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Throughout this guide, we give many examples of correct and incorrect usage, as well as helpful hints to help you remember the rules. The following icons are used in this guide:
- indicates an example of the concept being discussed
- indicates a correct example of the rule being discussed
- indicates an incorrect example of the rule being discussed
- indicates a hint to help you remember the rule
You can communicate with others by talking or writing; however, written communication is more formal than talking. To communicate effectively in writing, authors use a writing process that includes planning, writing drafts, revising, and editing their writing before they share it with an audience. If you complete each of the stages in this writing process thoughtfully, you will ensure that you communicate your ideas clearly and that your reader understands the message as you intended.
Step 1: Prewriting - Getting Ready to Write
Prewriting is the most important step in writing. Some authors spend as much as 70% of the total writing time planning and getting ready to write. If you plan your piece carefully, the actual writing will be easier, and your final piece of writing will be better.
As a part of planning and prewriting, you should:
Identify your purpose.
Why am I writing? Is it to inform, to entertain, to persuade, or to express an opinion or idea? Be sure to keep your purpose in mind as you plan your piece of writing.
Define your topic.
It is important to have a specific topic that is neither too broad, nor too narrow. If your topic is too broad, it will be difficult to cover it adequately. If your topic is too narrow, you will not have enough to say to make an interesting piece of writing.
Identify the genre (form).
What form will your writing take? Writing can take many forms. Some examples are a letter, a play, an essay, a research report, a web page, a journal entry, or an editorial. Some forms have a specific structure you must follow, while others are more flexible.
Identify your audience.
Who will be reading your writing (or who will your teacher pretend to be)? The words you select and the tone of your writing should be geared to your audience. If you are writing a research report, a more formal style is required. If you are writing a letter to a friend, less formal writing is appropriate.
Brainstorm your ideas.
Brainstorming involves thinking of as many ideas as you can that relate to your topic. In brainstorming, there are no “right” answers - the more ideas, the better! You can refine these ideas and take out ones that don’t work later. One way to brainstorm is to create a cluster. (These are also sometimes called concept maps, mind maps, or word webs.) To create a cluster, draw a circle, and write your topic in the center. Then, draw rays extending out from the center with as many ideas as you can think of. Continue to expand the cluster with more ideas. To refine and organize your ideas, choose your main ideas and make sure you have supporting details for each one.
Create an outline.
You can change your cluster into an outline. Add or delete information as needed. Did you include enough information so that your audience will understand your meaning? Check your organization. Do you have the information in the best order, so your writing makes sense to your audience?
Research your topic.
Depending on the form of your writing, you may need to do research to flesh out your outline. Gather as much information as you can, so you have all the details you need to do your writing. As you gather research, make sure you write down the sources you use, so you can cite your sources in your final draft.
Step 2: Writing/Drafting - Getting It Down on Paper
At some point, you need to just start writing! When you are writing your first draft, don’t worry about all the rules of writing - just write! (You will check and refine your writing later.) As you write, stay focused on your purpose and your topic.
A good way to get started is do a quick write. A quick write is done without concern for using complete sentences or about spelling, punctuation, and grammar while writing. The idea is to get as many ideas down on paper as quickly as possible. Keep writing until you have written as many ideas and details as you can think of from your prewriting. If you share your writing with someone else at this stage, he or she may be able to give you even more ideas to consider including.
Step 3: Revising - Refining Your Writing
Once you feel your draft is complete, you are ready to revise your writing. The purpose of revision is to ensure you communicate your ideas clearly. When you revise you should:
Organize your writing by moving information around to be logical and clear.
Add details to your draft in order to clarify ideas.
Delete any unnecessary words, miscellaneous information, or ideas that are not related to your topic.
Write a new draft that includes all these changes.
Step 4: Editing - Checking for Errors
Mechanical errors, such as problems with spelling, punctuation, or grammar, interfere with communication. When writers edit, they use the rules of spelling, grammar, punctuation, mechanics, and style to ensure that readers understand their message. You may find that using a list of commonly misspelled words and grammar rules that you have trouble with will help with the editing process. You may want to try using an electronic grammar or spell checker. An editing partner or writing group can help you identify errors you may miss when you proofread your own work.
