English Essays: 5 Tips for Improving Grammar
Even the most skilled writers make occasional grammatical errors in their papers. But when you’re drafting an English paper, you must be meticulous in your usage and syntax, or you run the risk of incurring a serious grade penalty.
Yet even if you’ve learned all the correct grammatical rules, it can be difficult to write perfect sentences throughout the length of a paper. Every writer makes mistakes, especially when composing their first drafts. There are ways, however, to limit these errors. Before you write, consider these five tips for improving your grammar.
- Remember: Conversational English is Not Written English
When people are speaking casually, they make numerous grammatical errors that typically go unnoticed. This is because it’s difficult to adhere perfectly to rules of usage and syntax when speaking, and because the rules and expectations for spoken English are notably different from the expectations of Standard Written English (or SWE).
To prevent grammatical mistakes, cultivate a writing style that differs distinctly from your speaking style. Start paying attention to the casual grammatical errors you make when you speak; many of these errors probably slip by unnoticed by your conversation partners. Keep in mind that written English is its own unique dialect of the language.
- Read a Style Guide
Style guides, such as the APA and MLA formatting handbooks, can be invaluable resources. These books don’t just provide tips on what size margins to use and how to cite sources; they also provide information on how to phrase awkward constructions, and which words are appropriate to use in which circumstances.
- Enjoy Learning about Grammar
Online, there are a wealth of information sources that make perfecting your grammar easy and fun. For example, the Grammar Girl podcast offers weekly tips with humorous illustrations, and only takes about ten minutes to listen to. In addition, the blog Language Log offers a bevvy of fun tidbits about English usage and grammar.
- Read Aloud
It is easy to miss errors in your writing when you read silently. To slow yourself down and to make your editing more meticulous, read your essay drafts aloud. If a sentence sounds clunky or strange, it probably contains a grammatical error. This method will also help you detect sentences that are technically correct, but awkwardly worded.
- Become an Intuitive Grammarian
The best way to write grammatically correct papers is to become an intuitive, effortless user of proper grammar. It can be hard to manually review all your drafts and scan them for minute grammatical errors. However, if you make a habit of learning about grammar and reading your own work aloud, you will become much more adept at finding mistakes and correcting them. When in doubt, rephrase a sentence that sounds strange. In time, you’ll find that you avoid making errors in your writing in the first place.