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13.1.1: Exercises on Grammar and Mechanics

  • Page ID
    134516
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    Sentence Pattern, Purpose, and Clause Exercises:

    CHECK YOUR UNDERSTANDING: SENTENCE LENGTH\(^{206}\)

    Consider this long sentence from the children’s book, Stuart Little, by E.B. White: 

    In the loveliest town of all, where the houses were white and high and the elm trees were green and higher than the houses, where the front yards were wide and pleasant and the back yards were bushy and worth finding out about, where the streets sloped down to the stream and the stream flowed quietly under the bridge, where the lawns ended in orchards and the orchards ended in fields and the fields ended in pastures and the pastures climbed the hill and disappeared over the top toward the wonderful wide sky, in this loveliest of all towns Stuart stopped to get a drink of sarsaparilla. 

    Now, consider this excerpt from a piece by Ben Montgomery, written as he covered a state football championship: 

    Complete pass. Again. Clock’s ticking. Again. Down the field they go. The kid can’t miss. The Panthers are nearing the end zone….The whole place is on its feet. Ball’s on the 5-yard line. Marve takes the snap. Drops back. Throws.

    Questions:

    Sentence Length Exercise:

    PUNCTUATION\(^{207}\)

    Here are the most common ways to join clauses. The examples below are demonstrated with these two clauses: “The two cats were constant companions. They truly loved each other.” 

    Punctuation Exercise:

    Commas

    Comma Exercise:

    The Comma Comma\(^{208}\)

    Once upon a time, way back in the third grade, Mrs. MaGee told me never to put a comma before the “and” in my lists. She said that the “and” means the same thing as a comma. 

    And so I never did. I wrote “balls, bats and mitts.” 

    Years later, another teacher told me that I should always put a comma before the “and” in my lists because it clarifies that the last two items in my list are not a set. He said to write “Amal, Mike, Jose, and Lin.” 

    Logic told me that the third-grade teacher was right because, if the last two in the list were a set, the “and” would have come sooner as “balls and bats and mitts” or “Amal, Mike, and Jose and Lin.” But that is also just odd. What if I really did mean to have two sets? Now I felt like I had to write “Balls. Also, bats and mitts.” It felt like juggling. If this is confusing, I’m pretty sure that I’ve made my point. These rigid rules felt so awkward! Things I can say effortlessly outloud are, all of a sudden, impossible on paper. Who wrote these rules? 

    That’s actually a valid question. Who did write them? Novices to the study of language sometimes imagine that language started back in a day when there were pure versions of all the world languages that younger and lazier speakers continue to corrupt, generation after generation. They imagine a perfect book of grammar that we should all be able to reference. Nothing about that scenario is actually true.

    Questions:

    If You Want More Nerdy Information:

    Here are some of our favorite online resources.\(^{209}\) You can search for a specific topic or just browse to find great resources about writing and editing.

    Top Ten Errors\(^{210}\)

    In case you want some nerdy help on errors, here it is. Sort of.

    Teachers and editors don’t completely agree on the most common errors or even the most serious errors… so take in this list with “a grain of salt,” so they say.

    Checklists\(^{212}\)

    Checklist for Grammar 

    __Are some sentences actually sentence fragments?\(^{213}\) 

    __Are some sentences run-on sentences? How can I correct them? 

    __Do some sentences need conjunctions between independent clauses? 

    __Does every verb agree with its subject? 

    __Is every verb in the correct tense? 

    __Are tense forms, especially for irregular verbs, written correctly? 

    __Have I used subject, object, and possessive personal pronouns correctly? 

    __Have I used who and whom correctly?\(^{214}\) 

    __Is the antecedent of every pronoun clear? 

    __Do all personal pronouns agree with their antecedents? 

    __Have I used the correct comparative and superlative forms of adjectives and adverbs? 

    __Is it clear which word a participial phrase modifies, or is it a dangling modifier? 

    Checklist for Sentence Structure 

    __Are all my sentences simple sentences, or do I vary my sentence structure? 

    __Have I chosen the best coordinating or subordinating conjunctions to join clauses? 

    __Have I created long, overpacked sentences that should be shortened for clarity? 

    __Do I see any mistakes in parallel structure? 

    Checklist for Punctuation 

    __Does every sentence end with the correct end punctuation? 

    __Can I justify the use of every exclamation point? 

    __Have I used apostrophes correctly to write all singular and plural possessive forms? 

    __Have I used quotation marks correctly? 

    Checklist for Mechanics and Usage 

    __Can I find any spelling errors? How can I correct them? 

    __Have I used capital letters where they are needed? 

    __Have I written abbreviations, where allowed, correctly? 

    __Can I find any errors in the use of commonly confused words, such as to/too/two? 

    Questions:

    a chalkboard has these two sentences on it: English is a difficult language. It can be understood through tough thorough thought, though.

     

     

     


    \(^{206}\)The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{207}\)The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{208}\)This snippet is from “Dash that Oxford Comma! Prestige and Stigma in Academic Writing” by Christie Bogle in Write What Matters. Write What Matters by Liza Long; Amy Minervini; and Joel Gladd is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{209}\)The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{210}\)The Word on College Reading and Writing by Carol Burnell, Jaime Wood, Monique Babin, Susan Pesznecker, and Nicole Rosevear is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

    \(^{211}\)Originally, there was a comma here that was an “error.” How funny, and ironic, is that?

    \(^{212}\)These checklists come from Writing for Success; this text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.

    \(^{213}\)After each one of these questions, you might want to add – “And does this matter?”

    \(^{214}\)Nerd Alert – The person who edited/compiled this book didn’t know the difference until grad school. If you can substitute “him,” then the correct usage is whom. “He” = “who.”

     


    This page titled 13.1.1: Exercises on Grammar and Mechanics is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Sybil Priebe (Independent Published) via source content that was edited to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.