Grammar & Style
From short engaging podcasts to interactive tutorials to helpful examples and clear descriptions--you'll find a wealth of resources here to help you improve your grammar and elevate your style.
Look for free online exercises from Hacker's A Writer's Reference, "quick and dirty" tips via podcast from Grammar Girl, and a blast from the past with Schoolhouse Rock. Who says grammar isn't fun?!
- If you're looking for grammar and style help related to second-language issues, see our Second Language Writing page for additional resources.
- Electronic diagnostic tests(Hacker's A Writer's Reference Companion Website)
- Grammar Girl’s "Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" (Grammar Girl) A weekly podcast on grammar questions and tips. You can subscribe to this free podcast of "Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing" at the iTunes store or you can read and/or listen to Grammar Girl’s expanded episodes from the Grammar Girl web site. One nice thing about the reading the episodes it that you can also read all the comments posted after each episode, which offer some real, some funny, and some wacky examples of the episode's main topic.
- Grammar Girl web site (Grammar Girl)
- Writing Exercises (Hacker's A Writer's ReferenceCompanion Website)
- Composing and Revising (Ex C1-1 to C4-3)
- Academic Writing (Ex A3-1 to A4-1)
- Sentence Style (Ex S1-1 to S7-1)
- Word Choice (Ex W2-1 to W5-5)
- Grammatical Sentences (Ex G1-1 to G6-3)
- ESL Challenges (Ex E1-1 to E3-1)
- Punctuation (Ex P1-1 to P7-1)
- Mechanics (Ex M1-1 to M6-1)
- Basic Grammar (Ex B1-1 to B4-1)
- Attending to Grammar (Institute for Writing & Rhetoric, Dartmouth)
This web page argues the importance of having a good command of English grammar and then goes through some of the most common grammatical errors.
- Commas vs. Semicolons (Purdue OWL)
Exercise to help understand the difference between commas and semicolons. Answers provided at the end.
- Grammar Exercises (the companion web site for Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference)
A collection of 200 well designed and recently updated interactive exercises on grammar and punctuation. Think of doing these exercises as a gift you give yourself to improve your mastery of writing.
Site Access: To access these exercises, you need to register with the site. Registration is fast and simple.
- Semicolons - Quick and Dirty Tips (Grammar Girl)
Engaging commentary and instruction on the use of semicolons.
- Guide to grammar and writing (Capital Community College Foundation)
This website offers an extensive overview of tips for writing at the word/sentence level, paragraph level, and essay/research paper level. The index is extremely thorough and includes all facets of grammar. The site also has interactive quizzes that provide the students with instant feedback and explanations of their performance. (Summary and recommendation courtesy of Katie Sudol, Montclair State Department of Early Childhood, Elementary, and Literacy Education)
- Punctuation Made Simple: Guide to the Semicolon (Illinois State U)
Like it says--simple, basic, easy to understand.
- Schoolhouse Rock
Posted on YouTube: 2008
For a bit of grammar fun, you might want to watch this series of short animated music videos that aired on American TV in the 1970-80s. One group of these musical videos was about grammar. Though very basic, they are enjoyable, memorable, and now part of Americana. Their catchy tunes are sticky and helped a generation learn grammar. They are no longer shown on TV, but are available on YouTube.
- The Semicolon (Capital Community College Foundation)
Short, brief basics about semicolon usage
- Writing Capstone: Grammar (IU Southeast Senior Lecturer in Communication Studies Michael Abernethy)
Access: Available through iTunes U
Last modified: June 8, 2009 | length 3:14
A mini lecture in the form of a video podcast done in a goofy but informative style that begins with a look at why one needs to understand grammar and then discusses two common errors: the confusion of there, their and they’re and comma usage. This is part of a 16 part course series. Other topics covered include outlining, citation formats, finding good sources, incorporating sources, and proofreading.
SPECIFIC PROBLEM AREAS
Grammar and Mechanics (Purdue OWL)
The highly regarded OWL (Online Writing Lab) at Purdue University offers a writer’s reference on grammar, punctuation, and other writing mechanics issues. In 2008 the site did a complete rebuild and updated all of its.
