How can I improve my professional grammar?
Here are a few basic rules of grammar and simple language tips that can help you make a big impression with your company emails, proposals, and other professional documents —without spending hours editing your work.
- Use the active voice
One of the quickest and easiest ways to improve your writing and make it concise and easier to read is to make sure you’re using active voice as much as possible. Active voice is when the subject of the sentence is doing the verb, rather than the verb being done to the subject. For example, “I am writing a blog post” is in active voice, while “A blog post is being written by me” is in the passive voice.
- Don’t use filler words
Filler words are empty phrases that add no meaning to your sentence. They only serve to make your writing longer and more challenging to read. Some examples of filler words include “Very,” “Really,” “In order to,” and “Due to the fact that,”. Whenever possible, try to remove these words from your writing altogether.
- Use strong verbs
Strong verbs convey meaning more effectively than weak ones and can help shorten your sentence without sacrificing clarity. For example, “She completed the project on time” sounds better than “She finished the project on time.” Not sure which verb to use? A quick Google search can help point you in the right direction.
- Prioritise clarity over cleverness
It’s tempting to try to impress your readers with big words and long sentences—but resist the urge! In most cases, simpler is better when it comes to grammar and punctuation. When in doubt, err on the side of caution; choosing clarity over cleverness every time will serve you well as a small business owner or entrepreneur.
- Avoid clichés in your language
Clichés are overused and often meaningless phrases that can make your writing seem trite. For instance, instead of writing “It’s raining cats and dogs out there,” try “It’s pouring outside.”
- Pay attention to homophones
Homophones are words that sound alike but have different meanings, even if they’re spelt differently. Because they sound alike, homophones are often used interchangeably in speech, which can lead to writing errors. For example, you might write “there coming over for tea” when you mean “they’re coming over for tea.” To avoid this mistake, slow down and think about which spelling of the word makes sense in context before you commit it to paper (or screen) – or run it through your grammar and spell-check app!
- Use the correct conjugation of verbs
Another common mistake people make with verbs is using incorrect conjugation. This usually happens with irregular verbs, which don’t follow the standard rules for verb conjugation. For example, the verb “to be” is conjugated as “I am,” “you are,” “he/she/it is,” etc., but the verb “to have” is conjugated as “I have,” “you have,” “he/she/it has, “….. If you’re not sure which conjugation of a verb to use, consult a dictionary or grammar book (or just do a quick Google search).
- Use parallel construction
Parallel construction is a way of making your writing easier to understand and ensuring that it is structurally and grammatically correct. It uses the same pattern of words to show that two or more words or ideas are of equal importance. This can be done by matching words or phrases in structure and tense.
For example, instead of “Every morning, we make our bed, eating breakfast and feed the dog. (“Eating” does not match “make” or “feed” in structure.) Write “Every morning, we make our bed, eat breakfast and feed the dog.” Or instead of “I will not sing a song, nor dance. (the writer used “will” with “not,” so also needs to use “will” with nor.) It should be “I will not sing a song, nor will I dance.”
- Make sure your verbs agree with your subjects
This seems like a no-brainer, but it’s actually a common mistake people make. Remember: a singular subject takes a singular verb (e.g., “she writes”), while a plural subject takes a plural verb (e.g., “they write”). Pro tip: if you can replace the subject of your sentence with the word “they,” then you’ll know to use a plural verb.
- Pay attention to detail with your English grammar and proofread your work!
Misspelt words and typos can make you look sloppy and unprofessional—so take the time to do a comprehensive proofread of your work before hitting “send.” If you’re not confident in your ability to catch every error yourself, ask a colleague or friend to read over your article or document for you. There are also some great apps that act like an editor, for example, Grammarly, which can run a quick check for you to pick up any possible mistakes.
Good grammar skills are essential for effective communication with your reader. With these simple tips in mind, you’ll be well on your way to writing great business documents that are error-free—without hours of editing. Just remember: when in doubt, choose clarity over cleverness every time!