It’s National Grammar Day – no, really.

March 4 is National Grammar Day. Bet you didn’t know that. Depending on your outlook on these things, good grammar is either a handy tool or a maddening mystery. Those of you in the first group might enjoy testing yourself on these next questions.

If you’re in the second group, and you sometimes wonder what all the fuss is about, here’s what I think: The importance of good grammar is that bad grammar is really bad for you in so many ways. The value of correct grammar is something you just have to take on faith: like the notion that vitamins (which you can’t see) are good for you, or that the wind (which you also can’t see) is blowing because you can feel it or watch its effects through the window. That is to say, even if you don’t see it, it’s still there, doing its thing for better or worse. If you don’t see your grammatical errors, I guarantee someone else will.

But right now, we’ll have some fun.

Many of the most common errors fall into the same few baskets: misuse of punctuation, wrong words, incorrect usage.

Let’s start with punctuation. Keep this ever in mind: the purpose of punctuation is to convey in the written document what we convey in spoken communication with tone of voice, even facial expressions. Most you know: exclamation mark denotes surprise; a single long dash at sentence end means an abrupt interruption, while an ellipsis (three dots) denotes that the speaker’s thought is trailing off to nothing. If you’re ever worried about commas, for instance, read the sentence out loud to yourself. Try this one: Let’s eat, Aunt Mary said. Without the comma, on a quick read you would think cannibalism. And that’s the other purpose of punctuation: to keep readers from stumbling, having to go back and reread. 

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