Here are direct links to some of the most common issues:
- active and passive voice
- adjective or adverb
- articles: a versus an
- capital letters
- conquering the comma
- count and noncount nouns
- dangling modifiers
- grammar and esl exercises
- higher order concerns (hocs) and lower order concerns (locs)
- how to use adjectives and adverbs
- how to use articles (a/an/the)
- independent and dependent clauses
- irregular verbs
- parallel structure
- quotation marks
- relative pronouns
- sentence clarity
- sentence clarity presentation
- sentence fragments
- sentence punctuation patterns
- subject/verb agreement
- transitions and transitional devices
- verb tenses
Grammar and Style Helpsheets (Hacker's A Writer's Reference Companion Website (all PDF files)
- Using the Active Voice
- Balancing Parallel Ideas
- Recognizing and Repairing Dangling Modifiers
- Eliminating Distracting Shifts
- Combinging Choppy Sentences
- Recognizing and Repairing Sentence Fragments
- Recognizing and Revising Run-On Sentences
- Making Subjects and Verbs Agree
- Making Pronouns and Antecedents Agree
- Making Pronoun References Clear
- Choosing Between Pronouns Such as "I" and "me"
- Chosing Between "who" and "whom"
- Using the Appropriate Verb Tense
- Using the Appropriate Mood
Punctuation Helpsheets (Hacker's A Writer's Reference Companion Website) (all PDF files)
- Using commans before "and" or "but"
- Using commas with introductory elements
- Using commas with nonrestrictive elements
- Removing unnecessary commas
- Using semicolons
- Using apostrophes to show possession
- Using punctuation with quotation marks
- Adding Emphasis in Writing (Purdue OWL)
"This handout provides information on visual and textual devices for adding emphasis to your writing including textual formatting, punctuation, sentence structure, and the arrangement of words."
- Conciseness (Purdue OWL)
"This resource contains general conciseness tips followed by very specific strategies for pruning sentences."
- The Elements of Style (William Strunk, Jr.)
Online version of William Strunk, Jr.'s classic text (first publisehd in 1918) on writing clear and concise prose. The contents are hyperlinked making it easy to find a specific topic or section.
- Language Debates (Hacker A Writer's Referencecompanion website)
- Absolute concepts such as unique
- bad versus badly
- Comma splices
- Commas with items in a series
- Dangling modifiers
- however at the beginning of a sentence
- lie versus lay
- one of those who (or that)
- Passive voice
- Possessive before a gerund
- Possessives as antecedents
- Pronoun-antecedent agreement
- -'s for singular nouns ending in -s or an s sound
- Sexist language
- Split infinitives
- that versus which
- who versus which or that
- who versus whom
- Quick Guide to Troubleshooting Your Writing (Andrea Lunsford, Re:Writing from Bedford/St. Martin's)
- Sentence Variety (Purdue OWL)
"This resource presents methods for adding sentence variety and complexity to writing that may sound repetitive or boring. Sections are divided into general tips for varying structure, a discussion of sentence types, and specific parts of speech which can aid in sentence variety."
- Style (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"Have you ever wondered what your instructors mean when they write "wordy" or "passive voice" or "awk" in the margins of your paper? Do you sometimes sense that your sentences could be stronger, clearer, shorter, or more effective? Do you often feel that you know what you mean but do not know how to say it? If you often get feedback from your instructors that you need to "tighten your prose" or "look at your word choice," you may need to work on your writing style. This handout will help you recognize potential problems in your writing style and learn to correct them."
- Word Choice (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Official Description: "This handout can help you revise your papers for word-level clarity, eliminate wordiness and avoid clichés, find the words that best express your ideas, and choose words that suit an academic audience. "
- Paragraph Development (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"This handout will help you understand how paragraphs are formed, how to develop stronger paragraphs, and how to completely and clearly express your ideas."
- Paragraphs & Paragraphing (Purdue OWL)
"The purpose of this handout is to give some basic instruction and advice regarding the creation of understandable and coherent paragraphs."
- Topic Sentences and Signposting (Harvard College Writing Center)
This guide discusses how "topic sentences and signposts make an essay's claims clear to a reader" and that "good essays contain both."
- Transitions (The Writing Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
"In this crazy, mixed-up, topsy-turvy world of ours, transitions glue our ideas and our essays together. This handout enlists you in the cause."
- Transitioning: Beware of Velcro (Harvard College Writing Center)
This guide discusses the importance of strong transitions in essay writing and offers tips for transitioning.