Saturday, January 27, 2007

Favorite Grammar Resources and 11 Essential Rules of Grammar

January 27, 2007

Most of today I will be sitting right here in front of the computer, preparing my lessons for Monday's enrichment classes and writing articles. I'm beginning my day by preparing the lesson for my 7th-12th grade grammar class. Last week we covered verbs; nouns and pronouns are coming up this week. We're a long way from getting to where I want them to be: consistently writing with clarity. My other goal is to help them better understand the verbal sections of the SAT or ACT. From scanning practice SAT exams, I've found that knowing the 11 Essential Rules of Grammar is fundamental to scoring well in the grammar section. (And please don't let your kids hear you say that you don't care about the Essential Rules of Grammar! They will remember!)


1. To join two independent clauses, use a comma followed by a conjunction, a semicolon alone, or a semicolon followed by a sentence modifier.
* The delivery boy knew he carried strange cargo, but he still ventured off unafraid.
* My math teacher doesn't know how to lecture; she should have remained a student.

2. Use commas to bracket nonrestrictive phrases, which are not essential to the sentence's meaning.
* The bus driver, her ears tuned to the roar, decided to take the grumbling bus on a detour across the football field.
* My window, as dirty as it is, unleashes the beauty of nature on a snowy morning.

3. Do not use commas to bracket phrases that are essential to a sentence's meaning.
* The man who has too many ties has too few necks.
* The cats with six toes are a unique attraction of the tour of Hemingway's house.

4. When beginning a sentence with an introductory phrase, include a comma.
* After buying the five pound jar of marshmallow spread, he set off in search of peanut butter.
* With this, he bestows the responsibility of his own happiness on his mother and father.

5. To indicate possession, end a singular noun with an apostrophe followed by an 's'. Otherwise, the noun's form seems plural.
* In a democracy, anyone's vote counts as much as mine.
* There is a vast age difference between Victor's mother and father.

6. Use proper punctuation to integrate a quotation into a sentence. If the introductory material is an independent clause, add the quotation after a colon. If the introductory material ends in "thinks," "saying," or some other verb indicating expression, use a comma.
* Tumbling down the hill, Jack yelled, "Man, I'm sick of this."
* Her letter spoke to him in harsh tones: "You never get here on time."

7. Make the subject and verb agree with each other, not with a word that comes between them.
* The Thanksgiving dinner, right down to the beautiful centerpiece, was devoured by the escaped grizzly.
* The cart, as well as its contents, was gone.

8. Be sure that a pronoun, a participial phrase, or an appositive refers clearly to the proper subject.
* The programmer rode the camel, its hump decorated in strings of flowers, through the food court.
* Although it was filled with bad gas, he drove his car to Tucson despite the knocking.

9. Use parallel construction to make a strong point and create a smooth flow.
* I was glad to be departing for India but nervous to be leaving my home.

10. Use the active voice unless you specifically need to use the passive.
* The hair regeneration company gave him a refund.
* The team achieved a good score.

11. Omit unnecessary words.
* The author is a buffoon.
* Before going to the supermarket, we made a list of groceries that we needed for dinner.

So there you have it. There are three websites I've found to be excellent for teaching basic grammar. The first is Daily Grammar Archive, which provides very short lessons. Extremely well laid out and user friendly. The next is the Guide to Grammar and Writing. This includes lessons on parts of speech and sentence, and at the paragraph level, and finally at the essay and research paper level. And finally, Purdue's Online Writing Lab (OWL) is absolutely overflowing with excellent lessons on every grammar topic, from beginner to advanced.

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