Archives: grammar

Joseph Priestly and his Big (writing) Idea

December 3, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: books, journalism, writers, writing.

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 • Read More »

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Costly commas

September 8, 2018 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: grammar, journalism.

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 • Read More »

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

December 25, 2017 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: newsletter, Private eye.

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 • Read More »

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MC 102 Lecture 02: Grammar and style

May 28, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: journalism.

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 quickly as possible.

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Answers: Subject-verb agreement 03

May 20, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: exercises, teaching journalism.

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” • Read More »

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Answers: Commas 02

May 20, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: exercises, teaching journalism.

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 • Read More »

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Exercise: Commas 02

May 20, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: exercises, teaching journalism.

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 • Read More »

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Answers: Commas 01

May 20, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: exercises.

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. • Read More »

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Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation and Diction study guide

May 13, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: editing.

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 Sciences. That exam is not available on this web site, but the study guide developed for it is. This is an excellent primer on the basic grammar and spelling rules and concepts that a student should know.

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Grammar terms

May 12, 2013 | By Jim Stovall | No Comments | Filed in: writing.

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 it is? To learn these things, students must do the ditch digging of the intellectual process: repeated study and memorization. This page contains a thorough (but not overly long) list of terms and rules for using the language that the professional writer should know.

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