GrammarPhile Blog

Phil Jamieson

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Exploring the Structure of the Perfect Paragraph

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 21, 2019 7:29:20 AM

Take a moment to consider what you learned about paragraph construction from your writing and composition course work in grade school.

Did you have to write standalone paragraphs with specific formulas and requirements about some sort of topic that you thought was mundane or boring? Were you able to write about your opinions and form arguments in standalone paragraphs? Or were you required to write paragraphs about more objective information that was provided to you beforehand? And did what you learn about writing paragraphs in high school, college, or the workplace change how you understand paragraph construction?

Now, do you think that there is a “perfect paragraph” formula? And do you think there is a one-size-fits-all paragraph structure for us all to follow?

How we construct paragraphs has a lot to do with how and what we were taught in the past, as well as what we read, write, or edit on a regular basis. Keep reading to see if what you understand about constructing paragraphs coincides with your training, learning experiences, and everyday reading, writing, or editing experiences.

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Topics: paragraph, paragraph construction

What Makes a Writer "Great"?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Mar 8, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Some people might argue that a “great” writer is someone who sells a lot of books or writes a lot of articles that are published in renowned magazines and publications. Or perhaps a great writer is someone who has a prominent and well-known social media account, or someone who writes about controversial topics and gets a lot of media attention, or someone whose writing is dubbed “classic” in the current literary canon.

You get the picture being painted here. There are a lot of ways one could identify or classify a “great” writer. But are those ways fool-proof, logical, or all-encompassing? It does seem each writer has his or her own specialty and strengths. So, do “great” writers have similar qualities or characteristics?

When you’re asked to provide an example of someone who is a great writer, who do you think of immediately? J. K. Rowling? Tom Clancy? Stephen King? Shakespeare? Robert Frost? Margaret Atwood? George Orwell? Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings? Ayn Rand? Mark Twain? Jack Kerouac? And if you were asked what you think makes him or her “great,” how would you respond?

Writers who are “great,” or at the very least are more widely known, do seem to have certain common characteristics, as listed below. Do you agree?

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Topics: writers

10 Best Practices for Writing and Editing Technical Documents

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Feb 14, 2019 7:00:00 AM

As technology and science become more pervasive and important in our everyday lives, expertly edited technical documents will become more and more in demand. They’re important to businesses, organizations, and consumers alike.

Whether you’re a novice or you’ve written and edited technical documents for decades, here are 10 best practices you’ll want to keep in mind.

1. Know Your Audience and Write Exclusively for Them and to Them

When writing or editing technical documents, it’s essential that you first understand your target audiences and their backgrounds and preferences, and that you conduct research and collect data about them.

For example, some things you’ll want to consider:

  • whether your document is aimed at marketers who are new to your organization
  • whether you’re writing a user manual for common consumers with little to no experience with your technology platform
  • whether you’re writing a manual for experienced coders who already use your technology platform on a deeper level

Essentially, it’s imperative that you understand your audiences’ demographic information and backgrounds, and that you cater your technical content to suit their needs and preferences. Otherwise, it will be impossible or challenging for them to understand, and it will not end up being helpful.

Also, be sure to use “you” and speak to your audience directly in your technical documents and provide plain and simple actions for them to take. Basically, remember to always provide your audience with helpful information in a way that’s easy for them to follow.

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Topics: technical writing, technical editing

Navigating the Different Types of Compounds

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Jan 18, 2019 7:30:00 AM

Writers use compound words and sentences to add a little more color to their writing. But they can be tricky to write correctly, even for those who review written materials every day and stay up to date on new dictionary entries and yearly amendments to the more popular style guides.

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Topics: compound words, compound sentences, compound nouns, compound verbs, compound modifiers

Will Software Replace Human Writers?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Dec 14, 2018 10:49:11 AM

Many professionals and job seekers think that technology enhanced with artificial intelligence (AI) will automate most (if not all) occupations within the next decade or so, while others aren’t yet convinced.

Some professionals believe that grammar-checking software, for instance, is the first step to replacing human writers and editors. And then there are services that will auto-write “textual content” for you.

