Category: Grammar and Mechanics

Semicolons

Kurt Vonnegut once wrote that writers should “not use semicolons. They are transvestite hermaphrodites representing absolutely nothing. All they do is show you’ve been to college.” He might have been right. It seems...

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Adverbs

Few things do more to distinguish skilled writers from amateurs than the way in which they use adverbs (words that modify verbs and usually end with -ly). The following examples demonstrate why: Example 1: Jane ran quickly past...

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Run-On Sentences

Understanding sentence boundaries is essential to writing. A sentence (at its most basic) requires a subject (a noun) and a verb (an action). Example: He ran. The subject here (he) did an action (ran) and so we have a complete...

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Verb Usage: Simple past vs. present perfect

Both of these tenses are used to focus on the past, but the meaning is different. The simple past is used to describe things in the past that are completed and happened at a known time, while the present perfect is used to describe: 1) things that happened in the past at an unknown or nonspecific time, and 2) things that began in the past and have continued until the present.

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Pronouns

Pronouns are words that are used in place of nouns. Example: The most common pronoun error involves placing the pronoun too far away from the noun that it is replacing (the antecedent). Example: The room spun and she had to prop...

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Apostrophes

It’s sometimes difficult to know with an apostrophe where its proper place is. The answer is that you put an apostrophe in a word to show that letters have been left out. We call these words “contractions” and we use them a lot...

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Verb Usage: Future Verb Options

There are different purposes for writing about the future, and different verb types are used for these different purposes. Be careful to think about the reason behind your writing about the future, and choose the tense which both effectively communicates that reason.

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Order of Adjectives

An adjective is a word that describes a noun. In English, adjectives need to go in a particular order in order to make sense. They usually follow the following pattern: opinion, size, physical quality, shape, age, color, origin,...

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Capitalization

Capitalizing the first letters of words is a tradition in English that comes from German. In traditional German, all nouns are capitalized. The Idea behind capitalizing Letters is that it makes the important Things in a Sentence...

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Comparatives and Superlatives

Comparatives are words that are used to (as the name suggests) compare things. Words like: bigger, longer, taller, faster, slower, shorter, and smaller are comparatives. Superlatives are those things that you find in high school...

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Ellipses

And so it went… Ellipses are usually used to show that words have been left out of quotes, but occasionally they are used in dialogue to show a trailing off or…something. Don’t put any spaces around them; they go right up...

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Verb Tenses

One of the most difficult things for fledgling writers and English learners is verb tenses. Most memoirs and fiction stories are written in the past tense for the obvious reason that we tend to tell stories about things that...

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Misplaced Modifiers

Adjectives and adverbs (words that modify nouns and verbs [respectively]) need to be close to the word that they modify. If you put too many words between a word and its modifier, you might confuse the reader. Incorrect:...

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