Step 5: Publishing and Presenting - Celebrating Your Work
Once you have made your writing the very best it can be, you are ready to share your writing with the intended audience.
Style refers to how you communicate your message in writing. A piece of writing could be perfect grammatically and yet be boring or unclear. To make sure that your writing is interesting and meaningful, consider the audience, purpose, and genre or form for your piece of writing before you begin. Here are some questions to guide you:
Audience - Who will read your work? Should your writing be informal or formal for this audience? What information will this audience need to know?
Purpose - Why are you writing? What do you want the reader to know when he or she has read your piece? What do you want the reader to believe or agree with? What action, if any, do you want the reader to take after reading your piece?
Genre/Form - What will the final piece of writing look like? What model or format should you follow? What is the best genre to use with your purpose? How can you organize your information to have the desired impact on your audience?
Style includes the tone of your writing, the words you choose to include, and the words you leave out. Effective style may be the opposite of what you think. Effective style is not flowery descriptions, butxx rather communicating your message in a clear, interesting, and effective way.
Here are some tips:
Provide interesting, clear examples.
Make sure your word choices are appropriate for your audience.
Eliminate extra words. For example, writers often overuse the word the. Reread your writing. Read your sentences with the and then without the. Ask yourself, if you eliminate the, will the sentence sound better and still make sense? If so, eliminate it.
In general, avoid slang and clichés.
It was a dark and stormy night. [This is a cliché that should be avoided.]
We huddled in our beds as the wind howled through the trees and the rain drenched the streets outside.
Use active voice rather than passive voice. In active voice, the subject performs the action of the verb. In passive voice, the subject receives the action of the verb
I turned my exam in on time. [active voice]
My exam was turned in on time. [passive voice]
A noun names a person, place, or thing. For example, reporter, ocean, and truth are all nouns. Here are some different types of nouns:
Proper nouns - A proper noun is a specific name, place, or title. For example, Gary Paulsen, Discovery Middle School, and Treasure Island are proper nouns. Proper nouns are always capitalized.
Collective nouns - A collective noun names a group of people. For example, team, band, and crew are collective nouns.
Concrete nouns - A concrete noun names something you can identify using your five senses (see, hear, smell, touch, or feel). For example, grass, sugar, and heat are concrete nouns.
Abstract nouns - You cannot see, hear, smell, touch, or feel an abstract noun. For example, honesty, faith, and truth are abstract nouns.
Pronouns replace nouns or noun phrases (for example, he, she, they, and we). Here are different types of pronouns:
Personal pronouns - I, he, him, she, her, it, we, us, they, them
Possessive pronouns - my, mine, his, her, hers, its, our, ours, your, yours, their, theirs
Demonstrative pronouns - that, this, these, those
Interrogative pronouns - who, whom, whose, which, what
Indefinite pronouns - all, another, any, anybody, anything, both, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, few, many, neither, nobody, none, no one, nothing, one, several, some, somebody, someone, something
Relative pronouns - who, whom, whose, which, that
Reflexive pronouns - myself, yourself, himself, herself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, themselves
Reciprocal pronouns - each other, one another
A verb is a word that expresses action or names a state of existence. For example, run, sing, and laugh are action verbs; be, seem, and appear are state of existence verbs.
Linking verbs link the subject to a subject complement. A subject complement is either a noun that renames the subject or an adjective that describes the subject.
Jose is the best baseball player on our team.
Helping verbs are used with main verbs to change tenses, make questions, and express meanings such as possibility, advisability, permission, and requirement.
I was walking.
He must have walked.
Verb forms change with tense, indicating when the action happened (past, present, or future). Verbs have five basic forms known as the principal parts of a verb.
The principal forms of the regular verb to love are:
She loves me now. [present tense]
She loved me last year. [past tense]
She will love me some day. [future tense]
Verbs can be regular or irregular. Regular verbs follow the forms above (-s, -ed, etc.). Irregular verbs do not.
Javad will eat.
