Conventions of Composition

Welcome to our attempt at having much of the grammar and writing help you'll need all in one place. For grammar help, there are two main ways you can use this site.

First, when you’re revising and editing your own work, you might have a question about how to cite a source or where to put a comma. In that case, look through the sections below or scroll through until you find the guideline you’re seeking. Each rule provides examples, practice, and resources for further instruction.

Second, when you get an essay back from your teacher, you will need to figure out what each mark/correction/suggestion means. To do that, you can go straight to the number you’re looking for.

Of course, this guide doesn’t substitute for your interactions with your teacher. We designed this guide as a place to start, but if you’re still confused, ask.

The Hotchkiss English Department recognizes that this site is a work in progress. If you notice errors or omissions of any kind, please contact Carita Gardiner, Instructor in English.

Punctuation, Spelling, etc. (1-124)

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3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 11, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 28, 37, 41, 57, 75, 76, 82, 83, 100, 106, 123, 124

1.

Rule: Two independent clauses joined by for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so need to be separated by a comma.

Examples:

Wrong: I wanted to play basketball but I can't shoot a jumpshot.
Better: I wanted to play basketball, but I can't shoot a jumpshot.
Wrong: Everyone loves Grammar Gateways so the English Department offers four per year.
Better: Everyone loves Grammar Gateways, so the English Department offers four per year.

Practice punctuating the sentences below, deciding if and where they need commas:

  1. His parents gave him everything so he ended up spoiled.
  2. They helped out when they could and where they could.
  3. I read the assignment and my teacher gave a quiz on it.
  4. Ryan had rejected the offer twice yet Jaime kept asking her.
  5. Pat said we could go to the mall or I offered to drive everyone to ice cream.

[answers]

Resources for more explanation of how to punctuate sentences that use coordinating conjunctions:

Purdue OWL's Independent and Dependent Clauses
Purdue OWL's Conquering the Comma
Purdue OWL's Commas
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Commas

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2.

Rule: Two independent clauses not joined by for, and, nor, but, or, yet, or so need to be separated by a semicolon. If you join then with only a comma, you've created an error called a comma splice.

Examples:

Wrong: Quinn went to the beach one day to see his friend, his friend forgot to meet him there.
Better: Quinn went to the beach one day to see his friend; his friend forgot to meet him.
Also better: Although Quinn went to the beach one day to see his friend, his friend forgot to meet him.
Wrong: Morgan is happy, she just won the prize.
Better: Morgan is happy; she just won the prize. OR Morgan is happy because she just won the prize.
Better: I wanted to go, my mom wouldn’t let me.
Better: I wanted to go; my mom wouldn't let me. OR I wanted to go, but my mom wouldn’t let me.
Wrong: Our llama has a sore hoof she stepped on a sharp rock that bruised it.
Better: Our llama has a sore hoof because she stepped on a sharp rock that bruised it.
Also better: Our llama has a sore hoof; she stepped on a sharp rock that bruised it.

Practice revising the sentences below, deciding if and where they need semicolons, commas, or conjunctions:

  1. The murder in the tunnel created a nightmarish traffic jam nevertheless drivers waited patiently for more than an hour.
  2. For many years, the Wizard of Oz was the all-time favorite movie at one time, every kid on my block wore ruby slippers.
  3. When the tiny babies started to appear around campus, everyone loved finding them, nobody knew who kept putting them up.
  4. My daughter said we needed another dog to keep us company, we already have six dogs.
  5. She gave good advice, she told us all to look up and look around.

[answers]

Resources for more explanation of how to avoid comma splices by using semicolons:

University of Wisconsin-Madison's Using Semicolons
Georgia College's Punctuation Rules (scroll down)

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3.

Rule: Semicolons should be used only to separate independent clauses without conjunctions (see Rule 2 above) OR items in a series that have internal commas.

Examples:
Wrong: I visited schools in Tucson, Arizona, Sacramento, California, and Chicago, Illinois.
Better: I visited schools in Tucson, Arizona; Sacramento, California; and Chicago, Illinois.
Wrong: I wanted to read Look Homeward, Angel, The Scarlet Letter, and Yes, Chef this summer.
Better: I wanted to read Look Homeward, Angel; The Scarlet Letter; and Yes, Chef this summer.

Practice putting commas and semicolons into the lists below:

  1. If we're lucky, we can travel to Bangkok, Thailand, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this summer.
  2. I wanted to buy pasta, tomato sauce, the kind without lumps of tomato, cheese, and garlic bread.
  3. When my family goes camping, we bring a tent, sleeping bags, lots of food, mostly dehydrated, and a water filter.
  4. I always carry interesting, new books, my phone, phone charger, and wrinkle-free, stain-free clothes for travel.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to use semicolons:

Grammarly's Semicolons
UNC-Chapel Hill's Semi-colons, colons, and dashes

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4.

Rule: A comma should not separate compound subjects, predicates, or objects of a preposition, unless long and involved or joined by but or yet.

Note: A compound sentence element of more than two items would need separation by commas. To punctuate a compound list, follow the comma rules explained in Rule 37.

Examples:

Wrong: He suddenly jumped to his feet, and began to insult the chair of the committee.
Better: He suddenly jumped to his feet and began to insult the chair of the committee.
Wrong: He paused but went on again.
Better: He paused, but went on again.
Wrong: Both the girl, and her brothers go to the court after school.
Better: Both the girl and her brothers go to the court after school.

Practice deciding if and where these sentences need commas:

  1. They looked under the bed, and the dresser for the wallet.
  2. Sally, and Mary said their vows, and left the mosque.
  3. The boy who won the prize in the Prep Science competition, and the girl who earned the highest mark in English both went on the school's trip to Quebec.
  4. After I finished David Levithan's Every Day, I raced to read the sequel.
  5. Varsity football, Varsity Field Hockey, Boys Varsity Soccer, and Varsity Volleyball all won championships that fall.

[answers]

Resources for further explanations of using commas with compound sentence elements:

Purdue OWL's Commas
Laura McKay's Compound Predicates

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5.

Rule: Use a comma or commas to separate long or inessential phrases from the essential elements of the sentence.

Examples:

Wrong: In the beginning of the chapter on microbiology the publishers printed six photos of cells.
Better: In the beginning of the chapter on microbiology, the publishers printed six photos of cells.
Wrong: At his house in Vermont where the sap makes great maple syrup he taps every tree.
Better: At his house in Vermont where the sap makes great maple syrup, he taps every tree.

Practice deciding if and where these sentences need commas:

  1. On the hill by the tennis courts beyond the MAC you can find the Vietnam Memorial.
  2. In 1972 The Godfather came out.
  3. After the longest 108 years ever the Cubs finally won the World Series.
  4. Of all of the students taking Shakespeare and the Bible only seven memorized all of Hamlet.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate inessential phrases:

Purdue OWL's Commas
English Plus's Commas After Introductory Phrases

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8.

Rule: A noun clause, if used as an appositive, doesn't need to be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

Example:

Wrong: The fact, that he has a criminal record, does not prove him guilty in this case.
Better: The fact that he has a criminal record does not prove him guilty in this case.

Practice deciding if and where these sentences need commas:

  1. The situation that he has to do better in school to keep his scholarship makes his mother cry.
  2. Automobile manufacturers don't seem to care about my opinion that cars should all have huge sunroofs.
  3. The Halloween costume which he wore to the party left a trail of glitter.
  4. We don't quite believe her claim that everyone will make the team.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate appositives:

English Grammar 101's Noun Clauses
Purdue OWL's Commas

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9.

Rule: An essential or restrictive (necessary to the meaning of the sentence, explaining which particular person or thing) adjectival clause doesn't need to be set off with commas. An inessential or non-restrictive (not necessary to the meaning of the sentence, provides added information about a known noun or pronoun) adjective clause should be separated from the rest of the sentence with commas.

Examples:

Correct: The man, who is standing by the door, is my uncle. (There is only one man in the room.)
Also correct: The man who is standing by the door is my uncle. (There are several men in the room, only one of whom is near the door.)
Correct: I want an overcoat that will keep me warm. (I don't want any other kind of overcoat.)
Correct: The year when he died is unknown. (Without "when he died," the sentence doesn't make sense.)
Correct: My father, who was penniless at twenty, is now a millionaire. (I have only one father, so "who was penniless at twenty" doesn't clarify which father.)

Practice deciding which sentences need commas, where they go, and what each sentence means depending on where or not you add commas:

  1. Chicago where she was born has the best restaurants.
  2. The road with the six purple houses leads directly to the asylum.
  3. My uncle who wears a beret teaches Spanish.
  4. In the waiting room where I found a whole cheesecake I had a feast.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of using commas with intervening clauses:

Purdue OWL's Commas
dj05cc's (on Youtube) Using Commas in Adjective Clauses

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11.

Rules: An adverbial clause at the beginning of a sentence must be followed by a comma. An adverbial clause at the end of a sentence should be preceded by a comma only if the clause is inessential (presented merely as additional or incidental information).

Examples:

Wrong: When you start with an adverbial clause you need to follow it with a comma.
Better: When you start with an adverbial clause, you need to follow it with a comma.
Correct: Come to our house after you finish work today. (Don't leave work early.)
Correct: Make hay while the sun shines. (Don't make hay at night.)
Correct: I am sorry I cannot go with you now, although perhaps I could some other day.

Practice deciding if and where these sentences could take commas:

  1. If he trains his dog to joggle (jog and juggle simultaneously) he could make a lot of money.
  2. Craig would love to sing in the musical if he gets a starring role.
  3. Buying a new car can cause stress when money becomes tight.
  4. Because she understood fractals she aced the exam.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate sentences containing adverbial clauses:

Towson's Dependent Clauses
Your Dictionary's Adverb Clauses

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16.

Rule: Parenthetical words, phrases, or clauses (such as I believe, they say, we know, it has been said, etc. when used NOT at the beginning of a sentence) need to be separated from the rest of the sentence with a pair of commas, pair of em-dashes, or a pair of parentheses. If commas do not instantaneously indicate the parenthetical nature of the word, phrase, or clause, use a pair of dashes or parentheses.

Notes on dashes: Omit the second of the two dashes before a semicolon, colon, period, question-mark, or exclamation-mark. Omit a comma before or after a dash.

Notes on parentheses: Follow the second parenthesis with whatever mark would be needed if the whole parenthetical expression were removed. If a complete sentence is enclosed in curves, capitalize the sentence and place the period, question-mark, or exclamation-mark inside the second curve.

Examples:
Correct: The Vikings, we know, were brave men. (The "we know" is inessential to the sentence's meaning.)
Correct: The Vikings were brave men, we know. (same explanation as above)
Correct: We know the Vikings were brave men. (Here, the "we know" is the subject and verb.)
Correct: Investments of that sort—I speak from years of experience—are always attractive to the general public.
Correct: If you go (and you really ought to go), I trust you will succeed.

Practice deciding if and where to put commas, dashes, and parentheses:

  1. I bought and you're not going to believe the great deal I got a new truck.
  2. She swam swimming provides an amazing full-body workout to and from work each day.
  3. By the time the bonfire started to smolder ten hours after most people had already left the event, we were tired.
  4. Skaters do you wear figure or hockey skates usually love when black ice covers the lake.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate parentheticals:

Grammar Book's Parentheses and Brackets
The Punctuation Guide's Em Dashes
Writing Forward's Punctuation Marks: Parentheses

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22.

Rule: Format your essay as your teacher has directed. In general, you should double space your work, use one-inch margins, and include your name, the due date, and the course at the top of the first page.

No examples or resources needed. If you have questions, ask your teacher.

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23.

Rule: The titles of book-length works of fiction, poetry, or drama; movies; or collections of music should be italicized or underscored. Titles of individual poems, essays, episodes, pictures, stories, or musical compositions should be enclosed in quotation marks. The first word of the title and all other words that are not prepositions, articles, or conjunctions should be capitalized.

Examples:

Correct: The Taming of the Shrew, The Inferno, The New York Times, Sister Act, "The Art of Losing," "Civil Disobedience," and The Beatles at the Hollywood Bowl, and "Twist and Shout."

Practice deciding how to format these titles:

  1. rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption
  2. the shawshank redemption
  3. the odyssey
  4. calypso speaks to odysseus

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of formatting titles of published works:

IVCC Stylebook's Formatting of Titles in MLA Style
Writer's Relief Properly Format Titles

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24.

Rule: The title of your essay should appear at the center of the top page of your essay, should be capitalized as in rule 23 above, should NOT conclude with period, should NOT be a title anybody else has already used (specifically, not the title of the work you're writing about), should NOT be italicized, underscored, or put in a different shape or size or style font.

Examples:

Correct: Sisters, Aunts, and Grandmothers
Correct: What College Should I Choose
Correct: The Woods Are Afire!
Correct (but boring): My Opinion of A Tale of Two Cities

Practice deciding if the following are good essay titles. If so, how would you format each?

  1. the adventures of huckleberry finn
  2. into one ear out the other
  3. best 45 minutes of my life english last tuesday

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of formatting essays' titles:

IVCC Stylebook's Formatting an Essay Title in MLA Style

Purdue OWL's General Formatting

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25.

Rule: Capitalization: Capitalize the first word in each sentence, all proper nouns, and people's titles (when the title precedes the name). Always capitalize the first-person, singular pronoun (I).

Examples:

Wrong: i asked my Mom if i could go to the dance with taylor.
Better: I asked my mom if I could go to the dance with Taylor.
Also better: I asked Mom if I could go to the dance with Taylor.
Wrong: when coach smith called a meeting, the bearcats all gave their full attention.
Better: When Coach Smith called a meeting, the Bearcats all gave their full attention.

Practice capitalizing these sentences:

  1. we wanted to visit phoenix, arizona, but my family thought it would be too hot.
  2. i asked uncle chris if he knew the best places to eat near tulane university.
  3. the captain came on the loudspeaker to announce that the great green wave would dock soon.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of rules of capitalization:

Grammar Book's Capitalization Rules

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26.

Rule: To indicate a foreign word or word under discussion, underscore or italicize. Thoroughly Anglicized foreign words need no italics, eg. chassis, chef, et cetera, per capita.

Examples:

Correct: Napoleon III’s coup d’état.
Correct: She uses the word lovely in almost every sentence.
Correct: They had seventeen likes in one sentence.

Practice deciding which words, if any, need to be in italics:

  1. When Bubbe called him a gonif, I had to look up the word to know what she meant.
  2. If he had used um one more time, I might have screamed.
  3. Tracy wants her perro and her gato by her at all times.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of formatting foreign words or words under review:

Daily Writing Tips' Italicizing Foreign Words
Grammar Party's When to Capitalize Foreign Words

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28.

Rule: If an nonrestrictive (unnecessary to the meaning of the sentence) appositive has more than one word, separate it from the rest of the sentence with a pair of commas. If an appositive is restrictive (necessary for telling which particular person or thing or which kind of person or thing) or one word, you need not separate it with commas.

Examples:

Correct: George Washington, our first president, died in 1799.
Correct: In Shakespeare’s play Julius Caesar the hero is Brutus.
Correct: The Civil War began in the year 1861.

Practice deciding if or where these appositives need commas around them:

  1. My brother Humperdinck might rule the all of Florin someday.
  2. Her car the Ford F-150 with huge tires is in the shop.
  3. Preps find taking the four Grammar Gateways best four classes of the year both challenging and enjoyable.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of punctuating appositives:

Purdue OWL's Appositives
Grammar Book's Commas with Appositives

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37.

Rule: When using a series of three or more items (words, phrases, or subordinate clauses), you need a comma between each item and the next. If you use a final and or or, you can decide whether or not to include the comma preceding the and or or. [Note: this final comma is called the serial comma or Oxford comma, and grammarians debate its use to the death, almost not using hyperbole here. For a glimpse into this debate, look here or here, but any Google search will show you how seriously people take this topic.] If each element in the list is separated by and or or, you do not need commas. Where you hear a gap when you say the list aloud, put in a comma. [Remember that if the items in your list contain internal commas, you use semicolons to separate items on the list. See rule 3.]

Examples:

Correct: Kind, friendly, attractive people often love grammar.
Correct: Kind, friendly, and attractive people often love grammar.
Correct: Kind and friendly and attractive people often love grammar.

Practice deciding if and where these sentences need commas:

  1. I studied German Greek and Chinese while at Hotchkiss.
  2. The tall handsome trans man won our hearts minds and votes.
  3. She told her wife she already looked under the table behind the shelves and in the cabinet.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to use commas in lists:

Getting it Right Serial Commas
UCL's The Ordering of Adjectives

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41.

Rule: Use colons to introduce lists, definitions, and complete sentences. [For complete sentences, capitalize the first letter after the colon.] Colons may not be preceded by verbs. What a colon introduces must end the sentence.

