The Ultimate Grammar Cheat Sheet for Writers (Infographic)

by Brendan Brown | March 4, 2021, 5:52 am

English is the world’s international language, but that doesn’t mean it’s the world’s easiest language. It’s full of grammar oddities, confusing vocabulary and hard-to-master conventions.

There are nearly twice the number of people speaking English as a second language as there are native speakers, and the ability to speak and write English has become an essential skill for anyone serious about an international career. Those whose English is flawless will impress easily, and those who make errors risk coming across as careless.

It pays to master English grammar, even if you’re a native English speaker. All it takes is a little attention to detail, and the ability to remember how to get around a few of the language’s quirks.

If you want to improve your English, focus on:

  • Banishing grammar mistakes

Make sure you know when to use a comma, what an apostrophe’s for and how to make your writing simple and clear.

  • Swotting up on confusing words

English includes plenty of words that have similar spellings, but different meanings, such as affect and effect. It’s difficult to know which to use in any given sentence, so spend some time learning some common problem words.

  • Widening your vocabulary

It’s easy to keep on using the same few words you’re comfortable with, but you’ll communicate far better if you take advantage of the rich variety of the English language.

  • Proofreading

Everyone makes mistakes, no matter how fluent they are. The only way to make sure you don’t, is to proofread your work (and then proofread it again).

Check out our infographic below for more detailed tips on how to improve your English.

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When you have a story to tell, and you need to express it in the best way, the last thing you want is to allow grammar errors to get in the way of your writing.

The Expert Editor’s ultimate grammar cheat sheet will help you navigate through common grammar mistakes. From dangling modifiers to the dreadful vague pronoun references that can have readers wanting to strangle you, rest assured that this delightfully portable grammar sheet will have you covered.

Grammar Errors

Bad grammar makes you look unprofessional. Avoid the most grammar mistakes by being vigilant of these errors:

When a word or phrase modifies a word, but it is not clear which particular word is being modified, or whether there is such a word being modified at all, then you have a dangling modifier on your hands. Because the modifier does not have a specified target, it is “dangling”.

Comma splices are easy to fix. When you have two independent clauses and you find a comma in between them, simply select a semi-colon or a period instead. Done.

Sentence fragments are a bunch of words huddled together to impersonate a sentence, but a sentence they do not make. A sentence requires at least one independent clause. An independent clause is a clause which contains both a subject and a verb, and is independent in that it can function on its own.

Get rid of unnecessary commas because they can interrupt the flow of your sentence if they are simply littered about mindlessly.

Make sure that you are clear on which subject your pronoun is referring to. When a pronoun can refer to more than one subject, or the subject is only implied, then you have yourself a vague pronoun reference. If there is a chance that you can be misunderstood, then change this!

Apostrophes are there for contractions. “It’s” is the contracted equivalent of “it is”, while “its” is a possessive pronoun.

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Confusing Words Often Misused

Alot is not a word. Do not put “alot” when you mean “a lot”, which is two words.

Allot is a word that means “to approportion something to someone as a share or task”.

Less vs. Fewer

“Fewer” is used for objects that can be clearly quantified, such as apples and buttons.

“Less” is used for objects that cannot be quantified, such as less rice.

Much vs. Many

Use “much” when referring to collective or singular nouns. Use “many” when referring to plural nouns.

Thanks to the Oxford Dictionary here are some more confusing words and their respective definitions. Enjoy!

adverse: unfavourable, harmful

averse: strongly disliking; opposed

all together: all in one place, all at once

altogether: completely; on the whole

appraise: to assess

apprise: to inform someone

born: having started life

borne: carried

censure: to criticize strongly

censor: to ban parts of a book or film; a person who does this

complacent: smug and self-satisfied

complaisant: willing to please

disinterested: impartial

uninterested: not interested

flaunt: to display ostentatiously

flout: to disregard a rule

loath: reluctant, unwilling

loathe: to hate

practice: the use of an idea or method; the work or business of a doctor, dentist, etc.

practise: to do something repeatedly to gain skill; to do something regularly

prescribe: to authorize use of medicine; to order authoritatively

proscribe: to officially forbid something

principal: most important; the head of a school

principle: a fundamental rule or belief

wreath: a ring-shaped arrangement of flowers, etc.

wreathe: to surround or encircle

When describing the top 5 emotions-happy, sad, angry, confused, surprised-do not simply state the emotion. You can show what the character is going through, implicitly stating the emotion through a detailed description of the character’s thoughts, feelings, and related actions. Or, you can use alternative words to describe these emotions. Instead of saying “happy”, you can write “elated”. Instead of “surprised”, you can use the word “awestruck”.

Proofreading Tips

Proofreading is the examination of the text to look for and correct spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and consistency in style. While online grammar checkers like Grammarly are usually be good at detecting spelling errors, these tools cannot detect incorrect word usage and style.

What do you think of Grammarly? Is it a useful tool? Can it replace a human proofreader? Check out my comprehensive Grammarly review to learn more.

It helps to gain some distance from the text because this brings more clarity to your proofreading. Perhaps you can set the document aside, anywhere from 15 minutes to a week.

It is best to proofread from a hardcopy, and not from a computer screen. Reading the text out loud is helpful because this will test out the flow of the words that you will not be able to hear when you read silently to yourself. If you are able to reach out to a qualified person to proofread your work, you should do so.

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