Guides>A Guide for the Grammatically Perplexed
Guide for the Grammatically Perplexed
Academic, technical, and professional writing is different from
speech. It is more formal and it is less personal. It is also
much more precise and must obey certain basic rules.
Rules for Effective Writing
1: Effective writers avoid grammatical mistakes and spelling
use apostrophes and commas correctly; make sure that subjects
and verbs agree and that the tense is consistent.
2: Effective writers use active verbs and avoid passive ones.
avoid verbs like "was" or "has been" or
"is" or "were."
writing depends on lively verbs rather than superfluous adjectives.
Make verbs active by placing the subject before the verb:
Congress passed the bill.
3: Effective writers avoid flowery language and delete needless
sentences sound nice, read well, and are easy to follow. They
make every sentence count.
4: Simplicity doesn't necessarily mean simple-mindedness.
writers recognize complexity and anticipate counterarguments.
5: Effective writers are precise.
choose words carefully and make sure that they say exactly
what they mean.
Rule 6: Effective writers recognize that writing is
different than speech.
It is more formal and less personal. They avoid the use of
colloquialisms, clichés, and such words as I or my
Rule 7: Effective writing requires rewriting.
Rule 8: Effective writers don't plagiarize.
properly acknowledge the sources of their ideas and information.
Plagiarism occurs when an author passes off the ideas or words
of another as his or her own without crediting the source.
Plagiarism is theft.
It is easy to plagiarize accidentally. Do not copy three or
more words from an author directly. Rework the sentence or
place the material in quotations.
are plagiarizing if you:
someone else's words or ideas as your own present ideas
without citing the source
without crediting the source use direct quotes without quotation
direct quotes without footnotes or proper citation
material written by someone else as your own
In a history class, you must always properly acknowledge the
source of quotations, paraphrases, arguments, and specific
citation requires you to
direct quotations in quotation marks, or indent lengthier
the original author’s name and the specific source
of the information.
Brief Guide to Grammar
Thou shalt not mix verb tenses:
Washington defeated the British and protects the country from
Thou shalt not use the passive voice:
Aztecs were destroyed by disease. Disease devastated the Aztec.
Thou shalt not have sentence fragments:
little town of Dayton, Ohio, the scene of the famous Monkey
Thou shalt make sure that subjects and verbs agree:
army required each one of the soldiers to carry their own
Thou shalt use the correct word:
the war, he traveled to North Carolina to find his long separated
Thou shalt not use contractions in a classroom essay.
not use don’t.
All, any, and none
These words can be singular or plural. If you mean all of it,
any of it, or none of it, use a singular verb.
Always use the singular he or her with such words as anybody,
anyone, everybody, everyone, nobody, no one, somebody, someone,
each, either, and neither
Words that end in ics - like economics, mathematics, politics,
statistics - are singular
What can also be singular or plural. If what stands for one
thing, use a singular verb. If it stands for several things,
use a plural verb.
Anybody's, everybody's, somebody's, and nobody's
These words are always plural.
total, majority, and number
These words can be singular or plural.
the plural by adding s, even if the last letter is y. If the
name ends in s, sh, ch, x, or z, add es.
Do not use however at the beginning of a sentence
I or me
Use me after a proposition: words like after, before, by, like,
toward, with. An easy way to determine whether to write you
and me or you and I is to put the tricky pronoun - me or I -
It's is short for it is; its is the possessive form of it, as
in: "The corporation gave its assent to proceed.
Lie means to recline or fib; lay means to place
Rise or Raise
Rise means to go up or get up; raise means to bring something
Sit or Set
Sit means to be seated; set means to place.
the needless use of which. Only use which in two instances:
which goes inside commas
if you can drop the clause and not lose the meaning of the
sentence, use which
Their is the possessive form of they. There is the opposite
of here. They're is shorthand for they are.
Use or Used
In a question, choose use. Did use is another way of saying
Who or Whom
Who does sometimes (it's a subject). Whom has something done
to it (it's an object, like him). You might try mentally substituting
he or him for who or whom; if him fits, you want whom. Who is
doing what to whom.
Who's or Whose
If you can substitute who is or who has, use who's
If the lead verb is past tense, use would. If the lead verb
is present tense, use will.
Your or You're
If you can substitute you are, use you're
word is singular, add 's, even if the ending is s, z, or x.
If the word is plural and doesn't already end in s, add 's.
If the word is plural and ends in s, just add the '.
two people possess something in common, consider them a single
unit and put a single 's at the end. If two people possess something
individually, each name gets an 's.
Subjects and verbs must agree. If the subject is singular, so
is the verb. If the subject is plural, so is the verb.
a sentence that begins: I wish I or If I, always use the word
were, not was.
not use colloquial phrases or clichés. Never use the
following words in formal writing:
could've, should've, would've, might've, must've, it'd, that'd,
there'd, this'd, what'd, that'all, that're, that've, there'll,
there're, there've, this'll, when'll, when're, when's, where'd,
where'll, where're, where's, why're, why's why've, gonna, gotta,
comma separates phrases; a semi-colon separates complete sentences.