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English Composition I
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• Every writer has their own unique style

• The way they put words together, the words that they use, all denote the individual

• At the same time, there are common rules of usage called grammar and syntax that need to be followed so the reader can understand

• Words placed in random order or spelled any which way only make sense to YOU

• Writing is a form of communication, and that communication is based on mutually agreed upon standards and conventions.

Rules Can Be Broken (Bent Anyway)

• Most writers WILL violate the rules of grammar at times

• Good writers are aware of this, and violate the rules because it HELPS their writing

• The adjustments and changes that you make to the standard rules need to come from knowledge, not ignorance.

• It’s okay to use “ain’t” as long as you understand what you are implying

Common Grammar Problems

• There are certain grammar areas that always seem to cause difficulties
– Spelling
– Verb forms
– Pronouns
– Fragments
– Run-ons and Comma Splices
– Comma usage


• The more you read, the better you will spell

• Mis-Spelling often occurs in unfamiliar words

• Spelling errors in writing are typically a very small % of the total words and are usually the same words over and over
– Learn what YOUR problem words are
– Keep a properly spelled list nearby
– Review the list before writing
– Edit carefully, looking for your words
– Trust your instincts on the other words

Verb Forms

• Stay consistent in your verb tense

• Don’t switch between present and past unless there’s a specific reason in the essay

• As much as possible, use active voice

• Active voice uses direct, action verbs

– I threw the ball at the car.

• Passive voice uses helping verbs and/or “be” verbs to weaken the action

– The ball that hit the car was thrown by me.

– I was the one who threw the ball at the car.


• Pronouns REPLACE nouns, but only really work if the reader understands WHO the pronoun refers to

– Jack met Jill and her sister Jane. He called her on the phone last night.

• Always check your pronouns to make sure the reference is clear

• Avoid using vague pronouns like “it” as a subject. Try to have a clear subject

It is the best morning I’ve ever seen

– I’ve never seen a better morning.

Comma Usage

• Most writers put in too many commas, not too few

• Commas are a visual signal that something has been changed from “standard” sentence

– I bought apples, oranges and bananas.

Going to the store, I saw a badger.

Unlike my sister, I have a life.

– Joe, the barber’s son, is completely bald.

• You should be able to tell WHY the comma is there – if not, drop it