Examples:

Wrong: I went to the store to buy: flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.
Better: I went to the store to buy all my ingredients: flour, sugar, eggs, and butter.
Correct: He wanted to help cook for the feed: a Hotchkiss ritual involving late-night food.
Correct: Proctor wants to save his wife: "She believe in the Gospel, every word!" (70).
Wrong: My objections to your plan are as follows: the danger, the uncertainty, and the expense, and I shall have nothing to do with it.
Better: I shall have nothing to do with your plan. My objections are as follows: the danger, the uncertainty, and the expense.

Practice putting a colon where one could work:

  1. We brought everything we needed for the trip a camera, a phone charger, and good attitude.
  2. Over the summer, I read Prep, The Catcher in the Rye, and Into the Wild.
  3. After reading the report, I have one question, how can the company stay afloat?

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to use colons:

Grammar Book's Colons
The Punctuation Guide's Colons

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57.

Rule: The word however is a conjunctive adverb. As such, it can't act as a conjunction. When used to join independent clauses, however should be preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma. When used independently, however must be surrounded by commas and is best placed after the words most worthy of special emphasis or somewhere after the verb. Some other conjunctive adverbs (which follow the same punctuation and usage rules) are therefore, nevertheless, furthermore, moreover, in fact, consequently, hence, and accordingly. When using however as a conjunctive adverb introducing a subordinate clause, the whole clause (not the however) requires commas.

Examples:

Correct: He wanted to talk with Lenina; however, he was a real coward.
Correct: The Boers were brave fighters; they were unable, however, to prevent the ultimate victory of the English.
Correct: That sort of knot will slip, however tight you tie it.

Practice deciding if and how to punctuate these sentences:

  1. However she decides to finish this game Hotchkiss will certainly win.
  2. We wanted to go in fact we had already bought our tickets.
  3. Mr. Bradley would love to give holidays more frequently however he knows the importance of patience.
  4. The shoes weren't my size I tried however to shove my feet into them.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate conjunctive adverbs:

UNE Academic Skills Office's Using However
University of Wisconsin-Madison's The Writer's Handbook's Using Conjunctive Adverbs

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75.

Rule: Place periods and commas before uncited quotation marks. Parenthetical citations follow closing quotation marks and are followed by a comma or period OR can come at the end of the sentence, before the period. Place semicolons and colons before opening quotation marks and after closing quotation marks. Place exclamation and question marks before closing quotation marks if the quoted material needs an exclamation or question mark. Full-sentence quotations begin with capital letters. Indirect speech doesn't use quotation marks.

Note: In conversation, each speech, together with its governing expression, should stand in a separate paragraph by itself. Each time the speaker changes, in dialogue, you must begin a new paragraph.

Note: If you need to change a quotation so that it makes sense with surrounding text, enclose added words in square brackets. You may omit words in the exact location of the square-bracketted words. If you need to omit other words, insert ellipses. You do not need to insert ellipses at the beginning or end of a quotation.

Note: To quote a passage with some dialogue and some narration, use single quotes for the quoted dialogue and double quotes for the full passage under review.

Note: Avoid overuse of quotation marks. Quotation marks around a word or phrase either mean that the words are exactly what somebody said or wrote OR that the word itself is being noticed, usually because its meaning isn't the usual or expected one. Quotation marks are NOT used for emphasis.

Note: You MUST cite any quotation that comes from a book, website, article, etc. That is, if the words didn't originate in your brain, you should say where you found them.

Note: to cite a play, use (Act. Scene. Lines.).

Examples:

Correct: Bernard merely mumbled, “Oh Ford!” and kept walking (29).
Correct: The characters like to sing, “Skies are blue inside of you”(76), to their decanting bottles.
Correct: The characters know that they are “physico-chemically equal” in the eyes of the government (74).
Correct: My friend answered, “My name is John Doe.”
Correct: “My name is John Doe,” he answered.
Correct: The judge asked, “Is your name John Doe?”
Correct: “Is your name John Doe?” asked the judge.
Correct: Did the judge just ask, "Is your name John Doe?"?
Correct: “We are leaving town on the afternoon express,” he said.
Correct: “We are leaving town,” said he, “on the afternoon express.”
Correct: “My name is John Doe,” he explained. “We were in college together.”
Correct: Prospero gives Ferdinand “a third of mine own life”(IV.i.3).

Practice putting quotation marks necessary. You might have to change punctuation and/or capitalization:

  1. Wes Moore says our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one. (xiv)
  2. Lorene Cary writes, The next fall a boy told me: I had been thinking of it as their school. It was like I had forgotten that this is my life. (5)
  3. When you go to the market my mom asked can you pick up some nectarines?

[answers]

Resources for further explanation on how to punctuate with quotations:

The Punctuation Guide's Quotation Marks (notice that this site has several links)
Grammar Book's Quotation Marks
IVCC English 1001's Integrating Quotations into Sentence

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76.

Rule: To quote a passage of three or more lines: lead in with a colon, double indent, single space, don’t use quotation marks, except if there is both narration and dialogue, and leave the font the same as in the rest of the essay. Directly after a long quotation, do not start a new paragraph or indent the next line. If the quotation is in verse, maintain original line breaks or note them with slashes.

Examples:

Correct: [as part of a double-spaced paragraph]...Wes Moore emphasises the theme of being guided by others:

His tribe's influence in making him a man was obvious and indelible. At that moment,
I realized the journey I took was never mine alone either. Our eyes met, and he smiled
and nodded his head. I nodded my head in return. (171)

Though the two men are meeting in a prison's visiting room, their knowing nods indicate a shared understanding...

Correct: [as part of a double-spaced paragraph]...Romeo meets Juliet's farewell speech with longing and planning:

Juliet: Good night, good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow,
That I shall say good night till it be morrow. [Exit]
Romeo: Sleep dwell upon thine eyes, peace in thy breast!
Would I were sleep and peace, so sweet to rest!
Hence will I to my ghostly father's cell,
His help to crave and my dear hap to tell. (II.ii.200-205)

His thoughts immediately after Juliet leaves turn him back towards his need to tell his story to the friar...

Practice formatting the following middle lines of a longer paragraph:

...Cary's frequent feelings of isolation often lead her to question her choices. "[The song] jangled as noisily in my head as the hormones in my body. And what with all the racket, how could I have hoped to listen to the longings of my peers and know they were my own? How could I have imagined the crinkling of Cash's waxed paper in the dark?" (80) Because she never asks these questions of her peers, it takes Cary years to realize that many students shared her sense of being an outsider...

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of formatting long quotations:

WikiHow's How to Format a Block Quote
Boundless's Block Quotations

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82.

Rule: Set a vocative (nouns of direct address) apart with a pair of commas, if in the middle of a sentence, or a single comma, if at the beginning or the end of a sentence. A vocative of exclamatory force takes an exclamation-mark.

Examples:

Correct: I think, my friends, that we ought to vote for him.
Correct: Stella! Come here now!
Correct: Pattie, you make the best fried green tomatoes.

Practice putting punctuation (and/or capitalization) into these sentences:

  1. Will you come with us David and Nancy?
  2. Mark and Chris what was the name of the building where you got married?
  3. Tuukka come away from that bear!

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate vocatives:

The Comma Guide's Vocative Commas
Writing Explained What is the Vocative Comma

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83.

Rule: Separate mild interjections with a comma or pair of commas. Separate exclamatory interjections with exclamation-marks.

Examples:

Correct: Wow, that team won by a huge margin.
Correct: Don't go into that haunted house, no.
Correct: Drat! I think I've broken my toe.

Practice punctuating these sentences:

  1. Ouch that movie causes my ears real pain.
  2. Holy guacamole I can't believe how many balloons were in that room!
  3. Yes please put jalapenos on my sandwich.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to punctuate interjections:

Part of Speech's Interjections
Grammarist's What is an Interjection...?

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100.

Rule: Indicative sentences end with a period. Interrogative sentences end with a question mark. Exclamations end with an exclamation mark.

Examples:

Wrong: Has anyone ever come close to playing as well as Jordan
Better: Has anyone ever come close to playing as well as Jordan?
Wrong: She told me, "Don't go into the park at night"
Better: She told me, "Don't go into the park at night."

Practice punctuating the following sentences:

  1. Rob and Connie brought their children to Disney
  2. Did Dan and Renee really meet when they both worked as EMTs
  3. I was looking at that website that said, "Jeremy and Kristen take care of fifty pets"

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of terminal punctuation:

Grammarly's End of Sentence Punctuation
The Punctuation Guide's Terminal Points

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106.

Rule: Place an apostrophe before the final s to make a possessive singular of a work that doesn't already end in s. To make a word that already ends in s possessive, place an apostrophe after the final s. To make a plural word that doesn't end in s possessive, add an apostrophe and an s. Possessive pronouns (his, their, whose, etc.) do not need any apostrophes. Plural words do not use apostrophes. (For the rare exception of talking about the word itself, see rule 26.) Though you should usually avoid using contractions in formal writing, in more casual writing, you may use an apostrophe to replace missing letters.

Examples:

Wrong: The dog ate it’s bone.
Better: The dog ate its bone.
Wrong: The womens room is over there, but the mens is right here.
Better: The women’s room is over there, but the men’s is right here.
Wrong: The country’s flags were all hanging in a row.
Better: The countries’ flags were all hanging in a row.

Practice deciding where apostrophes should go in the following sentences:

  1. While I dont know who's car's she had last week or earlier, I do know shes borrowing Haydens this week.
  2. At Riley's and Jessie's party, people talked about what state's they're from.
  3. Who do you think cobbled Jesuses sandal's?
  4. You can find the womens' room slightly closer to the pool than the mens'.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to use apostrophes:

Your Dictionary's Apostrophe Rules
Grammar Book's Apostrophes

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123.

Rule: Represent numbers in words, not figures, as a general rule, in formal writing. You may use figures for dates (as in April 4, 2002 [omit st, nd, rd, th]); any number requiring more than two words (as in 123); numbers in a set of statistics; page, line, chapter, act, or scene, etc.; or street-numbers. If a number is the first word in a sentence, you must write it out, even if it meets one of the above criteria for writing it as a number.

Note: Multi-word numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine are hyphenated if used as adjectives. Higher numbers: one hundred and twenty-one, etc.

Examples:

Correct: Nineteen hundred fifty four marked a watershed year for the United States.
Correct: In 1954, our Supreme Court decided one of its most important cases ever.
Correct: I had twenty-seven dresses, but not a thing to wear to the wedding.

Practice deciding which numbers to spell out:

  1. I bought 10 pies, 6 doughnuts, and 200 gummy worms during the time I lived at 11 Interlaken Road.
  2. Jackie's 137 home runs and Michael's 2186 dunks make them stand out forever as greats.
  3. Between 10 and 15 kids each year go on semester programs.
  4. 100 percent of the kids on that team plan to play in the WNBA.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of when to spell out numbers:

Grammarly's When Should I Spell Out Numbers?
Purdue OWL's Writing Numbers

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124.

Rule: When using two or more words as a single adjective, hyphenate. Hyphenate a noun and a participle, an adjective and a participle, two nouns, or two adjectives, as long as together they form one descriptor. If two nouns, used together, form a verb, hyphenate.

Examples:

Correct: I heard a heart-rending scream come from the strange-looking creature.
Correct: Not to touch white-hot coals seems self-evident to me.

Practice putting hyphens where they should go in the following sentences:

  1. We wanted to purchase the seven year old car because it was dirt cheap.
  2. The top of the line model costs more than the new to me junk heap he tried to sell me.
  3. We want to air condition the larger than life English Wing in the Main Building.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of using hyphens:

Grammar Book's Hyphens
Oxford Living Dictionaries Hyphens

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ANSWERS AND EXPLANATIONS TO PRACTICE SENTENCES:

Rule 1 Practice:

  1. Wrong: His parents gave him everything so he ended up spoiled.
    Better: His parents gave him everything, so he ended up spoiled.
    Explained: From "His" to "everything" and from "he" to "spoiled" are each complete sentences, so the conjunction "so" needs to be preceded by a comma.

  2. Already correct: They helped out when they could and where they could.
    Explained: "when they could" and "where they could" comprise a compound predicate, so no comma is needed in this sentence.
  3. Wrong: I read the assignment and my teacher gave a quiz on it.
    Better: I read the assignment, and my teacher gave a quiz on it.
    Explained: Before and after the and are both independent clauses, so a comma is needed with the and.
  4. Wrong: Ryan had rejected the offer twice yet Jaime kept asking her.
    Better: Ryan had rejected the offer twice, yet Jaime kept asking her.
    Explained: The second clause has a new subject and new predicate, so both clauses are independent.
  5. Wrong: Pat said we could go to the mall or I offered to drive everyone to ice cream.
    Better: Pat said we could go to the mall, or I offered to drive everyone to ice cream.
    Explained: The two clauses are both independent in this compound sentence, so a comma is needed.

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Rule 2 Practice:

  1. Wrong: The murder in the tunnel created a nightmarish traffic jam nevertheless drivers waited patiently for more than an hour.
    Better: The murder in the tunnel created a nightmarish traffic jam; nevertheless, drivers waited patiently for more than an hour.
    Explanation: Nevertheless, a conjunctive adverb, can't join these two independent clauses into one sentence, so a semicolon is needed.
  2. Wrong: For many years, The Wizard of Oz was the all-time favorite movie at one time, every kid on my block wore ruby slippers.
    Better: For many years, The Wizard of Oz was the all-time favorite movie; at one time, every kid on my block wore ruby slippers.
    Explanation: The first version leaves two complete sentences joined as if they were one sentence. This kind of error is called a run on.
  3. Wrong: When the tiny babies started to appear around campus, everyone loved finding them, nobody knew who kept putting them up.
    Better: When the tiny babies started to appear around campus, everyone loved finding them. Nobody knew who kept putting them up.
    Explanation: These are complete sentences joined by a comma. The error is called a comma splice.
  4. Wrong: My daughter said we needed another dog to keep us company, we already have six dogs.
    Better: Although we already have six dogs, my daughter said we needed another dog to keep us company.
    Explanation: Two complete sentences, joined by a comma creates an error called a comma splice.
  5. Wrong: She gave good advice, she told us all to look up and look around.
    Better: She gave good advice: she told us all to look up and look around.
    Explanation: You can join these two complete sentences with a colon because the second one provides a definition for the last word in the first one.

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Rule 3 Practice:

  1. Wrong: If we're lucky, we can travel to Bangkok, Thailand, Jakarta, Indonesia, and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this summer.
    Better: If we're lucky, we can travel to Bangkok, Thailand; Jakarta, Indonesia; and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia this summer. Explanation: Because each of the items in the list has an internal comma, the semicolons make a clearer distinction between items on the list.
  2. Wrong: I wanted to buy pasta, tomato sauce, the kind without lumps of tomato, cheese, and garlic bread.
    Better: I wanted to buy pasta; tomato sauce, the kind without lumps of tomato; cheese; and garlic bread.
    Also better: I wanted to buy pasta, tomato sauce (the kind without lumps of tomato), cheese, and garlic bread. Explanation: Since one of the items on the list has an internal comma, the list is clearer with semicolons. However, since the internal comma separates an aside, parentheses make the list even clearer.
  3. Wrong: When my family goes camping, we bring a tent, sleeping bags, lots of food, mostly dehydrated, and a water filter.
    Better: When my family goes camping, we bring a tent; sleeping bags; lots of food, mostly dehydrated; and a water filter.
    Also better: When my family goes camping, we bring a tent, sleeping bags, lots of food (mostly dehydrated), and a water filter.
    Explanation: As in the example above, you can separate items on the list with semicolons, leaving the internal comma in one item, or you can put the aside about food into parentheses.
  4. Wrong: I always carry interesting, new books, my phone, phone charger, and wrinkle-free, stain-free clothes for travel.
    Better: I always carry interesting, new books; my phone; phone charger; and wrinkle-free, stain-free clothes for travel. Explanation: Because two of the items on the list have internal commas, using semicolons to separate items on this list makes a clearer list.

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Rule 4 Practice:

  1. Wrong: They looked under the bed, and the dresser for the wallet.
    Better: They looked under the bed and the dresser for the wallet. Explanation: The compound object of the preposition under shouldn't be separated by a comma.
  2. Wrong: Sally, and Mary said their vows, and left the mosque.
    Better: Sally and Mary said their vows and left the mosque. Explanation: Neither the compound subject (Sally and Mary) nor the compound predicate (said and left) should be separated by commas.
  3. Wrong: The boy who won the prize in the Prep Science competition, and the girl who earned the highest mark in English both went on the school's trip to Quebec.
    Better: The boy who won the prize in the Prep Science competition and the girl who earned the highest mark in English both went on the school's trip to Quebec. Explanation: The two parts of this compound subject shouldn't be separated with commas.
  4. Correct: After I finished David Levithan's Every Day, I raced to read the sequel.
    Explanation: This sentence has no compound elements.
  5. Correct: Varsity football, Varsity Field Hockey, Boys Varsity Soccer, and Varsity Volleyball all won championships that fall.
    Explanation: A compound subject of more than two items must be separated by commas.

