GrammarPhile Blog

Sara Richmond

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Which vs. That: The Rules

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 19, 2023 10:00:00 AM

“Which” and “that” are sneaky little fellows. They’re both used to refer to places, things, and animals, but they’re not interchangeable. In fact, most people use them incorrectly without even realizing it.

That is a big bummer, which I now intend to remedy.

This three-minute grammar lesson will solve the puzzle of “which” versus “that” for good.

When to Use That

“That” is used to introduce (or begin) essential clauses.

After reading that sentence, you’re probably sad, because “essential clauses” sounds like something to do with Christmas presents, but you’re pretty sure it doesn’t since this is a grammar blog. So you’re stuck even deeper in the mud of ignorance. Without presents.

In that case, let me pull you out and give you the gift of knowledge.

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Topics: this versus that

6 Common Punctuation Mistakes That Drive Us Crazy

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 5, 2023 8:00:00 AM

Everyone everywhere is talking about goals and expectations for the new year. We’re all being bombarded online with inspirational fluff and hustle culture exhortations and lists of predictions for every industry and every aspect of life.

Well, we like to stand out. Not just for the quality of our proofreading and copyediting work, but for our unique approach to a new year. Today, instead of being fueled by resolutions with a half-life of 17 seconds or lofty aspirations for the perfect physique, how about being driven by rage? Good old-fashioned disgust centered around punctuation mistakes that make you want to throw a baby tantrum and toss dirty dishes out the kitchen window. We’ll go first.

In no particular order, here are six common punctuation mistakes that drive us crazy:

1. The “You don’t need an apostrophe, for the love!” apostrophe, also known as the grocer’s apostrophe, also known as the “Am I using a plural word? Then I’ll slap an apostrophe on to cover all my bases” apostrophe. For example:

-Avocado’s on sale! Buy two for the price of a little less than two.
-His coin’s are jingling like tiny flat bells.
-The Smythe’s live here.
-I know so many teachers’ who are sad winter break is over.

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Topics: punctuation, apostrophes

Why We’re Largely Ignoring AI-Generated Writing

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 22, 2022 10:15:00 AM


If you haven’t heard the news that AI is positioned to kick all human writers to the curb after scoffing at their turtle-like slowness, then you may be living under a rock (and for that, we salute you).

Every Tom, Mick, and Sherry is writing an opinion piece, post, or pop song about the recently released ChatGPT, a chatbot with the tagline “Optimizing Language Models for Dialogue.” It claims to be able to “answer follow-up questions, admit its mistakes, challenge incorrect premises, and reject inappropriate requests.”

It’s certainly not the first AI-writing generator, and it won’t be the last. So what’s different? Why the hoopla and apocalyptic predictions?

In a sentence: Because compared to many of its predecessors and peers, ChatGPT produces intelligible, lightning-fast writing, even based on loose prompts. Poor human writing (the kind content mills produce) doesn’t stand a chance.

That’s exactly why we’re not concerned about AI-writing or writers’ jobs (or ours). We deal in quality—the intuitive, agile, creative kind that machines will never be able to fully emulate.

When it comes down to it, we can’t even agree with the delivery promise of AI-writing: quick, adaptable, readable writing. It’s like giving a candle as a housewarming gift to an intimate old friend. It checks the box, but there’s no rapport, no true depth, and no personalization. (This analogy doesn’t even tackle the moral ambiguity of how AI-generated copy sources material without accreditation.)

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Topics: artificial intelligence, AI

5 Reasons Grammar Is Important

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 8, 2022 10:29:00 AM

If you search for “why is grammar important,” Google returns 854,000,000 results.

In other words, people aren’t convinced grammar matters. Sometimes that’s because grammar was taught to them in a tedious, soul-sucking way (endless sentence diagrams, anyone?). Sometimes they feel overwhelmed by all the “rules,” so they give up. Sometimes they just don’t see the point. Does good grammar really matter?

We think so. We’ve been grammar experts for more than 20 years, and our team’s collective experience totals in the hundreds of years. But we’ll try to lay aside our huge bias and give you a fair analysis.

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Topics: grammar

10 Best Grammar Books to Become a Better Writer, Teacher, or Speaker

Posted by Sara Richmond   Nov 10, 2022 10:00:00 AM

PRN_Blogpost_11102022We’ve compiled a list of the most helpful, entertaining, and dependable grammar books, according to our fantastic proofreading team at, Inc. These titles run the gamut for audiences: from newbies to advanced-degreed writers, from native speakers to ESL learners, from people who write for a living to people who speak for a living, from people who hate grammar to grammarians who would have tea with a single semicolon for company.