[Eat is an irregular verb.]
The infinitive form of a verb is preceded by the word to and can function as a noun, adjective, or adverb.
I love to go swimming when it is hot.
Participles are forms of a verb that can be used as verbs or as adjectives.
She had loved me once. [past participle]
She is loving me the way I am. [present participle]
Verbs are either transitive or intransitive. Transitive verbs have a direct object. A direct object is a noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb.
The cat killed the mouse. [Mouse is the direct object.]
Intransitive verbs do not have a direct object. You cannot put a noun or pronoun directly after an intransitive verb.
The flower died.
1. Harriet ___ the pizza yesterday.
2. Tomorrow, our dog ___ to the park with us.
3. Gina ___ to the mall right now.
4. The children ___ on a trip to the bakery next month.
5. “To run” is ___.
6. What function does a linking verb have?
Adjectives describe, modify, or give more information about a noun or pronoun. They usually come before the noun or pronoun. Adjectives tell which one, how many, or what kind.
Josh wore his blue jersey. [Which one?]
Four boys played basketball. [How many?]
The coach ordered new basketballs. [What kind?]
An adverb describes or modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb. Adverbs usually answer the questions how, when, where, or how often. Comparative adverbs compare two people, places, or things. Superlative adverbs compare three or more people, places, or things.
Amber writes fluently. [How?]
We need to leave immediately. [When?]
They bought their car locally. [Where?]
Conjunctions are connecting words. Coordinating conjunctions combine two equal groups of words. And, but, or, and nor are examples of coordinating conjunctions. A subordinating conjunction connects an independent clause to a subordinate clause. While, which, because, if, and unless are examples of subordinating conjunctions.
Pen and paper are needed for this assignment. [coordinating conjunction]
If you run quickly, you will be on time. [subordinating conjunction]
Prepositions tell about the relationships between a noun or pronoun and another word. Most prepositions are one word (for example, of, from, in, on), but some prepositions are two or more words (for example, next to, because of, according to, in front of, in addition to)
A preposition is often combined with a noun or noun phrase to form a prepositional phrase.
Please finish your homework before dinner.
The school is on this street.
Students walked home from school.
An interjection is a word or phrase that expresses surprise or other emotion. An interjection may be thought of as the word form of an exclamation mark. Examples of interjections are oh, hey, ouch, and gosh. The word itself shows strong emotion.
Yikes! That’s hot!
Oh, I’m sorry!
1. Which part of speech is the word “me”?
2. Which part of speech is the word “are”?
3. Which part of speech is the word “enormous”?
4. Which kind of noun is the word “Texas”?
5. Which part of speech is the word “slowly”?
6. Which part of speech is the word “slow”?
7. Which part of speech is the word “and”?
8. Which part of speech is the word “car”?
9. Which part of speech is the word “hungry”?
10. Which kind of verb form is “to kiss”?
11. Which kind of phrase is “after lunch”?
12. What verb tense is “grew”?
13. In the phrase “to the store”, which part of speech is the word “to”?
Match parts of speech to their descriptions.
It is difficult to remember and implement all of the rules relating to grammar. Here are some rules that cover many common errors.
A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence or a sentence that does not have a subject and a predicate (a verb and other words that complete the sentence). While oral language and informal writing sometimes use fragments, in formal writing, fragments are not acceptable. Each sentence must contain a subject and a predicate.
Among their possessions, bikes and clothes and money.
[There is no verb in this sentence.]
Among their possessions were bikes, clothes, and money.
Playing video games with some friends.
[There is no subject in this sentence.]
I was playing video games with some friends.
Subjects and verbs must agree in terms of number (singular or plural). A singular subject requires a singular verb. A plural subject requires a plural verb. It sounds easy enough. The challenge is to identify your subject and find out if it is singular or plural. It will help if you ignore all the words in between your subject and verb to determine the correct form.
A banana and an apple is good for you to eat.
[The subject “a banana and an apple” is plural and requires a plural verb.]
A banana and an apple are good for you to eat.
Pronouns can also cause agreement problems. A pronoun and its antecedent (the noun it refers to) must agree in number and gender.