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Rule 5 Practice:

  1. Wrong: On the hill by the tennis courts beyond the MAC you can find the Vietnam Memorial.
    Better: On the hill by the tennis courts beyond the MAC, you can find the Vietnam Memorial.
    Explanation: The sentence becomes clearer when the long introductory prepositional phrase is separated with a comma.
  2. Wrong: In 1972 The Godfather came out.
    Better: In 1972, The Godfather came out.
    Explanation: Even though the introductory phrase isn't very long, the sentence seems clearer with the comma.

  3. Wrong: After the longest 108 years ever the Cubs finally won the World Series.
    Better: After the longest 108 years ever, the Cubs finally won the World Series.
    Explanation: The comma helps the reader know when the introductory phrase ends and the main clause begins.

  4. Wrong: Of all of the students taking Shakespeare and the Bible only seven memorized all of Hamlet.
    Better: Of all of the students taking Shakespeare and the Bible, only seven memorized all of Hamlet.
    Explanation: The comma helps the reader to hear when the main clause begins.

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Rule 8 Practice:

  1. Correct: The situation that he has to do better in school to keep his scholarship makes his mother cry.
    Better: That he has to do better in school to keep his scholarship makes his mother cry. Explanation: While the sentence is correct because "that he has to do better in school to keep his scholarship" renames "the situation," the sentence would be slightly clearer without having both a subject and an appositive.
  2. Correct: Automobile manufacturers don't seem to care about my opinion that cars should all have huge sunroofs.
    Explanation: "My opinion" and "that cars should all have huge sunroofs" are the same thing, so the latter acts as an appositive. In this case, the appositive is necessary to the meaning of the sentence, as the speaker could have many opinions about which automobile manufacturers do and don't care.
  3. Wrong: The Halloween costume which he wore to the party left a trail of glitter.
    Better: The Halloween costume, which he wore to the party, left a trail of glitter. Explanation: "Which he wore to the party" is an inessential adjectival clause, so it should be separated from the sentence's essential elements with commas.
  4. Correct: We don't quite believe her claim that everyone will make the team.
    Explanation: She might have several claims, so the noun clause--"that everyone will make the team"--is an essential appositive.

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Rule 9 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Chicago where she was born has the best restaurants.
    Better: Chicago, where she was born, has the best restaurants. Explanation: Much to everyone's dismay, there is only one Chicago. Therefore, the "where she was born" doesn't add essential information to the sentence and should be separated with commas.
  2. Correct: The road with the six purple houses leads directly to the asylum.
    Explanation: Because most roads do not have six purple houses, the descriptive phrase is necessary to the meaning of the sentence.

  3. Wrong, if I have only one uncle: My uncle who wears a beret teaches Spanish.
    Better, if I have only one uncle: My uncle, who wears a beret, teaches Spanish. Explanation: In the first sentence, the lack of commas indicates that the description is necessary to the meaning of the sentence. If the speaker has only one uncle, she should separate "who wears a beret" with commas. If she has more than one uncle, she should omit the commas.

  4. Wrong: In the waiting room where I found a whole cheesecake I had a feast.
    Better: In the waiting room, where I found a whole cheesecake, I had a feast.
    Explanation: Probably only one waiting room supplied this speaker with a whole cheesecake, so the adjective clause should be separated with commas.

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Rule 11 Practice:

  1. Wrong: If he trains his dog to joggle (jog and juggle simultaneously) he could make a lot of money.
    Better: If he trains his dog to joggle (jog and juggle simultaneously), he could make a lot of money.
    Explanation: "If he trains his dog to joggle" is an introductory adverbial clause.
  2. Correct: Craig would love to sing in the musical if he gets a starring role.
    Explanation: Because the adverbial clause comes at the end of the sentence, it does not need to be separated with commas.
  3. Correct: Buying a new car can cause stress when money becomes tight.
    Explanation: Because the adverbial clause follows the independent clause, it doesn't need to be preceded with a comma.
  4. Wrong: Because she understood fractals she aced the exam.
    Better: Because she understood fractals, she aced the exam.
    Explanation: The first four words make an adverbial clause, so they need to be separated with a comma.

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Rule 16 Practice:

  1. Wrong: I bought and you're not going to believe the great deal I got a new truck.
    Better: I bought--and you're not going to believe the great deal I got--a new truck.
    Also better: I bought (and you're not going to believe the great deal I got) a new truck.
    Also better: I got an unbelievable deal on a new truck.
    Explanation: The clause in the middle of the sentence isn't essential to understanding the main clause, which would be hard to find without setting the dependent clause off as inessential.
  2. Wrong: She swam swimming provides an amazing full-body workout to and from work each day.
    Better: She swam (Swimming provides an amazing full-body workout.) to and from work each day.
    Also better: Getting an amazing full-body workout, she swam to and from work each day.
    Explanation: Not only is the clause in the middle of this sentence its own complete sentence, but it also detracts from the reader's understanding of the independent clause.
  3. Wrong: By the time the bonfire started to smolder ten hours after most people had already left the event, we were tired.
    Better: By the time the bonfire started to smolder (ten hours after most people had already left the event), we were tired.
    Explanation: "Ten hours after most people had already left the event" provides inessential information as an aside.
  4. Wrong: Skaters do you wear figure or hockey skates usually love when black ice covers the lake.
    Better: Skaters--Do you wear figure or hockey skates?--usually love when black ice covers the lake.
    Explanation: The question serves as an aside or interruption, so should be separated from the main clause.

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Rule 23 Practice:

  1. Wrong: rita hayworth and the shawshank redemption
    Better: "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank redemption"
    Explanation: This short story's title should be capitalized (except the conjunction and the article) and in quotation marks.
  2. Wrong: the shawshank redemption
    Better: The Shawshank Redemption
    Explanation: This movie's title should be capitalized and italicized.
  3. Wrong: the odyssey
    Better: The Odyssey
    Explanation: This epic poem's title should be capitalized and italicized.
  4. Wrong: calypso speaks to odysseus
    Better: "Calypso Speaks to Odysseus"
    Explanation: This poem's title should be capitalized (except the preposition) and in quotation marks.

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Rule 24 Practice:

  1. Wrong as a student's essay's title: the adventures of huckleberry finn
    Better: Huck's Anti-Racist Education with Jim
    Explanation: While The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a great title, Mark Twain used it already. You need your own title for your essay, ideally one that gives some hint of what your essay is about.
  2. Wrong as student's essay's title: into one ear out the other
    Better: Into One Ear; Out the Other
    Explanation: Your essay's title should be capitalized, except for articles, prepositions, and conjunctions.
  3. Wrong as a student's essay's title: best 45 minutes of my life english last tuesday
    Better: Best Forty-five Minutes of My Life: English Last Tuesday
    Explanation: While the words of this (obviously non-fiction) essay's title are fine, they need to follow the rules of capitalization and spelling out numbers.

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Rule 25 Practice:

  1. Wrong: we wanted to visit phoenix, arizona, but my family thought it would be too hot.
    Better: We wanted to visit Phoenix, Arizona, but my family thought it would be too hot.
    Explanation: The first letter in the sentence and the proper noun/name of a city need to be capitalized.
  2. Wrong: i asked uncle chris if he knew the best places to eat near tulane university.
    Better: I asked Uncle Chris if he knew the best places to eat near Tulane University.
    Explanation: The first letter in the sentence, the name (including its title), and the proper noun/name of a college need to be capitalized.
  3. Wrong: the captain came on the loudspeaker to announce that the great green wave would dock soon.
    Better: The captain came on the loudspeaker to announce that the Great Green Wave would dock soon.
    Explanation: The first word in the sentence and the name of the ship need to be capitalized. The word "captain" is not capitalized here because it's a title without a name.

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Rule 26 Practice:

  1. Wrong: When Bubbe called him a gonif, I had to look up the word to know what she meant.
    Better: When Bubbe called him a gonif, I had to look up the word to know what she meant.
    Explanation: The two Yiddish words need to be italicized.
  2. Wrong: If he had used um one more time, I might have screamed.
    Better: If he had used um one more time, I might have screamed.
    Also better: If he had used "um" one more time, I might have screamed.
    Explanation: Italicizing or putting um in quotation marks both indicate that the speaker is talking about the word itself.
  3. Wrong: Tracy wants her perro and her gato by her at all times.
    Better: Tracy wants her perro and her gato by her at all times.
    Explanation: The two words in Spanish should be in italics.

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Rule 28 Practice:

  1. Correct: My brother Humperdinck might rule the all of Florin someday.
    Explanation: Since "Humperdinck" is a one-word appositive, no commas are necessary.
  2. Wrong: Her car the Ford F-150 with huge tires is in the shop.
    Better: Her car, the Ford F-150 with huge tires, is in the shop.
    Explanation: Even if she has two Ford F-150s, a fact which would make the "with huge tires" essential to the reader's understanding of which car the speaker is talking about, the commas still help clarify that the independent clause says, "Her car is in the shop."
  3. Wrong: Preps find taking the four Grammar Gateways best four classes of the year both challenging and enjoyable.
    Better: Preps find taking the four Grammar Gateways, best four classes of the year, both challenging and enjoyable.
    Explanation: separating the appositive with commas makes the sentence clearer.

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Rule 37 Practice:

  1. Wrong: I studied German Greek and Chinese while at Hotchkiss.
    Better: I studied German, Greek, and Chinese while at Hotchkiss.
    Explanation: Commas separate items on the list, making clear that the speaker studied three distinct languages.
  2. Wrong: The tall handsome trans man won our hearts minds and votes.
    Better: The tall, handsome trans man won our hearts, minds, and votes.
    Explanation: Tall and handsome both describe the trans man, so a comma between them helps create clarity. The three-part compound direct object also needs separation with commas.
  3. Wrong: She told her wife she already looked under the table behind the shelves and in the cabinet.
    Better: She told her wife she already looked under the table, behind the shelves, and in the cabinet.
    Explanation: Commas help clarify that there are three distinct prepositional phrases.

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Rule 41 Practice:

  1. Wrong: We brought everything we needed for the trip a camera, a phone charger, and good attitude.
    Better: We brought everything we needed for the trip: a camera, a phone charger, and a good attitude.
    Explanation: The colon after trip makes clear that the following list is everything needed.
  2. Correct: Over the summer, I read Prep, The Catcher in the Rye, and Into the Wild.
    Explanation: Since the list follows the verb read, no colon is needed. This sentence has a compound direct object, punctuated correctly.
  3. Wrong: After reading the report, I have one question, how can the company stay afloat?
    Better: After reading the report, I have one question: How can the company stay afloat?
    Explanation: The colon clarifies that what follows is the one question.

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Rule 57 Practice:

  1. Wrong: However she decides to finish this game Hotchkiss will certainly win.
    Better: However she decides to finish this game, Hotchkiss will certainly win.
    Explanation: Here, however is being used to open an introductory adverbial clause, so the clause needs to be followed by a comma. (see rule 11)
  2. Wrong: We wanted to go in fact we had already bought our tickets.
    Better: We wanted to go; in fact, we had already bought our tickets.
    Explanation: In fact can't join these two sentences as a conjunction would, so it needs to be preceded by a semicolon.
  3. Wrong: Mr. Bradley would love to give holidays more frequently however he knows the importance of patience.
    Better: Mr. Bradley would love to give holidays more frequently; however, he knows the importance of patience.
    Explanation: The conjunctive adverb however can't combine two independent clauses as a conjunction could.
  4. Wrong: The shoes weren't my size I tried however to shove my feet into them.
    Better: The shoes weren't my size; I tried, however, to shove my feet into them.
    Explanation: The first independent clause ends after size. The however in the middle of an independent clause needs to be separated on both sides with commas.

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Rule 75 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Wes Moore says our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one. (xiv)
    Better: Wes Moore says, "Our destinies can be determined by a single stumble down the wrong path, or a tentative step down the right one" (xiv).
    Explanation: The direct quote from the introduction needs to be surrounded by quotation marks.
  2. Wrong: Lorene Cary writes, The next fall a boy told me: I had been thinking of it as their school. It was like I had forgotten that this is my life. (5)
    Better: Lorene Cary writes, "The next fall a boy told me: I had been thinking of it as their school. It was like I had forgotten that this is my life" (5).
    Explanation: This direct quotation is now correctly punctuated.
  3. Wrong: When you go to the market my mom asked can you pick up some nectarines?
    Better: "When you go to the market," my mom asked, "can you pick up some nectarines?"
    Explanation: This direct quotation with a governing expression interruption is now correctly punctuated.

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Rule 76 Practice:

Wrong:

...Cary's frequent feelings of isolation often lead her to question her choices. "[The song] jangled as noisily in my head as the hormones in my body. And what with all the racket, how could I have hoped to listen to the longings of my peers and know they were my own? How could I have imagined the crinkling of Cash's waxed paper in the dark?" (80) Because she never asks these questions of her peers, it takes Cary years to realize that many students shared her sense of being an outsider...

Better:
...Cary's frequent feelings of isolation often lead her to question her choices:

[The song] jangled as noisily in my head as the hormones in my body. And what with
all the racket, how could I have hoped to listen to the longings of my peers and know
they were my own? How could I have imagined the crinkling of Cash's waxed paper
in the dark? (80)

Because she never asks these questions of her peers, it takes Cary years to realize that many students shared

her sense of being an outsider...

Explanation: The quotation is long enough that it merits the special long-quotation formatting, which leaves it double-indented, single-spaced, and without quotation marks (unless it had internal dialogue and narration).

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Rule 82 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Will you come with us David and Nancy?
    Better: Will you come with us, David and Nancy?
    Explanation: speaking directly to David and Nancy, we should separate their names from the rest of the sentence with commas. Grammatically speaking, David and Nancy aren't connected to the rest of the sentence.
  2. Wrong: Mark and Chris what was the name of the building where you got married?
    Better: Mark and Chris, what was the name of the building where you got married?
    Explanation: speaking directly to Mark and Chris, we separate their names from the rest of the sentence.
  3. Wrong: Tuukka come away from that bear!
    Better: Tuukka, come away from that bear!
    Also better: Tuukka! Come away from that bear!
    Explanation: The name can be separated with a comma, or if the speaker is yelling (as one might be in this instance) with an exclamation mark.

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Rule 83 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Ouch that movie causes my ears real pain.
    Better: Ouch, that movie causes my ears real pain.
    Explanation: The word ouch is an interjection, not connected grammatically to the rest of the sentence. Therefore, it should be separated with a comma.
  2. Wrong: Holy guacamole I can't believe how many balloons were in that room!
    Better: Holy guacamole! I can't believe how many balloons were in that room!
    Also better: Holy guacamole, I can't believe how many balloons were in that room!
    Explanation: Holy guacamole isn't grammatically connected to the rest of the sentence. If the speaker screams it, then it should be separated with an exclamation mark. If she says it, it can be separated with a comma. Either way, holy guacamoles needs to be separated from the rest of the sentence.
  3. Wrong: Yes please put jalapenos on my sandwich.
    Better: Yes, please put jalapenos on my sandwich.
    Explanation: Yes is an interjection, not grammatically part of the sentence that follows.

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Rule 100 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Rob and Connie brought their children to Disney
    Better: Rob and Connie brought their children to Disney.
    Explanation: A sentence needs to end with a terminal mark.
  2. Wrong: Did Dan and Renee really meet when they both worked as EMTs
    Better: Did Dan and Renee really meet when they both worked as EMTs?
    Explanation: A question needs to end with a question mark.
  3. Wrong: I was looking at that website that said, "Jeremy and Kristen take care of fifty pets"
    Better: I was looking at that website that said, "Jeremy and Kristen take care of fifty pets."
    Explanation: Sometimes people forget terminal punctuation with quotation marks; you shouldn't.

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Rule 106 Practice:

  1. Wrong: While I dont know who's car's she had last week or earlier, I do know shes borrowing Haydens this week.
    Better: While I don't know whose cars she had last week or earlier, I do know she's borrowing Hayden's this week.
    Explanation: Contractions (don't, she's) need apostrophes. Possessives (Hayden's) also need apostrophes. Possessive pronouns (whose) don't. Non-possessive plurals (car's) don't use apostrophes.
  2. Wrong: At Riley's and Jessie's party, people talked about what state's they're from.
    Better: At Riley and Jessie's party, people talked about what states they're from.
    Explanation: Riley and Jessie seem to be having one co-hosted party, so the first name doesn't need the possessive. States, which is a non-possessive plural, needs no apostrophe.
  3. Wrong: Who do you think cobbled Jesuses sandal's?
    Better: Who do you think cobbled Jesus's sandals?
    Explanation: Possessives need apostrophes while plurals don't.
  4. Wrong: You can find the womens' room slightly closer to the pool than the mens'.
    Better: You can find the women's room slightly closer to the pool than the men's.
    Explanation: In possessive plurals, the apostrophe goes after the original, plural word, which does not necessarily mean that it goes after the s.