But what do you think? Do you think that robots or software enhanced with AI will be able to completely replace human writers, editors, and proofreaders in the near or distant future? Keep reading to learn more.

How Grammar-Checking Software Works

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Topics: grammar checker, artificial intelligence

Advanced Syntax and Grammar Quiz

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 30, 2018 8:03:59 AM

Do you know how to properly place and arrange words in a phrase, clause, or sentence—for every sentence you write? Or do you sometimes wonder when a comma is needed and where to place it in a sentence? Or whether you placed a modifier or an article in the right place?

Take this advanced syntax and grammar quiz to test your knowledge, and to see what you know. And then share your scores with us in the comments below. Also, be sure to share this quiz with other grammar aficionados, so they can test their grammar knowledge. Good luck!

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Topics: grammar quiz, grammar errors

8 Tips for Understanding, Learning, and Teaching Grammar Concepts

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Nov 1, 2018 7:30:00 AM

One poll highlighted by the Huffington Post revealed that most people are okay with using improper grammar in texts and emails. And then there are those of us who cringe every time a word is misspelled, a pronoun is misused, or an article or period is missing from a sentence … yes, even in text messages.

While we could blame technology for the downward spiral of proper grammar usage in everyday writing and communication, one could also argue that a lot of improper grammar usage boils down to how we understand, learn, and teach core grammar concepts (also known as the dumbing down of our culture).  

Here are eight tips and reminders for understanding, learning, and teaching grammar concepts. Think of this blog post as your helpful cheat sheet when you’re trying to figure out a grammar problem. (Keep in mind, though, this is not an exhaustive list of every grammar rule or technique out there.)

1. Remember the Eight Parts of Speech

Every real word is a “part of speech.” The function a word serves in a sentence is what makes it whatever part of speech it is. And it is possible for one word to serve as more than one part of speech even in one sentence.

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Topics: grammar, grammar errors, grammar rules

QUIZ: Can You Spot All the Grammar Mistakes?

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 19, 2018 7:30:00 AM

Do you consider yourself a grammar aficionado, a.k.a. a grammar geek?

Do you know how to avoid common grammar mistakes, and can you easily spot them when they’re in a sentence?

Do you know how to properly use hyphens, dashes, and commas?

Take this quiz. See if you can correctly identify all the grammar mistakes, and then share your results with us and others (if you’re brave). And be sure to share this quiz with others too.

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Topics: quiz, grammar quiz, punctuation quiz

What You Need to Know About Comma Usage

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Oct 4, 2018 7:30:00 AM

Has anyone ever told you that you should insert a comma into a sentence every time you take a breath as you read the sentence aloud? Most of us probably have. But that doesn’t mean it’s a grammar rule that should be widely accepted or slavishly followed.  

Below you’ll find more practical and grammatically validated information about comma usage.  

Commas and Conjunctions

Commas should always be used when you’re using coordinating conjunctions to join two independent clauses in a sentence. FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) is a helpful mnemonic device for remembering common coordinating conjunctions. Those words function as connectors in a sentence.

Example: He wanted to go to the movies, but I wanted to go out to dinner.

Note: Be aware of FANBOYS imposters that are commonly used in sentences, such as “however,” “therefore,” “moreover,” etc. Those words are conjunctive adverbs. Oftentimes when they’re used in between two independent clauses in a sentence, they can be removed to form two complete sentences instead. For example, consider this sentence: “The moon was bright, however, the forest still remained dark.” It can be changed to read: “The moon was bright. The forest still remained dark.”

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Topics: Oxford comma, Comma

Quiz: Match Each Famous Author to His or Her Advice About Writing

Posted by Phil Jamieson   Sep 20, 2018 7:30:00 AM

What words of inspiration or truth have encouraged you to become a better writer over the years, or have encouraged you to begin writing at all? What keeps you motivated and focused while you write? Have you acquired or heeded any advice about writing from some of the world’s greatest authors? And if so, from whom?

Take our quiz to see if you can match each piece of advice about writing with its famous author. And share what your favorite advice about writing is in the comments below.

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Topics: quiz

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