GrammarPhile Blog

How to Write About a Boring Topic

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 21, 2022 10:30:00 AM

5 Tips to Get and Keep Your Readers’ Attention



I have less than 8.25 seconds to convince you to keep reading. Less than 8.25 seconds before you click away. Less than 8.25 seconds before you…FOR THE LOVE OF PETE, COME BACK!

When it comes to our collective attention span, we’ve been beaten out by goldfish.

For all the writers out there, you feel my pain. In the age of endless distraction, writing about a boring topic seems worse than pointless. It’s like having someone hand you a coffin and saying, “Lie down in this and be lively.”

We get it. We’re a proofreading company, for gosh sake. Every time we talk about our work at a dinner party, we’re never invited back.

We know the stumbling blocks (or is it “crocks”), the most effective ways to make your readers roll their eyes, groan, and glaze over. But because we read and read and read, we also know the springboards—the approaches and tricks and strategies that make a huge difference in getting and keeping the attention of your goldfish…ahem…audience.

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Topics: writing about boring topics

When to Use “A” vs. “An”

Posted by Sara Richmond   Apr 7, 2022 7:30:00 AM

What’s the rule?

I have an incredibly smart friend who believed that onions should never be refrigerated.

He’d read something online that claimed if you stored a raw onion in a refrigerator, it would absorb toxic bacteria and poison you. I informed him that onions often require cold temperatures to grow properly, so that claim made absolutely no sense. And for all the refrigerated onions my family had eaten, we’d never once been ill. He laughed.

Sometimes we’re fed a partial truth (that whole onions are better stored outside the refrigerator, for example) and ingest it as a whole one (it’s dangerous to store onions in the refrigerator). Just like the commonly known rule for using “a” and “an.”

If you were told in elementary school to use “a” before words beginning with a consonant and to use “an” before words beginning with a vowel, you were on the right track. But the truth is a little more complicated, and it can come back to bite you in the onion.

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Top 5 Grammar Tips

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 24, 2022 7:30:00 AM

The Hottest Topics from the PRN Archives

You’re a busy person. Like most people, you want value and convenience, and you want it 3.74 seconds before you thought about it. To that aim, we’ve gathered the Top 5 blog posts by view count over the past year. These are the topics our readers found the most helpful compiled into a single extremely convenient and bursting-with-grammatical-value list:

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Topics: grammar

What Are the 8 Parts of Speech?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Mar 10, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Quick explanations with simple examples


First, what’s the benefit of knowing the parts of speech? Isn’t this just nerd language about language, irrelevant to daily life? Nope. Learning what words do and how to categorize them will result in:

  • Clarity. When you learn the building blocks of language, just like place value and the decimal number system in math, you’ll be less confused. Language becomes more of a friend instead of a stumbling block.
  • Confidence. Once you have the basics down, you’ll be sure of your ability to wield language and stand behind your words.
  • Communication. Armed with this knowledge, you’ll write and speak more effectively.
  • Connections. Understanding the foundations of your own language will enable you to identify correlations in other languages.
  • Conquest. Nothing will stand in your way. You’ll slice your way through every obstacle using only words. All your dreams will come true.*

So, let’s get down to grammatical tacks.

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Topics: adverbs, adjectives, conjunctions, pronouns, verbs, prepositions, parts of speech, Nouns, articles

Alright or All Right? Alot or A Lot?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Feb 24, 2022 7:30:16 AM

Which is Correct?

Is it all right to use “alright”? We’d say so, with a few qualifications:

  • Both “alright” and “all right” are words.
  • “All right” is considered more correct in that it is the preferred form, especially if you’re writing.
  • If you are writing for business or a professor, stick with “all right.” If you aren’t, it’s all right to use “alright.”

Some people believe these words have slightly different meanings. For example:

Q: Were the directions all right?

 A: Yes, all of them were correct. Not a single one was wrong.

Q: Were the directions alright?

 A: They weren’t specific enough to my taste, but it’s okay.

We’d argue that the implied meaning of “all right” in the first example includes the meaning of “alright” in the second example, so the split use isn’t necessary.

Then there’s the similar but jauntier version “all righty.” Besides the fact that this is only used as an adverb, while the other two can be used as adverbs or adjectives, there’s no real difference in meaning.

To sum up:

  • Use “all right” when you’re impressing people.
  • Use “alright” when you’re wearing sweatpants.
  • Reserve “all righty” for when you’re being sarcastic or cute or you’re extremely excited.


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Topics: alot/a lot, alright/all right

Beside or Besides? Toward or Towards?

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

And other words that don’t (or sometimes do) need an “s”


Who knew a single letter could cause so much confusion? Here are five pairs of words that cause eyebrow furrowing for English speakers and writers. Learn when to keep the “s” and when to toss it with these brief explanations and helpful examples.