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Rule 123 Practice:

  1. Wrong: I bought 10 pies, 6 doughnuts, and 200 gummy worms during the time I lived at 11 Interlaken Road.
    Better: I bought ten pies, six doughnuts, and two hundred gummy worms during the time I lived at 11 Interlaken Road.
    Explanation: Only the number on this address should be written as a number.
  2. Correct: Jackie's 137 home runs and Michael's 2186 dunks make them stand out forever as greats.
    Explanation: Both of the number in this sentence use more than two words to spell out, so can be left in numerical form.
  3. Wrong: Between 10 and 15 kids each year go on semester programs.
    Better: Between ten and fifteen kids each year go on semester programs.
    Explanation: These numbers each need one word to be spelled out, so should be spelled out.
  4. Wrong: 100 percent of the kids on that team plan to play in the WNBA.
    Better: One hundred percent of the kids on that team plan to play in the WNBA.
    Explanation: The first word in a sentence can't be the numerical form of a number.

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Rule 124 Practice:

  1. Wrong: We wanted to purchase the seven year old car because it was dirt cheap.
    Better: We wanted to purchase the seven-year-old car because it was dirt-cheap.
    Explanation: Each of the hyphenated words is a multi-word adjective.
  2. Wrong: The top of the line model costs more than the new to me junk heap he tried to sell me.
    Better: The top-of-the-line model costs more than the new-to-me junk heap he tried to sell.
    Explanation: Both multi-word adjectives need hyphens.
  3. Wrong: We want to air condition the larger than life English Wing in the Main Building.
    Better: We want to air condition the larger-than-life English Wing in the Main Building.
    Explanation: Larger-than-life all works together as one adjective, which is why it needs hyphens.

Grammar (130-162)

Direct Links:

131, 133, 135, 137, 140, 148, 149, 150, 151, 152, 154, 155, 162

130.

Rule: A complete sentence has at least one independent clause and expresses a complete thought. A sentence fragment either doesn’t have a subject or a predicate OR it has a subject and predicate, but it also has a subordinating element that makes the thought incomplete.

Note: Two complete thoughts may not be strung together without any mark of punctuation or conjunction. This error is called a run on sentence. Two complete thoughts joined by a comma creates an error called a comma splice. To correct a run on or comma splice, you may

  1. subordinate one of the sentences;
  2. coordinate the sentences by separating with a comma and conjunction (see rule 1);
  3. separate with a semicolon (see rule 2); or
  4. create two sentences.

Examples:

Wrong: A happy man with seventeen children who love and respect him.
Better: A happy man with seventeen children who love and respect him needs to behave well.
Also better: I met a happy man with seventeen children who love and respect him.
Wrong: Wondering why grammar has to be so much fun for the rest of the class.
Better: I spent my time wondering why grammar has to be so much fun for the rest of the class.
Fragment: Whenever we go shopping at the huge mall in Minnesota.
Better: Whenever we go shopping at the huge mall in Minnesota, we get lost.

Practice turning the following into complete sentences:

  1. Peyton and Cloudy, two cute felines on campus.
  2. We want to go to the under-the-lights game across town, we have already painted our faces blue.
  3. As soon as the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup.

[answers]

Resources for further clarification of complete sentences, fragments, run ons, and comma splices:

Libweb's What is a Complete Sentence?
Purdue OWL's Comma Splices

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131.

Rule: Because that begins essential clauses, that is not preceded by a comma. Which begins inessential clauses, so which is always preceded by a comma. The relative which is generally neuter in modern usage, so confine its use to animals, ideas, and things, and to collective nouns such as crowd, mob, army, etc. Who begins any clause, essential (uses no comma) or inessential (separate with a comma), referring to a person.

Examples:

Correct: The beggars whom [not which] we see in the streets are hungry.
Correct: I know that Kerry has more than six puppies at home.
Correct: The puppies, which are a mix of Bernese Mountain Dog and Poodle, are adorable.

Practice deciding which relative pronoun and punctuation these sentences need:

  1. Kendall wants a boyfriend (that, which, who) knows how to dance salsa and fix an engine.
  2. I like any car (that, which, who) can go more than 550 miles on one tank of gas.
  3. Alex's feeling on the subject (that, which, who) haven't changed at all remain on the list of demands.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of relative pronouns:

Grammar Book's Who, That, Which
The Writer's Digest Which vs. That

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133.

Rule: All pronouns must agree in number and gender with the nouns they replace. (The noun a pronoun replaces is called its antecedent.)

Note: There isn't an accepted, singular ungendered pronoun, so you may use the plural they and their for gender nonconforming, gender neutral, gender fluid, gender queer, and gender questioning people who do not identify with the gendered he or she singular pronouns.

Note: "Body" words (anybody, somebody, nobody, everybody), "one" words (anyone, someone, no one, everyone), each, either, and neither are singular. They require singular verbs; pronouns referring to them must be singular. Each other is ordinarily used of two, and one another of three or more.

Examples:

Wrong: When the reader sees this word, they notice its humor.
Correct (but gendered): When the reader sees this word, she notices its humor.
Better: The reader notices this word's humor.
Correct: Author Alex Gino creates a realistic situation in their novel, George.
Correct: Everybody raised his hat [not their hats].
Better: All raised their hats.
Correct: Each attacked the other; each defended himself.
Correct: Both defended themselves.
Wrong: A person should pick up the remains when you walk your dog.
Better: A person should pick up the remains when she walks her dog.
Also better: You should pick up the remains when you walk your dog.

Practice creating pronoun-antecedent agreement in the following sentences:

  1. Someone who loves grammar left their book in the classroom by mistake.
  2. Each boy on that team worked their hardest to win the final game.
  3. Every man, woman, and child wanted to know their place in line.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of pronoun-antecedent agreement:

Web Apps' Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement
English Grammar 101's Pronoun Agreement

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135.

Rules: Subject and verb must agree in number.

  1. Compound subjects joined by and take a plural verb.
  2. Compound subjects joined by or use the verb form of the subject closer to the verb.
  3. Plural subjects take a plural verb form, even with singular nouns in intervening phrases.
  4. Singular subjects, even if followed by plural nouns in intervening phrases, take the singular verb form. A plural predicate noun after is, was, etc, is correct but often awkward; prefer consists of or some such substitute.
  5. Treat as collective nouns (eg. family, jury, team, etc.) as a singular or plural as good sense suggests, but keep the number unchanged throughout the passage.
  6. Writers (and speakers) often make subject-verb agreement errors when they begin sentences with "There" is or are. Remember that "There" is not the subject of your sentence. It's an adverb.
  7. News, mathematics, physics, economics, etc, are singular. Athletics, statistics, are plural. Politics is singular in the sense of science or career, but plural in the sense of opinions or controversies.

Examples:

Correct: His father and mother are away.
Correct: Either his father or his mother is away.
Correct: The use of so many improbable incidents gives an unrealistic air to the story.
Correct: The ways in which the character treats his parents rudely defy the imagination.
Correct (but awkward): The novel feature of the machine is the powerful rollers that do the grinding.
Better: The novel feature of the machine consists of the powerful rollers that do the grinding.
Correct: The crew was hired a year ago.
Wrong: The crew was eating their dinner.
Better: The crew were eating their dinners.
Wrong: There is a lot of people in that room.
Correct: There are a boy and a girl in that family.
Correct: There is not one single cookie left in the jar.

Practice making the subjects agree with their verbs:

  1. Either Robin or our coaches together with the baseball team goes to Deano's after the game.
  2. A small percentage of the students leave each weekend for sporting events.
  3. Many editors of The Record has won awards for great journalism.
  4. After hours of deliberation, the jury doesn't agree with each other about a verdict.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of subject-verb agreement:

Purdue OWL's Making Subjects and Verbs Agree
Grammar Book's Subject-Verb Agreement

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137.

Rules: If you use plurals in the beginning of a sentence, any words connected to those plurals must also take a plural form. Same for singular.

Examples:

Wrong: People talk about their life in interesting ways.
Correct: People talk about their lives in interesting ways.

Practice fixing errors in agreement:

  1. I looked at the cars in the lot and noticed their color.
  2. At two years old, Charlie could identify triangles, circles, squares; he knew objects' shape well.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation about all kinds of agreement errors:

Wikipedia's Agreement

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140.

Rules: Personal pronouns must take different forms, called cases, depending on their functions in sentences. I, you, he, she, it, we, they are the subject or nominative case. A pronoun in the nominative case can be the subject or predicate nominative in a sentence. It can also act in apposition to the subject or predicate nominative. Me, you, him, her, it, us, them are in the object or accusative case. These pronouns can be used as the direct or indirect object, object of a preposition, or objective complement. Myself, yourself, himself, herself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves are in the reflexive case. These pronouns can be used as an object when the subject refers to the same person or thing. They can also be used for emphasis.

Note: The case of who or whoever is determined inside its own clause.

Note: The case after than and as is determined by completing the elliptical clause.

Note: Themself and ourself are not real words.

Examples:

Correct: She and I go to the game. The person you want to speak with is he.
Correct: When I think about you, I stop myself. Do you really want to do it yourself?
Correct: That is the man who I think did it.
Correct: Between you and me, I know it is he who took the cards.
Correct: Whom are you looking for?
Correct: All are invited, Jane and he and my sister and I.
Correct: We are luckier than they.
Correct: I like you better than him. [better than I like him]
Correct: I like you better than he. [better than he likes you]

Practice verifying that pronouns are in the correct cases:

  1. If you have any questions about the club, please ask Logan or myself.
  2. You can give that candy to whoever you want.
  3. Me and Andy wanted to see that movie again, but we didn't know who to take with us.
  4. Joey gave the signed football to my sister and I.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of pronoun case:

Purdue OWL's Pronoun Case
Web App's Pronoun Case

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148.

Rules: To express subjective relation to a gerund, use the possessive case. To express measure, use the possessive case. (For how to form singular and plural possessives, see rule 106.)

Examples:

Correct (singular): What is the importance of the navy’s being prepared for war?
Correct (plural): They disapprove of their sons’ playing football.
Correct (singular): A dollar’s worth, a moment’s notice, an hour’s delay, a month’s salary.
Correct (plural): Ten dollars’ worth, three days’ notice, four hours’ delay.

Practice creating special possessives:

  1. Watching Michael Phelps swimming brings joy to millions.
  2. Casey wondered if his husband knew about his plan for them going on a trip to Alaska.
  3. We still had three days drive to get to Graceland.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of special possessive cases:

The English Space's Using Possessive 's with Time Phrases
Grammar Tips' Possessives Precede Gerunds


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149.

Rules: Comparatives (formed by adding er or preceding with more) must be used to compare two items. Superlatives (formed by adding est or preceding with most) must compare three or more.

Note: It is incorrect to use both the preceding word and the ending at the same time. Use the ending for words of one or two syllables, the word for more syllables.

Examples:

Correct: He is taller than his sister, but their mother is the tallest in the family.
Correct: Nat has the most adorable kitten of any I've ever seen.
Correct: More students read Fitzgerald's work than Milton's, but most students read Shakespeare's.

Practice using comparatives and superlatives:

  1. Of my sister and me, I stand the tallest.
  2. Sasha has the most hardest last name to pronounce.
  3. Terry and Val, their classmates all agree, have the most best enunciation on the Debate Team.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of comparatives and superlatives:

Khan Academy's Comparative and The Superlative
British Council's Comparative and Superlative Adjectives

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150.

Rules: Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives and other adverbs. Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. An adjective must not be used adverbially (as a modifier of a verb, adjective, infinitive, or participle).

Examples:

Correct: He ran easily, well, ill, badly, hard, fast, etc.
Correct [comparative and superlative forms]: He jogged more easily, most easily, harder, fastest, etc.

Practice deciding whether to use an adjective or an adverb:

  1. Their quickly swimming made them the better water polo team.
  2. Frankie reads so easy and fluent that nobody can believe he's only four.
  3. If the child behaves good, he can often earn more privileges.
  4. Ever since recovering from her horrible head cold, Harley smells good again.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of the differences between adjectives and adverbs:

Purdue OWL's The Difference between Adjectives and Adverbs
Grammar Book's Adjectives and Adverbs

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151.

Rules: An adverb must not be used as a predicate adjective (to describe, after the verb, the quality or condition of the subject).

Examples:
Correct: The flowers smell sweet [not sweetly].
Correct: I feel well [well is an adjective in the sense of in good health].
Wrong: I feel badly today, so I will try to get some rest.
Correct: I fell ill [ill is an adjective in the sense of in bad health].

Practice fixing predicate adjective errors:

  1. While last week I felt pretty sickly, today, I am good.
  2. Reese looks prettily in that dress.
  3. Do you think the soup tastes superbly today?
  4. The team's cheer sounds loudly in this echoey room.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of why adverbs can't be used as predicate adjectives:

Soft Schools' Predicate Adjectives
UCL's Adjectives and Predicate Adjectives

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152.

Rule: Use the subjunctive to show that a verb is contrary to fact or expressing desire. The subjunctive form is the past, plural form of a verb: were (not was), took, would, called, etc.

Note: Was is wrong for the subjunctive form were in conditions contrary to fact, in impossible or improbable conditions, and in wishes.

Examples:

Correct: If I were you, I’d learn this.
Correct: If I lived for a million years, I’d probably lose my teeth.
Correct: If I climbed Mount Everest, I would bring food.
Correct: It is imperative that he do his homework daily.

Practice using the subjunctive:

  1. If I was able to eliminate all Saturday classes, I'm not sure I would.
  2. If Robbie was in charge of the world, music would come out of all sidewalk vents.
  3. I wouldn't recommend eating a handful of habanero peppers, even if you can.
  4. I wish my family and I have a million dollars.
  5. Harley and Justice insist that Cam thinks this proposal through.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of the correct use of the subjunctive:

English Page's Subjunctive
Oxford Living Dictionary's When to use the Subjunctive

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154.

Rule: You must use a consistent tense in your writing. Keep to one tense system, if possible, throughout your story or essay.

Examples:

Correct (present): Brutus shows his character in all he does. He treats his wife kindly, and he mourns for her after she dies. He gladly admits that Caesar has not turned tyrant yet, but fears he may. Brutus, if he were wiser, would trust no such hypocrite as Cassius.
Correct (past): When I showed my new watch to my friends, they were impressed with what a great imitation it was. They thought it would look more like plastic, since it only cost me five dollars, but it seemed to be made of metal.

Practice using a consistent tense:

  1. Tommie asks her girlfriend if she had enough money for both of their movie tickets.
  2. When Val walked into the room, she says, "You have got to see this!"
  3. Hayden left the room and thinks about what he'd just seen.
  4. When I was growing up, I planned that I will study math and foreign languages.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation on verb tense consistency:

Web App's Verb Tense Consistency
McKendree University's Verb Tense Consistency

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155.

Rule: The characters in fictional books exist only in the present, so you must always use the present tense to write about what they’re up to.

Note: If something happened to a character before the story you’re reading begins, you may use the past tense to refer to that event.

Examples:

Wrong: McMurphy was faking being crazy. (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest)
Better: McMurphy fakes being crazy.
Wrong: Jane went from place to place making documentaries about meat. (My Year of Meats)
Better: Jane travels from place to place making documentaries about meat.
Wrong: Jay Gatsby discovered a beautiful dream. (The Great Gatsby)
Better: Jay Gatsby discovers a beautiful dream.

Practice:

  1. Holden met up with his sister and told her what was going on in his life after he left Pencey. (The Catcher in the Rye)
  2. Humperdinck loved hunting more than anything else he did. (The Princess Bride)
  3. Elizabeth's mother and father gave her opposite ultimatums about whether or not to accept Mr. Collins' proposal; her mother didn't abide by her own threat after Elizabeth sided with her father. (Pride and Prejudice)

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of the fictional present:

Texas State's Verb Tense for Analysis of Literature
Collect Cengage's Present Tense

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162.

Rule: In comparisons, the word as generally comes in pairs.

Examples:

Wrong: He is as tall, if not taller, than his brother. [As tall needs another as, but taller needs than.]
Better: He is as tall as, if not taller than, his brother.
Even better: He is as tall as his brother, if not taller.
Correct: Judy read as many books as anybody else in the university.

Practice using as:

  1. Andy hikes as many miles per day if not more than Taylor.
  2. The Night's Watch do as many pushups per day if not more than the Faith of the Seven.
  3. We ate as little on that hike if not less than the counselors did.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of the correct use of as and than in comparisons:

Grammar with Dan's Comparisons with As...As
Cambridge Dictionary's As...As

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EXPLANATIONS AND ANSWERS TO PRACTICE SENTENCES:

Rule 130 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Peyton and Cloudy, two cute felines on campus.
    Better: Peyton and Cloudy, two cute felines on campus, ran across our yard.
    Also better: We saw Peyton and Cloudy, two cute felines on campus.
    Explanation: This group of words had no verb.
  2. Wrong: We want to go to the under-the-lights game across town, we have already painted our faces blue.
    Better: We want to go to the under-the-lights game across town; we have already painted our faces blue.
    Also better: We want to go to the under-the-lights game across town, so we have already painted our faces blue.
    Explanation: The original group of words had two complete sentences separated by a comma, an error called a comma splice.
  3. Wrong: As soon as the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup.
    Better: As soon as the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup, all Chicagoan will celebrate.
    Also better: Duncan Keith will get the recognition he deserves as soon as the Blackhawks win another Stanley Cup.
    Also better: The Blackhawks will win another Stanley Cup.
    Explanation: The original group of words was a dependent clause.

