Learning English grammar rules is easier than you think, and fun.
Here is a little light grammar relief for you. Perhaps it will be a good way to waste ten minutes of your day, or to encourage you to extend your morning coffee break.
The following list of 55 English grammar rules and writing hints was originally published on my personal blog many, many years ago.
But as these rules remain useful to use as a quick refresher, I thought I would move the list here for Just Publishing Advice readers to enjoy.
Easy grammar rules
Unlike a lot of grammar advice articles, you will not find any mention of a part of speech, transitive verbs, the preterite, relative clauses, linking verbs, tense shift, proper nouns, collective nouns, or even the indefinite or definite article.
Some grammatical terms are confusing, even for an English speaker.
But no, this is an easy-to-read list of basic English grammar rules that shows and doesn’t tell.
I have to say that my favorites from this list are numbers 16, 29, 41, and 41.
Yes, I really like 41 and 41.
Take a look to see why.
Of course, you can always rely on a grammar checker to do all the hard work for you.
But there is much more fun to be gained in discovering your English usage errors and correcting them yourself.
Well, at least you can try.
So on to the rules of basic English grammar for you to read, enjoy, and perhaps, you might even break out into a smile.
55 Grammar mistakes and lexical boo-boos that you should avoid making
1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.
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. There isn’t nothing worse.
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 its possessive pronouns correctly.
37. All grammar and spelling rules have exceptions (with a few exceptions).
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.
41. Check that the affect of your vocabulary doesn’t effect your grammar.
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. Cool! Right on! Peace man!
48. You’ll look poorly if you misuse adverbs.
49. Use the ellipsis ( . . . ) to indicate missing . . . stuff.
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 which I can’t decide between them.
54. In English, unlike German, the verb early in the sentence, not later, should be placed.
55. When you write sentences, shifting verb tense was bad.
You have reached the end!
If you have made it to here, you have now mastered subject-verb placement and eliminated your bad present tense, past tense shift habit.
Your relative pronouns will now be relative, and your non-defining clauses will definitely be in order. Oh, and you’re apostrophes will be perfectly placed. But you will double down on your double negatives, won’t you?
Most importantly, make sure your sentences are written to express a complete thought containing both a subject and a verb. But your singular and plural agreement will be singularly perfect.
So relax now and go lay or lie down. Um, okay. You lie down, or I will lay you down.
I applaud your grammatical stamina. Good luck with using your improved grammar and writing knowledge.
Related reading: The Grammar Police Are Carefully Watching Every Word You Write