Less errors, more chances of winning! Why you should be mindful of your sentence construction [Tuesdays: “Write with the Pen of the Masters”]
In February 2021, Forbes conducted a webinar.
The topic of the event?
Grammar and word usage!
The workshop was insightful—we bet even veteran writers learned something from it. After all, even the best writers may need to refresh their knowledge about proper sentence construction every once in a while.
Excited to learn more about how you can write effective and grammatically correct copies?
In this article, we’ll be sharing with you some of the lessons we learned from the webinar!
According to Brett Knight, the assistant manager at Forbes, writers should strive to make their copies as clean as possible.
Having A LOT of grammatical errors in your write-up has negative effects:
One, it distracts the readers from fully grasping the message you want to convey.
Two, it undermines your authority and credibility as a writer.
Three, it makes readers wonder if the information you present is reliable because you can’t even get basic content writing and mechanics right.
To avoid these scenarios from happening, one of the things you have to do is…
Be mindful of your grammar and word choices!
Take note: There’s a difference between grammar and word usage.
“Grammar” pertains to the structure of sentences, while “word usage” focuses on the meaning of individual words and whether or not they’re appropriately used in a statement.
Based on the Forbes webinar, these are some areas where grammatical mistakes usually occur:
- Subject-Verb Agreement
- Relative Clauses
- Not Only… But Also
General rule: The subject and the verb of a sentence need to agree with one another―a singular subject goes with a singular verb, and a plural subject goes with a plural verb.
“The dog is barking at the man.”
“The thieves are running away from the cops.”
Here’s a tricky sentence structure:
“Here comes the rain.”
The sentence above is an example of an expletive (the verb comes before the subject). Some people get confused with these types of statements because without a preceding subject, how will you know the correct verb form to use?
Look at what comes after the verb!
If the noun that follows is singular, use the singular form of the verb. If the noun is plural, use the plural form of the verb.
These are words, phrases, or clauses that describe or modify the meaning of a particular word in a sentence. You have to be careful in using modifiers because when they are misplaced, they can cause confusion.
“She served sandwiches to the children on paper plates.”
That’s an interesting image… “children on paper plates”!
Don’t take modifiers lightly because when you do, they can make your sentences sound awkward.
To correct the example above, you should write:
“She served sandwiches on paper plates to the children.”
These clauses are called “relative” because they always relate back to someone or something in the sentence.
The clue to spot relative clauses?
They start with “who,” “which,” “that,” etc.
“This is the man who broke the door to our room.”
“The lamp that my mom bought was broken.”
If the noun is a person, use relative pronouns like “who,” “whose,” and “whom.” If the noun is an object, use “that” and “which.”
When using these conjunctions, parallelism is the goal.
This means the words following “not only” and “but also” should belong to the same parts of speech (nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, etc.).
“He’s not only intelligent but also funny.”
This sentence is grammatically correct because both conjunctions are followed by adjectives. An incorrect way to write this sentence would be:
“He’s not only intelligent but also has a great sense of humor.”
As you can see, “not only” is followed by an adjective while “but also” is followed by a verb.
While the sentence may sound “fine,” improper use of these conjunctions can make a statement imbalanced.
Let’s now proceed to the word usage part of the Forbes webinar.
Brett Knight gives a list of some of the commonly misused words:
- i.e. and e.g.
- Cache and Caché
- Effect and Affect
- Capital and Capitol
- Principle and Principal
- Premier and Premiere
- Disinterested and Uninterested
- Imply and Infer
—means a list that is sooooo long it becomes tedious or repetitive. This word should be generally used to refer to “a list of bad things.”
You might have “a litany of complaints,” but you would never have “a litany of bonuses.”
—suggests the containment of something as a constituent, component, or subordinate part of a whole.
Using “include” means a list continues past the point where your sentence stops.
“The founders of Hogwarts include Helga Hufflepuff and Rowena Ravenclaw.”
Calling all “Harry Potter” fans! We know there are 4 Hogwarts founders but by using “include” in the sentence above, it means you don’t necessarily have to enumerate all members.
It can be just 2 out of 4 founders… just like in the example above!
If you’re going to state all 4 members in the sentence, “include” is not the right word to use.
i.e. stands for “id est,” which means “that is to say” or “in other words.” On another note, e.g. is an abbreviation for “exempli gratia,” which means “for example.”
Take a look at these sentences:
“After work, I’ll walk over to that new sports arena, i.e. Thunderdome.”