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Rule 131 Practice:

  1. Correct: Kendall wants a boyfriend who knows how to dance salsa and fix an engine.
    Explanation: Since the who-clause is describing a person, the best relative pronoun to lead into it is who.
  2. Correct: I like any car that can go more than 550 miles on one tank of gas.
    Explanation: Since presumably the speaker doesn't like all cars, only the ones that can go this far, the descriptive clause is essential to the sentence.
  3. Correct: Alex's feeling on the subject, which haven't changed at all, remain on the list of demands.
    Explanation: The feelings on the list are the same, so the fact that they haven't changed is inessential information and should be preceded by a which.

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Rule 133 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Someone who loves grammar left their book in the classroom by mistake.
    Better: Someone who loves grammar left her book in the classroom by mistake.
    Explanation: Someone is singular, so the pronoun taking the place of someone must also be singular. You could also use his or his or her.
  2. Wrong: Each boy on that team worked their hardest to win the final game.
    Better: Each boy on that team worked his hardest to win the final game.
    Explanation: Each is singular, but their is plural, so these pronouns disagree.
  3. Wrong: Every man, woman, and child wanted to know their place in line.
    Better: Every man, woman, and child wanted to know his or her place in line.
    Also better: They all wanted to know their places in line.
    Explanation: Every creates a singular set up, so the pronouns referring to it must be singular. If agreement in this case sounds awkward, you can change your whole sentence to plural.

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Rule 135 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Either Robin or our coaches together with the baseball team goes to Deano's after the game.
    Better: Either Robin or our coaches together with the baseball team go to Deano's after the game.
    Explanation: the verb should agree, in either/or sentences, with the closer subject. Together with the baseball team is a prepositional phrase, and therefore has no effect on the verb.
  2. Wrong: A small percentage of the students leave each weekend for sporting events.
    Better: A small percentage of the students leaves each weekend for sporting events.
    Explanation: A small percentage is a singular subject. Of the students is a prepositional phrase.
  3. Wrong: Many editors of The Record has won awards for great journalism.
    Better: Many editors of The Record have won awards for great journalism.
    Explanation: The plural editors is the subject of this sentence.
  4. Wrong: After hours of deliberation, the jury doesn't agree with each other about a verdict.
    Better: After hours of deliberation, the jury don't agree with each other about the verdict.
    Explanation: While jury can be singular or plural, here its meaning is clearly plural.

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Rule 137 Practice:

  1. Wrong: I looked at the cars in the lot and noticed their color.
    Better: I looked at the cars in the lot and noticed their colors.
    Explanation: Multiple cars come in multiple colors.
  2. Wrong: At two years old, Charlie could identify triangles, circles, squares; he knew objects' shape well.
    Better: At two years old, Charlie could identify triangles, circles, squares; he knew objects' shapes well.
    Explanation: Plural objects come in plural shapes.

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Rule 140 Practice:

  1. Wrong: If you have any questions about the club, please ask Logan or myself.
    Better: If you have any questions about the club, please ask Logan or me.
    Explanation: As a direct object, the pronoun at the end of the sentence needs to be in the objective case. Myself is the reflexive case, which doesn't make sense here.
  2. Wrong: You can give that candy to whoever you want.
    Better: You can give that candy to whomever you want.
    Explanation: As the object of the proposition, whomever is in the correct case.
  3. Wrong: Me and Andy wanted to see that movie again, but we didn't know who to take with us.
    Better: Andy and I wanted to see that movie again, but we didn't know who to take with us.
    Explanation: The subject of the sentence should be in the nominative/subject case. Also, usually pronouns follow nouns and it's polite to put the speaker last.
  4. Wrong: Joey gave the signed football to my sister and I.
    Better: Joey gave the signed football to my sister and me.
    Explanation: The final pronoun in this sentence is the object of a preposition.

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Rule 148 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Watching Michael Phelps swimming brings joy to millions.
    Better: Watching Michael Phelps' swimming brings joy to millions.
    Explanation: The object of the gerund watching is the gerund swimming, so Michael Phelps needs to become an adjective describing swimming.
  2. Wrong: Casey wondered if his husband knew about his plan for them going on a trip to Alaska.
    Better: Casey wondered if his husband knew about his plan for their going on a trip to Alaska.
    Explanation: The object of the preposition for is the gerund going, which can't be preceded by a noun and must be preceded by a possessive.
  3. Wrong: We still had three days drive to get to Graceland.
    Better: We still had three days' drive to get to Graceland.
    Explanation: The drive will take three days, so the days should be in the possessive case.

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Rule 149 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Of my sister and me, I stand the tallest.
    Better: Of my sister and me, I stand taller.
    Also better, I stand taller than my sister.
    Explanation: With only two people's heights being compared, the comparative rather than the superlative makes sense.
  2. Wrong: Sasha has the most hardest last name to pronounce.
    Better: Sasha has the hardest last name to pronounce.
    Explanation: Hardes is already the superlative form, so a second intensifier isn't necessary.
  3. Wrong: Terry and Val, their classmates all agree, have the most best enunciation on the Debate Team.
    Better: Terry and Val, their classmates all agree, have the best enunciation on the debate team.
    Explanation: Most and best serve the same function, so both aren't necessary.

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Rule 150 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Their quickly swimming made them the better water polo team.
    Better: Their quick swimming made them the better water polo team.
    Explanation: Swimming is a gerund (noun) in this sentence, so the word describing it should be an adjective.
  2. Wrong: Frankie reads so easy and fluent that nobody can believe he's only four.
    Better: Frankie reads so easily and fluently that nobody can believe he's only four.
    Explanation: Adverbs are needed to describe the verb reads.
  3. Wrong: If the child behaves good, he can often earn more privileges.
    Better: If the child behaves well, he can often earn more privileges.
    Explanation: To describe the verb behaves, the adverb is needed.
  4. Wrong: Ever since recovering from her horrible head cold, Harley smells good again.
    Better: Ever since recovering from her horrible head cold, Harley smells well again.
    Explanation: A head cold wouldn't make Harley not smell good -- a lack of hygiene or a serious workout could do that. That is, the verb smells (as with any of the sensory verbs) could be an action or linking verb. To describe how somebody does an action verb, use the adverb; to complete the idea of the linking verb, use the adjective.

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Rule 151 Practice:

  1. Wrong: While last week I felt pretty sickly, today, I am good.
    Better: While last week I felt pretty sick, today, I am well.
    Explanation: Both verbs in this sentence are linking verbs, so they need to be completed with adjectives. The first clause basically says, "I was sick," while the second one uses well as an adjective meaning healthy.
  2. Wrong: Reese looks prettily in that dress.
    Better: Reese looks pretty in that dress.
    Explanation: The verb looks is being used a linking verb in this sentence, so pretty equates with Reece.
  3. Wrong: Do you think the soup tastes superbly today?
    Better: Do you think the soup tastes superb today?
    Explanation: Tastes is being used as a linking verb in this sentence, so the sentence basically asks if the soup equals or is superb.
  4. Wrong: The team's cheer sounds loudly in this echoey room.
    Better: The team's cheer sounds loud in this echoey room.
    Explanation: Sounds is a linking verb in this sentence, so it needs to be follows by an adjective.

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Rule 152 Practice:

  1. Wrong: If I was able to eliminate all Saturday classes, I'm not sure I would.
    Better: If I were able to eliminate all Saturday classes, I'm not sure I would.
    Also better: If I could eliminate all Saturday classes, I'm not sure I would.
    Explanation: The introductory if makes clear that what follows is hypothetical.
  2. Wrong: If Robbie was in charge of the world, music would come out of all sidewalk vents.
    Better: If Robbie were in charge of the world, music would come out of all sidewalk vents.
    Explanation: Starting a sentence with if shows that the idea following is contrary to fact.
  3. Wrong: I wouldn't recommend eating a handful of habanero peppers, even if you can.
    Better: I wouldn't recommend eating a handful of habanero peppers, even if you could.
    Explanation: The sentence shows that the person being addressed may not be able to eat the peppers.
  4. Wrong: I wish my family and I have a million dollars.
    Better: I wish my family and I had a million dollars.
    Explanation: The wish shows that the family does not have a million dollars.
  5. Wrong: Harley and Justice insist that Cam thinks this proposal through.
    Better: Harley and Justice insist that Cam think this proposal through.
    Explanation: What is insisted is a command, so it belongs in the subjunctive.

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Rule 154 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Tommie asks her girlfriend if she had enough money for both of their movie tickets.
    Better: Tommie asks her girlfriend if she has enough money for both of their movie tickets.
    Also better: Tommie asked her girlfriend if she had enough money for both of their movie tickets.
    Explanation: The asking and the having have to both be in present or both in past tense.
  2. Wrong: When Val walked into the room, she says, "You have got to see this!"
    Better: When Val walked into the room, she said, "You have got to see this!"
    Also better: When Val walks into the room, she says, "You have got to see this!"
    Explanation: The walking and the saying either both happened in the past or are both happening in the present. Note that the quotation doesn't change tenses but keeps her exact words no matter when the attribution happened/happens.
  3. Wrong: Hayden left the room and thinks about what he'd just seen.
    Better: Hayden left the room and thought about what he'd just seen.
    Also better: Hayden leaves the room and thinks about what he has just seen.
    Explanation: All of Hayden's actions should be in past or all in present tense.
  4. Wrong: When I was growing up, I planned that I will study math and foreign languages.
    Better: When I was growing up, I planned that I would study math and foreign languages.
    Explanation: The opening clause makes clear that this whole sentence should be in past tense.

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Rule 155 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Holden met up with his sister and told her what was going on in his life after he left Pencey. (The Catcher in the Rye)
    Better: Holden meets up with his sister and tells her what is going on in his life since he has left Pencey.
    Explanation: Holden, a fictional character, exists only in the present, so all descriptions of his actions need to be in the present tense. Note that you can use the present perfect (has left) to show one action in the present preceding another action in the present.
  2. Wrong: Humperdinck loved hunting more than anything else he did. (The Princess Bride)
    Better: Humperdinck loves hunting more than anything else he does.
    Also better: Humperdinck loves hunting more than anything else he has ever done.
    Explanation: At no real time did Prince Humperdinck exist, so everything he does, he does in the fictional present tense.
  3. Wrong: Elizabeth's mother and father gave her opposite ultimatums about whether or not to accept Mr. Collins' proposal; her mother didn't abide by her own threat after Elizabeth sided with her father. (Pride and Prejudice)
    Better: Elizabeth's mother and father give her opposite ultimatums about whether or not to accept Mr. Collins' proposal; her mother doesn't abide by her own threat after Elizabeth sides with her father.
    Explanation: Though one could argue that these fictional characters are timeless, you should write about them in the present tense only.

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Rule 162 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Andy hikes as many miles per day if not more than Taylor.
    Better: Andy hikes as many miles per day as, if not more than Taylor.
    Also better: Andy might hike more miles per day than Taylor.
    Explanation: The first comparison uses as needs to be completed logically before the second comparison using than will make sense.
  2. Wrong: The Night's Watch do as many pushups per day if not more than the Faith of the Seven.
    Better: The Night's Watch do as many pushups per day as, if not more than the Faith of the Seven.
    Explanation: Each of the two interrupting comparisons needs its complete and logical second half.
  3. Wrong: We ate as little on that hike if not less than the counselors did.
    Better: We ate as little on that hike as, if not less than the counselors did.
    Explanation: Both comparisons need completion. Without the second as, the sentence implies that We ate as little than would make sense; it doesn't.

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Rhetoric (169-200)

Direct Links:

170, 177, 178, 179, 188, 189, 200

169.

Rules: The word any pronoun takes the place of must be totally clear and specific. Avoid vague and obscure references. Check very carefully whenever you use it or this, as both words often create reference errors.

Note: The pronoun he must take the place of a noun. In fact, he or she can never replace the possessive form of a name.

Note: While using this or that as pronouns usually creates problems, using them as demonstrative adjectives generally does not. For example, "This shows Huck's naive nature," remains unclear, but "This use of the word 'reckon' shows Huck's naive nature," makes sense. Even better, however, would be "Huck's use of the word 'reckon' shows his naive nature."

Examples:

Wrong: In F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby, he portrays characters from many social classes.
Better: F. Scott Fitzgerald portrays characters from many social classes in The Great Gatsby.
Wrong: It is apparent that O'Brien's title character feels ambivalent about things.
Better: O'Brien's title character feels ambivalent about his involvement in the war.
Wrong: It is my opinion that Annie Wilks represents writer's block.
Better: Annie Wilks represents writer's block.
Wrong I never dreamed that Trudy wanted to be a translator, but they do intrigue her.
Better: I never dreamed that Trudy wanted to be a translator, but languages do intrigue her.
Wrong: My neighbor, a well-known surgeon, frequently enjoyed discussing it with me.
Better: My neighbor, a well-known surgeon, frequently enjoyed discussing surgery with me.

Practice revising these sentences to create clearer pronoun reference:

  1. It was clear that Elias loved games and books.
  2. In Zadie Smith's book, she creates complex characters.
  3. This demonstrates everything Enzo's been teaching about music.
  4. Josefina could do anything related to art and science and math, and it shows in her great attitude in those classes.
  5. Maja wanted to ride with Camille, which created an awkward moment for everyone in the car.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of clear pronoun reference:

Web App's Usage -- Pronoun Reference
Butte College's Tip Sheet Pronoun Reference

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170.

Rules: The position of a modifier should be sufficiently near what it modifies to avoid even temporary ambiguity. In case of ambiguity rearrange or rewrite; do not try to mend the fault by commas.

Note: A modifier of a verb may often with perfect clearness stand before the subject, as: With a great effort he raised the beam he had thrown down.

Note: The split infinitive (as to really believe, to not know) is avoided by many careful writers. Place the intruding modifier elsewhere. The infinitive is not “split” unless the intruding modifier comes directly after the to.

Examples:

Wrong: He blew out his brains after tenderly bidding his wife good-bye with a shotgun.
Better: After tenderly bidding his wife good-bye he blew out his brains with a shotgun.
Wrong: Having reached the top, the cool wind revived us.
Wrong: Upon reaching the top, the cool wind revived us.
Wrong: When at the top, the cool wind revived us.
Better: When we had reached the top, the cool wind revived us.
Wrong: Having gotten horrible reviews, Antonio wants to not go with Reo to movie in Millerton.
Better: Antonio wants not to go with Reo to Millerton, to see the movie that got horrible reviews.

Practice revising the sentences below so that they have clear modifier placement:

  1. Walking with his head down, the ladder still smacked Julien.
  2. We loved looking at the new outfit on the baby, which had a cute flowered pattern.
  3. If you want to never have to go to detention, start by getting enough sleep.
  4. In Wang Wei's and Jose's brand new outfits, Maxime thought they looked great.

[answers]

Resources for further explanations of misplaced and dangling modifiers:

Web App's Avoiding Dangling and Misplaced Modifiers
University of Wisconsin-Madison's The Best Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers of All Time

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177.

Rules: Parallel ideas should be worded in parallel form, so words, phrases, and clauses used serially or in compounds should take the same grammatical construction. Correlatives (both…and, either…or, neither…nor, not only…but also, etc.): each must be followed by the same grammatical construction.

Note: Sometimes, non-parallel comparisons become illogical. Be sure not to remove necessary words, most often prepositions, in your writing.

Examples:

Wrong: I always have and always shall admire his grace on the field.
Better: I always have admired and always shall admire his grace on the field.
Wrong: They had love and confidence in their leader.
Better: They had love for, and confidence in their leader.
Better still: They regarded their leader with love and confidence [or] They loved and trusted their leader.
Wrong: She is taller than any girl in her class.
Better: She is taller than any other girl in her class.
Wrong: The play emphasizes many of his good qualities—his honesty, his kindness, the fact that he was conscientious, and above all he was very patriotic.
Better: The play emphasizes many of his good qualities--his honesty, his kindliness, his conscientiousness, and, above all, his intense patriotism.

Practice revising these sentences to create parallel structures:

  1. Dmitry can do his favorite sports--to swim, to run, and playing tennis--in the summer, when he's at his grandmother's house or at the park.
  2. Tanawat (from Bangkok) speaks Japanese as well if not better than Riku, who was born in Osaka.
  3. Zhang Wei would rather see Chicago's professional sports teams than Boston.
  4. Lucas either wants to eat almond croissants for dessert or crepe Suzette.

[answers]

Resources for further explanations about parallel structure:

Purdue OWL's Parallel Structure
Evergreen Writing Center's Parallel Structure

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178.

Rule: You picked the wrong preposition, have too many prepositions, or don't have enough prepositions.

Examples:

Wrong: He earned a perfect score in the quiz.
Better: He earned a perfect score on the quiz.
Wrong: She fell off of the chair because she was laughing so hard.
Better: She fell off the chair because she was laughing so hard.
Wrong: Abigail holds a grudge to her town.
Better: Abigail holds a grudge against her town.
Wrong: If you walk the narrow path, you can get where you're going.
Better: If you walk on the narrow path, you can get where you're going.

