Highlights from Perfect English Grammar by Grant Barrett

Cover of Perfect English Grammar: The Indispensable Guide to Excellent Writing and Speaking
I have not reviewed this book yet.
  • We must write differently than we speak.

    LOCATION 320-321 Link to 320-321
  • It’s easy to lose sight of what is important. You focus on word count rather than results. You lose track of your good idea because you’re worried about margins or type size. You’re concerned about the introduction but haven’t given a thought to the conclusion. You’re so worried about your deadline it distracts you from doing the work. Many writers go through this! You are not alone. To focus on what is important, look at the finished, published writing around you and think, “If they did it, so can I.”

    LOCATION 323-327 Link to 323-327
  • Don’t be the person who doesn’t recognize when it is the right time for formal versus informal language!

    LOCATION 337-337 Link to 337-337
  • Tell someone else about your writing. Some people feel that talking to anyone else will void their ideas of meaning, that in the telling, the magic is gone, and all that is left is dusty vagueness. But the important part is to ask the other person to tell your ideas back to you. You’ll probably find yourself wanting to correct what they’re saying, or add to their words. As the two of you discuss your project, take notes. Take lots of notes as quickly as you can. Those notes become your outline.

    LOCATION 352-356 Link to 352-356
  • Start at the end. If your hero dies in the end, write that first. Then, write what happened right before the hero died. And then write what happened before that. Keep working backward until you reach the beginning of the story. This also works for speeches, essays, and even complicated emails: put down your final, summarizing thoughts, and then justify them.

    LOCATION 356-358 Link to 356-358
  • …paragraphs have two important characteristics: 1. They contain one main idea. 2. They have multiple sentences.

    LOCATION 379-381 Link to 379-381
  • How do you know when to start a paragraph? - when introducing an essay or a new idea, when concluding an essay or finishing the discussion of an idea, when an existing paragraph seems to contain too many ideas (in which case, move each main idea into its own paragraph), when trying to avoid a big unbroken block of words—or “wall of text” — which can be intimidating. Paragraphs can be any length, but good writers usually try to break down long paragraphs into several shorter paragraphs.

    LOCATION 381-385 Link to 381-385
  • Writers at all levels have a hard time making an argument that flows naturally from beginning to end—that’s why it’s taught in schools! Good transitions can help fix that by making it feel more like a story and less like a pile of facts and opinions. Avoid simply jumping to the next topic. Transitions can appear in topic sentences, concluding sentences, or both. Develop a variety of transition techniques and use them without shame. Every good writer has a stock of useful phrases to ease them through their writing. In fact, as you’re reading, note how other writers move smoothly between ideas and see if those strategies will work for you, too.

    LOCATION 460-466 Link to 460-466
  • Inside of sentences, these words and phrases can help you build good transitions: - although, as a result, at first, eventually, finally, however, next, now, then

    LOCATION 466-471 Link to 466-471
  • Between sentences, these words and phrases can provide good transitions: A good example of that is, As I wrote above, Eventually, Finally, For instance, Furthermore, However, In addition, In conclusion, In fact, Indeed, Just as with X, the facts show that Y is also, More importantly, On the other hand, Overall, Therefore, This is also the opinion of Dr. Z, who believes, To illustrate, To put it briefly, To summarize, With this in mind.

    LOCATION 471-483 Link to 471-483
  • Don’t wait until the end to make your best point. Always lead with your best arguments.

    LOCATION 485-486 Link to 485-486
  • Support your opinions with official data, research, and experts’ opinions, which are more persuasive than your opinions alone. Sentences that begin with I think or I feel need more than your thoughts and emotions to back them up.

    LOCATION 491-493 Link to 491-493
  • Think twice about trying to be funny, unless you’ve been asked specifically to write a humorous essay. Most attempts at humor fail.

