Here’s how to use GSPS to help you write better…
You’ll kick yourself when you realise that these are simply the initials for Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation and Syntax. But there’s a reason for shrink-wrapping those down into the popular format of mnemonic/meme/icon (depending on which jargon decade you’re from.)
When you’re writing anything from a social media post to a novel, every so often during the process use this handy checklist to supplement your spell and grammar checkers.
This way you ensure what you’re writing a) makes sense and b) makes clear what you mean, and what you want the reader/listener/viewer to understand.
Obviously we can’t cover every imaginable query, but here are the most typical … and below you’ll find some suggestions on how to sort out other queries you may have.
G is for grammar: quick checks
NB: For more help with grammar, there are numerous articles here on HTWB to help you in more detail. Meanwhile…
Are your tenses right? Not “please read the article I have wrote…” – written
Are your verbs correct? Not “I shouldn’t of spoken to him like that…” – shouldn’t have … ditto could have, would have
Do your verbs and subjects agree? Not “Several members of the group, including John, is going shopping …” John is not the subject: several members are. So it’s “Several members of the group, including John, are going shopping.”
Are your “me” and “I” OK? Not “me and my husband went shopping …” my husband and I … and not “the shopping was delivered to my husband and I…” my husband and me
Have you checked those easily-gotten-wrong words and phrases? Like “comprises of…” comprises is always on its own, e.g. “the property comprises 3 bedrooms etc….”
Are you using the right words? Not “less” when you mean fewer … not “farther” when you mean further … and many more. Check out this article for more help.
S is for spelling: quick checks
Are you sure you have used the right spelling of a word for the job? Like “breaks” when you mean brakes … remember that spellcheckers aren’t clairvoyant so can’t differentiate between two or more potentially correct words. When in doubt, look it up …e.g. here.
Watch out for the other common homonyms Favorites are to, two, too … your, you’re … their, there, they’re … its, it’s … etc. More help with these here.
Is your spelling the American or non-American version? Either is fine, in general, but be conscious of your readers and what they are comfortable with.
Are you sure your words ending in the crazy English language (like “ant/ent,” “ible/able” etc.,) are correct? It’s easy enough to check them here.
If you use words not everyone is comfortable with, are you sure your readers/listeners/viewers will be? Like “irregardless” or “conversate” … not accepted everywhere, so be careful.
P is for punctuation: quick checks
The biggest boo-boo people make in punctuation is knowing where, er, to stick their apostrophes. Whatever you do, don’t get this wrong because if you use it for business on social media you will get lampooned for it.
Plurals do not need apostrophes, unless there is a possessive attached. Ever. Well, except when you have a bunch of initials, like NATO or GM … but even so, just a lower case “s” is more appropriate.
When the noun is plural in the first place, it takes an apostrophe before the “s.” Like “women’s” toilet. If a noun isn’t plural in the first place, add the “s” and stick the apostrophe after it – e.g. in three days’ time.
Are you sure you’ve got your “it” right? “Its” means something belonging to it. “It’s” is a contraction of it is. Always.
And how about your “yours?” “Your is possessive – your home. You’re is a contraction of you are.
You’ll find help with other punctuation goofs here.
S is for syntax: quick checks
Have you got the right person/people as subject, and the right logical order of things?
Like “after giving an inspiring speech, the audience gave her a standing ovation” … the audience didn’t give the speech, did it? Should be something like after giving an inspiring speech, she got a standing ovation from the audience.
Or how about “the president came up to the podium with the vice-president who was holding the trophies along with the Chief Executive A strong, power-lifting vice-president, no doubt, but better phrased as the president came up to the podium with the vice-president who was holding the trophies, along with the Chief Executive.
If you want your syntax to be right, always be careful to identify who does what, with what, and to whom and make sure that’s reflected in how you phrase your writing. That’s phrasing it in Ordinary-Speak. If you prefer a more technical approach, check out this site.
Want even more help on how to write better using GSPS?
Failing that, never hesitate to drop a line to me on suze at suzanstmaur dot com (sorry, but that’s an attempt to cut down on the spammers selling Louis Vuitton knock-offs…) so I can share your query in our Agony Columns … all the better because many others may share your concern and with luck I can respond to all of you helpfully. Needless to say you can remain anonymous if you want to.
Otherwise, please share your concerns into the comments below if you have a question about GSPS in English (grammar, spelling, punctuation or syntax) and a) I’ll do my best to answer it or b) will refer you to another site where you’ll get the full picture, warts and all.
In the meantime, you mind your GSPS, OK? 😉
(And share your own thoughts about GSPS with us here…)