improvements in Grammar

Operational improvements: Grammar is the system that structures a language, and every language has its own guidelines. But grammar isn’t so much about rules as it is the conventions that determine how we speak and write, and it includes things like spelling, inflecting words for different purposes, and the way words are arranged to form sentences. While it’s good to remember that languages are living things that constantly change, it’s also important to know that proper grammar is still necessary for communication. Luckily, there are plenty of resources and style guides available to help people who want to improve their grammar.

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 Operational improvements

1. Know the parts of speech.

These are the types of words that make up the language, and they are nouns, adjectives, pronouns, verbs, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, and sometimes articles. To put sentences together properly, you must understand what the parts of speech are and how they function in sentences.

  • Nouns are the elements that usually perform the action in a sentence, such as a person, place, thing, idea, emotion, animal, or event. Nouns include Sally, Parissand philosophy happiness, dog, and birthday.
  • Adjectives modify nouns and describe aspects or characteristics of nouns. Adjectives include red, funny, lazylarge, and short.
  • Pronouns take the place of nouns. There are personal subject pronouns (such as Ishe, and they), personal object pronouns (such as usyouit, and them), personal possessive pronouns (such as mineyourshishers, and theirs), and relative pronouns (such as whowhichthat, and whose).
  • Verbs indicate actions or states of being and tell what the noun is doing. Verbs include run, sing, type, be, and walk.
  • Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, conjunctions, prepositions, and other adverbs. They are words like quicklywell, and slowly. These words often end in –ly.
  • Prepositions indicate relationships in time, space, or direction. Prepositions include toinonoverof, and across.
  • Conjunctions join nouns, clauses, phrases, and sentences. Coordinating conjunctions link independent clauses, and they are forandnorbut, oryet, and so (remember FANBOYS). Subordinating conjunctions link dependent clauses, and they include because, ifsincewhile, and although.
  • Interjections are words that indicate emotions. These include ohheyouch, and wow. They are often followed by exclamation points.
  • Articles are used to modify and define nouns. The is a definite article, and a and an are the indefinite articles.

2. Recognize points of view.

In terms of grammatical person, English has three points of view, and each of those can be either singular or plural. The points of view are: singular or plural first-person, singular or plural second-person, and singular or plural third-person. The appropriate pronouns are:

  • First-person singular: I
  • Second-person singular: you
  • Third-person singular: he (masculine) / she (feminine) / it (neuter)
  • First-person plural: we
  • Second-person plural: you
  • Third-person plural: they

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3. Use proper word order.

English sentences are structured following the subject–verb–object order (such as “Andrea ran to the door,” not “Run to the door Andrea”). In general, articles come before adjectives, and adjectives come before the nouns they modify. Modifiers should always be placed as close to their nouns as possible. For instance:

  • Frank (subject) quickly (adverb) mailed (verb) the (article) long (adjective) letter (object).

4. Conjugate verbs properly.

English technically only conjugates the present (“I like”) and past tenses (“I liked”), meaning that English verbs are only inflected (have different forms or endings) for these tenses. However, other verb tenses, such as the future (“I will like”), are created with the help of mood, words that denote time (such as “tomorrow”), and auxiliary (helping) words and verbs. Using the verb “to go” as an example, some of the main tenses in English are:

  • Simple present (uninflected verb, or verb + s/es in third person): I go, you go, he/she/it goes, we go, you go, they go.
  • Present continuous (aka progressive) (am/is/are + present participle): I am going, you are going, he/she/it is going, we/you/they are going.
  • Present perfect (has/have + past participle): I have gone, you have gone, he/she/it has gone, we/you/they have gone.
  • Simple past (verb + –ed for regular verbs): I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they went (“to go” is an irregular verb).
  • Past continuous (was/were + present participle): I was going, you were going, he/she/it was going, we/you/they were going.
  • Past Perfect (had + past participle): I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they had gone.
  • Simple future (will + uninflected verb): I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they will go.
  • Future continuous (will be + present participle): I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they will be going.
  • Future Perfect (will have + past participle): I/you/he/she/it/we/you/they will have gone.