Practice using the correct prepositions:

  1. Alejandra beat Mario into the top at the mountain, even though Mario went by kart.
  2. When Adriana got off of the trampoline, she asked how soon she could take another turn in it.
  3. Marquis knew all his multiplication tables by the middle on first grade.
  4. Wang Li woke up in the crack of dawn to prepare for the long trip in Lakeville.

[answers]

Resources for further explanations of prepositions:

Grammar Book's Prepositions
Purdue OWL's Prepositions

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179.

Rules: The indefinite articles a and an refer to any one of the category defined by the noun. The definite article the refers to a specific one of the category. Use the indefinite article to refer to any non-specific version of the noun in question.

Note: You may omit an article when you use a number.

Examples:

Correct: I want to go to the Senior Dance. The dress she picked out looks great.
Correct: I don't want an apple in my fruit basket. He needs a calculator for the exam.
Correct: I bought two books and a pencil.
Correct: I want to buy a car we looked at yesterday. (Could be any of a number of cars.)
Correct: I want to buy the car we looked at yesterday. (You only looked at one.)

Practice deciding if and where to put articles:

  1. Ilya looked at book for the several hours before she had quiz.
  2. Li Jing gave bag he found to police officer.
  3. Marquis won spelling competition for eighth year in a row.

[answers]

Resources for more information about articles:

Purdue OWL's Articles
Scribindi's Articles

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188.

Rule: Avoid double negatives. Hardly and scarcely, though they don’t begin with an n, are negative.

Note: Sometimes a double negative can be used to make a point about an extreme positive. This technique is called litotes. For example, Michael Jordan wasn't the worst basketball player ever implies (correctly) that he was truly extraordinary.

Examples:

Wrong: He couldn’t hardly believe his good luck.
Better: He could hardly believe his good luck.
Also better: He couldn’t believe his good luck.
Wrong: Nia didn't want none of the boring shoes.
Better: Nia didn't want any of the boring shoes.
Also better: Nia wanted only the exciting shoes.

Practice eliminating double negatives:

  1. Nan and Fedor couldn't hardly think about eating again after that huge meal.
  2. Marquis did not have no strong feelings about the musical he saw with Manon.
  3. Haruto didn't bring scarcely any warm clothes to Lakeville.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of double negatives:

Oxford's Dictionary's What is a Double Negative?
Literary Device's Litotes

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189.

Rule: You can't start a metaphor with one kind of comparison and switch to another kind. This error is called a mixed metaphor.

Examples:

Wrong: She's in over her head; she better nip that problem in the bud.
Better: She's in over her head; she needs to learn to float or swim.
Also better: The situation will grow worse if she's not careful; she better nip that problem in the bud.

Practice unifying these mixed metaphors:

  1. The plan fell to pieces, so they had to punt.
  2. "I don’t think we should wait until the other shoe drops. History has already shown what is likely to happen. The ball has been down this court before and I can see already the light at the end of the tunnel."
    (Detroit News, quoted in The New Yorker, November 26, 2012)
  3. "We'll have a lot of new blood holding gavels in Washington."
    (Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, quoted in the Savannah Morning News, November 3, 2010)

[answers]

Resources for further explanations of mixed metaphors:

Thoughtco's What Are Mixed Metaphors?
Info Please's Common Usage Dilemmas: Mixed Metaphors: A Dollar Late and a Day Short
Jim Carlton's My Favorite Mixed Metaphors

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200.

Rule: Any phrase beginning with like implies that the thing being compared is NOT included in the comparison. If the item(s) being compared is(are) included in the set, use such as. Do not confuse like with as. Like cannot introduce a clause. Like is a preposition, a verb, or an adjective. As is a conjunction.

Examples:

Correct: I love ball sports like football. (This sentence means I don’t like football, just similar sports.)
Correct: I love ball sports such as football and soccer. (I also love football and soccer.)
Correct: He runs like a gazelle.
Wrong: He runs like somebody is chasing him.
Better: He runs as if somebody is chasing him.

Practice deciding if and when to use like:

  1. Elise and Nathalie danced like they could have been in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company.
  2. Vladimir wanted to eat like a hundred soft-serve ice creams.
  3. On their camping trip, Liam and Oscar brought supplies like a tent, sleeping bags, and a water filter.
  4. Like my mother always says, "Treat other people like you want to be treated."

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to use (and not use) like:

To Learn English's The Difference between Like and As
English Grammar's Like and As

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EXPLANATIONS OF PRACTICE SENTENCES:

Rule 169 Practice:

  1. Wrong: It was clear that Elias loved games and books.
    Better: Clearly, Elias loved games and books.
    Explanation: It almost never has a clear antecedent. If you can writing without using it, do.
  2. Wrong: In Zadie Smith's book, she creates complex characters.
    Better: In her book, Zadie Smith creates complex characters.
    Explanation: The pronoun she can't refer back to the adjective Zadie Smith's. Remember that all possessives are adjectives. To correct the problem, use the author's name as the subject of the main clause.
  3. Wrong: This demonstrates everything Enzo's been teaching about music.
    Better: This scene in which they fall in love while playing the guitar demonstrates everything Enzo's been teaching about music.
    Explanation: In speech, this can be a demonstrative pronoun or a demonstrative adjective. Demonstrative pronouns work very well if the listener can see what the speaker is gesturing towards when calling something this. In writing, the writer can't gesture to whatever this is, so in writers should use this only as a demonstrative adjective (by putting a specific noun or noun phrase after it).
  4. Wrong: Josefina could do anything related to art and science and math, and it shows in her great attitude in those classes.
    Better: Josefina could do anything related to art and science and math, and her STEAM abilities show in her great attitude in those classes.
    Explanation: As a general rule, don't use it, but to explain more specifically what's going wrong in this sentence, the it could refer to anything, art, science, or math.
  5. Wrong: Maja wanted to ride with Camille, which created an awkward moment for everyone in the car.
    Better: Maja wanted to ride with Camille, an unrequited desire that created an awkward moment for everyone in the car.
    Explanation: In the original sentence, the which could refer to Maja's desire, Camille's hesitance, the fact that they're riding somewhere, etc; in sum, the which doesn't have a single, clear antecedent.

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Rule 170 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Walking with his head down, the ladder still smacked Julien.
    Better: Walking with his head down, Julien still smacked himself into the ladder.
    Explanation: The first part of the sentence must describe the word immediately following the comma; however, the ladder isn't walking with his head down. Julien's name must be relocated to the spot after the comma and other changes must follow accordingly.
  2. Wrong: We loved looking at the new outfit on the baby, which had a cute flowered pattern.
    Better: We loved looking at the cute, flower-patterned outfit on the baby.
    Explanation: The which clause must describe the words immediately preceding the comma, but the baby doesn't have a cute flowered pattern.
  3. Wrong: If you want to never have to go to detention, start by getting enough sleep.
    Better: If you want never to have to go to detention, start by getting enough sleep.
    Explanation: In many languages, an infinitive uses just one word. While infinitives use two words in English (to and the verb part), the custom is not to put any other words between those two words. The error is called a split infinitive.
  4. Wrong: In Wang Wei's and Jose's brand new outfits, Maxime thought they looked great.
    Better: Maxime thought Wang Wei and Jose looked great in their brand new outfits.
    Explanation: The word order of the original sentence implies that Maxime is wearing the other people's new outfits.

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Rule 177 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Dmitry can do his favorite sports--to swim, to run, and playing tennis--in the summer, when he's at his grandmother's house or at the park.
    Better: Dmitry can do his favorite sports--swimming, running, and playing tennis--in the summer, when he's at his grandmother's house or at the park.
    Also better: Dmitry can do his favorite sports--to swim, to run, to play tennis--in the summer, when he's at his grandmother's house or at the park.
    Explanation: In the list of three sports, each should take the same grammatical form, infinitive or gerund.
  2. Wrong: Tanawat (from Bangkok) speaks Japanese as well if not better than Riku, who was born in Osaka.
    Better: Tanawat (from Bangkok) speaks Japanese as well as, if not better than Riku, who was born in Osaka.
    Explanation: This illogical comparison, missing the second as is closely related to problems of parallelism. (For further explanation of this rule, you can look at rule 162.)
  3. Wrong: Zhang Wei would rather see Chicago's professional sports teams than Boston.
    Better: Zhang Wei would rather see Chicago's professional sports teams than Boston's.
    Also better: Zhang Wei, a lover of professional sports, would rather see Chicago than Boston.
    Explanation: The faulty parallelism in this sentence between Chicago's professional sports teams and Boston, which leads to an unclear comparison. To correct the issue, the two items under consideration must be written in the same grammatical form.
  4. Wrong: Lucas either wants to eat almond croissants for dessert or crepe Suzette.
    Better: For dessert, Lucas wants to eat either almost croissants or crepe Suzette.
    Explanation: The correlative conjunctions either and or must be followed by items written in the same grammatical structure. In the original sentence, wants to eat almond croissants for dessert and crepe Suzette are not parallel.

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Rule 178 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Alejandra beat Mario into the top at the mountain, even though Mario went by kart.
    Better: Alejandra beat Mario to the top of the mountain, even though Mario went by kart.
    Explanation: To go into the top of the mountain, she'd have to enter it. Top needs to go with of because at the mountain would be nearby, not on it.
  2. Wrong: When Adriana got off of the trampoline, she asked how soon she could take another turn in it.
    Better: When Adriana got off the trampoline, she asked how soon she could take another turn on it.
    Explanation: One doesn't need both off and of, just one. also, people don't jump in trampolines; they just on them.
  3. Wrong: Marquis knew all his multiplication tables by the middle on first grade.
    Better: Marquis knew all his multiplication tables by the middle of first grade.
    Explanation: On shows a location; of makes more sense here.
  4. Wrong: Wang Li woke up in the crack of dawn to prepare for the long trip in Lakeville.
    Better: Wang Li woke up at the crack of dawn to prepare for the long trip to Lakeville.
    Explanation: To be in a crack would be a physical crack; time uses at the crack. Also, as Lakeville is quite small, a long trip in Lakeville would be impossible. Instead, Wang Li must be heading in the direction of Lakeville, which would use to Lakeville.

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Rule 179 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Ilya looked at book for the several hours before she had quiz.
    Better: Ilya looked at the book for several house before she had a quiz.
    Explanation: She's looking at one specific book, but taking one of many quizzes. Several already gives the number, so the is unnecessary preceding it.
  2. Wrong: Li Jing gave bag he found to police officer.
    Better: Li Jing gave the bag he found to a police officer.
    Also better: Li Jing gave the bag he found to the police officer.
    Explanation: Li Jing presumably found just one bag, so that noun needs to be preceded by the. The first sentence correction assumes that Li Jing saw a variety of officers, while the second sentence assumes that Li Jing saw only one officer to whom to give the bag.
  3. Wrong: Marquis won spelling competition for eighth year in a row.
    Better: Marquis won the spelling competition for the eighth year in a row.
    Explanation: The speaker is talking about a specific competition, not one of many Marquis competes in. The is needed before the ordinal number eighth.

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Rule 188 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Nan and Fedor couldn't hardly think about eating again after that huge meal.
    Better: Nan and Fedor could hardly think about eating again after that huge meal.
    Also better: Nan and Fedor couldn't think about eating again after that huge meal.
    Explanation: The contraction couldn't and the word hardly are both negative and would therefore cancel each other out. The correct version can eliminate either of the negative words.
  2. Wrong: Marquis did not have no strong feelings about the musical he saw with Manon.
    Better: Marquis had no strong feelings about the musical he saw with Manon.
    Also better: Marquis didn't have any strong feelings about the musical he saw with Manon.
    Explanation: Both no and not are negatives, so they would cancel each other out. Either must be eliminated for the sentence to have meaning.
  3. Wrong: Haruto didn't bring scarcely any warm clothes to Lakeville.
    Better: Haruto didn't bring any warm clothes to Lakeville.
    Also better: Haruto brought scarcely any warm clothes to Lakeville.
    Explanation: The contraction didn't and the word scarcely are both negative. Either must go.

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Rule 189 Practice:

  1. Wrong: The plan fell to pieces, so they had to punt.
    Better: The plan fell to pieces, so they had to crazy glue their options back together.
    Also better: The leader dropped the ball on their plan, so they had to punt.
    Explanation: The original sentence starts with a broken object metaphor, but end with football. Either is fine, but not both at the same time.
  2. Wrong: "I don’t think we should wait until the other shoe drops. History has already shown what is likely to happen. The ball has been down this court before and I can see already the light at the end of the tunnel."
    (Detroit News, quoted in The New Yorker, November 26, 2012)
    Better: I don't think we should wait until the other ball drops. History has already shown what is likely to happen. The ball has been down this field before and I can see the goal in the end zone.
    Explanation: The original sentence mixes three different image systems.
  3. Wrong: "We'll have a lot of new blood holding gavels in Washington."
    (Georgia Congressman Jack Kingston, quoted in the Savannah Morning News, November 3, 2010)
    Better: Many new hands will be holding gavels in Washington.
    Also better: New people will be making decisions in Washington.
    Explanation: Blood can't hold a gavel.

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Rule 200 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Elise and Nathalie danced like they could have been in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company.
    Better: Elise and Nathalie danced as if they could have been in Chicago's Joffrey Ballet Company.
    Explanation: The like in the original sentence can't introduce a dependent clause.
  2. Wrong: Vladimir wanted to eat like a hundred soft-serve ice creams.
    Better: Vladimir wanted to eat approximately a hundred soft-serve ice creams.
    Explanation: Like doesn't mean approximately.
  3. Wrong: On their camping trip, Liam and Oscar brought supplies like a tent, sleeping bags, and a water filter.
    Better: On their camping trip, Liam and Oscar brought supplies, such as a tent, sleeping bags, and a water filter.
    Explanation: If they brought supplies like those named, then they didn't bring the actual objects named. Such as includes the named objects.
  4. Wrong: Like my mother always says, "Treat other people like you want to be treated."
    Better: As my mother always says, "Treat other people as you want to be treated."
    Explanation: Like can't begin either dependent clause.

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Writing Tips (201-222)

Direct Links:

202, 203, 204, 205, 206, 207, 209, 210, 211, 212, 213, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 219, 220, 222

201.

Rule: Quotations and examples should be embedded into paragraphs, worded so that the quotation flows from the non-quoted text. Because you will use quotations in your writing to support an assertion, you should precede a quotation with context and follow it with analysis. Sentences of analysis should not begin with the words, "This quotation shows." Instead, name the specific part of the author's words that make your point.

Note: One common mistake students make when writing about texts is that they refer to the quotation as if it comes from a book. Even though all of the quotations clearly do come from books, you should talk about them as if they come from the story of somebody’s life. One test to see if you’re doing it right: Read your writing aloud. Does it sound as though you’re talking about a book or about real people? Go for the latter.

Examples:

Wrong: On page 161, Huck Finn says, "It was a close place."
Better: When Huck struggles with his decision about Jim, he says, "It was a close place" (161).
Wrong: In chapter four, Holden talks about Stradlater and Jean Gallagher.
Better: After Holden leaves Ackley, he talks about Stradlater and Jean Gallagher.
Wrong: In Act I, Macbeth says, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly."
Better: Macbeth doesn't like waiting around to kill King Duncan. He says, "If it were done when 'tis done, then 'twere well it were done quickly" (I.vii.1-2).

Practice integrating these quotations into the correct context:

  1. In the first paragraph, Krakauer tells how McCandless's story ends: "Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters."
  2. Lizzy's first refusal comes on page 81, when she says, "I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them."
  3. By page 13, "Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was Arthur's accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional demands to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr. Prosser's accepted role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the For the Public Good talk, or the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other cajoleries and threats."
[answers]

Resources for further explanation on integrating quotations:

UW-Madison's The Writing Center's Integrating Quotes from a Literary Text
Ashford University's Guidelines for Incorporating Quotes
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Quotations

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202.

Rule: When you write about a novel or play, the only references to its being a novel or play should come in your citations. In the body of your writing, write about the story rather than about the book (unless the prompt asks you to explain the importance of the form in making meaning).

Examples:

Wrong: In the novel, Nick tries to reserve judgment.
Better: Nick tries to take the advice of his father to reserve judgment.
Wrong: Early in the book, Buttercup becomes the most beautiful woman in the world.
Better: After she learns of Westley's death, Buttercup becomes the most beautiful woman in the world.
Wrong: In Act III, Orlando carves Rosalind's name on every tree he can find.
Better: To express his new love for her, Orlando carves his name on every tree he can find. (III.ii.5-10)

Practice rewriting the following sentences to provide context references rather than book/page references:

  1. Marie-Laure and Werner don't meet each other until late in the novel.
  2. In the first four chapters, we learn more about Telemachus than about Odysseus.
  3. Janie tells her story to her friend Phoeby in the first and last parts of the book.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to refer to texts in essays:

The Writing Center at Harvard University's Beginning the Academic Essay
Wiki How's Putting a Quote into an Essay

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203.