One of the boys are late for school every day.
[The subject is “one,” which is singular and therefore needs a singular verb.]
One of the boys is late for school every day.
Parallel construction is about being consistent. Parallel structure requires that items in a list all be in a similar format or of the same part of speech.
He liked to swim, go biking, and jogging.
[“To swim,” “go biking,” and “jogging” are different forms and are not parallel.]
He liked to swim, to bike, and to jog.
He liked swimming, biking, and jogging.
It is important to make sure that related words stay together in order to guarantee clarity of meaning. As the writer, you have a lot more background information and context than the reader does. What makes sense to you is not necessarily what will make sense to your reader.
The tree stands slanted on the corner.
[It is the tree that is slanted, so the words should be together to be clear.]
The slanted tree stands on the corner.
Using more than one negative in a clause is not proper grammar.
She doesn’t want nothing for her birthday.
[“Doesn’t” and “nothing” are both negative.]
She doesn’t want anything for her birthday.
1. Which of these is a sentence fragment?
2. Which of these is a complete sentence?
3. Which of these has parallel construction?
A) The playground has many children playing, a few teachers, and one parent watching.
B) The playground has many children playing, a few teachers with their lunches, and one parent.
C) The playground has many children, a few teachers supervising, and one parent watching.
D) The playground has many children playing, a few teachers supervising, and one parent watching.
4. Which of these is incorrect?
Instructions: Choose the correct word for each sentence.
Correct punctuation is important to make your writing understandable. Punctuation also puts emphasis in the right areas to convey your meaning to the reader. Below are some basic punctuation marks with some of their uses.
Commas and their correct placement are very important. At times, the absence or presence of a comma can change the meaning of a sentence.
When writing a list of more than two things, use a comma between items and before the word and.
She chose vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream for her sundae.
When a sentence has two complete ideas, each with its own subject and verb, use a comma before the conjunction (and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet) that links them. Do not ever use a comma to separate two complete sentences without a conjunction. (Doing so is a comma splice; see below.)
She chose her favorite ice cream, and he made her sundae.
Comma splices and fused (or run-on) sentences occur when two independent clauses (each with a subject and a verb) are put together with a comma and no conjunction, or with no separation at all. Remember, if the two ideas can stand alone, then they will need to be joined by a conjunction, be separated by a semicolon, or exist as two separate sentences.
Sam and Lucas went to see a movie, Sam ate popcorn with butter.
[These two independent clauses should not be separated with a comma.]
Sam and Lucas went to see a movie Sam ate popcorn with butter.
[These two independent clauses should not be presented as one sentence. This is a fused or run-on sentence.]
Sam and Lucas went to see a movie, and Sam ate popcorn with butter.
Sam and Lucas went to see a movie; Sam ate popcorn with butter.
Sam and Lucas went to see a movie. Sam ate popcorn with butter.
Use an apostrophe to show possession (something that belongs to someone).
For a name (or other singular noun), an indefinite pronoun, or an acronym, use an apostrophe and an s.
It was Kate’s laptop.
It was the NFL’s laptop.
For plural nouns ending in s, just add an apostrophe. If a plural does not end in s, add an apostrophe and s.
We helped with the boys’ class.
We helped with the men’s class.
When writing about two or more people, consider the difference between these two examples:
I saw Kate and Gemma’s car.
[The car belongs to both of them.]
I saw Kate’s and Gemma’s cars.
[They each own a different car.]
If you want to add information to your sentence that is helpful or interesting, but not essential, consider using parentheses. If the information is related to all of the information in the sentence, use a comma instead.
She chose her favorite ice cream (which happened to be chocolate), and he made her sundae.
Note that commas and semicolons are placed after the parentheses. Do not place a comma or a semicolon before the parentheses.
Quotation marks are always used in pairs. Place quotation marks around direct quotations, unless they are very long. (Quotations five lines or more are set off from the text by indenting the entire quotation from the margin on each side.)
Quotation marks are also used for titles of newspaper articles, magazine articles, short stories, poems, chapters in books, songs, and episodes of television programs.
