Tag Archives | grammar
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Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

Joseph Priestly, the Englishman we remember as a great scientist and the one who first discovered oxygen, was a writer before he was a scientist. And he was a writer with a Big Idea. Priestly (1733-1804) lived in an age when interest in “natural philosophy,” what we would call “science” today, had exploded, and people […]

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Costly commas

God save the Queen! God, save the Queen! The presence or absence of punctuation — particularly the ubiquitous comma — can change the meaning of a sentence. And it can have massive consequences. This BBC website article,  Pocket: The commas that cost companies millions,  tells about how the absence of a comma in a contract cost […]

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The private eye’s business is trouble; newsletter, Dec. 22, 2017

This newsletter was sent to everyone on Jim’s email list (4,466) on Friday, Dec. 22, 2017.     Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year. Tis the season to celebrate, and there are lots of good greetings out there. I wish you good fellowship, good friends and family, good food, good music, and […]

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Texting and grammar:

r u goin 2 c her 2-nit Strict grammarians (I don’t count myself in those ranks) believe that text messaging will kill off good grammar, spelling and punctuation. (Unless it literally kills us first, since many text messages are sent and received from behind the wheel of vehicles at 45-plus mph.) But before we don […]

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MC 102 Lecture 02: Grammar and style

For media writers — people who make their living in this profession, however, the rules of grammar, spelling, punctuation and style are essential. Knowing those rules and being able to apply them consciously to your writing is the mark of a professional. What you don’t know about these things, you should try to learn as […]

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Answers: Subject-verb agreement 04

1. The mass media have become pervasive in our society. Media is another of those words that has maintained its Latin origin. This is the plural form and should have a plural verb. The singular form of media is medium. 2. The president and his advisor was up early to deal with the crisis. Compound […]

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Exercise: Subject-verb agreement 04

This exercise consists of 10 sentences. For each sentence you should decide if the subject agrees with the verb. If so, type the word “Correct” in the space below the sentence; if not, write the sentence correctly in the box below it. Follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link appears […]

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Answers: Subject-verb agreement 03

Subject-verb agreement exercise 03 1. Laughter and joy always punctuate the child’s shrieks. Compound subjects joined by the conjunction “and” usually take plural verbs. In this sentence, “laughter” and “joy” are the subjects of the sentence. 2. Neither the team nor the coach was satisfied with the victory. Compound subjects joined by the conjunction “or” […]

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Exercise: Subject-verb agreement 03

Name This exercise consists of 10 sentences. For each sentence you should decide if the subject agrees with the verb. If so, type the word “Correct” in the space below the sentence; if not, write the sentence correctly in the box below it. Follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link […]

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Answers: Subject-verb agreement 02

1. Either of the two boys have the ability to make the team. Words such as none, anyone, everybody, each, either, neither and one are singular when used as subjects in a sentence. In this case, either is the subject of the sentence, not boys. The verb “have” is incorrect; it should be “has.” 2. […]

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Exercise: Subject-verb agreement 02

This exercise consists of 10 sentences. For each sentence you should decide if the subject agrees with the verb. If so, type the word “Correct” in the space below the sentence; if not, write the sentence correctly in the box below it. Follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link appears […]

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Answers: Subject-verb agreement 01

Subject-verb agreement exercise 01 1. None of the members of the first team are playing in the fourth quarter. Words such as none, anyone, everybody, each, either, neither and one are singular when used as subjects in a sentence. In this case, none is the subject of the sentence, not members. The verb “are” is […]

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Exercise: Subject-verb agreement 01

Name This exercise consists of 10 sentences. For each sentence you should decide if the subject agrees with the verb. If so, type the word “Correct” in the space below the sentence; if not, write the sentence correctly in the box below it. Follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link […]

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Answers: Commas 02

Commas exercise 02 1. The girl stared at him with a sad, longing look in her eyes. When two equal adjectives appear before a noun, they should be separated by a comma. In this case, the adjectives “sad” and “longing” modify the noun “look.” Because there is no conjunction, such as “and,” they should be […]

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Exercise: Commas 02

Name This exercise consists of 10 sentences. Re-type each sentence inserting commas in the correct locations. Print this out when you have finished or follow the directions of your instructor in completing this exercise. A link appears at the end of the sentences that gives an explanation for each sentence. 1. The girl stared at […]

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Answers: Commas 01

1. Abraham Lincoln was elected to his second term in 1864, but he did not serve out his full term. This is a compound sentence – a sentence with two independent clauses. They should be connected with a conjunction, and the comma should come before the conjunction. In this case, the conjunction is “but. 2. […]

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Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation and Diction study guide

When I taught at the University of Alabama, I would give a 100-question grammar, spelling, punctuation and diction exam to beginning writing students. The test was a difficult one, but students had to make at least a 75 on the exam to pass the beginning writing course offered by the College of Communication and Information […]

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Grammar terms

Just as any competent artisan knows the tools of his or her trade, the professional writer should know the basics of the English language. That includes knowing the terms of grammar (verbal, antecedent, etc.) as well as the rules. How is the writer to avoid a run-on sentence if he or she doesn’t know what […]

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