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The Student's Guide to Grammar and Punctuation

Written by Chandra Clarke

When you write papers for school, you have many things to think about. Researching to gather information and then organizing this information will be two of the first tasks to complete. As you organize your information, you will likely begin by writing the different sections that will make up the essay or report. Slowly, you will flesh out your ideas to present the information about your subject.

To make sure that your readers understand your text, you must follow the rules of grammar and punctuation. These rules include guidelines for word usage, spelling, sentence parts and structure, and punctuation placement. Failure to follow grammar rules will often make it difficult for people to understand your writing. Before writing the final draft of a report, the rough draft should be reviewed by an essay editor—whether a professional or a grammar-savvy friend—as this will help you catch and correct errors.

The following resources and tips will give you a good grasp of the basic rules of grammar and punctuation so your essay will be clear, correct, and consistent.

  • The Difference between Adjectives and Adverbs: Adjectives and adverbs can seem similar, but they have different purposes in sentences. Adjectives describe nouns, whereas adverbs usually modify verbs or adjectives.
  • Capitalization Rules (PDF): Standard capitalization rules include beginning every sentence with a capital letter and capitalizing every proper noun.
  • Basic Grammar Rules: A basic grammar rule involves agreement between the subject and verb of a sentence. If the subject is a singular noun, the verb must be a singular verb. Accordingly, if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.
  • 11 Rules of Grammar: Correct use of punctuation is an integral part of proper grammar. For example, commas can surround nonrestrictive phrases that are not an essential part of a sentence.
  • Overview of Conjunctions: Conjunctions are words that join different parts of sentences. For example, coordinating conjunctions such as "and" and "yet" are small words used between two independent clauses to join them together.
  • What Are Articles?: Articles include the words "a," "an," and "the." These words fit into sentences before nouns, but they are not always necessary.
  • Proofreading and Grammar: Run-on sentences are a common issue for writers. This type of sentence includes two independent clauses without punctuation or a conjunction between the clauses.
  • Grammar Help: Fragments: A sentence fragment is a phrase that often resembles a sentence. The phrase constitutes a fragment, however, because it is missing an important element such as the subject or verb.
  • Grammar Handbook: Independent and Dependent Clauses: An independent clause is a complete sentence with a subject and predicate. A dependent clause is a part of a sentence, and it might contain a noun, adverb, or adjective phrase.
  • Guide to Verb Tenses: Verbs can be used to convey action in the present, action that already happened, or action that will happen in the future. The verb tense communicates when the action will or did occur.
  • Tips on Grammar, Punctuation, and Style: Dashes are a way to set a clause apart from the rest of a sentence. A hyphen joins words or parts of words together, such as in "earth-shattering."
  • Grammar and Punctuation Tips: Knowing where to place commas is an important writing and editing skill. When a sentence includes an introductory phrase, place the comma after it to separate it from the other parts of the sentence.
  • Good Grammar for Dummies: When proofreading a written document, it might help to read the text aloud. Hearing the words can help you eliminate repetition and place commas where they belong.
  • Basic Punctuation Rules (PDF): Use commas in a series to separate three or more words or phrases. A comma can also separate two adjectives describing a noun.
  • Sentence Structure: Prepositions: Prepositions are short words that might combine with other words to make a phrase. A prepositional phrase gives information about when or where something will occur.
  • An Overview of the Nine Parts of Speech: The parts of speech include nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, interjections, articles, prepositions, and conjunctions. Knowing the correct usage of these parts of speech will help you be a better writer.
  • Study Tips: Writing (PDF): When writing an essay, it may help to break it down into its basic components. These parts include the sentence, paragraph, and references to cite resources.
  • General Strategies for Editing and Proofreading: It's common for writers to have patterns that involve repeating the same grammatical mistakes. While proofreading a document, if you know that you tend to make punctuation errors, pay close attention to the placement of commas, semicolons, and quotation marks.
  • Proofreading for Common Surface Errors: Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: Spelling errors are common for many writers. It's typical for people to confuse words that sound the same or have similar letters. A proofreading scan of a document with software may catch some errors, but careful reading will also be necessary.
  • Punctuation: Commas and Semicolons: Some styles require a comma before the conjunction and the last item in a series. Other styles omit this final comma, called an Oxford comma or serial comma. To ensure that you punctuate correctly, always know the required style.
  • Guide to Grammar and Style: A modifier provides more details about a noun or a verb. Modifiers are generally either adjectives or adverbs.

About the Author

Chandra ClarkeChandra is the founder and former president of Scribendi. She holds a BA in English and an MSc in Space Exploration Studies. Her lifelong devotion to the written word started when she joined The Chatham Daily News as a regional stringer. She then worked as a reporter/photographer for a large chain of weeklies before becoming the managing editor of an independent paper, a post she held for two years before striking out on her own. She pens a weekly humor column and has written dozens of short stories, newspaper articles, and magazine articles. She is an enthusiastic supporter of space exploration and scientific research, and is the author of Be the Change: Saving the World with Citizen Science.

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