The Oxford CommaThe most famous grammatical error is also the most controversial. Making headlines after a recent court case based its argument on the usage of the Oxford Comma, it has become the go-to subject for people to discuss when it comes to common grammatical errors. With all the controversy surrounding it, you might be wondering what is the Oxford Comma, and what makes it so special? The Oxford Comma is the final comma used in a list of things. For example: “I would like to invite Jimmy, Laura, Paul, and Andrew.” Without the final comma before “and” the list implies that Paul and Andrew are linked together, whereas with the Oxford Comma, you can clearly understand that Paul and Andrew are separate. This comma is used for clarity, and without it sentences that include lists will appear less clear and less professional.
Preposition Ending Sentences“Where are you at?” This is a common mistake mostly because it isn’t always a mistake. Colloquially, we do this all the time especially in conversation and informal writing. However, from a technical perspective, it is improper grammar, and could lead your audience to perceive your organization as inexperienced and less knowledgeable. In proper written English, sentences should never end with a preposition. Prepositions indicate location and link thoughts. You cannot simply be under; you have to be under something.
Colons and SemicolonsA colon serves the purpose of connecting an incomplete thought or a clause to a complete sentence. Think of it as the next step of disconnection after a comma. I provided you with an example of the use of a colon in the first section above when talking about the Oxford Comma. Here is another example: colons can be used when providing a list of items, between two independent clauses when the second illustrates the first, and for emphasis. Of course, there are several non-grammatical uses of the colon (in addition to a more recent trend of using it to make smiley-faces):
- Time—to separate hours from minutes (12:30 p.m.)
- Ratios—to express a ratio of two numbers (1:3 ratio of vinegar to water)
- Biblical references—to separate chapter from verse (Genesis 1:31)
- Citations—to separate the volume from page numbers (4:86-89)
- Correspondence—after the salutation, a “cc” notation, or a “PS”
Research encompasses many activities including: design, development, and implementation of the research study; data collection, analysis, and synthesis; and report writing and presentation.
Using the Proper WordThere are several words that sound very similar and are commonly switched by accident. Words to look out for include:
- then and than
- its and it’s
- affect and effect
- there, their and they’re
- your and you’re.