Rule: Making bold claims will strengthen your writing only if you support the claims with textual evidence. A lawyer can't say, "My client is innocent," and walk out of the room with a not guilty verdict. First, she has to support her claim with evidence. Your job as a writer demands the same support, only yours will come from the text rather than from a crime scene.

Examples:

Wrong: Daisy melts down during her first visit to Gatsby's house.
Better: Daisy melts down during her first visit to Gatsby's house. In fact, when Daisy sees Gatsby's shirts, she sobs, "They're such beautiful shirts" (118)
Wrong: IM wakes up lost and afraid.
Better: IM wakes up lost and afraid. After looking around, he notes, "My eyes were swimming with tears. Why, I didn't know. It worried me" (238).

Practice making bold claims that you could support with textual evidence:

  1. McMurphy quickly wins the other patients to his side.
  2. Bernard acts in cowardly ways.
  3. Candide lives through ridiculous circumstances.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation about supporting claims with evidence:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Evidence
Indiana University's Writing Tutorial Service's Incorporating Evidence Into Your Essays
University of Maryland University College's Paragraph Structure

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204.

Rule: If you can avoid “is” in its many forms, do so. You have so many action verbs to choose from. Use them to keep your writing lively.

Note: Avoid "is because," "is when," and "is where." Not only are you likely using an adverbial clause as a predicate adjective (check out rule 151 for this), but you're also missing an opportunity to pack a punch with your verb choice. Avoid "there is" and "there are," as these constructions usually demonstrate sloppy thinking.

Examples:

Weak: I am happy today.
Better: I find myself singing a little ditty as I shower.
Weak: There are three examples of nice adjectives of this in the paragraph.
Better: Austen's use of "handsome," "clever," and "rich" demonstrates her assessment of the title character.
Weak: The reason Homer leaves the orphanage is because he is tired of his routine.
Better: Homer leaves the orphanage when he tires of his routine.
Weak: Creating imagery is when the author paints a picture with words.
Better: Imagery paints pictures with words. OR Authors use imagery to paint pictures with words.

Practice strengthening these sentences by eliminating to-be verbs:

  1. Eden is clever and kind.
  2. In Ebba's room, there is no room for more sports equipment.
  3. The reason Sora didn't show up is because she had a big test the next day.
  4. Imani knows that she is the smartest student in the class.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation of weak to-be verbs:

Writing Commons' Eliminate "to be" Verbs
St. Louis Community College's Replacing To Be Verbs

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205.

Rule: And is the weakest conjunction; use one that better shows the relationship between the elements of your sentence. As with “to be,” you should note that there are many ways to connect your ideas. You can use other conjunctions; you can subordinate; you can string ideas together with semicolons (as we’re doing). And gives the reader two ideas and says, “Here they are, equal in all ways, neither one better nor more interesting than the other.” Make a bold value judgment to improve your sentence.

Note: Sometimes, and works best to join two simple nouns or pronouns.

Examples:

Weak: I go to the store and I buy bread.
Better: I go to the store because I need to buy bread.
Weak: Zhang Min walks the dog and looks at the campus.
Better: While Zhang Min walks the dog, she looks around campus.

Practice connecting ideas in more interesting ways:

  1. August and Citizen built a fort under the loft, and they played there for hours.
  2. Melony destroyed the cabin and got mad at Homer for leaving the orphanage.
  3. Strayed had made a shambles of her life and she changed her name and started hiking.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation of strong ways to combine ideas:

Helping Writers Become Authors' Weak Conjunctions
English Grammar 101's Subordinating Conjunctions

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206.

Rule: In general, use the third person. Because your name already appears at the top of the essay, you never need to say, “I think” or “In my opinion” in your text. The word you in your writing refers to your reader. Unless you are addressing your reader directly, craft your essays in the third person.

Examples:

Weak: When you get your course catalogue, students need to check for conflicts before signing up for classes.
Better: Students should check for conflicts before signing up for classes.
Weak: I would say that Gatsby loves Daisy in an unreasonable way.
Better: Gatsby loves Daisy in an unreasonable way. (Demonstrate this assertion later in the essay.)

Practice maintaining third person:

  1. Lee takes a passive role, I think, in her own life.
  2. Even though Holden lies all the time, you can see that Holden has a lot of problems with people he thinks lie to him.
  3. In my opinion, several of the characters make bad choices.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation of why and how to write in third person:

Kibin Essay Writing's Why Third-Person Is Critical to a Great Essay
WC Writing Commons' Use Third-Person Point of View

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207.

Rule: Avoid the passive voice. Subjects need to be doing their verbs.

Examples:

Wrong: This fact is seen when we look at chapter eight.
Better: We see this fact when we look at chapter eight.
Wrong: The automobile was driven into the garage.
Better: She drove the automobile into the garage.
Wrong: After Dr. Smith was conferred with, I understood my test result.
Better: After I conferred with Dr. Smith, I understood my test result.

Practice revising sentences to employ active verbs:

  1. German, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, Latin, and Greek are all studied at Hotchkiss.
  2. Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested going into his own home.
  3. The intent of the passage is seen in the author's use of the raft symbol.
  4. The lake can be viewed from most of the classrooms in the English Wing.
[answers]

Resources for further explanations about passive voice:

Purdue OWL's Active and Passive Voice
San Jose State University Writing Center's How to Recognize and Eliminate Passive Voice

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209.

Rule: Avoid claims of authorial intent. What an author, poet, or playwright tried to say doesn't matter for your analysis. Demonstrate what's in the text.

Examples:

Wrong: Nathaniel Hawthorne was trying to make a statement about the importance redemption.
Better: The Scarlet Letter makes a statement about the importance of redemption.
Wrong: Steinbeck hoped to show that George had a complex personality.
Better: By showing both his gruff side and his care for Lennie, Steinbeck shows George's complex personality.

Practice removing claims of authorial intent:

  1. Morrison doesn't want Sula and Nel's relationship to be easy for the reader to understand.
  2. Golding purposefully has Jack and Ralph display opposing characteristics.
  3. Bronte wanted the reader to have mixed feelings about Heathcliff.
[answers]

Resources for further explanation of avoiding claims of authorial intent:

UVM's Tips for Close Reading (scroll down or search "authorial intent")
SMU's The Intentional Fallacy

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210.

Rule: Remember that the main purpose of analytical writing is to make a point. Your thesis statement is the point you’re going to demonstrate in the rest of the essay (using examples from the text as evidence). Don’t try to hide your thesis; put it at the end of your introduction.

Examples:

Bad thesis statement: Candide is a satire about Candide's travels and troubles.
Better thesis statement: Candide pokes fun at the idea that people can know what happens for the best.
Bad thesis statement: Blanche's has experienced a lot of troubling moments in her life.
Better thesis statement: Blanche's troubling past affects her ability to form honest relationships.

Practice turning statements of fact into supportable thesis statements:

  1. John comes from the Savage Reservation and doesn't like what he finds in Civilization.
  2. Chief Bromden gets to learn a lot of secrets because people think he can't talk.
  3. While claiming to be honest, Iago tricks everyone around him.

[answers]

Resources to help explain how to craft a strong thesis statement:

Purdue OWL's Developing Strong Thesis Statements
Easy Bib's How to Write a Strong Thesis Statement
Harvard Writing Center's Developing a Thesis

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211.

Rule: At the beginning of each paragraph, you need to let your reader know what point the paragraph will make. Because the purpose of your paragraph won't be a simple restatement of plot, your topic sentence should NOT be a statement of plot. Each topic sentence should help move the essay toward proving its thesis statement. A topic sentence at the beginning of a paragraph suggests neither more nor less than the whole subject of the paragraph, in a brief, general way, without mentioning details.

Examples:

Bad topic sentence: One time, Holden goes skating with Sally.
Better topic sentence: Holden's inability to maintain a polite conversation manifests again while he's skating with Sally.
Bad topic sentence: Emilia takes Desdemona's handkerchief.
Better topic sentence: Emilia's taking of Desdemona's handkerchief allows much of Iago's mischief to happen.

Practice revising plot statements into strong topic sentences:

  1. Junior then transfers to a better school.
  2. Beloved arrives at 224 soaking wet.
  3. Victor Frankenstein creates the creature out of parts found at charnel houses.
[answers]

Resources for further explanations of how to write strong topic sentences:

Purdue OWL's Topic Sentences
Letter Pile's How to Write a Great Topic Sentence

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212.

Rule: To help your reader move from idea to idea, you must provide the links. Between sentences, you might need just a word (also, next, unfortunately) or phrase (on the other hand, in some cases, in other words,) to transition. Between paragraphs, you're likely to need half a sentence. Transitional expressions (furthermore, however, consequently, in addition to, etc.) should be used wherever they will help to show the connection in thought between paragraphs, sentences, or clauses.

Note: First, secondly, etc, are often unduly mechanical.

Examples:

Fine transition: Even though Odysseus has a hard time getting home [that’s from the last paragraph], Penelope. . . [now we’re onto our new paragraph’s idea].
Fine transition: Because of this desire to seem crazy [idea from last paragraph], McMurphy goes on to . . . [new topic for this paragraph]).
Weak transition: Secondly, let us see whether this novel contains a skillfully handled plot.
Better transition: In addition to her characterizations, the chief merit of this novel lies in its skillfully handled plot.
Weak transition: Thus, to sum up, I have shown you that while character and setting are not entirely neglected, it is the plot which is the best and more important element in this novel.
Better transition: King, indeed, doesn't entirely neglect character and setting, but he creates the plot as the most important element in this novel.

Practice writing stronger transitions:

  1. In this paragraph, I'll explain how Daisy's new life affects Gatsby's dreams.
  2. In conclusion, Stanley causes as many problems as Blanche does.
  3. Second, Romeo seems ready to fall in love again.
[answers]

Resources for more instruction on writing better transitions:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Transitions
Aims Community College OWL's Transitions

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213.

Rule: You always want to show, at the end of an essay, that you’ve made your point. Be sure to bring your ideas together in a strong conclusion. Answer the, “What’s the big deal?” question. What are the implications of what you’ve proven?

Note: You don’t need the words, “In conclusion,” here, as your reader can tell she’s getting near the end of the essay by the stunning conclusion you draw.

Resources for further instruction about writing strong conclusions:

The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Conclusions
Harvard College Writing Center's Ending the Essay: Conclusions
Literary Education Online's Strategies for Writing a Conclusion

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214.

Rule: Each paragraph should handle one, unified topic or one person’s speech. Long or unwieldy paragraphs should be divided into shorter paragraphs. Each paragraph should begin with an indented line. Since you are already double-spacing your essays, you do not need to put an additional line of blank space between paragraphs.

Resources for further explanation of paragraph length, unity, and formatting:

Purdue OWL's Paragraphing (Length Consistency)
Daily Writing Tips' How Long Should a Paragraph Be?

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215.

Rule: In descriptive writing, SHOW the reader images and scenes rather than TELLING about them.

Examples:

Weak: He's a nice man.
Better: He spends his spare time helping orphans and stray animals.
Weak: Daniela likes jumping on the trampoline.
Better: Daniela couldn't stop smiling for hours after she got to jump on the trampoline.

Practice showing rather than telling:

  1. Ebony is tall.
  2. Lola and Lucy have a lot of pets.
  3. Nan and Maverick didn't want to eat at a restaurant.
[answers]

Resources for further instruction on how to show instead of tell:

The Write Practice's The Secrets to Show, Don't Tell
Daily Writing Tips' Show, Don't Tell
Jerz's Literacy Weblog's Show, Don't (Just) Tell

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216.

Rule: In formal writing, avoid slang.

Examples:

Weak: John Proctor is a dude who wants to be fly.
Better: John Proctor tries to amend his relationship with his wife.
Weak: Nick has to get outside his comfort zone to understand Gatsby's life.
Better: Nice becomes uncomfortable in knowing some of what he does about Gatsby's life.

Practice revising slang into standard, formal writing:

  1. Sula really lives by her YOLO philosophy.
  2. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley have a total bromance.
  3. Humbert should realize not to mess with jailbait.
[answers]

Resources for further instruction on avoiding slang:

StyleWriter's How to Identify and Avoid Slang in Your English Writing
USF's Trying to Avoid Colloquial Language and Slang
Boundless's Avoiding Slang and Jargon

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217.

Rule: Avoid cliches.

Examples:

Weak: What a fire-cracker: she's really thinking outside the box with all cylinders firing.
Better: She has so much energy that she quickly discovers new, better ways of doing thing.
Weak: Wei is a one-of-a-kind friend.
Better: I haven't met anybody as loyal and kind as Wei.

Practice eliminating cliches:

  1. He recommended that I take the 30,000 foot view and then give it the old college try.
  2. We didn't really see eye to eye, so I did my own thing.
  3. Last, but not least, I think the world of my better half.
[answers]

Resources for understanding and eliminating cliches:

Writer's Digest's 10 Tips to Avoid Cliche's in Writing
The Writing Center at UNC-Chapel Hill's Cliches

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218.

Rule: Own your statements. Qualifiers weaken your writing.

Examples:

Weak: Proctor feels mostly conflicted about Abigail.
Better: Proctor feels conflicted about Abigail.
Weak: Sula truly goes away for ten years.
Better: Sula goes away for ten years.

Practice eliminating qualifiers from these sentences:

  1. Wes's life imprisonment feels like a really long time.
  2. Nick wants, I think, to go to Gatsby's party.
  3. Blanche's somewhat troubling past comes to light over the whole, long course of her visit to New Orleans.
  4. Iago pretends to be very supportive while he actually plots against Othello at almost every step.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of how to identify and eliminate qualifiers from your writing:

Scribendi's How to Eliminate Wordiness in Your Writing
Constant Content's Eliminating Wordiness: Qualifiers

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219.

Rule: Get to the point, using clear wording. Avoid the awkward.

Examples:

Awkward: The reason that I am happy is because I have won a scholarship to Georgetown University.
Better: I am happy because I have won a scholarship to Georgetown University.
Awkward: His main purpose that he talks about to Jordan in the past five years is about getting Daisy back.
Better: For the past five years, he has worked to get Daisy back.

Practice revising sentences to eliminate awkward phrasing:

  1. When I want to buy apples to make pie, which I really like, for dessert, I go to one of the stores that's near my house not the ones that are farther away.
  2. Some teachers but not most of the students think that all holidays when they get called should be announced in advance.
  3. I wanted to have a Greek salad with my dinner, which Taavi thought was strange since I was eating sushi.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation of awkward wording:

Skidmore College's Awkward Sentences
BYUI's Awkward Sentences
Omniglot's 5 Types of Awkward Wording to Avoid

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220.

Rule: You haven't used the most effective word to express your idea. As a paraphrase of the great thinker and swordsman, Inigo Montoya, I do not think this word means what you think it means.

Note: The word unique means one of a kind, individual. It cannot take modifiers.

Note: The word literally means actually, in fact, physically true.

Examples:

Wrong: I really hope I get excepted at my first choice college.
Better: I hope I get accepted at my first choice college.
Wrong: He could feel the affects of the hike on his very first day on the trail.
Better: He could feel the effects of the hike on his first day on the trail.
Wrong: I literally am drowning in homework.
Better: I have more homework to do than I have time to do it all.

Practice:

  1. My teacher found alot of mistakes in my paragraph, but she read farther then I thought she would.
  2. Hopefully, he didn't just infer something mean to me.
  3. We have less hours to get threw this activity, but if you loose track of time, than we can explain how we use to do things.
  4. I just need to jump in the shower then lay down for ten minutes before I'll be ready to go.
  5. I should of told Caleb and Sophie about the mistake I made rather then try and cover it up.

[answers]

Resources for further explanations of commonly confused words:

Grammarly's Top 30 Commonly Confused Words
Oxford Living Dictionary's Commonly Confused Words

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222.

Rule: Avoid repetition. If you can express the same idea in fewer words, you should. If you use the same word more than once in your essay, you should find synonyms and/or pronouns (as long as they're clear).

Examples:

Wrong: If you don't want to go and be there instead of here, then you should come home to your house.
Better: If you don't want to be elsewhere, you should come home.
Wrong: He wanted to go to the new school, but the school was far away and he didn't know a lot of people at that school, which was a scary school.
Better: He wanted to attend the new school, but it was far away, unfamiliar, and scary to him.

Practice eliminating repetition from these sentences:

  1. John came into civilization from a place where he'd heard about civilization but hadn't ever seen civilization.
  2. John Proctor admits his affair to the court, but Elizabeth tries to save him in court because she doesn't know what he has admitted even though she knows that he had the affair before he goes to court.
  3. Around the same time when Taylor is going on her journey to find herself and to leave her home and everything she has known up until this point in her life is around the same time that she finds Turtle and then starts her journey.
  4. Judy and Noel demonstrate generosity. They give presents because they're really giving people. In fact, they often give gifts to people; that's just who they are.

