Reconnecting with five or six grammar guidelines would improve a lot of writing.

When people think of grammar they often cringe, usually because they have horrifying recollections of English class or because they can’t recall many of the guidelines. But don’t equate sharpening your grammar knowledge with getting a colonoscopy. It’s simply not all that uncomfortable. If people have a solid grasp of just a few principles, a lot of writing will look clearer and more professional.

(1) Subject-verb agreement. If a subject is singular, the verb needs to agree, as is the case with a plural. So the sentence “A group of managers from our region meets every month” is correct because the verb “meets” is singular, agreeing with the subject, “group,” which is a collective noun and therefore is singular.

(2) Proper form of pronouns. Is it “between you and I” or “between you and me”? The form of a pronoun is always dictated by its role in the sentence. It will either be a subject or an object. So look at the sentence and ask yourself what role the pronoun is playing in the sentence. If it is functioning as a subject it should be he, she, or they. If it is an object in the sentence, the pronoun will be him, her, or them. The pronouns it and you are the same form in either scenario. In the example above, the pronoun should be me because its role in the sentence is as an object of the preposition between.

(3) Pronoun agreement. If you are referring to a collective noun, any pronoun reference to it is usually singular. “Each manager needs to submit their evaluation by Friday” would not be appropriate because “each” is singular and “their” is plural. Change it to “All managers” or use “his or her,” rather than “their.”

(4) Dangling modifiers. A modifier can be a word or a group of words. Don’t say, “Running to a meeting, my coat caught on the door handle,” because “my coat” was not running to the meeting. Whatever the verb form “running” is referring to must be the first principle noun or pronoun after the comma. So you would need to recast the sentence. “Running to the meeting, I ripped my coat when it caught on the door.”

(5) Parallelism. When you have a series of elements in a sentence, present them in the same part of speech (all nouns, all adjectives, all clauses, etc.) because the consistency makes it easier to read and easier for the reader to see how the pieces in the series are related. If you say, “We need to discuss pay, benefits, and what your schedule will be,” then you have “pay” (noun), “benefits” (noun), and “what your schedule will be” (clause). Make it “pay, benefits, and your schedule,” so that all three elements are nouns.