    LOCATION 494-495 Link to 494-495
  • If you can finish with lots of time to spare, put the writing aside and then go back to it later. Even just a couple of hours can give you a new perspective on your own work. If you can go back to it days or even weeks later, so much the better. It will be like reading someone else’s work, and you’re likely to say, “What was I thinking?” more than a few times.

    LOCATION 503-505 Link to 503-505
  • If you don’t have time to spare, a widely used trick is to temporarily change the typeface and the size of the text and margins. Make the margins bigger and the text larger. This way, your eyes are less likely to glide over familiar-looking blocks of text.

    LOCATION 506-508 Link to 506-508
  • Don’t be kind to your own writing. The saying in the writing business is, “kill your darlings.” That means that any spot where you think you’ve been particularly brilliant is a spot where you should spend time making sure it’s really as brilliant as you think it is. Chances are, it can be trimmed, reworded, or even removed altogether.

    LOCATION 508-510 Link to 508-510
  • If you want to learn to spell a lot of words very fast, try this trick: Write them all into the craziest story you can imagine. Then read the story aloud to yourself and friends—but when you get to the words you need to learn, spell them out instead of saying them.

    LOCATION 549-551 Link to 549-551
  • Homophones are words that sound alike but are spelled differently.

    LOCATION 596-597 Link to 596-597
  • An inflected ending is a type of suffix that modifies (1) the tense of a verb to indicate the time, duration, completeness, quantity, or other quality of what is being referred to or (2) the number. These inflected endings come—of course, because this is English—with irregular as well as regular patterns.

    LOCATION 678-681 Link to 678-681
  • Suffixes such as -able, -ant, -ly, -ness, -ology, and -ure can change a word from one part of speech to another. They are known as derivational suffixes.

    LOCATION 684-686 Link to 684-686
  • The time, with the definite article the, is used to refer to events that have happened, but without being specific about when.

    LOCATION 938-939 Link to 938-939
  • One time is often used to introduce a story about something specific that happened, without being specific about when.

    LOCATION 941-942 Link to 941-942
  • Once upon a time is a formal way of introducing a story, especially a fairy tale or folk tale.

    LOCATION 944-945 Link to 944-945
  • …for either/or and neither/nor sentences, the verb is conjugated based on the subject nearest to it.

    LOCATION 1081-1082 Link to 1081-1082
  • A phrase or clause that comes between the subject and the verb does not change the antecedent’s number.

    LOCATION 1084-1085 Link to 1084-1085
  • When you use indefinite pronouns such as anybody, each, everybody, and someone, use a singular verb.

    LOCATION 1088-1088 Link to 1088-1088
  • …you have a phrase or sentence with a subject and a predicate, then you have a clause.

    LOCATION 1102-1103 Link to 1102-1103
  • The when in when I left my backpack on the bus is an example of a subordinator, which introduces a dependent clause.

    LOCATION 1111-1112 Link to 1111-1112
  • Noun clause markers are useful when you want to connect two independent clauses.

    LOCATION 1115-1116 Link to 1115-1116
  • “That” is a special noun clause marker that can be omitted. The others cannot.

    LOCATION 1130-1130 Link to 1130-1130
  • While a clause has both a subject and a predicate, a phrase does not.

    LOCATION 1133-1134 Link to 1133-1134
  • One type of noun phrase is an appositive phrase, where the subject is defined or restated, usually right after it.

    LOCATION 1149-1150 Link to 1149-1150
  • Another type of noun phrase is a gerund phrase, which is made from a verb but behaves like a noun.

    LOCATION 1154-1154 Link to 1154-1154
  • There are also infinitive phrases, which use an unconjugated form of the verb.

    LOCATION 1155-1156 Link to 1155-1156
  • Verb phrases start with a verb and may include a direct or indirect object, or a complement (see section 5.7). They do not include the subject. Verb phrases can sometimes behave like adjectives or adverbs.