A direct quotation is someone’s exact words, either written or spoken. Place a pair of quotation marks before and another pair after the words a person speaks or has written.
Emma said, “I like reading fiction as well as nonfiction.”
An indirect quotation is a person’s words as they are reported by someone else. Do not use quotation marks with indirect quotations. Often an indirect quotation is introduced by the word that.
Julio said that he liked reading both fiction and nonfiction.
Note that a period and a comma are placed inside the quotation marks. All other punctuation goes outside the quotation marks, unless it is part of what is being quoted.
When another quotation appears inside a quotation, single quotation marks are used.
Mrs. Diaz asked, “Did you really say, ‘My dog ate my homework’?”
A hyphen is used to create compound modifiers. A hyphen should not be used after an adverb ending in ly. If you are not sure if you should use a hyphen with a compound word, consult your dictionary.
Use a hyphen between two or more words that function as one word or one adjective.
She had well-behaved children.
Hyphens are used with numbers and some number combinations.
The three-digit area codes are constantly revised. California has at least twenty-four area codes!
Hyphens also can be used to break a word at the end of a line (if, for example, there is not enough room to put the entire word on the line). If you separate a word at the end of a line with a hyphen, make sure it is in the right place. Words are usually divided by syllables.
Colons are used to show that something is about to follow. Do not use a colon after a verb.
The colors to be used are: blue, red, and green.
[A colon should not be used after a verb.]
Instead, a colon should be used with the words the following or as follows. Use a colon even if those words are implied.
The colors to be used are the following: blue, red, and green.
Colons should also be used to separate a title and subtitle, when writing ratios, after a formal salutation, and with time references.
Write Right!: A Desktop Digest of Punctuation, Grammar, and Style
We hope to achieve a 10:1 ratio.
Dear President Bush:
I need to wake up by 10:00 a.m.
A colon is also used before a summary, a long quotation, a list, or an explanation of what preceded the colon. If the words following the colon are a complete thought or quotation, capitalize the first letter following the colon.
A semicolon can be used to join two complete clauses that are closely related but are not separated by a conjunction. It should not be used with a phrase or dependent clause. Semicolons also can be used between items in a list when the items have internal commas.
Hannah was a very small child; she later grew to be quite tall.
Jose left school suddenly; however, he later returned.
Periods, exclamation marks, question marks, dashes, brackets, and ellipsis points are also marks of punctuation. Basic definitions are as follows:
Periods - A period marks the end of a sentence. It is also used with abbreviations.
Exclamation marks - An exclamation mark is used at the end of a word or group of words to convey strong emotion.
Question marks - A question mark is used at the end of a direct question.
Dashes - A dash should be used sparingly in formal writing. It can show a break in thought, provide an opportunity for further explanation, or start off a listing of items.
Brackets - Brackets can be used within parentheses, or to clarify information within quotation marks.
Ellipsis points - Ellipsis points are three periods that can show a hesitation or an omission from a quoted statement.
Instructions: Choose the best punctuation for each sentence.
An abbreviation is a shortened version of a word.
You should write out the following words when they appear in a sentence: minutes, months, days of the week, cities, and states. Do not abbreviate these words.
United States should be spelled out when it is used as a noun. It can be abbreviated when it is used as an adjective.
The United States and Mexico have a new trade policy.
He supported the U.S. trade policy.
An acronym uses capital letters to stand for the name of something, such as an organization or a group. When you use an acronym in your writing, spell it out the first time so your reader will be clear on its meaning.
The players of MLB (Major League Baseball) are considering voluntary steroid testing.
As a general rule, the following should be capitalized:
The pronoun I
The first word in a sentence
Languages and nationalities
Companies and organization names
Days of the week, months, and holidays (but not seasons)
For the title of a book, movie, or other work, capitalize the first and last words and any major words in the middle. Do not capitalize short prepositions (for example, of, in) or articles (for example, a, an, the). In general, words that are less than five letters long are not capitalized.
The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum
Use italics for the following:
Titles of publications (for example, books, magazines, works of art, plays, television shows)
Words used as examples or terms being defined
You can also use italics to emphasize a word, but use this rule with care. Do not overuse italics.