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5. Punctuate sentences properly.

 Punctuation is an important part of language because it indicates starts, stops, pauses, and relationships. Capitalize the first letter of every sentence, and the first letter of all proper nouns (the names of people and places). The main punctuation marks in English—and their basic uses—are:

  • Commas separate thoughts, ideas, elements, and independent clauses.
  • Periods indicate the end of a sentence.
  • Semicolons join independent clauses in a single sentence or separate elements in a list.
  • Colons introduce items in a list, explanations, or definitions.
  • Question marks indicate that a question was posed.
  • Exclamation points show emphasis, imperatives, or declarations.
  • Apostrophes demonstrate possession or create contractions.
  • Quotation marks indicate that you are directly quoting someone else’s words.
  • Hyphens join separate words into compound words, modifiers, and numbers.
  • Dashes create a pause, interrupt a sentence, or add parenthetical information.
  • Parenthesis add additional information, references, or citations.

6. Read children’s books.

 While children’s books may not be grammar textbooks, they are designed to teach the basics of language, including fundamental words and spelling, regular and irregular nouns and verbs, simple conjugation, and sentence structure. Children aren’t often explicitly taught the grammar and mechanics of their native tongues, but instead pick them up by reading and listening to other native speakers.

7. Read a variety of material.

Improve your grasp of grammar by learning how other authors use language. Focus on reading different genres and styles of writing, such as classic literature, textbooks, science-fiction, science books, biographies, blogs, essays, and articles. Pay attention to how sentences are structured, word order, spelling, and creative variations the authors use.

  • Try reading aloud so that you also get an idea of how the language sounds in conversation.
  • Keep a dictionary and thesaurus handy while reading.
  • Read newspapers, listen to news radio, and watch televised news programs daily as well.

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8. Pay attention to how other speakers talk.

Listen to how other people construct sentences, where they place words in sentences, how they say common phrases, and the vocabulary they use. English has many rules and exceptions, so don’t be afraid to ask questions if you have any.

  • Try parroting what other people say by repeating it in order to understand how sentences are formed and to expand your vocabulary.
  • Be warned that some English speakers, even native ones, don’t have a grasp of proper grammar.

9. Play word and grammar games.

There are many online games and applications you can download on your computer or phone that will test your grammar skills in a fun way. Since these games are educational, they’ll often provide explanations for wrong answers so you can learn from your mistakes.

  • Libraries, bookstores, and online resources will also offer grammar lessons, practice exercises, and quizzes

10. Practice writing every day.

Improve your grammar by writing and practicing any new rules or words you’ve learned. Keep a journal, write short stories, or even just email back and forth with friends or family. Concentrate on improving any problem areas you might have or mistakes you often repeat.

  • Don’t rely solely on grammar checkers. For one, they can be wrong. Second, you won’t learn from your mistakes if you don’t correct work yourself. If you do employ a grammar check or proofreading services, take the time to look over what changes were made so that you can learn what you did wrong.

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11. Learn the difference between confusing words.

English has a lot of words that look, sound, and/or are spelled the same, even if they have very different meanings. These homographs (words that are spelled the same), homophones (words that are pronounced the same), heteronyms (words that are spelled the same but pronounced differently), and homonyms (words that are spelled and pronounced the same) cause a great deal of confusion, and result in common errors. Remembering these common errors will help you avoid frequently made mistakes. Common mistakes include:

  • Confusing it’s (a contraction of it is) and its (a possessive pronoun).
  • Mixing up they’re (a contraction of they are), their (a possessive pronoun), and there (an adverb indicating place).
  • Using you’re (a contraction of you are) and your (a possessive pronoun) incorrectly.
  • Confusing too (which means in addition), to (a preposition) and two (the cardinal number that comes after one).
  • Not using then (meaning at that time) and than (used to compare) correctly.
  • Improperly using lie (meaning to be in a horizontal position) and lay (which means to place something in a horizontal position).
  • Confusing farther (used with physical distance) and further (used with figurative or metaphorical distance).

