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Grammar and Punctuation: A Guide to Proofreading

Do you HATE proofreading? Is your focus completely exhausted by the time you get to this point? You can almost hear the people talking as you read the same words for the umpteenth time, convinced there’s an error somewhere. It’s driving you MAD!

There’s a better way. Set it aside and step away. If you have time, come back to it the next day. A big part of knowing what to look for means you must have a strong foundation for grammar and punctuation. So if you’re DONE with spending hours spinning your wheels proofreading your transcripts, you’ve come to the right place.

Below are the building blocks for forming a strong grammar and punctuation foundation. This will save you hours of looking up information and falling down the rabbit hole that is grammar and punctuation of the English language.

The first step is conjunctions. There are three types of conjunctions, but for now we’ll just focus on the first: coordinate conjunctions. There are two types of coordinate conjunctions: simple and correlative.

Simple Coordinate

There are five simple coordinate conjunctions:

  • and
  • for*
  • but
  • nor
  • or

A simple coordinate conjunction links two or more grammatically equal elements. This just means the elements being connected have the same function.

Correlative Coordinate

There are four pairs of correlative coordinate conjunctions:

  • both/and
  • not only/but also
  • neither/nor
  • either/or

There are a few rules to point out when using these word pairs.

  • both/and

Unlike the other three pairs, this pair can’t be used to link independent sentences.

  • not only/but also

Also can be moved around the sentence or be taken out. If it is kept in the sentence and isn’t right next to but, it becomes an adverb and is no longer part of the conjunction.

When not only/but also connects independent sentences, the subject and verb are reversed in the first sentence.

  • neither/nor

When neither/nor connects two independent sentences, the subject and verb are reversed in both sentences.

It’s important to remember that the correlative conjunctions should always be immediately in front of the elements they link.

*For is mostly used as a preposition. As a conjunction, for can only link independent clauses. When used as a coordinate conjunction, for means “because,” which tends to sound too formal.

Conjunctive Adverbs

Picking up from the last post, the second type of conjunction is the conjunctive adverb. Sounds scary, right? Well, I promise it’s not as intimidating as it sounds. A conjuctive adverb is an adverb that has been moved to the front of a sentence. It simply links two independent clauses and shows a relationship between the two clauses. A conjunctive adverb must always be at the front of an independent clause; otherwise, it’s just a regular adverb. Here’s a list of some conjunctive adverbs:

  • However
  • Accordingly
  • In addition
  • Indeed
  • Likewise
  • Otherwise
  • Hence
  • Plus
  • Then
  • Yet

This list is hardly comprehensive, but it is some of the common ones.

Now before you start running around using these words, keep in mind that they can’t start a conversation.

“But you JUST said they have to start an independent clause.”

This is true, but there are some caveats, and this is how you distinguish someone who knows what they’re doing from someone who’s winging it. Conjunctive adverbs join the sentence they start to the sentence in front of them, so they must ALWAYS refer back to the previous sentence. If you walk up to someone you know and start with “Therefore,” you will get a weird look. You’ll likely get a response along the lines of “Therefore, what?”

Realative Pronouns 

A relative pronoun is a word that links a dependent clause to an independent clause. There are five relative relative pronouns:

  • Who
  • Whom
  • Whose
  • Which
  • That

The relative pronoun still serves a connecting function like a conjunction even though its part of speech is a pronoun. It always introduces a dependent clause and is part of said dependent clause. It’s used in a noun or an adjective clause and usually has a grammatical function within the clause. It may modify a word within the clause. It may also act as a noun and be a subject, object of preposition, etc.

That is special among the relative pronouns because it is the only one that doesn’t have to have a function within the clause. When this is the case, that can be taken out of the sentence completely without changing the meaning.