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Grammar and Usage Review
Sentence Fragments—
In order to be complete, a sentence must have both a subject and a predicate. Ex. Roger tried sushi for the first time
Sometimes, the subject of a sentence is understood and thus forms a complete sentence, even if you don’t think it looks like
it. Ex. Run home quickly before it gets dark.
A fragment is usually missing one of these parts or, more often, begins with a subordinating conjunction that needs
something (an independent clause) to complete its meaning. Ex. If I left an hour earlier than usual. (The word if is the
subordinating conjunction).
This type of fragment requires the use of an independent clause to complete the sentence. For example: If I left an hour
earlier than usual, I might be able to finish my homework in the morning. Or, it could look like this: My brother told me that
he would be happy to take me to school if I left an hour earlier than usual. Often, an independent clause at the beginning
of the sentence requires a comma while at the end of the sentence it doesn’t.
Quick Fix Tip--To fix sentence fragments, make sure that you have either a subject and a predicate or an
independent and dependent clause. Read through your writing to make sure you know who is doing what
and, if necessary, for what reason. Use punctuation, combining, and revising to help avoid fragments.
Directions: Turn each of the following fragments into a complete sentence.
1. Knocking over the table.
2. To get to class on time.
3. Scientists are studying the mummified remains. That are thousands of years old.
4. Staring at the clock on the far wall. I nervously began my speech. I was afraid to look at any of the people in the
5. Many people are allergic to seafood. They break out in hives when they eat it. And can even have trouble breathing.
Run-On Sentences—
An independent clause is a group of words that could function as a complete sentence. A run-on sentence is one in which
independent clauses have been run together without punctuation (a period, semicolon, or comma), without a conjunction
and a comma, or without a subordinating conjunction.
Example: The concert seemed unending it lasted almost until midnight. (run-on)
Correct-- The concert seemed unending; it lasted almost until midnight. (punctuation)
Ex. Lynn moved from Minneapolis her job was transferred (run-on)
Correct—Lynn moved to Minneapolis when her job was transferred. (subordinating conjunction)
Ex. We got some gas then we headed off to Omaha. (run-on)
Correct – We got some gas, and then we headed off to Omaha (comma and conjunction)
Directions—Rewrite the following sentences, correcting the run-ons where applicable. If the sentence is correct, simply
write No Change in the space provided
6. The puppy chewed on everything she ruined my shoes and toys in a matter of a few hours.
7. Samantha needs a few more days to finish the report it is more involved than she anticipated.
8. Jenny looked for a bank that offered a better interest rate on her investment.
Comma SplicesA comma splice is a type of run-on in which a comma is used in place of a semicolon to join two independent clauses
without a conjunction.
Ex. Henry lives across the street, he has been there for 25 years. (comma splice)
Correct—Henry lives across the street; he has been there for 25 years. (semicolon)
Correct—Henry lives across the street, and he has been there for 25 years. (comma and a conjunction)
Quick Fix Tip—Correcting comma splices is easy. Just replace the comma with a semicolon or add a
coordinating conjunction. Check your wording to decide which way is a better fit with your particular
sentence. Often, using a semicolon provides a more succinct sentence.
Directions—Rewrite the following sentences, correcting the comma splices by adding a semicolon or a conjunction.
9. Mary heads the search committee, John is the recorder.
10. Sid gave demonstrations all summer long, he returned in the fall.
11. Emily enjoys biking, she has been riding every weekend this year.
Using Quotation Marks with Direct Quotations
Use quotation marks to set off a direct quotation or thought within a sentence or paragraph. Always embed all of your
quotes, making the transition from your words to the words you are quoting as seamless as possible. If you can incorporate
the quotes in such a way, you do not have to use quotation marks to set off your quotes.
Ex. Rainsford, feeling tense and unsteady in the dark jungle, devised a variety of ways to ambush his pursuer, General
Zaroff. At the head of the trail, he “worked frantically” to use a “native trick he learned in Uganda” (82). The result of his
efforts was a particularly effective trap which was sprung by one of Zaroff’s dogs, thereby lessening the threat that the pack
of vicious dogs posed.
