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  • Cheong Chee Foong

Improve your grammar to save lives

Yup, that's an embellishment. No, I’m not going to be listing common grammatical errors, or tell you about the annoying differences between colons, semi-colons and dashes. Anyone can read such dull exposition up on their own. Instead, here are 5 more general tips that we can consider adopting to improve our grammar, so that we can avoid raising eyebrows when posting inspirational quotes or anecdotes on our Telegram status or Instagram bio!

(Source: Facebook)

1. Don’t rely on Bill Gates…too much

Now, I’m not saying we should ignore Microsoft Word’s extremely convenient word check. But we have to admit that oftentimes, it becomes incredibly easy to rely on it like a crutch. And the thing about crutches, is that once it’s removed, we fall.

While one could argue that most writing in the 21st century is done on computers anyway, overdependency is never a good thing. Besides, it’s not a hundred percent right all the time.

Nevertheless, we should still pay attention to those blue dots whenever they appear. The word check is an indisputable life saver when it comes to minor mistakes we tend to overlook. This goes double for the latest versions of Word where they even offer more concise alternatives of phrases.

So do look through those highlights. Just don’t treat it as gospel and accept changes blindly.

2. Break up

Hold off that heart-breaking message to your SO/Bae/Sunbae/etc. I’m talking about breaking up our paragraphs, even sentences. Despite what thousands of academic readings and research journals lead us to believe, longer doesn’t equate to better. Quite the opposite, especially for caffeine-fueled undergrads like us. The longer the sentence, the more likely we are to make mistakes.

It’s like juggling: the more points we make in a single sentence/paragraph, the more balls we have to juggle. Why not save the metaphorical saliva by keeping things simple and clean?

(Source: My Modern Met)

The simplest trick is one taught by one of the best profs in NUS (thanks Prof Jan!). If you can’t read your sentence in a single breath, and you find that there are way too many commas/points in a paragraph, consider breaking it up into multiple sentences.

3. Read it out

Who here’s guilty of just skimming through sentences when proof-reading? I know I am. But it is indeed important to read through every word thoroughly. As opposed to just reading our essays mentally, reading aloud makes certain mistakes more obvious. After all, our brains are too smart for our own good, filling in informational gaps for us.

Better yet, get a friend to proof-read for you. After reading the same essay over and over, it’s sometimes best to get a fresh perspective.

4. Read. Anything

Just read. Read the news, a blog, even Fifty Shades if you have to. The best habit to cultivate, is reading widely, and often. After all, language is probably one of the most unique forms of content in the sense that mere exposure can lead to some degree of improvement. We can read graphs until the cows come home, but the cows won’t help you ace GER1000. Conversely, just reading enough can get us to install an automatic word check of our own, aiding us not just in grammar, but spelling and vocabulary.

Naturally, it’s not an immediate improvement; there are no shortcuts to mastery or success. But in the long run, its effects are guaranteed.

Of course, we must read material with good grammar in the first place, so ‘anything’ was a bit of an embellishment. Take this first step of improving grammar by reading our other articles. We could use the ad revenue.

(…what do you mean we don’t get ad revenue? What do you mean we don’t get paid?!)

5. Then write some more

Remember how we would stare blankly at math notes back in secondary school and then scratch our heads when the first tutorial of a new concept came out?

Just me? Fair enough, but the point stands. Just like with all skills, they won’t ever be truly absorbed and made our own, until we keep at it. The adage does hold true: practice makes perfect. Call it cliché, but cliché things are repeated simply because they are often true.

So even though we may already have dozens of essays to deal with during the semester itself, why not write whenever inspiration strikes? It can be about life, relationships, family, the family dog…all we have to make sure of, is that they’re written in complete, proper prose.

One option to gain such writing practice? Joining CNM types blog!

That’s right. You thought it was a simple informative blog post, but it was me, a recruitment ad! Join us next semester in August!

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