Pronouns must agree with the word they refer to in person, number, and gender. This is known as pronoun- antecedent agreement.
Incorrect: Everyone wanted to cash in their stock options.
Correct: Everyone wanted to cash in his or her stock options.
(Everyone is singular; therefore, the pronouns that refer to it must be singular as well.)
Similarly, verbs must agree with the subject of the sentence. (If the subject is singular, the verb must be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.) This is known as subject-verb agreement. Do not fall into the trap of making the verb agree with the noun closest to it if that noun is not the subject.
Incorrect: A portion of our efforts are devoted to marketing.
Correct: A portion of our efforts is devoted to marketing. (Portion, not efforts, which is the object of the prepositional phrase beginning with of, is the subject of the sentence. Portion is singular, so the verb must be singular.)
Use the article an when the word that follows starts with a vowel sound. Pay attention not to whether the first letter is actually a vowel or consonant, but what it sounds like:
an hourly wage
But: a used book (because the u sounds like a y)
And can be used to join words, phrases, and clauses.
To join words: He is a pompous and arrogant man. To join phrases: We look for employees with outgoing personalities, the ability to solve problems quickly, and experience in the service industry.
To join clauses: I like to dance, he likes to cook, and she likes to paint.
When using and to join two independent clauses, make sure the two clauses are equal in importance. Do not use and simply to tack on information at the end of a sentence or if one idea is dependent on another. (In the latter case, use a more specific word, such as because or so.)
Not good: The shareholders’ meeting was in Houston,
Texas, and many people attended. Better: The shareholders’ meeting, which many people attended, was in Houston, Texas.
Better: The shareholders’ meeting was in Houston, Texas. Many people attended.
Not good: His plane was late, and he missed the meeting. Better: His plane was late, so he missed the meeting.
Use an apostrophe:
When indicating possession: a person’s signature, people’s signatures; the boy’s toy, the boys’ toys.
When a singular common noun ends in s, add an ’s (princess’s, boss’s) unless the word that follows also begins with s (the boss’ son). For singular proper names ending in s, use an apostrophe only (Paris’ food, Jesus’ example).
For compound words, add apostrophe or ’s to the word closest to the object possessed (the vice president’s opinion).
When indicating omitted letters or numerals: can’t, ’90s.
When an apostrophe appears in front of a number, it should face this way: ’
Do not use an apostrophe:
When forming the plural of numbers or decades: 1870s, 1990s; 20s, 30s, 40s, etc.
When forming the plural of letters or abbreviations: Ds, Fs, VIPs.
but, used at the beginning of a sentence
Contrary to popular belief, it is acceptable to use but at the beginning of a sentence. However, as with any other sentence formation, be careful not to overuse.
Capitalize the first word of a sentence. This rule holds true when a sentence appears within a sentence (quoted material) or when a complete sentence follows a colon.
I couldn’t believe it when she said, “Take the rest of the day off.”
Later, I found out why she gave us a vacation day: She didn’t want us around while she was firing people.
Capitalize titles only when they precede a person’s specific name:
We heard President Bush speak.
We heard the president speak.
Capitalize the official names of governments, companies, and organizations. Do not capitalize common nouns such as division, committee, manager, department, and director. However, it’s better to follow the conventions of your company and overcapitalize than to be a stickler about this.
Capitalize the trademarked names of products, but not the products themselves.
Capitalize the words north, south, east, and west only when they designate a well-known region (the Midwest, Southern California). Do not capitalize them when they indicate direction. (The storm is moving north.) Do not capitalize seasons of the year: spring, autumn, winter, summer.
Capitalize titles of books, articles, plays, and films. Do not capitalize articles, conjunctions, or short prepositions in titles (A Man for All Seasons) unless they begin or end the title (In the Bedroom). Capitalize prepositions that contain more than four letters (A River Runs Through It).
See also when-not-to-capitalize.