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Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation

Spelling, Grammar and Punctuation

Here’s some advice to keep in mind when you’re writing. Keep them in mind and they’ll eventually become habit!

Sentences

Always use a capital letter at the beginning of a sentence.

Sentences must end with punctuation. This is usually a full stop, question mark or exclamation point.

Some examples:

I took the dog for a walk.

Will you take the dog for a walk?

Okay, okay…I’m taking the dog for a walk!

Paragraphs

Paragraphs are ways to organise the ideas in your writing. There are two ways to indicate the beginning of a new paragraph.

Indents. An indent is three to five spaces at the beginning of a paragraph which indicates that you have started a new paragraph. This is often used in fictional writing. It is important to remember that you never indent the first paragraph

For example:

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere when thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And he put it to us in this way—marking the points with a lean forefinger—as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his fecundity.
‘You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception.’
‘Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?’ said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.
‘I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you. You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions.’

Line space. A line space can also be used to indicate the beginning of a paragraph. This is often used in online communication and business letters.

For example:

The Time Traveller (for so it will be convenient to speak of him) was expounding a recondite matter to us. His grey eyes shone and twinkled, and his usually pale face was flushed and animated. The fire burned brightly, and the soft radiance of the incandescent lights in the lilies of silver caught the bubbles that flashed and passed in our glasses. Our chairs, being his patents, embraced and caressed us rather than submitted to be sat upon, and there was that luxurious after-dinner atmosphere when thought roams gracefully free of the trammels of precision. And he put it to us in this way—marking the points with a lean forefinger—as we sat and lazily admired his earnestness over this new paradox (as we thought it) and his fecundity.

‘You must follow me carefully. I shall have to controvert one or two ideas that are almost universally accepted. The geometry, for instance, they taught you at school is founded on a misconception.’

‘Is not that rather a large thing to expect us to begin upon?’ said Filby, an argumentative person with red hair.

‘I do not mean to ask you to accept anything without reasonable ground for it. You will soon admit as much as I need from you. You know of course that a mathematical line, a line of thickness nil, has no real existence. They taught you that? Neither has a mathematical plane. These things are mere abstractions

Apostrophes

Apostrophes are used to contract words and show possession.

Contraction

don’t = do not

can’t = cannot

they’re = they are

you’re = you are

Possession

John’s pencil case.

That’s James’ problem.

Notice, when a word ends in ‘s’, you can simply put the apostrophe at the end of the word to show possession.

Never use an apostrophe to show there is more than one of something. For example, you would write bananas not banana’s.

Never use an apostrophe when writing about a decade.

Correct: It was the 1960s.

Incorrect: It was the 1960’s.

Dialogue

Follow these steps when formatting your dialogue:

  • Always use quotation marks around what is actually spoken.
  • Begin a new paragraph for a new speaker.
  • Begin each sentence with a capital letter.
  • Each line of dialogue should end with a punctuation mark INSIDE the quotation marks. Here are some examples:
  • “Watch out for the zebras, they bite!”
  • “Did you bring your zebra to school?” he asked.
  • “I think I’ve left my zebra in the parking lot,” he said.
  • When a new sentence follows, use a full stop. For example: “There are not supposed to be any zebras on the train,” said the conductor. “You will have to leave immediately.”
  • If the sentence continues, you can also use a comma. For example: “There are not supposed to be any zebras on the train,” said the conductor, “you will have to leave immediately.”

Ellipsis

An ellipsis is used to indicate a pause or trailing off in writing. It consists of three dots, no more…

Brackets

Brackets should be used sparingly. They are usually used in a sentence to mention something that’s an aside to what you’re actually writing about.

Titles

In the titles of books, television programs, films and other texts the important words should be capitalised.

Correct: Lord of the Rings
Incorrect: Lord Of The Rings

If you are word-processing the title of something, put it in italics. If you are handwriting the title of something, put it in inverted commas

Word Processed: Lord of the Rings
Hand-written: ‘Lord of the Rings’

Acronyms

If you are writing acronyms, many leading style guides suggest that you don’t use full stops. For example, it would be written TV, not T.V.. This is a modern way of punctuating acronyms.

Ampersands

The ampersand is a symbol for ‘and’. Generally, it should only be used in very casual writing. You might use it for a note left on the refrigerator but you’d never use it in an essay, for example.

Commonly confused words

To.

e.g. I went to the school.

Too.

e.g. He ate too much.

e.g. Are you coming, too?

Two

e.g Only two people didn’t finish the assignment.

Through.

e.g. We went through the doorway.

Threw.

e.g. He threw the ball.

Their. Indicates possession.

Their house was neat and tidy

There. Used to indicate the location or existence of something.

e.g. “Let’s go over there!”

They’re. They are.

They’re coming to the party.

IM and text speak

Never use smilies – 🙂 🙁 😛 – in a formal piece of writing. Similarly, don’t use IM abbreviations like ur and roflmao.