Grammar: 1001 Practice Questions For Dummies (+ Free Online Practice)
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As the old saying goes, "practice makes perfect," and while you're on the road to grammar perfection, a quick glance at the rules for proper grammar usage may help.

Review some basic — and important — points related to sentence creation, common errors in new media communication, and overall polished grammar.

Sentence essentials

The smallest writing unit that reflects your personal style, a sentence is the vehicle that drives your message home to the reader. Here’s what you need in a sentence, according to the rules of Standard English:

  • Complete thought: Don’t leave the reader hanging, wondering what comes next. Long or short, the sentence must express at least one complete idea.
  • Subject–verb pair: The verb expresses action or state of being, and the subject is the person or thing performing that action or existing in that state of being. The pair must match: Gene is marching (subject = Gene, verb = is marching) matches, but Gene marching doesn’t.
  • Endmark: A period, question mark, or exclamation point must appear at the end of your sentence.

And here’s what to avoid:

  • Run-ons and comma splices: Don’t jam together two or more subject-verb expressions with no punctuation or just a comma. Link them with a conjunction (and, or, but, nor, for, since, although, because, and similar words) or a semicolon (  ;  ).
  • Fragments: Don’t spool out a string of ideas with no matching subject-verb pair or complete thought, as this fragment does: Because Pete, moving sheets of paper on his desk, everyone thinking he was working. Looks important and official, right? It’s a fragment, though. The correct version: Because Pete was moving sheets of paper on his desk, everyone thought he was working.

Adding style

How boring life would be if all you had was the essentials! The same is true for sentences. To liven things up, consider these elements:

  • Descriptions: Add some adjectives (describing nouns and pronouns) or adverbs (describing verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs). Throw in some single-word descriptions (solid, slowly), a few phrases (by the sea, in the sky), and maybe a longer, subject-verb statement (that Henry wrote, where Julie paddles). Take your descriptive powers to the next level with verb forms that also act as descriptions (running around in circles, having joined the circus).
  • Complements: Objects (nouns or pronouns that receive the action of a verb) and subject complements (nouns, pronouns or adjectives that complete the linking verb statement) allow you to scold the dog (dog = direct object) and notice that the room is bright (bright = subject complement).
  •  Active voice: When you can, opt for active voice (Juliet spoke from her balcony), which is generally stronger and more fluid than passive (Romeo was spoken to by Juliet).
  • Parallelism: In Standard English, everything performing the same function in a sentence or list must have the same grammatical identity (all nouns, all phrases, and so forth). Parallel elements have the same degree of importance — a quality you can exploit when you wish to emphasize equality.
  • Sentence length and pattern: Have you ever read a paragraph in which all the sentences are long and boring, following the same pattern (usually subject-verb-complement) without a single change? Snooze fest! Play around with long and short sentences. Move some elements around to create interest (All day and all night worked Luke instead of the more common Luke worked all day and all night).

Texting, tweeting, presenting

How did we ever function without electronic media? No email, no tweets, no posts, no presentation software. With new (well, relatively new) media come new problems with grammar and style. The rules are still evolving, but most people agree that you should avoid these mistakes:

  •  Unclear abbreviations: Especially when you’re typing on a keyboard the size of a fingernail, it’s tempting to abbreviate. Go for it, as long as you’re sure the person reading your message will understand what you’re trying to say. Your safest bet is CAO. (See what I mean? I just made up an abbreviation for “common abbreviations only.” )
  • Omitting elements essential to your meaning: Don’t drop a word or punctuation mark that adds an important fact. Dinner 8 p.m. may be a command or an assumption. Dinner 8 p.m.? is an invitation.
  • Inappropriate level of formality: Powerful people can break as many grammar rules as they wish, as long as the meaning is clear. If you’re writing or presenting information to someone with more power, however, be careful. Bulleted lists should be parallel, capital letters should be in their proper place, and punctuation should be inserted as needed.

Checklist for grammatical perfection

How did we ever function without electronic media? No email, no tweets, no posts, no presentation software. With new (well, relatively new) media come new problems with grammar and style. The rules are still evolving, but most people agree that you should avoid these mistakes:

  • Unclear abbreviations: Especially when you’re typing on a keyboard the size of a fingernail, it’s tempting to abbreviate. Go for it, as long as you’re sure the person reading your message will understand what you’re trying to say. Your safest bet is CAO. (See what I mean? I just made up an abbreviation for “common abbreviations only.” )
  • Omitting elements essential to your meaning: Don’t drop a word or punctuation mark that adds an important fact. Dinner 8 p.m. may be a command or an assumption. Dinner 8 p.m.? is an invitation.
  • Inappropriate level of formality: Powerful people can break as many grammar rules as they wish, as long as the meaning is clear. If you’re writing or presenting information to someone with more power, however, be careful. Bulleted lists should be parallel, capital letters should be in their proper place, and punctuation should be inserted as needed.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Geraldine Woods has more than 35 years of teaching experience. She is the author of more than 50 books, including English Grammar Workbook For Dummies and Research Papers For Dummies. At grammarianinthecity.com, Woods blogs about language trends and funny signs she spots around New York City.

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