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English Education: Grammar and Punctuation

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Aug 23, 2012 Eve Hullett, Columnist | 0 Comments

Learning to use proper grammar and punctuation is a necessary skill in life. Whether in your personal life or your professional life, people expect others to know how to use grammar and punctuation correctly. However, grammar and punctuation can seem confusing at times; this is why we are here. We want to educate you on different topics such as: subject and verb agreement, hyphens, effective writing, and so much more. As with most subjects, to learn something effectively you will need to practice. You will develop better writing because of your efforts to use appropriate grammar and punctuation. This will not only save you a headache from having to correct something or feel embarrassed, but it will also save you time once you have it mastered. Below you will find a wide variety of topics that deal with grammar, punctuation, and writing. Take a look through the information provided to learn more.

Grammar Rules

In order to succeed in your education and in your professional career, a person must know how to use proper grammar. Grammar can be a hard thing to master at first, but with a good amount of effort and practice it can be done. One of the most common grammatical mistakes made is when to use who or whom. The key to remember is that who is subjective and whom is objective. Take a look at this example to better understand:

Who- Who is she? (subjective)

Whom- Whom are you with? (objective)

Another common mistake is deciding between who, which, and that. Who is always used when referring to a person and at times an animal. Which is used when referring to animals and things, and can be either restrictive or nonrestrictive. A sentence is considered restrictive when referring to an animal, thing, or an unidentified group of people. Provided below are some examples written by the University of Houston for their Writing Center.

Who- The dog who greeted them with a toothy grin was hers.

Which- The lecture which he attended was interesting and informative

That- The box that she chose was decorated with sequins and ribbons.

In order to fully understand grammar and how to use it properly you must spend some time learning and reading about the guidelines, rules, and exceptions. Found below are some additional resources to help you with some of the most important rules in grammar and some concepts that people struggle with.

  • Subject and verb agreement- St. Cloud State University provides a great overview on subject and verb agreement and addresses common problems that people have with them.
  • Pronouns- Capital Community College Foundation gives a great explanation of pronouns and provides tons of examples.
  • Who and whom- The University of Kansas provides information on when to use who versus whom as well as tips to remember it.
  • Whoever and whomever- Cameron University in Southwest Oklahoma explains the difference between whoever and whomever.
  • Who vs. which vs. that- The University of Houston clarifies the differences between who, which, and that. They also give excellent examples.
  • They're, there, and their- Professor Sharon Delmendo explains when to use they’re, there, and their properly.
  • Adjectives and adverbs- The highly esteemed Purdue Online Writing Lab gives a very in depth explanation about adjectives and adverbs.
  • Problems with prepositions- This is a great overview about prepositions and addresses the most common problems that people make with them.
  • Effective writing- Washington and Lee University provides exceptional guidelines for effective writing.

Punctuation Rules

In addition to grammar, punctuation is just as important. Having the correct punctuation helps to communicate to readers the idea that you want to get across. When punctuation is wrong, it makes the writing difficult to understand and is frustrating for the reader. The apostrophe seems to always give people a run for their money because there are sometimes exceptions to the rules. An apostrophe should be used to show ownership or an association of something, in contractions, but never with something that is plural. Take a look below for some examples provided by Idaho State University.

Ownership of an object- I cannot find my friend's book.

Personal relationship- Juan and Julio’s sister is here.

Contraction- Mike’s a cheater because he sends emails to other students asking for answers.

In addition to apostrophes, people also tend to have a difficult time with commas. Writers sometimes think that if a sentence is too long they should add a comma to it; however, this is not always the case. To learn more about when it is appropriate to use a comma and other punctuation marks research the information provided below.

  • Periods- Penn State University elucidates on the importance of the period in writing.
  • Commas- The University of North Carolina addresses some myths about commas and how to avoid using them incorrectly.
  • Semicolons- The University of Wisconsin provides a Writer’s Handbook and in it is a great guide to semicolons.
  • Colons- The Learning Center at D'Youville College enlightens on the importance of colons and how to use them properly.
  • Question marks- North Carolina State University answers the most common inquiries about question marks.
  • Exclamation points- Lincoln University reveals the real truth about exclamation points in academic writing.
  • Quotation marks- Indiana University of Pennsylvania explains when to use quotation marks with other punctuation marks as well as their general rules.
  • Parentheses- Swarthmore College explicates on how to correctly use parentheses.
  • Apostrophes- Idaho State University gives an excellent overview on apostrophes as well as some practice questions.
  • Hyphens- University of Houston clarifies how to correctly use hyphens in addition to providing questions to practice with.
  • Dashes- Illinois State University explains the two situations in which dashes are appropriate.

Additional Rules

Lastly, there are some general rules in writing that simply need to be learned and practiced in order to make someone a good writer. Spelling is an important part of writing and must be correctly learned over a period of time. In addition, there are common words that frequently get misused: two of them “affect” or “effect.” The meaning of affect is to “influence”. While the meaning of effect as a noun is “result” or as a verb is to “cause”. Hunter College provided some examples of the difference below.

Children can be deeply affected by the death of a pet.

Smoking has many bad side effects.

The negotiators labored all night to effect a compromise between the opposing unions.

  • Capitalization- Portland State gives a very thorough explanation on capitalization in their Editorial Style Guide.
  • Spelling- This is a great resource for tips on learning to spell correctly and different ways to practice spelling.
  • Vocabulary and commonly confused words- Hunter College provides a great handout on words that are most frequently confused.
  • Writing numbers- This is a great handout on the guidelines of writing numbers.
  • Acls Certification - The American Heart Association advises students to get proper Advanced Cardiac Life Support and PALS training.




Eve Hullett

With years of experience in the field of non-profit education, Eve has done it all. From teaching to tutoring, Eve has worked with hundreds of students to help them succeed in their pursuit of a college education. Today, when Eve is not enjoying a day of hiking, she spends her time writing articles on the strategies and methods of being a good student and fulfilling your goals for a college education.

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