If you embed a quote by alluding to the author, speaker, or other person, you should use a comma to lead into your quote.
Ex. Challenging Zaroff, Rainsford says, “I am still a beast at bay” (83).
Do not use quotation marks for paraphrases or indirect quotations.
Ex. Rainsford continued to run from Zaroff, making his way through the jungle at a breakneck speed, muttering under his
breath as he traveled.
Use single quotation marks to set off a quotation within a quotation.
Ex. “I distinctly heard her say, ‘The store opens at nine,’” said Gene.
When deciding which types of punctuation to use within quotes, refer to the following guidelines:
Question marks, exclamation points, and dashes go inside the quotation marks if they are part of the quotation. If
not, place them outside the quotation marks.
Ex. The doctor asked, “Can you feel any pain in this area?”
Ex. Have you read, “Young Goodman Brown”?
Periods and commas go inside the closing quotation marks.
Ex. “Let’s await a few minutes,” suggested Doris, “before we leave.”
Colons and semicolons go outside closing quotation marks.
Ex. The critic called the latest sculpture an “abomination to sensitive eyes”; the artist was hurt.
Directions—Correctly punctuate each of the following sentences. Put a check mark next to any question which does not
need punctuation revision.
12. Do you know Billy Collins's poem On Turning Ten she asked
13. Of all the poems in his latest book she said this is my favorite. It's really very funny she added
14. Toan's English professor asked him what was wrong.
15. The famous words To be or not to be, that is the question sums up Hamlet’s struggles with his feelings about heaven
and life.
Problem and Easily Confused Words
Pay VERY CLOSE ATTENTION to the words you use in your writing. A tell-tale sign of a lack of editing and revision is the
use of the wrong homonym or verb in your writing.
Here are some common problem words.
Possessive Words
Who refers to people.
It’s (It is/It has)
You’re (you are)
Who’s (who is)
That refers to things.
There is an adverb telling where an
action or item is located.
Which introduces nonrestrictive clauses.
Their shows possession.
Directions—Write the correct word in each of the following blanks.
16. Call her when ___________ time to go to lunch. (Its/It’s)
They’re is a contraction for they are.
17. The company is known for _________________ attention to their clients. (Its/It’s)
18. _______________ ball field becomesa muddly mess when ________________ rainy. (Its/It’s)
19. Don’t forget ________________ umbrella when you leave the house in the morning. (Your/You’re)
20. ____________________ scheduled to meet with the new client tomorrow morning. (Your/You’re)
21. This is the scarf ____________________ I borrowed from Jessica. (Who/Which/That)
22. The new grocery store, ___________________ is located in the center of town, is scheduled to open next week.
23. Georgia O’Keeffe, _________________ is my favorite artist, lived in New Mexico for many years. (Who/Which/That)
24. ____________________________ scheduled to arrive in London next week. (There/Their/They’re)
25. If _______________ is lost, they might have to go shopping over ________________ before __________ able to go to
___________________ meeting. (There/Their/They’re)
Capitalization Rules:
 Capitalize the first words of sentences and lines of traditional poetry.
 Capitalize the first word of a direct quotation, if it is a complete sentence. Do not capitalize a direct quotation if it is a
sentence fragment.
 Capitalize the pronoun I.
 Capitalize the first, last and all other important words in titles, including verbs; but not conjunctions, articles, or
prepositions with fewer than five letters.
 Capitalize North, South, East, and West when used as sections of the country, but not as compass directions.
 Do not capitalize names of seasons.
Directions: Cross out the lowercase letter and write the capital letter above it in each word that should be capitalized in
the following sentences.
1. my mother asked, “when are you leaving?
2. we are driving north to canada this spring.
3. on my father’s nightstand, i saw a copy of a book called traveling to the end of time.
4. the president referred to the incident as “an issue of the utmost importance for national security.”
5. the group from europe speaks a number of languages: german, spanish, and french.
6. will the festival be on the last saturday in june or right before mother’s day?
Comma Rules:
 To avoid confusion, use commas to separate words and word groups with a series of three or more.
 Use commas before or surrounding the name or title of a person directly addressed.
