Grammar Exercises

GETTING BETTER: No matter what level of writing you are at, there is still room for improvement, especially in regards to one's grammatical knowledge. These exercises should be taken quite seriously. There are several ways to get better. You can take grammar workshops to help improve your skills. You can keep a logbook of the errors that you make consistently. (EXTRA-CREDIT).

In your academic endeavors, you will eventually comprehend that other people, such as tutors and instructors, CANNOT be made responsible for your grammar improvements; in other words, you are fully responsible for assessing and analyzing the types of grammar areas you need to work on. Getting initial advice and feedback is helpful and important; over-reliance and dependence on someone else to edit and proofread your papers is not going to help your ethos as a writer in the long run.

In any case, feel free to use my office hours or tutoring hours as a grammar tutorial/workshop; there are also free electronic grammar quizzes offered at the following websites. I have RANKED the websites for you in terms of their usefulness and scope:

#1. Comprehensive Guide to Grammar and Writing

#2. Faigley Website (online quizzes)

#3. Bedford Website (online quizzes)

#4. OWL (Online Writer's Lab) Grammar, Spelling, Punctuation

#5, Grammar-based Podcast (download to your iPod)

#6. List of common errors in grammar

INSTRUCTIONS for grammar quizzes: Grammar quizzes are to be used for your self-improvement. I do not REQUIRE you to send me your scores on these quizzes; in fact, I discourage this practice. Shoot for 80% correct on each quiz, but keep in mind that your grammatical knowledge is BEST applied to the errors on your essays.

NUMERIC CODES: It is not my job to be your editor and correct grammatical errors for you; however, I will provide you with numeric codes on the left hand margin of your paper indicating what skill area you need to work on. For example, if you see a #1A circled in the margin, it means that you have an error in diction, because your sentence is too wordy. As such, you should do two things: 1) revise your error accordingly and 2) review the skill area. IF YOU CORRECT YOUR ERRORS on YOUR ESSAY by documenting and improving upon your errors, I will give you extra-credit.

The most common errors.

—all corresponding pages can be found in Hacker's A Pocket Style Manual, 5th Edition. (HACKER, the green-colored book) But you can also just click on the online links if you want.

—all samples for what I am personally trying to point out as your own errors can be found on the Grammar Samples page.


A. (WORDINESS) "Write Concisely" Or you might try this site, "Writing Concise Sentences"

Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Avoiding WORDINESS"

Elimination of casual "I think"/"I feel"/"I believe"/"In my opinion" in formal essays and responses.

Hacker, 02-03

B. (EMPHASIS) Read "Write w/ Emphasis"; (Parallel Structure)

Hacker, 03-05

C. (SLANG or FORMALITY) Read "Choosing Words"; / Diction (Slang, Jargon, Cliche)

Hacker, 16-18, 19.

D. (BIAS-FREE LANG.) Read "Write to be Inclusive";

Hacker, 18.

E. Arrange for a tutorial on this subject during my office hours, please.
 2. Subject-Verb Agreement

A. Read "Subject Verb Agreement"

Hacker, 21-25.

 B. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic
 3. Sentence Fragments
A. Read "Grammar Basics"

B. Read "Fragments"

Hacker, 42-43.

C. Download Grammar Girl's Podcast, "Fragments"
D. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic
 4. RTS (Run-Together Sentences)
A. Read "Grammar Basics"

B. Read "Run-Ons and Comma Splices"

Hacker, 44-47.

 C. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic.
 5. Possessives / Apostrophes

A. Read "Apostrophes"

Hacker, 68-70.

B. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic.
 6. Spelling Errors

A. Read "Write with Accurate Spelling"

Hacker, 86. (when in doubt, refer to the dictionary)

 B. Homonyms
 C. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic / Consult dictionary.
A. Read "Pronoun Agreement"; Hacker, 32-38.
B. Read "Sexist Pronouns"; Hacker, 18.

C. Read , "Vague Pronoun"; IT/........ITS /....THIS/............THESE

Hacker, 34-35.

D. Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Generic Pronouns"
E. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic
 A. Read "Verb forms" Hacker, 25-31.
 B. Read "Tense Consistency" Hacker, 09.
C. Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Subjunctive Verbs"
 D. Please bring this essay to a conference with me on this topic


 9A. Commas (parentheses that follow are page #'s)
1. Commas after introductory elements, (58) 2. Commas with compounds, (58) 3. With modifiers,(60) 4. With items.,(59) 5., With adjectives (59) 6., With quotes (63),

Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Serial Commas"

Hacker, 58-65.

9B. Semicolons 1) main clauses, 2) with commas;

Hacker, 65-67.


C. Colons; 1) sentences, 2) lists;

Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Colons"

Hacker, 67-68.

9D. Quotation marks:

Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Quotation Marks"

Hacker, 71-73.


9E. The Dash;

Read Grammar Girl's PODCAST, "Dashes"

Hacker, 75-76.


There are several more resources for you to look at online, but if you are extremely confused with grammar, punctuation, etc., please don't hesitate to set up a conference with me!

(other codes, mostly relating to quotes)

QUOTING SOURCES (Q1-Q5) Hacker, 103-50.

Q1. You must provide documentation in the form of line or page #'s.

Carl Sagan identifies the loneliness and isolation of our species; in essence, we are confined to a planet that is "a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark" (07).

<07> refers to the page number of Carl Sagan's book.


Q2. If you are using more than one page of text, you must use double digits instead of single digits to represent how many pages you are using.




NOT (08-1), (111-5), (1110-2)

Q3. Block Quoting

If a prose quotation takes more than four lines, you must indent 10 spaces from the left, the equivalent of two tabs. Use double spacing and DO NOT USE QUOTATIONS. DO NOTindent more for the start of your paragraph unless your quotation is more than one paragraph. Try to reproduce the passage exactly as it appears in the text.


Societies are wont to change; even concerning our most sacred traditions, including matrimony, such change has become more and more apparent. In “The New Nostalgia,” Barnett and Rivers underscore changing trends and attitudes in regards to marriage: (SUMMARY)
[10 spaces/2tabs]

Middle-class couples are marrying later and many women are getting established in a
career before having children. This pattern may promote more responsibility and happier
marriages than those in the 1950’s, when many young people felt that they had to get married to have sex and discovered their emotional incompatibility only after they had children. (423)

This quote underscores the idealized, pristine 50’s image of marriage, probably best personified by the “golden couple,” Beverly and Ward Cleaver, parents of ‘the Beaver’ and Wally. Notice that Barnett and Rivers highlight the conflict established when young couples began to realize how difficult marriage was, after having married each other at such an early age. Today, the Wards and Beverlys of our new age are probably much more tolerant of the idea of sex before marriage; some of them probably live together prior to getting married. As a result, some, like Barnett and Rivers, would claim that such couples are far more prepared for what marriage entails. (E)


A dropped quote is a quote that has never been introduced—it lacks what is known as a signal phrase. “Therefore we don’t know who said this quote, don’t know why the quote is in the paper, and we don’t care about the meaning of this quote, because it hasn’t been set up very well.”
1. The speaker/individual. Carl Sagan
2. That person’s role/authority the eminent astrophysicist
3. A strong verb, one that is more exciting than “says”
(iterates, exclaims, applauds, detracts, mentions, argues, laments, decries, emphasizes, dictates, demands, highlights, indicates, demonstrates, etc.)
4. The quote itself, making sure that there is a grammatical “mesh” between the quote and the signal phrase. believes that our planet is “. . . “ (07).
5. Quote commentary. acknowledges our isolation, fragility, and relative unimportance in the grand cosmos.

Good example:
Eminent astrophysicist Carl Sagan believed that “our planet is a lonely speck in the enveloping cosmic dark”; in my mind, Sagan acknowledges the isolation, fragility, and relative unimportance of our species in the great scheme of the cosmos (07). The use of the word “speck” is clearly employed to suggest how the earth is nothing more than a miniscule object when compared to the vast scope of the universe.

Q5. Introducing Quotes.

Introduce quotes with a comma, relative pronoun "that," or a colon.

Carl Sagan says, "Space is awesome" (05).

Carl Sagan indicates that "Space is awesome" (05).

Carl Sagan indicates the following: "Space is awesome" (05).