Entries Tagged as 'Writing'

Your vs. You’re

It never hurts to review this topic:

your = possessive adjective

you’re = you are

Use your before a noun when the noun belongs to the person you are speaking to (possessive).  For example:  Did you bring your coat? Are all of your documents in this file? Did you call your mother?

Use you’re when you mean “you are”.  For example: You’re not leaving without a hug.  Did you say you’re riding with us?

Test yourself!  Are the following correct or incorrect?

  1. Your having dinner at our house.
  2. Your baby is so cute.
  3. You’re pregnant.
  4. Your the father!


  1. incorrect
  2. incorrect
  3. correct
  4. incorrect

How to Identify Essential and Non-Essential Clauses

Sometimes a dependent clause is essential to the meaning of the sentence.  Sometimes, dependent clauses add additional non-essential details.  These steps will help you decide if a clause is essential or non-essential.

Step 1:  Read the whole sentence and identify the clause.  Underline the clause

Step 2:  Read the sentence without the clause.  Does it make enough sense?

Step 3:  Read the sentence again, but this time with the clause.  Does it make more sense?

Step 4:  If the sentence makes complete sense without the clause, place commas around the clause.  If the sentence needs the clause to make sense, do not place commas around the clause.


Follow the steps above and practice with these two sentences. Only one sentence needs commas.  Which one?

  • Our hotel which was near the beach offered free room service.
  • The room which has the ocean view is more expensive than the three-room suite.

Answer:  The first sentence contains a non-essential clause, and therefore, will require commas around the clause.

Parallelism in Writing

Understanding and identifying parallelism is common in grammar reviews as well as on standardized tests.

Parallelism can be achieved by making sure there is balance on both sides of a conjunction (and, but, yet, & so).  Conjunctions are typically found between independent clauses and in lists.

First, find the conjunction.  Then look for balance.  You can tell if something is not balanced if the parts of speech are different or if there is a modifier on one side and not the other.  If you see an imbalance, correct it.

For example:

My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and ordering subs. 
Pizza and spaghetti are nouns.  Ordering subs?  That is an action.

Fix the imbalance:  My favorite meals are pizza, spaghetti, and subs. 


Nelson Mandela Quote & Writing Tip

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Adding “Do you agree with the following statement,” to the beginning of axioms such as this is a good way to create sample essay topics if you’re taking or helping someone practice for the SAT, GRE, or other test with a writing component.

Plurals – The Good, The Bad, and the Puzzling

You might have noticed that I’ve been writing a series on Puzzling Plurals.  Here are links to all of those posts in one convenient place for you, organized by topic:


Spelling Incorrectly Hurts Online Sales

If you have hired, or if you are, a content manager or editor whose native language is not English, please read this report from Search Engine Watch.  The report spells out how misspellings can hurt online sales, stating that it’s not important if the author isn’t concerned with the spelling.  What really matters is the website visitor’s opinion.  Specifically alarming is is the fact that your visitors will equate good spelling and grammar with legitimacy.

Accurate spelling and good grammar are equated with legitimacy, if not consciously then subconsciously. Some of us may be more aware of this sentiment when it is expressed in the negative: Bad spelling and bad grammar are cause for suspicion. For example, what’s the first clue a piece of email from a stranger is a scam? Many people would say it’s the bad spelling and grammar.

The article is also helpful by providing tips for avoiding such costly mistakes.

  1. Don’t rely on spell checkers. The above heading passes a spell check with flying colors. Spell checkers can be a big help, especially those that flag errors as you type, but they just don’t have the human intelligence required to know which words you should be using.
  2. Use multiple human editors. I don’t know any serious writers who believe they can reliably copy edit their own work. As the writer you tend to see what you think you wrote, not what characters ended up on the page. In a pinch, “multiple human editors” can mean the person writing the copy and one other person, but three sets of eyes are better than two.
  3. Make sure your graphics people use the spellchecker in Photoshop for any images that include words. They need to use it before rasterizing the text layer. Editing typos in flattened image files is a real pain so check before you save to JPEG, GIF, or PNG.

If you are an ESL student, you should know what your instructors’ goals are when grading.  Some might focus more on content rather than on accuracy.  If  your instructor looks more at content and less on grammatical accuracy, ask them what areas you can improve.  There is always room for improvement whether it is working on native English phrasing, choosing the right diction to present the intended meaning, or using the most appropriate verb tense.

Pesky Apostrophes: Irregular Plural Nouns

Irregular plural nouns break the rules when it comes to using apostrophes.

For regular plural nouns, the apostrophe goes after the -s.  An example would be:

I don’t like that dining room set because the chairs’ legs are iron.

But irregular plurals will rarely have an -s to indicate more than one, such as in the word people, children, men, and women.  In this case, since there is no –s on the word, add the apostrophe as you would on a singular verb, but keep in mind that they are still plural.

The People’s Court (the court belongs to all the people)

The Children’s Room (the room belongs to more than one child)

The Men’s Section (the section has clothes for men)

The Women’s Department (the department has items for women)

Sometimes you will see Ladies’ Department.  That is correct, too.  The word lady is not irregular.

Lose vs. Loose

Lose and loose are commonly misspelled.  There are often mispronounced, too, so maybe this will help:

The ‘s’ in lose (a verb) is pronounced with a /z/ sound.  Lose means that you have misplaced something.  Example: Where did you lose your keys?  If I knew where I lost them, I would still have them!

The ‘s’ in loose (an adjective) is pronounced with a /s/ sound.  Loose means the opposite of tight.  Example:  I have to tie my shoe because my shoestrings are loose.

Awesome Resume Writing Tips

I’d much rather be gardening and planting that writing this post, or a resume for that matter.  Just as you may have just graduated and need to leave the nest, or lost your job and need to work hard to keep your nest egg, from wherever you are coming into the job market, it’s important to keep updating your resume.

I recommend the following:

  1. Resumes are like gardens that need constant tending.  Don’t let the weeds grow.  What might have been relevant experience 5 or 6 years ago might need rewording.
  2. Add annuals to your garden of experience.  Don’t lie, and don’t embellish, but what might have seemed like a one-time project can really add depth to your job description.  It’s not always about how long you did a job, but how successful your performance was.
  3. Be trendy.  Documents are like fashion…the trends change.  Don’t just update the content (what you have done/are doing);  make sure your style, font, and organization of information is in line with modern resume styles.  This is especially true if you have been in one place for a long time and are looking for something new.  It’s also important if you are older and looking to compete with a younger generation.
  4. Use the most accessible format for your document.  For example, I once sent a document in a PDF to New Mexico and was told to reformat it in Word because they “didn’t have that program.”  If you’re sending your resume to a different country, the standards for formatting might be more behind or more advanced than yours.   It might be worth looking into.
  5. Edit!  Please edit.  If u leaf at two you’re spill check, yule bee sari.

To the guy who inspired me to write this, and you know who you are, keep your spirits up!  The right job is right around the corner!

Call your mother!

Happy Mother’s Day!

Capitalization tip:  When you use Mom (or Mother, Mama, or Mommy – you know who you are) as a name, use a capital letter.  For example, “Dad, I already told Mom I was going out,” or “Would you bring me a blanket, Mom?”).

If you are talking about a person and use the nouns mom or mother to describe who they are (“This is my mom, Mary”), don’t capitalize the words mom or mother.  And unless you’re 5, don’t introduce her as “Mommy”. :)