Example: Will you, Aisha, do that assignment for me?
 Use a comma to separate the day of the month from the year and after the year.
Use a comma after phrases that begin a sentence.
Example: To apply for this job, you must have previous experience.
When starting a sentence with a weak clause, use a comma after it. Conversely, do not use a comma when the
sentence starts with a strong clause followed by a weak clause.
Examples: If you are not sure about this, let me know now.
Let me know now if you are not sure about this.
Use a comma to separate two strong clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction--and, or, but, for, nor.
Example: I have painted the entire house, but he is still working on sanding the doors.
Use a comma when beginning sentences with introductory words such as well, now, or yes.
Insert commas where necessary in the following sentences.
1. Tipping dangerously close to the water our sailboat became unstable until Paul shifted his weight and slacked off
on the mainsail.
2. In the well-stocked gallery on our little boat I can prepare simple or elaborate meals while you sail.
3. We sailed past through two freighters a speedboat and several water-skiers when we ventured outside the harbor.
4. Do you know Brian why the North Pole has such a cold climate?
5. The cat having been left alone all weekend complained loudly when its owners returned.
6. Yes on October 20 2009 my sister celebrated her twenty-first birthday.
7. Many of the colleges are attractive but they are also very expensive.
Rules for Semicolons and Colons:
 Use a semicolon in place of a period to separate two sentences where the conjunction has been left out.
Examples: Call me tomorrow; I will give you my answer then.
I have paid my dues; therefore, I expect all the privileges listed in the contract.
 Use the colon after a complete sentence to introduce a list of items when introductory words such as namely, for
example, or that is do not appear.
Example: You may be required to bring many items: sleeping bags, pans, and warm clothing.
 Use a colon instead of a semicolon between two sentences when the second sentence explains or illustrates the
first sentence and no coordinating conjunction is being used to connect the sentences.
Example: Garlic is used in Italian cooking: It greatly enhances the flavor of pasta dishes.
Insert punctuation (commas, semicolons and colons) where needed in the following sentences.
1. The British Crown Jewels include the following St. Edward’s Crown the Scepter and the Coronation Ring.
2. A stone must be hard enough to last a long time only stones ranking seven or higher on Mohs’ Scale will wear well.
3. Edgar Allen Poe uses many literary techniques “Poe’s use of allusion analogy rhyme and rhythm is amazing.”
4. Ken wants to be a teacher therefore he plans to major in education in college.
5. He quoted Isaac Singer “When you betray somebody else you betray yourself.”
Combining Sentences:
To make relationships clearer, join sentences with words like "however," "moreover," "therefore," etc. and a
Example: Tim found the dorm food tasteless, overcooked and uninteresting. He ate it anyway. (;HOWEVER,)
Result: Tim found the dorm food tasteless, overcooked, and uninteresting; however, he ate it anyway.
1. When Phil came to class, he rarely paid close attention to lectures. His notebook was a collection of random phrases and
interesting doodles. (;THEREFORE,)
 Using "who," "which," "that," "whom"
Example: I think the old lady is nice. The old lady gave the child a piece of candy. (WHO)
Result: I think the old lady who gave the child a piece of candy is nice.
2. Clara picked the flowers. The flowers soon wilted and died. (WHICH)
 Adjectives -- before and after nouns
Example: The horses drooped patiently in its traces. The horse was old. The horse was weary.
Result:The horse, weary and old, drooped patiently in its traces. (or) The weary, old horse drooped patiently in its traces.
3.The puppy was lonely. The puppy was bedraggled. The puppy crouched at the feet of the man. The man was old. The
man kicked it.
Combine the following sentences WITHOUT using coordinating conjunctions (and, but, or).
Hartford is the capital of Connecticut.
It is the second largest city in the state.
Hartford was once known as an industrial center.
It was the home of several manufacturers.
They made firearms, typewriters, bicycles, and even cars.
Today, great wealth abounds in Hartford.
The wealth is centered in the insurance industry.
However, few manufacturing jobs are still available.
Some of the old factories have been torn down.
Some of them have been converted to artists' studios.