Grammar Tips from a Thirty-Eight-Year-Old with an English Degree

By Reuven Perlman for The New Yorker

hether you’re a professional wordsmith or are simply hoping to make your daily correspondence a bit more polished, these simple tips should help. Also, if you’re the former, I’d love to grab a coffee and pick your brain about career stuff.

Every Day vs. Everyday

Every day means “each day”; everyday is an adjective meaning commonplace or ordinary. Let’s look at some examples:

Every day, you wake up.

You wake up consumed by the never-ending to-do list of everyday tasks that get in the way of you finishing your poetry chapbook.

Their vs. They’re vs. There

Though homonyms, each of these words has its own definition. Let’s take a look at how to use them properly:

All parents want their children to be successful.

But they’re unable to see that, for my generation, getting a college degree isn’t a guarantee of long-term success.

There is no way I can just “go to medical school” at this point—I’m already knee-deep in debt and I know nothing about biology. It’s too late to start over.

The Serial Comma

Also known as the Oxford comma, this hotly debated punctuation mark can be used to clarify the logic of sentences that include a list of three or more things. Let’s take a look at an example:

My career as a freelance editor is being threatened by A.I.-powered browser plug-ins, a growing cultural preference for visual media over the written word and my diminishing sense of get-up-and-go.

Without the clarifying use of a serial comma, this sentence could be read to connote that the second and third items in the list are examples of the first, when, really, they are separate, powerful forces, each of which threatens my livelihood.

Read more here.

Help your child learn to read with Reading Kingdom. Sign up today for a free 30 day trial.