Mr. McMahand


English Composition


Grammar and Mechanics Checklist


·         Use strong transitions between and within paragraphs. Do not use: Another example of this idea is … Good writers find this kind of transitional phrase stock and clunky.


·         Use action verbs.  Do not bore your reader with a stream of being verbs and phrases such as is, was, has been, etc.


·         Use active voice, not passive voice. 


Passive:  After sitting on a filthy toilet seat in his frat house, Paddy Wobbles was infected with a horrible disease that spread rashes and crusty, worm-filled burns all over his genitalia and feet.  


Active: After sitting on a filthy toilet seat in his frat house, Paddy Wobbles contracted a horrible disease that spread rashes and crusty, worm-filled burns all over his genitalia and feet.  


While both sentences are dumb, at least the second one reads better: the subject does the action.


·         Don’t jump around in verb tense usage.  For most of your essays in this class, you should use present tense.  Whenever you treat text, you use what writers typically term as literary present tense. 


·         Use a variety of sentence structures, not just SUBJECT-VERB types.


·         Don’t use short, choppy sentences: vary the lengths.


·         Title rules:  Film, Novels, Ships, Epic Poems, Journals, Magazines, Newspapers

“Poems,” “Short Stories,” “Articles,” “Essays” Italicize long works; quote short ones.


·         Word of advice: do not trust absolutely the spell and grammar check on your computer.  Not always but sometimes these tools can give false or dangerous information and as a result can cause you to make a bad situation worse, certainly no better.  The trick is no trick exists: just learn your grammar so that you know (even if Bill Gates does not) where and how to punctuate and how to spell a word.


·         Do not start sentences with weak phrases such as There is and There are.  This kind of weak sentence structure (wss) often leads to wordiness and ambiguity.


·         Use apostrophes properly.  Wrong: Bonehead lost the record’s I put in the file

cabinet.  Correct: Thaddeus is in deep trouble if he does not find Susan’s missile

      launcher. Apostrophes indicate possession, sometimes contraction, never plurality. 


·         Unless you are documenting a quote, place all punctuation inside a quoted word or statement.  Example:  She embodies in Platonic terms the poet’s “epipsychidion.”


·         Use commas correctly: 

After an introductory clause such as Although his medical problems have cast a

shadow over Paddy Wobble’s private life, he has decided to focus his energies on work.


      To separate conjunctive adverbs in cases of dependent clauses or fragments:

      Maryanne, however, has not found the answer, merely a complication to the problem.


      With a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb in cases of two independent clauses in a

      sentence:  The scientists have not quite determined the extent of the genome capacity;

      however, they sense they are on the verge of new discoveries.     


      In a series:  red, blue, green, and yellow.


      With nonrestrictive clauses, not with restrictive clauses: 

      Restrictive: Horsehead’s new study “If I Have All the Wart Cream I Need, Why Am I

      Still Unhappy?” will cause quite a stir upon publication in the medical community.      

      Nonrestrictive:  The evening dance, which began suspiciously on time, turned out to

      be a smashing success in raising funds for the hospital.


     Avoid comma splices (joining two independent clauses with only a comma):

     Wrong:  The Dentistry Board has recently approved a new policy, patients can now

     opt for overnight dental surgery at the new location near the county sewage facility.    


·         Make sure your pronouns agree with each other and with antecedents in number.

Wrong:  Each student must complete their assignments independently. 

      Wrong:   If someone asks for a dime, give them a dollar.  


·         Avoid wordy, unclear uses of pronouns:  It is important to remember 

It is often thought         It needs stating 


·         When citing in the MLA style, utilize the parenthetical method, placing the author’s last name and page number inside the marks.  For example:  Accordingly, the methods for obtaining the necessary data are, to use Dr. Bedpan’s words, “crude and woefully inadequate” (Thumbplump 82).                                                       


·         If you have had problems with grammar or with anything significant related to composition, then I strongly suggest you make an appointment for a tutorial in the Writing Center.   Of course, you may also make an appointment to see me!