Since the English grammar is one of the hardest things for people to remember when writing, these free, printable cheat sheets can help keep your grammar skills up-to-date.
There’s nothing wrong with a little grammar goof here or there. But if all your notes are full of mistakes, it makes you sound less professional. That’s why we’ve rounded up this handy list. Use it as a cheat sheet the next time you need to write a thank-you note, a letter or just about anything else:
Stationary vs. Stationery – Stationary means unmoving. This word is used to describe something else. “The car was stationary”, i.e., it was parked.
Stationery is paper you use for correspondence. “My son’s stationery has cars on it.”
Than vs. Then – Than is used when you’re comparing things. “My grammar is better than yours.”
Then means “at that time” or “next.” “I sent a letter, then realized I had forgotten to hit spell check.”
Your vs. You’re – Your means something that belongs to you. “Your cake is gone.”
You’re means “you are.” “You’re going to have to go buy another cake.”
There vs. Their vs. They’re – There is a location. “The cake is over there.”
Their means belonging to more than one person. “Their cake is almost gone.”
They’re means “they are.” “They’re standing by the empty cake platter.”
Accept vs. Except – Accept means you take something. “I am happy to accept your gift.”
Except means you exclude something. “I love everything about this gift except the color.”
Alot – What you’re really trying to say: a lot
Alot is not a word, and allot means to distribute. If you’re trying to say there is an abundance of something, don’t forget the space.
Wierd – What you’re really trying to say: weird
What they should have been telling us in grade school is “I before E, except after C, or W, or in other obscure circumstances that will make you want to throw your dictionary out the window.” (Foreign and height are some other exceptions to the usual rhyme.)
Irregardless – What you’re really trying to say: regardless
Regardless means “without care,” so that alone gets across your message. Irregardless is not a word, but if it were, it would mean “not without care” – probably not what you are trying to say.
Breathe – What you may be trying to say: breath
If you’re looking for the word that rhymes with Beth, skip the extra E at the end. If you’re talking about the action of taking in air, which rhymes with seethe, you say breathe.
I could care less – If you could care less, that means you care at least a little now. What you’re probably trying to say is, “I couldn’t care less,” meaning you already care so little it would be impossible to care less.
Mischievious – What you’re really trying to say: mischievous
This is a three-syllable word that many people add a fourth syllable to.
Calender – What you’re really trying to say: calendar
Even though most people say “cal-en-der,” the word actually ends with “dar.”
It’s vs. Its – This one is lesser known, but still important. It also goes against the usual rule of “possessives need an apostrophe + s” so it’s a little bit extra confusing.
“It’s” should be used like:
- “It’s not that bad.” (i.e. “It is not that bad.”)
Whereas “its” is possessive:
- “He pet the dog on its head.”
No one likes reading one big monster paragraph. It’s actually difficult and it’s extremely boring. Writing broken up into paragraphs flows better.
Each new narrative topic should also start a new paragraph. When you’re writing about what your character is thinking, and then about the scenery, and then about what the other character does, those should all be separate paragraphs. As a rule, every paragraph should contain at least one summarizing statement. All the other sentences should revolve around that statement.
Punctuation and Quotations – This one can be open to some debate, but generally these guidelines are good to follow.
First of all, you’ll note there are double quotations: “these” as well as single quotations: ‘these.’ Generally, if you have no quotations at all, you’ll first go with double quotes. Single quotes are used inside a segment that’s already been quoted, to signify when there’s a quote within a quote, i.e.:
- “So then I’m like, ‘are you serious?!’ and she’s all, ‘yeah, totally!’”
As for punctuation, always keep it inside of double quotes, and keep it with the sentence in single quotes if it’s part of the actual sentence. Unless it’s a comma or period, in which case, it always goes inside every quote, double or single.
“This is the place,” he said.
“‘This is the place,’ he said to me.”
“‘This is the place!’ he said to me.”
Exclamation points and question marks, however, should only be included inside the single quotes if they were actually used in the original quote.
- “Can you believe he said, ‘you’re full of it’?!”
Note that when ‘he’ said “you’re full of it,” he wouldn’t have said it in question form–the question mark comes from the incredulity of the present speaker.
How to Properly Use a Semicolon – Semicolons are tricky things. They’re not quite periods, not quite commas, but something in between. You should not overuse semicolons, but they can be useful now and then to give a sentence that certain ‘punch.’ Basically, use a semicolon where a period would do, but where the two sentences you’re linking are closely related:
- “When the shot went off, he looked startled; she gasped.”
- “Night had fallen early; already, owls had begun to swoop through the skies in search of food.”
But remember, don’t overdo it!