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Authors: Barbara Ann Kipfer

21st Century Grammar Handbook

BOOK: 21st Century Grammar Handbook
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HOW DO YOU PUNCTUATE THIS?

The old wooden school desk lay in the corner and the small oak chair sat forlornly but proudly before the new computer station in the center of the classroom.

WHICH IS CORRECT?
Everyone should wear their seat belt.
Everyone should wear her or his seat belt.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH THIS SENTENCE?
Scratching and biting, the veterinarian gave the rabies shot to the owner’s cat.

DO YOU NEED AN APOSTROPHE?
In a democratic society, the people’s needs are respected.

FIND THE ANSWERS FAST.
IT’S AS EASY AS ABC
WITH THE NEW DICTIONARY FORMAT
OF THE …

21
ST
CENTURY GRAMMAR HANDBOOK

H
OW TO
U
SE
T
HIS
B
OOK

The
21st Century Grammar Handbook
is designed to give you direct and rapid answers to your questions about how to write or speak correctly. It is arranged like a dictionary: Its entries are in alphabetical order, covering not only grammar rules and examples of correct and incorrect usage but specific words or terms that often cause errors. It includes entries for
be, is, am, are, was,
and
were,
as well as the special names and terms used in English classrooms to analyze and categorize how these words work. The
21st Century Grammar Handbook
is constructed to help you find solutions quickly and directly even if you don’t know classroom grammar terminology.

You can also use the
21st Century Grammar Handbook
to improve your writing and speaking overall—to identify the areas in which you are weak or need pointers and then to find all the entries that will help.

To find answers to immediate problems you are having with your writing or speaking, simply look up the word or words that are bothering you. For example, to find out whether you should use “who” or “whom,” just look under
who.
You will discover right and wrong examples, an explanation of why the rules work the way they do, and suggestions for other entries to look at if you need more information.

But what if you know something is wrong but don’t know exactly what the problem is or what it is called? Then look at the next section of this book: “How to Know What You
Don’t Know.” Here you will find a listing of the most common writing and speaking problems along with suggestions for places to look for answers. The list asks some questions that will help guide you to the places where your problems will be solved simply and swiftly.

If you don’t find a match for your problem by looking through this section, then try to look up words that are similar to the ones that are causing you difficulty or that you think are okay in your sentence but that might be hiding errors: Look under
and
or
is
or
that
or
comma
or-ly or
s.
Then follow the suggestions for looking at related entries until you have identified what’s wrong and how to fix it. If you still can’t find what you don’t know, try the entries on very broad topics like
rules, style, bland writing,
and similar subjects. There you will find not only specific answers to immediate problems but many hints about other areas you might consider to find the root of your difficulties.

If you do know the name of the grammar category or term with which you need help, you can look in the entries for the full citation and also find related entries on the subject that interests you.

To teach yourself better grammar and writing or speaking, first take the self-assessment quiz called “How Good Are My Grammar, Writing, and Speaking?” It will help you identify weak spots in your statements, places where tips and tricks will help make your writing or speaking stronger and more effective, and ways to avoid common pitfalls and take advantage of your stylistic strengths.

In each entry related subjects are highlighted in
italic type.
Examples are set off in quotation marks and clearly marked as RIGHT or WRONG.

H
OW TO
K
NOW
W
HAT
Y
OU
D
ON’T
K
NOW

This list contains the most common errors and confusions that beset writers and speakers. It is designed to highlight the most likely places for you to look for answers to your questions. Be sure to check entries for similar words or terms as well as for the things in your statement that seem correct to you but that might in fact be what is causing problems. Remember that the
Handbook
includes entries for general problems like
bland writing, rules,
and
style.
Each of these entries includes not only solutions to immediate problems but ideas about where else to look in the book for help or answers.

The list of topics to look at is not alphabetical for each problem but in order of where you are most likely to find specific answers to specific problems.

1. SPELLING: How do I know a word is spelled wrong? See
spelling, dictionary,
and
languages.

2. RULES: Do I always have to follow them? See
rules, style, dialect, grammar,
and
standard English.

3. RULES AGAIN: How do I know when I’ve broken them? See
editing, revision,
and
audience.

4. PUNCTUATION: Who cares? See
comma, period, quotation mark, question mark, exclamation point, colon, semicolon, conjunction, clause, sentence, ellipsis, bracket, symbol,
and
hyphen.

