Grammar, Punctuation and Syntax Rules for Writing

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Whether you’re doing professional writing or just everyday emailing at work, you should ensure your writing is free of errors and looks and sounds intelligent. To ensure all your correspondence are grammatically correct and well-written, PaperDirect has provided grammar, punctuation and Syntax rules for professional and everyday writing. Let’s first take a look at the most common grammar mistakes that people make in everyday and professional writing.

Grammar Rules for Writing

Here, you will find a list of commonly misused words.

Who and whom: Use of “who” and “whom” depends on whether you are referring to the subject or object of a sentence. Substitute “who” for pronouns “he” and “she” and substitute “whom” for objective pronouns “him” or “her.”

Which and that: “That” is a restrictive pronoun and is used to refer to a specific noun whereas “which” allows qualifiers that may not be essential. Here are two examples of “which” and “that” being used correctly.

“I don’t eat fruits and vegetables that are not organic.”

“I recommend you start eating organic produce, which is available in most grocery stores.”

Lay and lie: You lay a pencil on the table but you lie down. To tell a falsity is to lie.

Continual and continuous: Continual means that something is always occurring but there are lapses; continuous means there are no lapses. Loud music from your neighbors would be continual; the second hand on the clock moves continuously.

May and might: May implies a possibility; might implies more uncertainty than might.

Father and further: Farther is used only when the distance can actually be measured; further is used for abstract lengths that can’t be measured. “How much farther must we drive to get to California?” “I refuse to explore this topic further as it’s very confusing.”

Since and because: Since only refers to time and because refers to causation: “Since I quit smoking, I feel much better.” “Because I quit smoking, I hope to enjoy a longer, healthier life.”

Disinterested and uninterested: These two words are not synonymous as most people think. Disinterested means you are impartial while uninterested means you don’t care about the topic at hand.

Bring and take: Bring is used for items brought toward you and take is used for items taken away from you.

Punctuation Rules for Writing

Here are some helpful punctuation rules that will help you with professional and everyday writing:

The comma splice is the most common mistake in all everyday and professional writing. A comma splice occurs when two sentences are joined with a comma but should be separated with a period. An example:

Let’s go to the store, we can pick up the kids on the way back.

It should be:

Let’s go to the store, and we can pick up the kids on the way back. Or,

Let’s go to the store. We can pick up the kids on the way back.

A run-on sentence is also a common punctuation mistake. This occurs when two sentences are joined with no punctuation like this:

Let’s go to the store we can pick up the kids on the way back.

A sentence fragment is another common punctuation mistake in everyday and professional writing. A sentence fragment is any non-complete sentence such as “On the way home” or “Before the game” or “If I wanted,” so these fragments must be joined with other words to make a complete sentence.

Syntax Rules for Writing

Here are some of the most common syntax mistakes people make in everyday and professional writing.

Lack of noun/pronoun agreement is the MOST COMMON mistake made in all types of writing. If you write the following, you have made this error:

If you are buying your professor a gift, you should get them something they can really use.

Professor is singular and you have the plural pronoun “them” and then “they” referring back to the “Professor.” This is an example of a noun and pronoun disagreeing. The preferred usage is

If you are buying your professor a gift, you should buy him something he can really use.

Ending sentences with a preposition is a common syntax error in all types of writing:


Who are you going with? Can we do that after? How are moving those documents around?

Corporations are not “they” but “it.”

“Coca-Cola has pulled all of its advertising” not “Coca-Cola has pulled all of their advertising.”

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