GrammarPhile Blog

Sara Richmond

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Enter Our Tagline Contest

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jul 15, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Fancy yourself a genius creative? Love grammar? Want to make the world a better place? Angling for a short-lived Amazon shopping spree? Then you’re just who we’ve been looking for.

First, the completely made-up premise:

We made the mistake of hiring our cousin’s boyfriend’s dog’s best friend and self-proclaimedcopywriting and marketing guru” to come up with a list of possible new taglines for We lost confidence in him based on his subsequent two-word e-mail responses consisting of “Huh?” and “K.”

He finally submitted a snarky note three weeks after our deadline asserting that he was confident whatever he lacked in actual experience he’d made up for with excessiveness, along with the following long and atrocious list.

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Topics: contest

Style Guides: The Summer 2021 Fashionable Grammar Line

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 24, 2021 10:00:00 AM

Good business is the perpetual pursuit of consistency. Consistent quality, service, transparency, work culture, branding, and…grammar.

If you’ve worked in the corporate world for longer than three seconds (or with more than one other person for more than 17.358 days), you know consistency can seem like an unachievable dream, akin to walking on the moon in the year 1523.

Enter the venerable style guide. While it can’t make up for everything an erratic work culture lacks or propel you to the moon, we guarantee using one will preserve your sanity and make your life significantly better.* uses a variety of style guides to standardize our approach to your business documents. In this way, the rules that guide our proofreading are clear and dependable, for all types of submissions. Your expectations and our process are both defined and harmonious. Win-win.

There are three fundamental aspects to our style guide usage:

1. The Norm: Our baseline is the Chicago Manual of Style, 17th Edition. For every document submitted to us without an in-house style guide, we’ll apply this manual, by default. This practice ensures there are no distractions like wonky punctuation or a smattering of compound words without hyphens that will make readers grow extra eyebrow hair in consternation. So if clients specifically abhor this manual, either for its grammatical prescriptions or an aversion to its namesake city (probably because of the wind, which makes it difficult to read and write), a heads up is appreciated.

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Topics: Style Guides, Popular Style Guides

How to Correct Grammar Without Being a Jerk: A Genteel Person’s Guide

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jun 10, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Telling people that they’re wrong is one of the most exquisite joys life has to offer. The fly in this highbrow soup is determining how to do so without causing offense to your more grammar-bereft counterparts.

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Topics: correcting grammar, grammar errors

Easy Grammar Tips for B2B & B2C Writers - Part 2

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 27, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Looking for an easy, incredible return on investment for your business writing? You don’t need exhaustive grammar lessons or online courses to up your game and capture your audience. You need 5 minutes. We’ve gathered our top writing tips, based on the errors we most commonly correct for our clients.

First, check out Part 1, here.

  • Homographs and Easily Confused Words

Words that are spelled differently, sound similar/identical, and have different meanings are called homographs. We often see one used in place of another.

Examples include accept and except, insure and ensure, compliment and complement, piece and peace, principal and principle.

However, there are other words with such similar spellings that they’re easily confused, like contact and contract, form and from, casual and causal.

Speedy typing is usually the culprit. Keep an eye out for homographs that trip you up or commonly used words in your industry that, with a letter or two switched, take on a whole new meaning.

  • Which vs. That

Use “that” when what follows is necessary to understand the sentence/context. Use “which” when what follows could be removed without affecting the meaning of the sentence.

For example: The file that I need is saved on the cloud. The white paper, which I wrote in a hammock on the beach in about 25 minutes, failed to impress my boss.

See how you could take the parenthetical out of the second sentence and still have the same meaning (with fewer details)?

Need it: that. Could do without: which.

Note: This explanation applies to North American English; in the U.K., there is greater flexibility in these usages.

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Easy Grammar Tips for B2B & B2C Writers -  Part 1

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 13, 2021 7:30:00 AM

You need fast. You need easy. With your busy schedule, slowing down to learn the ins and outs of grammar minutiae isn’t just unappealing, it’s inconceivable. The five minutes it will take you to read this will save you exponentially more time in the future. These quick and simple grammar tips for business writing are based on some of the most common errors we correct:

  • Subject-Verb Agreement

For the most part, this is obvious. You don’t write: I are the CEO. The return on investment am bad.

But there’s the less obvious: Nouns that are plural in form but singular in meaning usually take singular verbs. Nouns that name a group of people or things take singular verbs.

For example: News travels fast; bad news travels faster. Economics is a fascinating subject, said no one, ever. The company is supplying ergonomic chairs made entirely of pillows. A flock of seagulls does all of our accounting.

  • Capitalization in Heads

If you’re unsure when/what to capitalize in titles and headings, here’s a summary. Capitalize everything but:

    • Articles (a, an, the)
    • Conjunctions (connecting words like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so)
    • Prepositions (words that often show direction, time, and location, such as of, with, to, on, before, into, over, about).

If an article, conjunction, or preposition begins or ends a title, capitalize it.

Some style guides, like AP, call for capitalizing conjunctions and prepositions of four or more letters, phrasal verbs (e.g., Turn Off, Look For) and verbs in an infinitive (e.g., To Be, To Analyze).