12. Use punctuation properly.

Improper punctuation can mean that the meaning you’re trying to convey can be confused or lost. There are many punctuation-related errors that can occur in English, including:

  • Run-on sentences, where there is no punctuation separating independent clauses in the same sentence. This can be remedied by either placing a semicolon or period between the independent clauses.
  • Comma splices, where independent clauses in a sentence are joined with a comma but without a proper coordinating conjunction. Instead of using just a comma, use a comma followed by the word “and” or “but.”
  • Using apostrophes to create plurals (they are used to create contractions or show possession, not create plurals).
  • Improper use of quotation marks, which should only be used to indicate that you are directly quoting something someone said.

13. Use the active voice.

In an active construction, the subject is the thing that performs the action; in a passive construction, the subject is acted upon by an outside force. While there’s nothing wrong with the passive voice, it’s less forceful and can make sentences unclear. Therefore, you should use the active voice more often, but it’s acceptable to use the passive voice from time to time, especially to emphasize something. For example, consider how these active and passive sentences place emphasis on different elements of the sentence:

  • The active “I paid the bill” places the emphasis on what the subject did.
  • The passive “The bill was paid by me” places the emphasis on who paid the bill.

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14. Use reflexive pronouns properly.

The reflexive pronouns are myself, yourself, himself/herself/itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. These pronouns can be used reflexively or intensively. Reflexive pronouns are only used as the object in a sentence, and only when that object is the same as the subject. Intensive pronouns are used to add emphasis to a sentence and reinforces that the subject performed the action. To tell the difference, remember that if the pronoun can be removed from the sentence and it still makes sense, the pronoun is being used intensively. However, if the pronoun cannot be removed without altering the meaning of the sentence, it’s being used reflexively.

  • Reflexive: “I pinched myself to see if I was dreaming.”
  • Intensive: “She individually picked each gift herself.”
  • Reflexive: “He asked himself how he’d feel in that situation.”
  • Intensive: “I myself don’t know how I’d react.”

15. Take a class or see a tutor or teacher.

One of the best ways to ensure you understand the basic grammatical elements of a language is by seeking the help of someone who’s qualified to teach you. Many community colleges offer language courses, or you can ask around at your local high school or college to see if any English students want to make some extra money tutoring you.

16. Read style guides and grammar books.

Grammar and style guides come in two forms: descriptive guides that describe how people do speak, and prescriptive guides that tell people how they should speak. But language changes and evolves, and the rules of English aren’t always set in stone. There are many style guides that recommend different ways of approaching grammar, and it’s a good idea to read several of them. This will provide an idea of the different ways to approach spelling (such as American versus British), syntax, and style, give you a better idea of the fundamentals of grammar, and show you where the language is adaptable and where it’s inflexible. Some of the most widely used style guides are:

  • The Chicago Manual of Style, which is often used for social science and historical journals.
  • The Modern Language Association (MLA) style, which is often used in the humanities, in language studies, and in cultural studies.
  • The Associated Press (AP) style, which is used by most news and media outlets.
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) style, which is often used for natural and life sciences, academic journals, and social sciences.

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17. Find online resources.

Along with the resources available at libraries, the Internet is full of reliable grammar games, lessons, exercises, quizzes, and tips. Many universities will also offer resources about grammar, spelling, syntax, and common errors.

  • Purdue OWL is an excellent resource that has lessons and different style guide recommendations.
  • You can also subscribe to daily grammar emails and blogs from people like Grammar Girl.

18. More tips

  • Don’t agonize about every mistake, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Perfecting a language takes time and practice, and you have to make sure you’ve got the basic building blocks down before you can master it.

  • If you know someone with excellent grammar skills, ask for guidance and lessons.

  • Read The Elements of Style by Strunk & White to recognize and remedy common grammatical errors.

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