“After work, I’ll walk over to a sports arena, e.g. Thunderdome or Victory Court.”
See the difference between the statements?
Using i.e. provides a more precise information, while e.g. opens up more options to choose from.
Note: These abbreviations are generally used in academic and journalistic writing. If you’re writing for a marketing collateral or something else, it’s better to just spell out “for example,” “in short,” or “for instance” in your sentences.
—means to prove that something is wrong. Using this word suggests that a person has supplied evidence to back his or her claims against a concept or idea.
If he or she hasn’t provided any proof, that person hasn’t “refuted” anything.
—means confusion to the point that one doesn’t know how to react. It’s like a person is speechless, perplexed, or baffled.
Here’s an example of a sentence that uses “nonplussed” correctly:
“Even the experienced doctor was nonplussed when he analyzed the patient’s worsening condition.”
—just like “nonplussed,” “bemused” is also a word that signals confusion. Its meaning is similar to puzzled or bewildered.
When used in a sentence:
“He is looking at his wife with a slightly bemused expression, as if the person before him is a stranger.”
Cache, pronounced as “cash,” is a hiding place. On the other hand, caché, pronounced as “ca-shay,” means a seal of approval or prestige.
“A huge illegal drug cache was discovered by the police.”
“The President placed his caché on the new bill.”
When you say “effect,” that pertains to something that follows an antecedent. In other words, it is a noun, a result.
“The medicine she drank had an immediate effect.”
Differently, “affect” is a verb that means to act or cause a change in someone or something.
“I won’t let the gloomy weather affect my good mood today.”
“Capital” refers to the city that is the seat of government, while “capitol” pertains to the building where the legislature meets.
“Manila is the capital city of the Philippines.”
“A new state capitol was built after the original structure was burnt to the ground.”
“Principle” means rules or standards—“He is a man of principle.”
A “principal” refers to the person with the highest authority in an organization, institution, or group.
“The school principal talked to the parents of the students who got involved in a fight.”
“Premier” as a noun means a political leader or Prime Minister. As an adjective, the word implies “most important.”
“The Japanese Premier was absent in a meeting with other national leaders due to a severe flu.”
On the other hand, a “premiere” is the first release of a film or other types of entertainment―“The show premieres tonight.”
A “disinterested” person is impartial, unbiased, or has no stake in the outcome of a certain issue.
“She is disinterested in football, so she never accompanies her husband in watching football matches.”
An “uninterested” audience means someone who is bored with a speaker’s discussion.
“She’s uninterested in listening to gossip.”
Think of “imply” in reference to a speaker, while “infer” in reference to a listener.
If you’re the sender of a message, you imply. On the other hand, if you’re the receiver of that message, you infer.
“You infer what I’m implying.”
As a writer, one of the keys to good writing is to understand the words you use and be careful with them. Don’t just open a thesaurus and pick a random synonym out.
Make sure you’re using the words correctly based on their meanings.
You don’t have to invent new terminologies either! The world is teeming with a lot of good vocabularies that you can use in your copies. You just need to have a mindset where you recognize that each word choice matters.
You’re not required to know everything about grammar and word usage. What’s important is you recognize what you don’t know and strive to improve in those areas.
Once you get in the habit of being extra careful about your diction, you’ll become a better writer.
May this mini refresher on grammar and word usage help you in your writing career and upcoming projects!
About The Dynamic Marketing Communiqué’s
“Tuesdays: Write with the Pen of the Masters”
Who doesn’t find content writing to be a skill that requires a lot of practice and effort?
In fact, many people may even find copywriting very intimidating.
However, you can be a good writer as long as you have the right tools. You won’t always get things right the first time, but with enough time and practice, you’ll get the hang of it!
When you write a copy for any brand or for your company, your aim is to make an impact and…
…to get people to remember.
Getting people to remember means getting consumers to buy your product or to avail of your service.
And when you get your content to deliver the results you want, THAT is a great copy!
Every Tuesday, we publish content based on tips and insights from the masters of content writing, copywriting, and storytelling.
Become more familiar with ways to write great copy that helps you gain ROI from your efforts, drive profitability, and achieve your business goals.
Learn time-tested tactics that better capture the attention of your target audience, and maximize the benefits of great copywriting.
Hope you found this week’s insights interesting and helpful.
Stay tuned for next Tuesday’s “Write with the Pen of the Masters!”
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Valens Dynamic Marketing Capabilities
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