Tips for Teens: Grammar and Punctuation

By Moksha Agarwal 2021-10-12

 October! It’s beautiful, isn’t it? The sun isn’t scorching; the breeze seems cool. What’s not to love? Oh yeah, deadlines: Cambridge, Oxford, Early Application, Early Decision. I forgot about those. The good thing is that we’re here with our weekly supply of tips. So, buckle up and hold fast to your seats; we’re going on a quick trip to the land of grammar and punctuation.


Tip 1: If you want to use an adverb, you should look for a better verb

Adverbs are words that typically end with -ly. Really, lazily, truly, usually. You get the drift. Adverbs are modifiers, and it's okay if you modify a verb, adjective, or even a sentence once in a while, but overuse of adverbs reflects poor vocabulary. Here's an example:

I saw him run really fast across the field.

I saw him sprint across the field.

Tip 2: Don't use 20 words to say something that you can say in 5 words

There's an official name for this: wordiness. It is the writing equivalent of that friend who takes too long to come to the point.

Over the last couple of weeks, we have observed that you have been late to class. We request you to please arrive on time in the future.

You've been consistently late to class. Henceforth, arrive on time.

Tip 3: Remove the redundancies

This one's called tautology. If you've ever taken an exam, you know what saying the same thing in different words is all about. You're just doing it to fill the sheets. There are, however, instances when you've just made an honest mistake.

I built the robot with my own two hands.

I built the robot.

"I built the robot" implies that you've built it with your "own two hands". By removing the redundancy, you've saved yourself five words. 

Tip 4: A hyphen is not a dash

Hyphens join words, while dashes indicate a range or a pause. Numbers such as forty-six or ninety-eight require a hyphen. There are other examples such as check-in, two-fold, and up-to-date. A quick test to determine if a compound word (a word formed by joining two words) must be hyphenated or not is to check whether the compound word comes before or after the word it describes:

This is a dog-friendly cafe.

This cafe is dog friendly.

Dashes, on the other hand, are of two kinds: en dash and em dash. The more commonly used, as well as distinguishable, is the em dash. It indicates a pause that is stronger than the comma but weaker than the period or the semicolon. You can also use the em dash to add explanatory information or draw attention to draw special attention to a statement.

Your biological prime time is determined by your circadian rhythm—an internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours.

Your circadian rhythm—an internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and repeats every 24 hours—determines your biological prime time.

You can use an em dash with or without spaces as long as you are consistent. If you can't find the em dash you can replace it with two hyphens (--).

That's all for now, folks! Tune in again next week for another edition of Tips for Teens.