The numbers one through nine should always be spelled out.
I bought three new books.
If a number can be written in two words, spell it out. If it will take three or more words, use numbers. If a sentence contains both, use numbers.
Summer vacation begins in forty-six days.
School begins in 125 days.
Summer vacation starts in 46 days, and we will be back in school in 125 days.
Any time a number begins a sentence, it should be written out. If possible it is better to avoid starting a sentence with a number.
Three thousand twenty-five people attended the free concert.
The word “and” should not be used in numbers unless it is to show a fraction.
He ate one and a half pies.
Dates and times are found in many different formats. Choose one, and be consistent.
When you use outside sources of information in your writing, you must give credit to the sources. If you do not, you are stealing information, which is called plagiarizing. Plagiarism can have serious consequences, including expulsion from school, college, or university.
Two types of sources need to be referenced. The first is information that is directly quoted or paraphrased. These sources can be cited with footnotes, endnotes, or parenthetical references. (Your teacher usually will tell you the format he or she wishes you to use.)
In addition, for research papers, you will need to include a list of all the sources of information that you consulted in gathering information.
Footnotes, endnotes, and parenthetical references are all used when information is quoted or paraphrased. Paraphrased information is taken from a source but restated in the writer’s own words. Any information that is borrowed from a source and is not considered to be common knowledge must be cited.
Footnoted citations are indicated with a superscript number after the quotation or reference, which then refers to the actual citation, which is given at the bottom of the page.
Here is an example of a paragraph from a report with a footnote:
In the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, the author uses dialect to set the mood of the story. For example, in the beginning of the book, Tom’s Aunt Polly says: “‘Forty times I’ve said if you didn’t let that jam alone I’d skin you. Hand me that switch.’”1
At the bottom of the page, the footnote will look like this:
1 Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (New York: Penguin Books, 1986), p. 17.
With footnotes, the first line is indented and lines under that not. Always include the page number at the end of a footnote.
An endnote serves the same purpose as a footnote. However, instead of appearing at the bottom of the page on which it is referenced, an endnote is written at the end of a chapter or paper. An endnote is written in the same style as a footnote.
Parenthetical references are included directly after a quotation or paraphrased section of text. For example:
In the book The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain, the author uses dialect to set the mood of the story. For example, in the beginning of the book, Tom’s Aunt Polly says: “‘Forty times I’ve said if you didn’t let that jam alone I’d skin you. Hand me that switch’” (Twain, 17).
When using parenthetical references, it is essential to include a bibliography with full citations at the end of the paper.
At the end of your paper or report, you will need to have a list of the references that you used as sources of information for the report. There are different conventions for bibliographic citations. The examples below are written in a commonly used format of the Modern Language Association of America or the MLA. (Gibaldi, Joseph. MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, Sixth Edition. New York: The Modern Language Association of America, 2003.)
In a bibliography, the first line is always flush left, and each line under that is indented. The list of bibliographic entries should be alphabetical.
Article - Web Site with an Author
Mount, Steve. “The Constitution Explained.” USConstitution.net. August 25, 2006 <http://www.usconstitution.net/ constquick.html>.
Article - Web Site with no Author
“A More Perfect Union: The Creation of the U.S. Constitution.” The National Archives Experience. 2006. The National Archives. 25 August, 2006 <http://www.archives.gov/national-archives-experience/charters/constitution_history.html>.
Article - Online Magazine
Robbins, Harriet. “Heartbeat: Get into Rhythm with New Books.” New Moon 25-28. March-April 2004. 21 July 2004 <http://www.newmoon.org>.
Article – Encyclopedia (from a well-known source)
“India.” Britannica Macropaedia. 15th Edition. 2003.
Article – Encyclopedia (from a less well-known source)
“Radio Telescope.” The New Illustrated Science and Invention Encyclopedia. Ed. Donald Clarke. 26 vols. Westport, CT: H.S. Stuttman Inc. Publishers, 1988.