5. VERBS: What are they, and how do I use them? See
be, is, am, was, were, are, will, would, should, shall,
tense, verbs, conjugation, clauses, agreement,
and
fragments.

6. PRONOUNS: When do I use “who” and “whom” or “she” and “her”? See the entries for the specific words as well as
pronoun, personal pronoun,
and the related grammatical listings.

7. NOUNS: What are they? See the entries for
noun, proper noun, names, title, capitalization,
and suggested related topics in those entries.

8. CONJUNCTIONS: How do parts of sentences get linked together? See the entries on
conjunction;
specific conjunctions like
and;
and
parallelism, emphasis, clause,
and so on.

9. MODIFIERS: “Good” and “well” drive me crazy. Look them up, along with
adjective, adverb, comparison,
and many other subjects.

10. CONFUSING WORDS: What is the difference between “their” and “they’re” and “there”? Look them up, and see the entry for
homonym.

11. SEXIST AND OFFENSIVE LANGUAGE: When should I call a woman “Ms.” or “Miss” or “Mrs.”? All these words are listed, and there are entries on
sexist language, titles
of people,
names,
and many related subjects.

12. USING NUMBERS: Is it the “23rd Precinct” or “Twenty-third Precinct”? Look under
numbers, cardinal number, ordinal number,
and related topics.

H
OW
G
OOD
A
RE
M
Y
G
RAMMAR,
W
RITING
,
AND
S
PEAKING
?

Mark any errors you find in the following sentences, each of which is numbered. The answers follow and are listed by the number of the sentence. Look for possible mistakes and whether your solutions are the right ones for making the sentence more accurate or better written. Other things to think about when you write or speak are noted as well. Be careful; there are some tricky things in the samples.

S
AMPLES

1. I didn’t know who to give the book to.

2. She completed the operation, and then walked out of the operating room.

3. A doctor is supposed to keep his hands clean.

4. Its clear whats gotta be done.

5. Speaking of grammar, errors are to common to worry about.

6. In the spring the birds begin to sing and the bees begin to sting.

7. Joans book is called, “How To Write Better.”

8. I read the book, that is about grammar, and writing.

9. There is great value to an university education but it is weak.

10. The cases of sexual harassment which is common bothers me.

11. Predominant forms of transgressive behavior, deviance that is selfgenerated, and retrogressive emotions.

12. Examples are given so that help can be provided where it is needed.

T
HINGS TO
T
HINK
A
BOUT

Remember that
italicized words
refer to entries in the
Handbook
you should look at for answers, details, and explanations. Keep in mind as well that the samples are purposely tricky sentences that are not meant to embarrass or fool you but to help you identify as many areas as possible that you should pay attention to when you write or speak.

A
NSWERS

1.
I didn’t know who to give the book to.
In this
sentence, “who”
is not right. In fact it should be “whom” because you should use the
objective case
of a
pronoun
before an
infinitive
(“They asked me to improve.”) and because
“who”
can also be seen as the
object
of the
preposition “to”
that dangles at the end of the sentence.

But it might not be as obvious that there are other things in this sentence that don’t meet the formal requirements of
standard English
or that could be written more clearly or carefully. First, a
contraction
like “didn’t” may not be
acceptable if the
audience
for this statement sets very high, formal standards for writing. It’s better to use “did not” if this sentence is to appear in a school paper, scholarly publication, or some similar place.

The dangling preposition “to” might confuse some readers or offend those who apply grammar rules strictly. Better to edit or revise this sentence along these lines: “I did not know to whom to give the book.” Of course, you can’t edit words you’ve already spoken, and you might feel that the people who are going to read this sentence will understand you perfectly and either not notice or not care about your “errors.” But be sure you know your audience will be that tolerant, and be aware that informal
style
is not always appropriate. See also
dangling modifier, editing,
and
revision.

2.
She completed the speech, and then walked out of the lecture hall.
No
comma
is needed before a
compound predicate
like “completed … and … walked.” Overuse of
punctuation
is as much an error as underuse, and it can lead to a very heavy or boring
style.
Also see
and
and
predicate.

3.
A doctor is supposed to keep his hands clean.
Not all doctors are men, so the
possessive
pronoun “his” is misleading and lacks
agreement
with its
antecedent.
This
sentence
should be revised to something like: “All doctors should keep their hands clean.” Or: “A doctor should keep her or his hands clean.” This is an instance of
sexist language
or offensive language. See also
pronouns, gender,
and
revision.

BOOK: 21st Century Grammar Handbook
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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