When writing, it’s often helpful to think through the words you want to use or even say them out loud before putting them on the page. This can be especially helpful with dialogue. Is this really the way someone would talk? Does this sound natural?
But while this might help your dialogue seem more realistic, it can lead you into a grammar trap. Sometimes, by writing what we hear, in the way we hear it, we translate it incorrectly.
This can happen with a number of words, but it’s especially easy with contractions. One of the most common examples of this is the use of the word “of” to replace the contraction “ve.”
Of or Have Grammar Example
I should of remembered to pick up some milk.
Of or Have Grammar Example Corrected
I should’ve remembered to pick up some milk.
Just remember: “would’ve,” “could’ve,” and “should’ve” actually mean “would have,” “could have,” and “should have.” If you spell out the contraction, even in your head, you’ll avoid incorrectly using “of.”
Of course, you may choose to deliberately break this rule in fiction, if it fits a particular character. But in general, keep an eye out for these bad translations of writing what you hear.
Looking for more grammar tips? What about brushing up on some comma rules?
Rachel is a full-on, hardcore grammar freak. Her favorite punctuation marks are parentheses, em dashes and ellipses. She still loves adverbs, but is trying to wean herself off of them. And she truly believes that it’s okay to split an infinitive. In addition to her grammar obsession, Rachel writes light contemporary romance – occasionally with a paranormal twist – and is published in short fiction. Rachel also works as a freelance proofreader and copy editor. Learn more at www.rachelmichaels.com.