Article – Journal
Franklin, Theodore Palmer. “What Middle School Students Need to Know About Poetry.” Middle School Journal 36 (September 2001): 72-78.
Article - Magazine
Anile, Janice P. “Tracking Bears: My Time in Alaska.” Newsweek International April/May 1996: 43.
Article – Newspaper
Wiley, William S. “Children’s Literature Festival Great Success.” Miami Standard 31 January 2002: sec. 5B, p. 1.
Article - Newspaper (no author)
“Review of The Giant.” Orlando Sentinel 6 June 1999: sec. V, p. 12.
Book - One Author
Fletcher, Ralph. A Writer’s Notebook. New York: Scholastic, 1999.
Book - Two Authors
Portalupi, Jo Ann and Ralph Fletcher. Craft Lessons. Portland, ME: Stenhouse Publishers, 1998.
Book - Three Authors
Parker, Julie T., Sondra Fletcher, and Philip S. Johnson. Why Write Fiction? New York: Scholastic, 2003.
Book - More than Three Authors
Compton, Phyllis, et al. Writing English the Right Way. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 2004.
Interview – Published
Holland, Grace K. Interview with Margaret Meeker. “Grace Holland Tells All.” Language Art. 56 (Fall 2000): 13-15.
Interview - Writer of the Paper
Thomas, Theodore. Personal interview. 22 July 1994.
Recording – Sound
Lawrence, Madeleine. I Hear the Wind in the Trees. Read by the author. Compact disc. Caedmon CP 1619, 2002.
Recording - Video
Conrad, Patricia. Classroom Research. Produced and directed by Candice Collingsworth. Videocassette. Collingsworth Studios, 2003.
Correct spelling is very important. Misspelled words can be a minor problem a reader notices or a major problem that interferes with the meaning of your writing. Take advantage of the wide range of resources available, including handheld dictionaries and your own list of commonly misspelled words. If a word looks strange to you, look it up. If you have to think about it, it should be checked.
Below is a short list of words that are easy to misspell and mix up, along with some hints to help you remember the correct forms. Remember to look carefully at your word choices. Create your own list of the words that seem especially challenging to you to use as a quick reference. Learning to spell the words you use often is much easier than trying to memorize the whole dictionary!
Accept is a verb that means to take something that is offered.
Except is a preposition that means “excluding.”
I accept your invitation.
I would attend, except I have other plans.
Remember ac know ledge.
Advice is a noun meaning an opinion about what one should do.
Advise is the verb form of advice.
I would love to give you advice about your career choices.
I would advise you to think carefully about your career choices.
Affect is a verb meaning to bring about a change.
Effect is a noun that means the result of something.
The weather affects her mood.
The effect of the sunny day was to make her happy.
Alot is not a word; a lot is two words.
Remember to use a space.
Remember you can’t dance if you don’t attend.
Beside is a preposition that means “next to.”
Besides can mean “except” or it can mean “in addition to.”
The ball field is located beside the school.
Who is going besides those girls?
Between is used when referring to two people or things.
Among is used when referring to three or more people or things.
Josh and Amanda divided the cookies between themselves.
They divided the cookies among the four boys.
When referring to distances, use farther. When referring quantity or degree, use further.
California is farther from New York than from Mississippi.
We’ll expand this list further next time we meet.
Use fewer with discrete nouns (items that can be counted); use less with non-count nouns.
He carries fewer books than I do.
Joanna weighs less than Nastasha.
Hear is a verb that refers to listening.
Here is an adverb that tells the place.
You can hear the wind rushing through the trees.
Please put that box down here.
“I” before “e”
The rule “i before e except after c” has many exceptions, so look it up if you are not sure.
It’s is a contraction of “it is.”
Its shows possession or ownership.
If you use “it’s,” you should be able to substitute “it is.”
The dog retrieved its bone.
It’s time to get the dog a new bone.
Lay is a transitive verb and is always followed by an object.
Lie is an intransitive verb and never takes an object. Lie can mean to get into a flat position. Lie can also be a noun that means an untruth.
Please lay the book on the table.
Sean lies in front of the television.
Jennifer lied to her brother.