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Topics: grammar tips

Proofreading Nightmares

Posted by Sara Richmond   Oct 27, 2022 10:30:00 AM

10 Cringeworthy Grammar Fails

I used to work for Amazon’s print and disc on demand company. The only relevance that has to today’s post is a nightmarish mistake I made while there.

There are names for the different versions of books as they progress through production. Galleys, for example, are near-finalized advanced copies sent to readers for the sake of reviews, (hopefully) great press, and such. A “proof” is a prepublication version printed as a single book for the sake of checking for errors. And so on. The different versions of prepublication/pre-live-sale books were always identified by an extra page with big bold letters so there could be no confusion.

The system to print different versions of said books was clunky and about 400 years old in software age. I write that to soften my stupidity and guilt.

I was asked to print 300 regular-old “can be sold” versions of a book for a publisher. I submitted the order to production. Approximately eight minutes later, I nearly swallowed my tongue and flipped backward out of my chair when I realized I’d selected “galley” copies. I grabbed my supervisor, and we ran out to the production floor. We explained the issue to the head of production, probably while waving our arms like jellyfish. He stared at me but was kind enough to keep his judgment to himself. The production crew stopped the print run, but they’d already printed off a sizeable number. A honking-big clump viewable from the parking lot: beautiful perfect books ready to be bought, except they had a glaring first page that read “NOT FOR SALE. GALLEY COPY.”

I wasn’t fired, if you were wondering.

Maybe the people who made the following mistakes felt just as teeny-weeny and sad as I did that day. Maybe they were lucky, and they still don’t know what folly they introduced to the world.

Either way, their mistakes (and mine) are your fodder for laughter. Enjoy!

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Topics: grammar errors, grammar mistakes, grammar fails

How to Beat Writer’s Block for Good

Posted by Sara Richmond   Oct 13, 2022 10:00:00 AM

Writer’s block is named for how similar it feels to trying to drive through a dump truckload of cinderblocks. On three hours of sleep. With no coffee. In a toy car. Without wheels. Flintstone style.

In other words: terrible and impossible and made into a video for everyone to laugh at.

Write for any amount of time and you’ll experience the dreaded signs.

Symptoms of Writer’s Block

  • A strong desire to toss your computer out the window
  • Repeated sighing and moaning
  • Flopping around in your chair like a dying fish
  • Distractedness
  • The impulse to run into the forest and live on acorns
  • A blank page
  • A page filled with gibberish

Some writers say it’s just an issue of ego or fear or performance anxiety. Other writers claim writer’s block is all made up. Some say they struggle with it constantly. Others have found ways to plow through. These four pieces of advice are a compassionate combination of all those viewpoints, including my own.

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Topics: #writersblock

Is Paying for Proofreading Worth It?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Sep 29, 2022 12:00:00 PM

The Cost of Professional B2B Proofreading

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Topics: business proofreading

When to Hyphenate an Age

Posted by Sara Richmond   Sep 15, 2022 8:30:00 AM

Using or Dropping the “Year Old” Hyphen

First of all, you’re not silly or dumb for being confused over this. The problem is that ages are used as different parts of speech and in different orders in a sentence.

 That makes all the difference as to whether you need a hyphen for clarity.

Here are the simple rules you need to know to hyphenate ages correctly:

Hyphenate an Age Being Used as a Noun

Nouns are words for people, places, things, or ideas. Ages are being used as nouns in the following:

  • I think six-year-olds are the cutest because they haven’t lost their baby cheeks.
  • An eighty-year-old is bound to be wiser than a twenty-year-old.
  • A recipe for silliness: fifteen-year-olds and helium balloons.

Essentially, you’re using hyphens to group the related words together as a single noun.

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Topics: hyphen

I Made a Grammar Mistake. Now What?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Aug 25, 2022 9:00:00 AM

How to correct grammar mistakes

“What do you do when you find a mistake in your writing?” I asked President Phil Jamieson.

“Well, the first thing I do is feel a great sense of shame,” he answered with his characteristic gravity.

I laughed.

He smiled. “It’s not a soul-crushing shame,” he added. “I’m not, you know, suicidal. But I hate making mistakes.”

I laughed more. Then sighed inwardly. I know that cringey feeling. I’ve yelled, “Oh, come on!” more than a few times after sending an email I proofed 17.43 times, only to notice “farter” instead of “father” in the text. Or some other silliness that my brain (and spell-check) refused to acknowledge.

Assuming you’re human, you understand. And if you’re reading this post because you just sent a mass email with the subject line “We apologize for the incontinence during renovations,” you have our compassion.

We can’t give you a time machine or a memory-altering device, but as people who specialize in correcting other people’s grammar (and our own), here are some action steps to take after you commit a grammatical faux pas.

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Topics: grammar errors, writing mistakes

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