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As you probably know, the same sorts of errors appear year after year in the Improving Sentences and Identifying Sentence Errors sub-sections of the SAT Writing Test.  Some might say ETS is striving for reliability, but the beret-wearing inner writer in me says they just lack imagination.   Many of these errors, unfortunately, require students to read and carefully consider all options before identifying the error and selecting the right answer, but at least one sort of commonly (not to say "universally," in test after test after test) appearing error is easy to spot and correct; I have trained even the most grammatically / stylistically challenged students to correctly answer such questions in 5 seconds at most, freeing up precious time to spend on the more nuanced items.   The error is the dangling modifier.   In case you're a little rusty, or have sensibly been spending your time thinking about almost anything other than esoteric... read more

       Book, books... Table, tables... Phone, phones... Day, days... So... life, lifes, right? Nope! The plural of life is lives. And, isn't the plural of sheep sheeps? Nope! The plural of sheep is sheep. It's the same word.      Have you ever wondered how to handle all of the rules and exceptions to rules in the English language? Here is an introduction (a beginning) to understanding the rules about plural nouns. Hopefully, it will make figuring out how to change that word less of a guessing game and more of a skill. '   Plurals What is a plural noun? A plural noun is a person, place, or thing of which there is more than one. Example: If there is more than one phone, they are called phones. When should I make a noun plural? Make a noun plural when there is more than one of what that noun represents How do I make a noun plural? Usually,... read more

One of the most common grammar and usage questions I receive from students is this: How do I know whether to use "less" or "fewer"? It's an important question; using these words properly can mean the difference between sounding intelligent or seeming uneducated.  No one wants to ruin a good impression with a potential employer, date, or admissions interviewer by making the wrong choice in a matter that is actually quite simple.     Here is a good test to help decide which word is more appropriate:  Will the word be describing a countable noun--or will it be describing a noun that represents a group, collective, or abstract concept? If the noun is countable, then use "fewer". By way of example, it is appropriate to say, "Since I took a cut in pay, there are fewer dollars coming home each week." Another example is to say, "It is amazing that, as I grow older, it seems there are fewer hours in a day."     When... read more

Hey everyone!     So I really wanted to talk about something I find very important, especially for those learning to master the English language. I realized that the minimal emphasis on spelling in public schools led to a major fault in the younger generation's writing skills. I found that unless a child reads often, it's hard  for them to determine what "there" one might be talking about. Often times, students may know the context of where to place the word in a spoken sentence, however not choose the correct spelling of the term in written sentences.  Being able to spell properly and maintain good grammar is something essential to children for the rest of their lives -- be it writing essays for school or applying for grants/scholarships, sending letters, filling out job applications, or even having to teach others. As parents, teachers, or educators I believe that spelling tests should still be in full effect to separate words with multiple meanings... read more

So you are wondering about another rule that English teachers tell you that is really a "myth."  It's that you can't begin a sentence with 'and,' 'but,' 'or,' 'yet,' or 'so.'  Well, you can.   Your teacher might correct you when you begin a sentence with "and." However, as long as your sentence is an independent clause, it's fine, and many of the best writers start sentences with those words mentioned above, including the word "and."   In fact, it would be very embarrassing if there were a rule that stated one couldn't begin a sentence with 'and.' Just look at the beginning of the King James Bible:   In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.   And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.   And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.   And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.   The... read more

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