Loose is an adjective meaning not tight or not fastened.
Lose is a verb meaning to misplace or fail to keep in one’s possession. It can also mean not to win.
My dog got loose from his leash.
I hope I don’t lose my dog.
He doesn’t want to lose the game.
Remember that occurred has two sets of double letters.
Quiet is an adjective meaning not loud.
Quite is an adverb meaning very.
The classroom is very quiet today.
Yesterday, the room was quite noisy.
Raise is a transitive verb and always has an object.
Rise is an intransitive verb and never has an object.
We will raise the flag.
Yesterday, we raised the flag.
Each day, the sun rises over the horizon.
Remember sep a rate.
Sit is an intransitive verb and never has an object.
Set is a transitive verb meaning to put or to place and always has an object.
Please sit down on the couch.
Each day, she set her books on the table.
These are words with tricky r’s.
Their shows ownership.
Remember the word heir is in their.
There is a place and tells where.
Remember the word here is in there.
They’re is a contraction of “they are.”
Remember that you can substitute they are.
Their room had a lot of posters.
We went there to see the collection of posters.
They’re going to put up more posters.
Two is the numeral 2.
To is a preposition that shows direction.
Too means also or in addition.
Remember that it has too many o’s.
We went and saw two movies.
We went to the theater and saw the movies.
We saw the movies, too.
Instructions: Choose the correct word for each sentence.
acronym – the use of letters to stand for something; for example, NFL for the National Football League
adjective – a part of speech that describes, modifies, or gives more information about a noun or pronoun; example: fast, green, lovely
adverb – a part of speech that describes, modifies, or gives more information about a verb, an adjective, or another adverb; example: quickly, unbelievably, expertly
alliteration – the repetition of the first letter in several words used to give writing a poetic sound; example: The cat was slinking along in its slim, sleek manner.
allusion – an implied or indirect reference to something well known
bibliography – a listing of books, web sites, or other sources of information that an author consulted or used in writing
brainstorm – to think of as many ideas as possible about something without taking time to judge their correctness or appropriateness
cluster – a way to brainstorm or organize ideas by using a graphic organizer that starts with one word in a circle that then connects to additional ideas; the diagram is expanded as more ideas are generated
comma splice – two sentences that are improperly joined by only a comma
conjunction – a part of speech that functions as a connecting word; example: and, but, or, nor
dialogue – conversation or discussion by characters in a story
ellipsis – three periods used to show an omission from a passage or a hesitation
expository – a genre or style of writing that is intended to convey information
genre – a particular style or form of writing
hyperbole – a figure of speech that exaggerates; example: She was as big as a house.
imagery – the use of figurative language to paint a vivid picture
interjection – a part of speech that expresses surprise or other emotion; example: oh, yikes
metaphor – a figure of speech that states two unlike things are the same in a figurative way; example: She was the wind.
narrative – a genre or style of writing that tells a story
noun – a part of speech that is a person, place, or thing; example: boy, truth, game
onomatopoeia – the use of words that imitate or suggest a sound; example: hiss, buzz
parallel – a sentence structure that is consistent in its use or listing of similar elements
parody – a genre in which another work is imitated in order to make fun of it
personification – a description of something that is not a person as though it were a person; example: The stream made a happy, singing sound through the forest.
persuasive – a genre or style of writing that tries to convince the reader of something
preposition – a part of speech that tells about the relationship between a noun or pronoun and another word; example: in, through, between
pronoun – a part of speech that replaces a noun or noun phrase; example: I, you, he, she, it, they
prose – the ordinary form of written language, as opposed to poetry
protagonist – the main character in a story
quick write – a method of writing in which the writer gets down as many ideas as quickly as possible without worrying about spelling, punctuation, or other errors
satire – a genre in which something is ridiculed, often humorously
sentence fragment – an incomplete sentence
setting – the time and place in which a story takes place
simile – a figure of speech comparing two unlike things; example: She was as fast as the wind.
soliloquy – a dramatic monologue in which a character makes an extended speech to himself or herself
verb – a part of speech that expresses action or names a state of existence; example: ran, be, see