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Topics: proofreading for business, professional proofreading, grammar tips

Consistency: We Lied…It’s Terrible - Part 2

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 22, 2021 7:30:00 AM

If you hadn’t realized, the basis of this blog post is inconsistency in that we originally declared consistency a virtue and necessary component of excellent writing, and subsequently retracted that statement in the title, forward. Yes, we take it back…without remorse.

In earnest, we seek to gently qualify our original statement. Consistency is only helpful in certain contexts. It’s easy to rely on what’s natural while writing, but what’s natural is really another word for “bad habits.” Take, for example, this paragraph:

I ate my peanut butter sandwich slowly. I wiped my mouth with my napkin, paying extra attention to my upper cheeks. I always got peanut butter all over my face. I never knew why. I guessed it was because I had a tiny mouth and ate big sandwiches. I laughed at how much peanut butter was stuck to my cheeks.

See the issue? No, not the outrageous table manners or the rather silly topic. Every sentence begins with “I.” I mentally shouted that sentence as I wrote it. I can’t stand reading an entire paragraph of sentences that begin with the same word. I don’t care whether the first word is one of my favorites (“guffaw”) or most hated (“phlegm”) — it’s always terrible.

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Consistency: The Steaks Are High…and Delicious - Part 1

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 8, 2021 7:30:00 AM


I’d be lying if I said I didn’t admire the heck out of Mr. Gardner’s panache, provided he wasn’t completely delusional. Few of us have that sort of confidence in our writing, dancing, or ability to cook eggs over easy.

If you, unlike Mr. Gardner, stink at writing and you’re painfully aware of that fact, tighten your suspenders. I’m going to change your life with one word:


If you toppled backward out of your chair in surprise and disbelief, please collect yourself. Consistency will upgrade your writing like nothing else.

Here are eleven of virtually innumerable examples of how consistency makes a huge, positive difference:

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Let’s Not Scribble Over Seaman Ticks

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 11, 2021 7:30:00 AM

We were studying “stranger danger.” This is a difficult subject in any context, made only more so by language and cultural differences. I assumed my ESL students would struggle the most with the simplistic and potentially contradictory application for social interactions: Kind strangers = bad strangers. Mean strangers = bad strangers. Candy is good but don’t take the candy. Dogs are nice but don’t pet the puppy! Ride the bus home but don’t get in the white van with no windows! Run away, screaming!

“Ella, can you please read our story for today?” I asked. As the brightest six-year-old I’d ever taught, she had a strong chance of grasping the nuances of our text. A man, who was obviously pretending to have been in a car accident, was attempting to gain access to a young girl’s home, where she was alone.

“‘Help!’ the man yelled through the door. ‘I was in a bad car accident and I need to call an am-bu-lance.’ Ella sounded out the syllables of that sneaky borrowed word.

I nodded inwardly. We were on a Jack-and-Jill-down-the-hill roll. We might even have time to talk about some supplementary vocabulary words, like “paranoia.”

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Topics: English language, proofreading, clarity proofreading

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 2)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 25, 2021 7:30:00 AM

I assume when the author wrote the summary, he’d already finished the book content. Ripe with excitement, in a flurry of dopamine, he bashed out the synopsis on his keyboard, saved it with a flourish, then ate a donut to celebrate.

Despite this jovial possibility (or perhaps because of it), I cringed as I perused the outline on the back cover. There were twenty-five errors at first glance. I felt like I had happened upon a naked mannequin in a clothing store and wanted to fashion a quick cover-up for its embarrassing predicament.

Make no mistake, the author didn’t lack education or experience, as evidenced by his various academic degrees, business savvy, and multi-industry knowledge, including this self-published book on stock market investing. It was full of useful, well-founded information. The fly (flaw) in his soup:

He had not used an editor.

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Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting

A Question for the Ages: Style or Clarity (Part 1)

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 11, 2021 7:30:00 AM

Sometimes you sit in front of your stone tablet, chisel and hammer in hand, and the inspiration pterodactyl fails to pass by your cave. You hem and haw, you stew and soup, you moan and whine for the muse. Nothing happens. Deadlines are deadlines, Triassic Period or otherwise, so you knock out the report in spite of your mental doldrums. And by that, I mean you chisel a few hundred half-hearted words, read them, and fling the tablet out your window in disgust. Except, you have no window and tablets are expensive and single use, all of which effectively ruin your tantrum. It’s back to square one, also known as “writing hopscotch purgatory.”

Eventually, you sit back on your callused heels and wipe the dust off the last letter, sigh, eat a hearty meal of cactus and hardboiled ornithopod, and call it a night.

The next morning, you rejoice in the recollection: The blasted report is done, and based on your effort, it’s a ringer. You grab the tablet, bounce out to your favorite rock, and bask in the morning glow as you read through your masterpiece, expecting to be dazzled by your writing acumen and talent.

It’s gibberish.

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Topics: proofreading, clarity proofreading, style copyediting, copyediting

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