Friday, June 28, 2013


Say hello to Erin, our new YA author.

Today, Erin is going to tell us a bit about our favorite subject. GRAMMAR.
                Take it away, Erin.

Thank you, Lorrie, for hosting me on your blog today!  I am thrilled to have the chance to “talk” to your readers/blog followers! 


Today, I’d like to talk about a subject near and dear to my heart—grammar.  LOL!  Yes, you heard me right…grammar.  My family and friends often say I’m a member of the Grammar Police (actually they say something not quite so nice, but I’m rephrasing).  Lest you think I’m the master of all things word related, I will confess right now…I cannot spell, at all.  Seriously, I could not spell certain words without assistance if my life depended on it.  My critique partners also point out my issues with formal speech (probably because I’m trying to follow all the grammar rules) and hyphenation (which for the record, I just misspelled).


You might ask, who even loves grammar, and when did you develop this affliction?  Well, I went to one school up until the tenth grade and learned very little about grammar there.  When I switched to a new school in the eleventh grade, my world changed.  The teacher started my first day of class by saying, “Today, we will discuss predicate nominative and predicate adjective,” to which I replied, “A wha-wha?”  I knew a noun, verb, and possibly an adverb, but nothing more.  To her credit, my sweet teacher, Mrs. Hinton (she’s a writer too and has published books you can find here), stayed after school with me for six months to catch me up on grammar.


I ended up at a college that obsesses over grammar. Freshmen must take a course called “Grammar and Composition” and pass an end-of-the-semester test with a “C” or higher to continue on to the next class.  In preparation for that test, I took a free class offered by the head of the English department and learned all sorts of amazing tips and tricks.  I passed the test with flying colors and received a position in the school’s learning center as a grammar and writing tutor.  So, I spent the remainder of my college years trying to impart the grammar wisdom my high school teacher and college professors instilled. 


Now that I am a soon-to-be-published author, I have the privilege of working with fellow authors.  We critique one another’s “works in progress” to sharpen and improve them for submission.  My critique partners recently dubbed me “The Passive Voice Hunter,” a name I quite like. 


Without further ado, let me introduce common grammar/writing errors.  I hope the following information will be useful whether you are a writer, business professional, student, or any other type of human being (LOL!). 


1)  Passive voice


            The use of active voice improves writing and flow.   Try to avoid passive verbs like:  was, were, had been, is, has been, had been, will be.


            A passive example: “I was editing my friend’s work.” 

            An active example:  “I edited my friend’s work.” 



2)  Ending in a preposition


            Try not to end sentences with prepositions.


            Example of preposition:  “She didn’t know where he came from.”

            Correction:  “She didn’t know from where he came.”**

            **This correction sounds slightly pompous and awkward, so the writer would benefit from

                 reworking the whole sentence.

            Reworking option (there are many other ways to change it):  “He appeared by her side without



            Common prepositions:  of, in, to, for, with, on, at, from, by, about, into, as, after, over, against,         before


3)  Commas (cue the “dun-da-dun” music)


            I typically joke, “People treat commas like sprinkles.”


            Here are the main rules for commas (there are more, but we’ll stick to the big ones):


            a)  Serial commas (this particular rule changes every once in a while, so keep an eye out on

                 MLA).  Right now, commas go before the “and” in a series.  


            Example:  Apples, banana, strawberries, and blueberries.


            b)  Conjunction and commas.  Commas can be used to separate two sentences when used with    a conjunction.

                        Common conjunctions:  and, but, or, so, yet


            Example:   Jenna believed her father when he told her John left, but she felt compelled to

            discover the reason.


            Incorrect usage of a comma:  Jenna believed her father when he told her John left, but felt

               compelled to discover the reason.  (No comma is needed in this sentence because there are not

               two sentences.) This sentence should read:  Jenna believed her father when he told her John left

            but felt compelled to discover the reason.


            c) Introductory statements.  When you begin a sentence with a helper statement, you should           use a comma to separate the two piece of information.  Introductory statements with more

            than three words require a comma.  With statements fewer than three words, the comma is             optional, but I always choose to include it.


            Example:   When you begin a sentence with a helper statement, you should use a comma to

            separate the two pieces of information.  (Clever how I did that, huh? I bet you can find a few

            more in my explanation as well…)


            d) Parenthetic elements.  Use commas to offset information you wish to include but is not             crucial to the sentence.  When you place two commas (or one comma in the front and period at       the end), you are signaling the reader that this information is NOT necessary.  If it is necessary,    do not offset in commas.


            Example 1:  My best friend, Dawn, told me a hysterical joke yesterday.

            *Note—I only have one best friend, hence the name “Dawn” is unnecessary.  However, be

            careful in these situations.   “My friend Dawn told me a hysterical joke yesterday” has no comma          because (hopefully) I have more than one friend. 

            **To explore the note a bit further, here is another example:  “My brother, Richard, graduated    top in his class.”   Based on this statement, you should know I only have one brother.  If I said,         “My brother Richard graduated top in his class,” you would know I have more than one brother.


            Example 2:  Charlotte loved going to baseball games, though she preferred football. 

            The football segment could be totally omitted and not compromise the integrity of the sentence.


            Example 3:  He moved toward the door, placing his hand on the knob, and turned to give her one

            last look.

            The hand on the knob adds to the sentence but is not crucial.  The sentence could be just fine

            without it.  “He moved toward the door and turned to give her one last look.”


            e)  Separating adjectives.  Use commas to separate adjectives that both relate to the noun.  If         one adjective is describing the other, leave out the comma.


            Example:  She pushed the big, yellow ball down the hill. 

            Big and yellow both describe ball, so the comma needs to be there.


            Incorrect use:  She pushed the bright, yellow ball down the hill.