    LOCATION 1158-1159 Link to 1158-1159
  • Absolute phrases modify the entire sentence and are set off by commas or dashes from it.

    LOCATION 1169-1169 Link to 1169-1169
  • …complement completes the predicate. It finishes the idea started by the subject or object or a verb.

    LOCATION 1172-1173 Link to 1172-1173
  • A subject complement comes after a linking verb (see section 6.9) and describes or redefines the subject.

    LOCATION 1173-1174 Link to 1173-1174
  • An object complement, usually a noun or adjective or words behaving like one, refers to a direct object (see section 5.3, Objects).

    LOCATION 1177-1178 Link to 1177-1178
  • A verb complement supplements the understanding of another verb. In other words, one verb is the object of the others.

    LOCATION 1181-1182 Link to 1181-1182
  • Mass nouns, which act as a singular subject even though they refer to lots of things, take the singular conjugation.

    LOCATION 1208-1209 Link to 1208-1209
  • Simple past tense is for actions that happened at a specific time.

    LOCATION 1217-1217 Link to 1217-1217
  • Past perfect is for actions that happened but were finished before a specific time. This was traditionally called the pluperfect.

    LOCATION 1222-1223 Link to 1222-1223
  • Past perfect progressive is for actions that happened continuously but then stopped happening continuously at a specific time.

    LOCATION 1224-1225 Link to 1224-1225
  • Simple present tense happens now and is repeated. It’s about habits or regular events.

    LOCATION 1228-1228 Link to 1228-1228
  • Present progressive actions are continuously happening now.

    LOCATION 1230-1231 Link to 1230-1231
  • Present perfect actions started and finished in the past at an unspecified time but are relevant to the present.

    LOCATION 1233-1233 Link to 1233-1233
  • Present perfect progressive is for actions that were continuously happening in the past and are still happening now.

    LOCATION 1235-1236 Link to 1235-1236
  • There are two forms that talk about the future. Will forms tend to be about a promise, intention, or voluntary action. Going to forms tend to be about plans or a certain future.

    LOCATION 1239-1240 Link to 1239-1240
  • Future progressive says what will be happening continuously.

    LOCATION 1243-1244 Link to 1243-1244
  • Future perfect says that at a certain future time, a specific event will have happened.

    LOCATION 1246-1247 Link to 1246-1247
  • Future perfect progressive says that at a certain future time, a continuous event will have been happening.

    LOCATION 1249-1250 Link to 1249-1250
  • Indicative mood tells us things that are true. It is by far the most common.

    LOCATION 1255-1255 Link to 1255-1255
  • Subjunctive mood suggests possibility, wishes, or hypotheticals, especially in contradiction to what is true.

    LOCATION 1255-1256 Link to 1255-1256
  • Imperative mood makes a verb into a command. It uses the second person, even when, for example, the subject is speaking to herself or himself.

    LOCATION 1262-1263 Link to 1262-1263
  • The voice of a verb has nothing do with the sounds made by the mouth. Instead, it has to do with who or what is performing or doing the verb.

    LOCATION 1265-1266 Link to 1265-1266
  • What you should try to avoid is using passive voice to deflect responsibility, unless that’s what you’re aiming for.

    LOCATION 1275-1276 Link to 1275-1276
  • Passive voice is rightly used when you can’t or don’t need to explicitly identify the subject. Perhaps the subject—the main actor—is unknown, or doesn’t matter, or is understood from the context.

    LOCATION 1278-1280 Link to 1278-1280
  • In the present tense, a thing is happening while the words are being said, whereas in the historical simple tense, important past events are described as if they are happening right now, although it is usually clear from the context that there’s no way they could be.

    LOCATION 1294-1296 Link to 1294-1296
  • …if the gerund is preceded by a pronoun, the possessive form is the best choice.

    LOCATION 1314-1315 Link to 1314-1315
  • Action verbs indicate what the subject of a sentence is doing. In good writing, action verbs can make the reader feel emotions, see scenes more vividly, and accurately know what is happening. Action verbs can be transitive or intransitive.

