RHYS: I was educated at an English girl’s school where I had good grammar rammed down my throat by terrifying old spinsters. So I’ve never had much problem with their and there or even with lie and lay. I do confess to a small problem with the American use of a serial comma, but fortunately traditionally published writers like your Reds have the benefit of an editor, then a copy editor, to point out their serial comma sins.
But for those times when we will not have a copy editor to leap on our errors, I’ve found the perfect person to come to my rescue--or rather the perfect website. Today our guest is Nikolas Baron of www.grammarly.com. If you don't know Grammarly, it should be among every author’s favorites. It’s an online grammar check service. It is already used by a few million people, so I can’t understand why I’ve only just heard about it. Nick’s job is to show writers and bloggers how they can use Grammarly’s amazing proofreading application to improve their writing.
Nik has also rounded up the most useful grammar sites for us so this post is a must for all writers
Welcome Nikolas. So what are the most common mistakes you find on Grammarly?
Comic book writers conceive new superhero characters all the time. If there was a superhero committed to spelling, we might all be saved by a flying, caped editor every time we confuse affect and effect. Unfortunately, no such hero exists to save our posts from danger. The English language is full of words with similar spellings or sounds, but different meanings. How can you remember how to use them correctly? I am no hero, but in my work at Grammarly, I research the most common errors and why people make them. I have navigated through some of the best websites to find some tips. The following five websites are almost heroic.
GrammarGirl: Affect vs. Effect
Mignon Fogarty, better known as Grammar Girl, is the managing director of Quick and Dirty Tips. This website addresses commonly confused words and phrases with simple explanations. To learn the difference between affect and effect, she suggests the phrase a very easy noun. The first letters of each word in the phrase should help you to remember that affect is used as a verb and effect is used as a noun. If you are a visual learner, visit the site to see how an aardvark getting shot in the butt with an arrow demonstrates the concept.
wikiHow : There, Their, They’re
This trio has been confusing writers for decades. The problem is, they’re homonyms. WikiHow does not focus exclusively on grammar. According to their About page, the website aims to create “a world where anyone can easily learn how to do anything.” The dynamic site allows anyone to edit content, adding or editing helpful explanations. At the time that I visited, there was a printable usage cheat sheet and a detailed seven-step process to use there, their, and they’re correctly. In fact, I encourage you to use it to see if I have successfully used them in this paragraph.
Wordreference: Who, Which, That
On Wordreference.com’s online forum, you can post a specific grammar question that you have. Who, which, and that questions are especially popular. One senior member asked which relative pronoun would be correct when describing a country. Within thirty minutes, another member posted a response. If you like the personal approach, this is the site for you. The answers also tend to be short and direct.
Grammarly: Accept vs. Except
As part of the free proofreading feature, the Grammarly engine checks for commonly confused words. If a confusion is detected, the program will alert you and make suggestions. The partner site, Grammarly Answers, allows you to post questions or ask for examples. Answers come from the community of users, some who are grammar experts. Often, web links recommended in responses provide detailed information. I found almost fifty posts about accept and except on the Answers website.
Writer’s Digest: Lie, Lay, Laid, Lied
Writer’s Digest publishes content geared specifically toward the issues of authors. One article, “LAY VS. LIE (VS. LAID)” by Brian A. Klems laid the argument to rest concerning the past and the present tense use of these tricky verbs. The author provides a helpful chart to reference anytime you have questions. Among the reader responses, you will find a number of other examples and links to worksheets and exercise.
Thank goodness; these five websites rescue us from recurring errors. Help is on the way! If we run to them in times of doubt, we can learn to use the most commonly confused words correctly. In time, the world will be safe from these befuddling words that menace us.
RHYS: Thanks for the valuable advice, Nikolas. I hope you’ve all bookmarked the sites he mentioned. And no more excuses for lay and lie.