            Bright describes yellow, not the ball, so no comma is needed.  Should read:  She pushed the

            bright yellow ball down the hill.



Though there are plenty more grammar rules I could share, I think I’ll stop before your eyes glaze over (if they haven’t already—LOL).  Often, it’s hard to see the errors in your own work.  Asking friends, family, or co-workers to proofread your material before you send it out can be most helpful.  My beta readers (Kim Sharp, Ginny Hunsberger, Danielle Craver, and Dawn Ward) as well as my critique partners (Mary Waibel, Michelle Pickett, and Meradeth Houston) locate the grammatical, spelling, logic, and voice errors in my pieces.  I encourage you to find a group of people to help you as well. 


Coming in November from Erin
A young adult high fantasy epic 
 "One often finds destiny on the road taken to avoid it."

Look for the novel November 2013

The Prophecy


Erin Albert
Erin Albert is an author and fitness trainer.  Since she picked up Morris the Moose Goes to School at age four, she has been infatuated with the written word.  She went on to work as a grammar and writing tutor in college and is still teased by her family and friends for being a member of the "Grammar Police."  In her free time, Erin enjoys acting, running, kickboxing, and, of course, reading and writing. 

If you want to know more about me and my upcoming novel, The Prophecy, please like me on Facebook (Erin Albert Books), follow me on Twitter (@ErinAlbertBooks), and/or visit my website 
If you have grammar questions, please feel free to ask. I love to talk “shop.”  Thanks again for hosting me, Lorrie! 
Thanks so much for the lesson today, Erin.
Okay, folks, any questions of Erin?
If not, leave a comment anyway. 
We love comments.



  1. Thanks for hosting me, Lorrie!! :)

    1. Nice to have you here, Erin.
      I'll be the first to admit that I'm a grammar slouch. It it weren't for my crit partners I'd be in real trouble.

    2. Critique partners make SUCH a huge difference in so many ways! :)

  2. Hi Erin,

    As I told you earlier, it must be of tremendous benefit for you to have such a passion about grammar. I didn't have the advantage of a school obsessed with grammar (not true--the college I graduated from did obsess over grammar in the English department, but I had completed my English requirements before transferring). I've taught myself a lot. I knew most of your examples, but I won't lie and say I knew them all. I'd like to find a community college or online grammar course I could take for not much money. I've searched for a while, but I can't seem to find one.

    I also think a critique group is a great idea, yet I haven't tried it. One of my favorite authors got his start with one, and another author from the same group is getting ready to release her second title.

  3. Eric-- I hope you are able to locate one of those classes, but I think it's awesome you are trying to learn on your own. The English language can be super tricky!

    Definitely give critique partnering a try! I LOVE it and would recommend it to anyone! :)

    Thanks for reading and leaving a comment!!

  4. Now I understand it all! I wonder if you've told Mrs. Hinton that you've become the passive voice huntress? :) Great post--totally going to bookmark this!

    1. I'm hoping Mrs. Hinton will come here and read all about her awesomeness on this blog! :)

      Yay! Glad the post helped you! <3

  5. Good examples of the most common errors. Unless one has a damned good reason for departing from the standards, one should adhere to them.

    If you hear a government official using passive voice, you know someone is covering ass. "Mistakes were made."

    Next: the semicolon.

    1. Thank you!! :)

      I'd definitely love to chat on the semicolon! :)

  6. Great tutorial! I can't wait to pick your brain for more grammar and punctuation tips! I am still utterly hopeless with where to put an apostrophe.


    1. Yvonne-- Please do! We'll get that apostrophe problem fixed for you! LOL! :)

  7. Thank you so much for this clear and helpful post, Erin! In general, I'm pretty good at grammar. I've always loved to read, so I picked up many of the rules on my own, but I only had English as a second language for three years in high school, and there they sort of left me on my own because I already spoke it. I didn't know some of these rules, especially the comma ones.

    Marva, I love that example of passive voice. I think the government officials who use it need to have Erin hunt them down and school them!

    1. I'm glad the rules helped you! The English language can be so tricky! I can't imagine trying to learn it as a second language!

      LOL! I need to offer government grammar courses? LOL!

  8. Being one of the honored few to call Erin the queen of grammar (which is so not what we say btw) I am so excited that someone other then me can benefit from her knowledge. I tutor children and even I call on the reigning queen to give me advice and help. As you can see I have made several errors in this post that I am sure she will point out to me later but we love her and she has an amazing gift!! :)

    1. Heehee! ;) I remember that time when I had the pizza party for my running students, and you tried to reach me about a grammar question for one of your students. I couldn't hear my phone because of the noise. When I checked, I had about fifteen texts and three frantic phone calls. LOL!

      Thanks for talking me up, girl! I love ya! <3

  9. Erin--I think I'm going to hire you to teach my freshman writing classes. Not only do you know grammar, but you're considerably nicer than I am!

  10. This is so interesting, I'm totally guilty of breaking all of the rules though! ;)

  11. Great post Erin. And as one of her CP's I can tell you she really is the Passive Voice Hunter. (Hopefully I'm getting better at finding it before I send her my chapters!)

  12. Passive Voice Hunter and the Mighty Red Pen! LOL! :)

    You are rocking out this new WIP, girl! Off to read more of it! <3

  13. I learned more abuses in my school than English prose (not my mother tongue). A critique group (Lorrie included) helped me a lot in learning the basics of good writing, even though that little fellow called 'Comma' is my biggest enemy.I'm still confused about; in,into,on,onto, and 'the'. However, I'm proud to say that my first novel (Lovers' Rock)is going to be published before the end of the year. It took five long years and a hundred rewrites to get there.I hope I don't have to return the royalty!
    Cheers everybody.