    LOCATION 1318-1319 Link to 1318-1319
  • Transitive verbs have a direct object, which is the thing or person being acted upon by the verb.

    LOCATION 1320-1320 Link to 1320-1320
  • Intransitive verbs do not act upon anything. They may be followed by an adjective, adverb, preposition, or another part of speech.

    LOCATION 1324-1325 Link to 1324-1325
  • Linking verbs add details about the subject of a sentence. In their simplest form, they connect the subject and the sentence complement—that is, the adjective, noun, or pronoun that follows the linking verb. They link them together instead of showing action. The linguistic term for this connection is copula. Often, what is on each side of a linking verb is equivalent; the complement redefines or restates the subject.

    LOCATION 1328-1331 Link to 1328-1331
  • Also called helping verbs, auxiliary verbs extend the main verb by helping to show time, tense, and possibility. The auxiliary verbs are be, have, and do. They are used in the continuous (progressive) and perfect tenses.

    LOCATION 1348-1349 Link to 1348-1349
  • In the progressive tenses, the auxiliary verb be and its conjugated forms are part of the construction that shows that the action is or was happening continuously.

    LOCATION 1349-1351 Link to 1349-1351
  • Do is used for emphasis, usually in a situation where there has been some doubt about the truth. If you were reading these sentences aloud, you would put a lot of emphasis on the form of do.

    LOCATION 1367-1369 Link to 1367-1369
  • Modal verbs, also known as conditionals, are a kind of auxiliary verb. They assist the main verb in suggesting ability, possibility, potential, expectation, permission, and obligation. When used with the main verb, modal verbs do not end with -s for the third-person singular.

    LOCATION 1372-1373 Link to 1372-1373
  • There are three verbs that behave like modals some of the time, but like main verbs the rest of the time: dare, need to, and used to.

    LOCATION 1387-1388 Link to 1387-1388
  • The most common irregular verb in English is to be.

    LOCATION 1402-1402 Link to 1402-1402
  • The present participle of to be is being and the past participle is been.

    LOCATION 1405-1406 Link to 1405-1406
  • The other two most common irregular verbs are to have (present participle: having, past participle: had) and to do (present participle: doing, past participle: done).

    LOCATION 1406-1408 Link to 1406-1408
  • In North American English, gotten is the past participle of to get, meaning obtained or received, while got is a past participle meaning possessed. The British tend to use got in both cases.

    LOCATION 1537-1538 Link to 1537-1538
  • For most nonfiction or academic writing, use the present tense to relay facts and the past tense to relay actions.

    LOCATION 1564-1565 Link to 1564-1565
  • When commenting on what a source says, use the present tense.

    LOCATION 1568-1569 Link to 1568-1569
  • When describing a source’s dated, published work, use the past tense.

    LOCATION 1570-1571 Link to 1570-1571
  • When discussing current thinking of a domain or field, use the present tense.

    LOCATION 1572-1573 Link to 1572-1573
  • When narrating a chain of events, use the past tense.

    LOCATION 1575-1575 Link to 1575-1575
  • When narrating an exciting chain of events that lead to a big conclusion, consider using the historical present tense. This uses verbs conjugated as if they are the present tense in past tense situations.

    LOCATION 1577-1579 Link to 1577-1579
  • Sometimes a verb becomes joined with a preposition or adverb into a new phrase that has its own meaning above and beyond its parts. This type of idiom is known as a phrasal verb.

    LOCATION 1581-1582 Link to 1581-1582
  • Some phrasal verbs can put the object either right after the verb or right after the whole phrase.

    LOCATION 1590-1591 Link to 1590-1591
  • Usually, a noun phrase has just one determiner. If there is more than one, they have a natural order. Not all determiners can be used together.

    LOCATION 1599-1600 Link to 1599-1600