Beside vs. Besides

Both are valid and both are correct, in certain cases.

Use “beside”:

  • As a preposition.* If you sit beside me at lunch, I might steal your pudding.

Use “besides”:

  • As a preposition (with a different meaning).** There’s nothing to eat besides pudding.
  • As an adverb. I don’t want pudding, and besides, it expired in 2005.
  • As an adjective. Besides eating expired pudding, what other things can we do?
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Topics: beside or besides?, toward or towards

Is Irregardless a Word?

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 28, 2022 12:29:59 PM



First things first. As soon as I typed “irregardless” into a Microsoft Word file, a red squiggle of death appeared. You know the type. That alone should give you pause, though the Editor/Spell Check tool is admittedly problematic.

Let’s break this conundrum into bite-size pieces:

Irregardless has a prefix (ir), a main root (regard),* and a suffix (less).

“Ir” is a variant of “il,” “im,” and “in,” all meaning “not.” Why so many options for the same thing? That’s simply based on the etymology of the root word and its spelling — “im” is used before words beginning with “b,” “m,” and “p,” for example, and “ir” is used before words beginning with “r.”**

“Regard” in this form is an adverb, which is a word that modifies or clarifies the meaning of a verb, adjective, or another adverb.

“Less” is a suffix meaning “without” or “not having.”

So the prefix and suffix mean the same thing. This is essentially a double negative, which is why I didn’t even bother to define “regard” above. Because if you know the meaning of “regardless,” you know the intended meaning of “irregardless,” despite its nonsensical construction. If you right-click on the red squiggle of death, it will prompt you with the replacement “regardless.” If you text “irregardless,” autocorrect will more than likely change it to “regardless.” In fact, if you search “irregardless” in Merriam Webster, the listed definition is — you guessed it — “regardless.”

So why is “irregardless” in the dictionary, if not as a testament to its veracity as a legitimate word? Because Merriam Webster is as much responsible for reporting information based on usage as it is for the judicious treatment of those words. People persist in using “irregardless,” and Merriam Webster has magnanimously declared the word “nonstandard.”

Our take is a little less generous.

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Topics: irregardless, supposably

When You Don’t Need an Apostrophe

Posted by Sara Richmond   Jan 13, 2022 10:30:00 AM

The Grocer’s Apostrophe

If the use of apostrophes has you scratching your head, you’ve come to the right place.

First, let’s start this subtraction problem with some simple addition. There are three situations when you do need an apostrophe:

  1. Omission. To indicate that one or more letters are missing. For example: “Doesn’t” instead of “does not,” “hasn’t” instead of “has not.”
  2. Possession. To indicate that something belongs to somebody (loosely, since it could be a somebody that belongs to something). For example:’s amazing proofreaders, the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt’s crew, the dog’s enormous nose.
  3. Plurality. To indicate the plural of letters or figures. For example: Mind your p’s and q’s. Plot those x’s and y’s. On the contrary: There were no ifs or buts. Beware the dos and don’ts. In letter puzzles, s’s are used more than other consonants and e’s are featured more than other vowels. As noted elsewhere on our site, some people do not consider the third use as correct.*)
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Topics: apostrophe, apostrophes

Greatest Grammar Hits: Christmas Edition

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 23, 2021 10:30:00 AM

People often think Christmas and grammar have nothing to do with each other. But the joy of the season and the giddiness of grammar are inextricably intertwined. To prove this, and to get everyone in the mood for a swashbuckling holiday, I’ve gathered a list of the greatest Christmas grammar hits, some so obscure they’ve never been heard of before (and likely will never be heard of again). In fact, many of the more modern Christmas carols are plagiarized renditions of these oft-forgotten classics.*

These crowd pleasers are remnants of a bygone era of Christmas-loving grammarians and skilled musicians, with something to tickle everyone’s musical fancy.

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5 Tips to Become a Better Speller

Posted by Sara Richmond   Dec 9, 2021 10:30:00 AM

1. If you’re over 10 years old, give up.
2. If you’re under 10 years old, cry.
3. Regardless of your age, write “Aym sadd,” then cry because you don’t know how to spell “I’m” or “sad” correctly.
4. Realize there are only four tips instead of five and cry some more.

Dry your tears, dear reader.

If you are a self-proclaimed “terrible speller,” here are some easy tips to reduce the cringe. We triple counted them, so we know there are definitely five.

But first, let’s attack the myth that English is a horrible hodgepodge of spelling and pronunciation inconsistencies. If you believe this, it is almost certain that you were taught English spelling and pronunciation in a hodgepodge manner. That means there’s a lot of hope for you.

These tips will not only help you spell better, but they’ll also provide more sense and logic to the phonetic dependability of the English language.*

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Topics: misspellings, typos, typographic errors

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