Grammar Sticklers: What You Do Need to Worry About

My next blog will focus on grammar rules that have become more relaxed over the years but this blog lists a few rules of grammar that you break at peril. What is the peril? Misunderstandings, confusion, and an appearance of sloppiness that customers may feel indicates your overall quality of work.

Parallel construction is important. Parallel construction straightens out sentences like: “We create beautiful cabinets and installation.” Parallel construction demands two verbs, not a verb and a noun, on either side of the “and”: “We create beautiful cabinets and install them.” As a general rule, if your sentence contains an “and,” “but,” “or,” “nor,” or “yet,” you need parallel construction. Items on lists should also be parallel; for example, each item might begin with a verb rather than a mixture of nouns, verbs, prepositions, and articles.

Another important grammar rule is that of agreement between subject and verb: a plural subject (companies) takes a plural verb (succeed) and a singular subject (the company) takes a singular verb (succeeds). Electronic grammar checkers should never ever be trusted on issues of verb agreement. In fact, these days, whenever I see a disagreement between subject and verb, I can bet that an electronic grammar checker is to blame.

Although other grammar rules are important, the last item I’ll address is one I see constantly: overcapitalization. While acronyms are capitalized, the words they stand for are usually not capitalized. For example, HMI is an acronym for the generic term human/machine interface. There is no need to capital “human” or “machine” or “interface.” In fact, capitals should only be used for proper nouns: the names of specific people, companies, countries, books, boats, laws, religions, etc.

The use of capitals for emphasis is a lost cause from the start. If you capitalize everything, then nothing is important. Save capitals for the name of your company and its products. Those are the words you want readers to remember.

If concerns about grammar make writing stressful for you, please contact me. I’ll be glad to help.