4 Grammar Lessons That Need to be Hammered In

I think we've done the whole "its vs. it's" lesson to death, yet there're other errors done too often.

I'm not a Grammar Nazi (although I'm a...I'll get to it later), but I think learning about grammar is worth it. If we're publishing traditional, it saves our editors some headaches, and if we're going self pub, it'll make our pages more high quality.

So let's dig into the grab bag and implant a few rules to apply to our writing--although you don't have to, if you don't feel like learning grammar today, even if it's to your best interest.

Let's go from most covered to least cover, okay?

Affect vs. Effect

I see too many people mess this one up, even though this lesson is often taught. It's a peeve of mine, since the difference is so clear to me, yet it isn't to some other people.

Affect is a verb. Effect is a noun. 

There's a difference between: "I got affected by my dog's rabies" and "My dog's rabies had a disastrous effect on my behavior".

Remember that, and you won't be mixing these up.

Take note though that affect is occasionally used as a noun when used as a synonym for "emotion" ("a sad affect overtook his face"), but this is rarely done. Just so you know how complicated English is as an language.


This mix-up pops up enough at TV Trope's Writer's Block forum to rouse an user to create a thread dedicated to this matter. Probably because I was guilty of messing up without realizing it.

It's "I love pie," he said, not "I love pie," He said. Also, it's "Do you love pie also?" he asked, not "Do you love pie also?" He asked.

If you see anyone else breaking this rule, stop the epidemic.

Parenthesis and periods

This is actually a lessons I looked up for the sake of this post, because I have been so inconsistent with this throughout all of 2012. Time to set it straight.

The periods go outside of the parenthesis unless an entire sentence is within the parenthesis.

So it's "I love pie (with rabied dog cooked into it)." and "I love pie. (Rabied dogs cooked into it make it so much better.)"

Hyphenated compound adjectives

Yep, I'm a Hyphen Nazi.

This is one of the more obscure and complicated grammar conventions, yet it's one of those eye-soring oopies that bothers me, even if it's right, because so many times it's done wrong through even the best edited self pubs. Those oopies can be so eye soring.

"Eye-soring" is a hyphened compound adjective. It can also be written as "eye soring", but it depends on the context.

A compound adjective is hyphenated if placed before the noun it modifies and a compound adjective is unhyphenated and separate if placed after the noun it modifies. 

Another example is "The three-year-old child cried out" and "The child we found crying was three years old". The whole year-old instance is a common situation where you need to keep this grammar rule in mind.

Except when it has an adverb, as demonstrated in this article's search description. This is because adverbs modify verbs and adjectives, so when it comes to sentence structure, they don't skip over to the noun, instead modifying the nearest verb and adjective. Adjectives can't modify adjectives unless they're hyphenated together.

Grammar is fun, right?

Also, consult a style manual when it comes to other prefixes.

Generally, if it's an unusual compound adjective that ends irregularly, or with "-ed" or "-ing" (beer-battered, milk-stained), remember when to use hyphens or keep the two words separate.

By the way, don't ask me about hyphenated nouns like ebook or e-book. I prefer to keep such cases as one word unhyphenated or as two words, but that's only personal preference, since unnecessary hyphens are sort of a pain.

Is that all?

Now, I give you permission to be a Grammar Nazi and either pick apart this post, or vent your other grammar peeves.

YOUR TURN: What are your grammar peeves?