[answers]

Resources for further explanation on how to avoid repetition:

University of Queensland's Structural Repetition
The Writer's Dig's 5 Ways to Deal with Word Repetition
Shmoop's How to Avoid Repetition

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EXPLANATIONS AND ANSWERS TO PRACTICE SENTENCES:

Rule 201 Practice:

  1. Wrong: In the first paragraph, Krakauer tells how McCandless's story ends: "Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters."
    Better: Before telling about Chris McCandless, Krakauer tells the reader how McCandless's story ends: "Four months later his decomposed body was found by a party of moose hunters" (iv).
    Explanation: Provide context of what's going on in the telling, not where on the page something happens. The page citation does the work of telling where in the physical book a passage comes from, so the writer's job is instead to tell where in its message.
  2. Wrong: Lizzy's first refusal comes on page 81, when she says, "I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them."
    Better: Lizzy's first refusal comes as soon as Mr. Collins asks her, when she says, "I am very sensible of the honour of your proposals, but it is impossible for me to do otherwise than decline them" (81).
    Explanation: The reference to which page this passage happens should be only in the parenthetical citation; the essay provides the reader a glimpse into what's going on in the story at that moment.
  3. Wrong: By page 13, "Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was Arthur's accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional demands to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr. Prosser's accepted role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the For the Public Good talk, or the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other cajoleries and threats."
    Better: After his initial interaction with Prosser, the men continue to play their parts: "Arthur's house had settled into a steady routine. It was Arthur's accepted role to lie squelching in the mud making occasional demands to see his lawyer, his mother or a good book; it was Mr. Prosser's accepted role to tackle Arthur with the occasional new ploy such as the For the Public Good talk, or the March of Progress talk, the They Knocked My House Down Once You Know, Never Looked Back talk and various other cajoleries and threats" (13).
    Explanation: The reader should have a sense of what's going in the story at the moment the quoted text comes up.

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Rule 202 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Marie-Laure and Werner don't meet each other until late in the novel.
    Better: Marie-Laure and Werner don't meet each other until after she has lost her father and he has become a soldier.
    Explanation: Later in the novel doesn't provide any real context to the reader.
  2. Wrong: In the first four chapters, we learn more about Telemachus than about Odysseus.
    Better: Homer focuses on Telemachus's trip before he shows the reader where Odysseus has been.
    Explanation: In the first four chapters doesn't provide any real information to the reader.
  3. Wrong: Janie tells her story to her friend Phoeby in the first and last parts of the book.
    Better: Janie conversation with her friend Phoeby frames the story of her life.
    Explanation: If you can avoid mentioning that these characters exist in the physical space of a book, you should.

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Rule 203 Practice:

  1. Unsupported: McMurphy quickly wins the other patients to his side.
    Better: McMurphy quickly wins the other patients to his side. He convinces them all to sign up for a fishing trip and to watch a baseball game that isn't on the television.
    Explanation: Alone, the original sentence could mean a lot of different things, none of which is clear without the additional sentence.
  2. Unsupported: Bernard acts in cowardly ways.
    Better: Bernard acts in cowardly ways. When he shows up late to his solidarity service, he ends up sitting next to the woman he doesn't like because he's too afraid to raise his head to look around the room.
    Explanation: Though Huxley does portray Bernard as a coward, the original sentence needs some evidence to substantiate it.
  3. Unsupported: Candide lives through ridiculous circumstances.
    Better: Candide lives through ridiculous circumstances, starting with a giant earthquake that kills tens of thousands of people.
    Explanation: Ridiculous isn't clear or specific enough on its own.

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Rule 204 Practice:

  1. Weak: Eden is clever and kind.
    Better: Eden can figure out any problem and loves to help her friends.
    Explanation: Is merely equated Eden with clever and kind. Action verbs make the sentence more interesting and lively.
  2. Weak: In Ebba's room, there is no room for more sports equipment.
    Better: Ebba couldn't fit another piece of sports equipment into her room if she tried.
    Explanation: The action verb wakes up the sentence.
  3. Weak: The reason Sora didn't show up is because she had a big test the next day.
    Better: Sora didn't show up because she had a big test the next day.
    Explanation: The action verb help the sentence sound livelier in fewer words.
  4. Weak: Imani knows that she is the smartest student in the class.
    Better: Imani knows that she understands more than the other students.
    Explanation: Livelier = better.

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Rule 205 Practice:

  1. Weak: August and Citizen built a fort under the loft, and they played there for hours.
    Better: After August and Citizen built a fort under the loft, they played there for hours.
    Also better: August and Citizen built a fort under the loft; then, they played there for hours.
    Explanation: And makes the two clauses seem equal. The other connections show a more specific relationship between the two clauses.
  2. Weak: Melony destroyed the cabin and got mad at Homer for leaving the orphanage.
    Better: Even though Melony has the physical strength to destroy the cabin, she falls apart emotionally when Homer leaves the orphanage.
    Explanation: Better writing shows more connections than merely making two ideas equal, as and does.
  3. Weak: Strayed had made a shambles of her life and she changed her name and started hiking.
    Better: Strayed had made a shambles of her life, so she first changed her name then started hiking.
    Explanation: Showing the temporal relationship provides better information to the reader than and can.

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Rule 206 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Lee takes a passive role, I think, in her own life.
    Better: Lee takes a passive role in her own life. [Then, support with evidence from Prep.]
    Explanation: Of course the writer of this essay thinks that Lee takes a passive role in her own life because she's writing that idea in her essay. Instead of weakening the claim with I think, she should strengthen it with textual proof and analysis.
  2. Wrong: Even though Holden lies all the time, you can see that Holden has a lot of problems with people he thinks lie to him.
    Better: Even though Holden lies all the time, he has a lot of problems with people he thinks lie to him.
    Explanation: The you can see doesn't add anything to the claim.
  3. Wrong: In my opinion, several of the characters make bad choices.
    Better: Several of the characters make bad choices. [Then, support with evidence.]
    Explanation: Every essay should show the writer's opinion, substantiated by evidence from the text.

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Rule 207 Practice:

  1. Weak: German, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, Latin, and Greek are all studied at Hotchkiss.
    Better: At Hotchkiss, students study German, Chinese, Spanish, Russian, French, Latin, and Greek.
    Explanation: The active version of the verb allows the sentence to show who's doing the studying. It also creates a livelier read.
  2. Weak: Henry Louis Gates Jr. was arrested going into his own home.
    Better: Sgt. James Crowley arrested Henry Louis Gates Jr, while the later was going into his own home.
    Explanation: The active form of the verb allows the writer to assign agency to the person who committed this racist act.
  3. Weak: The intent of the passage is seen in the author's use of the raft symbol.
    Better: Twain's use of the raft as a symbol shows the instability of Huck's new non-racist outlook.
    Explanation: Is seen doesn't say who sees what. The corrected version gives much more useful information.
  4. Weak: The lake can be viewed from most of the classrooms in the English Wing.
    Better: Students, teachers, and visitors to the school can see the lake from most of the classrooms in the English Wing.
    Explanation: The active verb form allows the writer to say who is staring out the window during class.

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Rule 209 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Morrison doesn't want Sula and Nel's relationship to be easy for the reader to understand.
    Better: Sula and Nel's relationship remains complex through their lives.
    Explanation: We can't know what Morrison wanted to show, but we can evaluate the novel and support our claims with evidence and analysis.
  2. Wrong: Golding purposefully has Jack and Ralph display opposing characteristics.
    Better: Golding has Jack and Ralph display opposing characteristics.
    Explanation: We know what Golding's book does, not what he was thinking about as he wrote it. Write about what's there in the text.
  3. Wrong: Bronte wanted the reader to have mixed feelings about Heathcliff.
    Better: Bronte writes Heathcliff as having some traits that inspire empathy and others that create aversion.
    Explanation: You can't ever know exactly what Bronte thought as she created this character, but you can evaluate the text as it stands.

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Rule 210 Practice:

  1. Weak: John comes from the Savage Reservation and doesn't like what he finds in Civilization.
    Better: Because of John's unusual origins, he doesn't like and can't adapt to life in Civilization.
    Explanation: The original sentence states a fact, while the improved version claims a cause and effect relationship that the essay's writer could show with evidence and analysis.
  2. Weak: Chief Bromden gets to learn a lot of secrets because people think he can't talk.
    Better: Chief Bromden spends years taking in others' secrets by pretending to be a deaf mute, but eventually realizes that he will get more out of his life if he interacts with others.
    Explanation: The first states fact while the improved version gives the essay's writer something to demonstrate in the essay.
  3. Weak: While claiming to be honest, Iago tricks everyone around him.
    Better: Because of Iago's reputation for honesty, he manages to ruin several lives.
    Explanation: If your thesis statement has only fact, you'll have nothing to demonstrate in your essay.

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Rule 211 Practice:

  1. Weak: Junior then transfers to a better school.
    Better: Junior hopes that transferring to a better school will improve his life, but he ends up no longer fitting in at either place.
    Explanation: A topic sentence that has only a fact, as in the original sentence, won't let you write a very interesting paragraph.
  2. Weak: Beloved arrives at 224 soaking wet.
    Better: Arriving soaking wet, Beloved reminds Sethe simultaneously of birth and death.
    Explanation: A fact alone can't work as a topic sentence.
  3. Weak: Victor Frankenstein creates the creature out of parts found at charnel houses.
    Better: Shelley shows the extent of Victor's obsession by having his create the creature out of parts he finds at charnel houses.
    Explanation: The improved version gives the writer something to explain in the paragraph.

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Rule 212 Practice:

  1. Weak: In this paragraph, I'll explain how Daisy's new life affects Gatsby's dreams.
    Better: Unlike their relationship from five years earlier, Daisy's new life affects Gatsby's dreams.
    Explanation: The improved sentence connects what the last paragraph talked about (their previous relationship) to the content of this paragraph (how her life now affects his dreams).
  2. Weak: In conclusion, Stanley causes as many problems as Blanche does.
    Better: Even though Blanche ends up being driven off to an asylum, Stanley causes as many problems as she does.
    Explanation: Of course the reader can tell that this is the beginning of the last paragraph in the essay, so in conclusion doesn't assist the reader in any substantial way. Instead, the improved sentence bridges the ideas of the last paragraph (Blanche's getting brought away) to the conclusion about Stanley's role in the situation.
  3. Weak: Second, Romeo seems ready to fall in love again.
    Better: After his initial discussion about his old girlfriend, Romeo seems ready to fall in love again.
    Explanation: The improved sentence better connects one idea to the next.

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Rule 215 Practice:

  1. Weak: Ebony is tall.
    Better: Ebony can reach over the backyard gazebo without standing on her toes.
    Explanation: Tall can mean a lot of different things, so more specific works better to allow the reader to know how tall.
  2. Weak: Lola and Lucy have a lot of pets.
    Better: Lola and Lucy have a dog, a cat, a hamster, three fish, a turtle, and a boa constrictor.
    Explanation: One person's a lot might not be the same as another person's idea of a lot. Specific details make the sentence more clear.
  3. Weak: Nan and Maverick didn't want to eat at a restaurant.
    Better: Nan and Maverick complained that restaurant food would be too rich, causing them to get sick.
    Explanation: The specifics demonstrate the point better than the generics.

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Rule 216 Practice:

  1. Wrong: Sula really lives by her YOLO philosophy.
    Better: Sula does whatever she wants without thinking about how her actions will affect others.
    Explanation: YOLO is slang, and therefore not appropriate to a formal essay.
  2. Wrong: Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley have a total bromance.
    Better: Mr. Darcy and Mr. Bingley spend many weeks together and get along well.
    Explanation: Bromance, while funny, isn't the kind of language you should use in formal essays.
  3. Wrong: Humbert should realize not to mess with jailbait.
    Better: Humbert knows he shouldn't be attracted to the pre-teen Lolita.
    Explanation: Jailbait isn't an appropriate word for a formal essay.

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Rule 217 Practice:

  1. Wrong: He recommended that I take the 30,000 foot view and then give it the old college try.
    Better: He recommended that I consider the problem from a wider perspective than I had and then try my hardest to solve it.
    Explanation: Way too many people say 30,000 foot view and old college try; instead, use your own wording.
  2. Wrong: We didn't really see eye to eye, so I did my own thing.
    Better: We had different ideas about the issue, so I followed my plan.
    Explanation: If you've heard more than two people use an expression, it's probably a cliche your writing would be more interesting without.
  3. Wrong: Last, but not least, I think the world of my better half.
    Better: Finally, I want to say that my husband makes my life better every day.
    Explanation: You've probably heard others say, "last but not least" and "think the world of" and "my better half" because they're all overused expressions. Come up with your own way of sharing these thoughts.

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Rule 218 Practice:

  1. Weak: Wes's life imprisonment feels like a really long time.
    Better: Wes's will spend the rest of his life imprisoned.
    Explanation: The really adds nothing to the extent of this sentence.
  2. Weak: Nick wants, I think, to go to Gatsby's party.
    Better: Nick wants to go to Gatsby's party.
    Explanation: Since you're going to support this claim with evidence and since your name is already on the top of the essay, you don't have to qualify the idea with I think.
  3. Weak: Blanche's somewhat troubling past comes to light over the whole, long course of her visit to New Orleans.
    Better: Blanche's troubling past comes to light during her visit to New Orleans.
    Explanation: You're not going to hurt Blanche's feelings by calling her past troubling. The whole, long visit takes as long as it takes, so you don't need to modify.
  4. Weak: Iago pretends to be very supportive while he actually plots against Othello at almost every step.
    Better: Iago pretends to support Othello while plotting against him at every step.
    Explanation: If you make the bolder claims and support them with textual evidence, your essay will end up making a stronger point.

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Rule 219 Practice:

  1. Wrong: When I want to buy apples to make pie, which I really like, for dessert, I go to one of the stores that's near my house not the ones that are farther away.
    Better: I buy the apples for the pies I like at the store near my house.
    Explanation: The original sentence travels in circles.
  2. Wrong: Some teachers but not most of the students think that all holidays when they get called should be announced in advance.
    Better: Some teachers and a minority of students wish all holidays were announced.
    Explanation: Tighter wording makes the meaning clearer.
  3. Wrong: I wanted to have a Greek salad with my dinner, which Taavi thought was strange since I was eating sushi.
    Better: Despite Taavi's objection, I wanted a Greek salad with my sushi dinner.
    Explanation: The original sentence gets a little muddled in its meaning.

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Rule 220 Practice:

  1. Wrong: My teacher found alot of mistakes in my paragraph, but she read farther then I thought she would.
    Better: My teacher found a lot of mistakes in my paragraph, but she read further than I thought she would.
    Explanation: Alot isn't a word. Farther measures distance while further speaks of elaboration. Than creates a comparison while then speaks to a time later.
  2. Wrong: Hopefully, he didn't just infer something mean to me.
    Better: I hope he didn't just imply something mean to me.
    Explanation: Hopefully is an adverb explaining in what manner somebody does something. Infer is to guess at a meaning while imply is to hint one.
  3. Wrong: We have less hours to get threw this activity, but if you loose track of time, than we can explain how we use to do things.
    Better: We have fewer hours to get through this activity, but if you lose track of time, then we can explain how we used to do things.
    Explanation: Use fewer for items that can be counted. Threw would involve a projectile. Loose means not tight. Then shows time. The correct form of the expression is used to do.
  4. Wrong: I just need to jump in the shower then lay down for ten minutes before I'll be ready to go.
    Better: I need to jump into the shower then lie down for ten minutes before I'll be ready to go.
    Explanation: In shows a location while into shows the direction of movement. Lay needs an object while lie is intransitive.
  5. Wrong: I should of told Caleb and Sophie about the mistake I made rather then try and cover it up.
    Better: I should have told Caleb and Sophie about the mistake I made rather than try to cover it up.
    Explanation: Should (as well as could and would) go with have. The comparison should be than. People try to do things.

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Rule 222 Practice:

  1. Wrong: John came into civilization from a place where he'd heard about civilization but hadn't ever seen civilization.
    Better: John came into civilization, a place about which he had heard but never seen.
    Explanation: You don't want the word civilization (or any other word!) to appear three times in a single sentence.
  2. Wrong: John Proctor admits his affair to the court, but Elizabeth tries to save him in court because she doesn't know what he has admitted even though she knows that he had the affair before he goes to court.
    Better: Elizabeth, not knowing that John Proctor has already admitted to his affair, tries to save her husband in court.
    Explanation: The improved sentence doesn't repeat any of the repeated elements of the original sentence.
  3. Wrong: Around the same time when Taylor is going on her journey to find herself and to leave her home and everything she has known up until this point in her life is around the same time that she finds Turtle and then starts her journey.
    Better: When Taylor begins her journey leaving everything behind, she finds Turtle.
    Explanation: The original sentence says the same thing multiple times.
  4. Wrong: Judy and Noel demonstrate generosity. They give presents because they're really giving people. In fact, they often give gifts to people; that's just who they are.
    Better: Generous people, Judy and Noel often give gifts.
    Explanation: The first series of sentences repeats the same basic idea without adding any new information.


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