Grammar & ESL

  • The Rules of the Sneaky Serial Comma

    By Rebecca Garland on May 23, 2013
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    If there was ever a piece of punctuation to give us all fits, it’s the comma. When do you use it? When are you using it too much? Do I need a comma there? Correct comma usage causes endless questions simply because there are so many rules. Let’s worry about one comma in particular – the serial, or Oxford, comma. […]
  • From Struggling Writer to Solid Writer and Beyond

    By Rebecca Garland on May 9, 2013
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    As an English teacher, I have a strategy that usually works for struggling and reluctant writers. If they claim to not be able to write something, I ask them to tell me the story or response to address the prompt. Then, after they tell me a sentence or two, I repeat it back to a student and tell him to […]
  • Breaking All the Writing Rules

    By Rebecca Garland on September 27, 2012
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    Pop quiz, hot shot! How many of the old, conventional writing rules do you break on a daily basis? You probably know the ones I’m talking about. These are rules like: Never start a paper with a question. Never start a sentence with “and” or “but.” Never end a sentence with a preposition. Paragraphs must be a minimum of five […]
  • I Write Like…Me?

    By Rebecca Garland on May 10, 2012
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    I recently came across a fun writing toy and I’ve just spent the last hour playing around on it. It’s not earth-shattering, nor is it going to change the world, but it does illustrate a point rather nicely. Your voice is a secret writing weapon, so use it. Here’s the toy: http://iwl.me/ “I Write Like” is a website where you […]
  • Messy Subjects and Verbs

    By Rebecca Garland on February 2, 2012
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    This morning, as I worked with my kids at school, I realized just how often subjects and verbs get complicated and mismatched. This happens most frequently when you have more than one noun in the subject in the sentence. Consider the following: One of the boys jump over the fence. One of the boys jumps over the fence. Which one […]
  • Idiotic Idioms

    By Rebecca Garland on December 8, 2011
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    While we all love a good colloquialism, there is most certainly too much of a good thing at times. Idioms, or those charming expressions that don’t make any sense to anyone outside of your area, can be overused. We’ve done a bit on the more offensive and odd slang in the (American) English language, but there are plenty of more […]
  • Yay! It’s Yeah and Yea!

    By Rebecca Garland on September 29, 2011
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    This is driving me crazy. I just got an email with the subject, “Yeah a Birthday Baby is Born”. I’m not sure the sender (who is not known for her grammatical prowess) meant to sound as sarcastic as the teenagers we teach, but to someone who knows the difference between “yeah”, “yea” and “yay”, she did. And just what is […]
  • What Your Writing Says about You

    By Rebecca Garland on September 1, 2011
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    Nobody’s perfect, but most of try to get as close as possible, at least in our writing. Over the years, I’ve developed a laidback approach to the grammar and spellings of others, probably because I’m bombarded with bad spelling mistakes and grammar choices on any given day. Unlike many other writers, I also feel there are markets for all sorts […]
  • Writing Mistakes I See Too Often

    By Rebecca Garland on July 21, 2011
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    Typos are a way of life and even reviewing your own work can be tricky since you tend to read what you meant to say rather than what you actually said. Then, there is an entirely different kind of writing goofs – these aren’t accidents from your finger slipping on the keyboard. These are blatant errors and if you’re making […]
  • Tricky Words: Past, Passed, Except and Accept

    By Rebecca Garland on June 23, 2011
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    In the last week, two tricky word patterns have made it to my attention. This is particularly interesting since I’m not in the classroom over the summer, where I usually am assaulted by word problems. Here are my most recent scenarios: Scenario 1: The Email for Past and Passed I was asked via email about the words “past” and “passed.” […]