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Our class grammar assignments are from the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL)

Week 1: Adjectives and Adverbs

Week 1 Grammar


The Basic Rules: Adjectives

Adjectives modify nouns. To modify means to change in some way. By modifying, adjectives give more detail about the noun. For example:

  • “I ate a meal.” Meal is a noun. The reader does not know what kind of meal this is, leaving a lot of room open for interpretation.
  • “I ate an enormous meal.” Meal is a noun, and enormous is an adjective that modifies it. It tells us what kind of meal the person ate. By using adjectives, the writer gives the reader a better understanding of the noun.

Adjectives clarify the noun by answering one of the following different questions: “What kind?” or “Which?” or “How many?” For example:

  • “The tall girl is riding her bike.” Tall tells the reader which girl the writer is talking about.
  • “Our old van needs to be replaced soon.” Old tells the reader what kind of van the writer is describing.
  • “The tough professor gave us the final exam.” Tough tells the reader what kind of professor we’re talking about. Final tells the reader which exam.
  • Fifteen students passed the midterm exam; twelve students passed the final exam. “Fifteen and twelve both tell the reader how many students; midterm and final both tell the reader which exam.

So, generally speaking, adjectives answer the following questions:

  • Which?
  • What kind of?
  • How many?

Some Other Rules for Adjectives

Most of the time, adjectives come before nouns. However, some adjectives actually come after the nouns they modify. These adjectives will most often follow a verb from this list:

  • be
  • feel
  • taste
  • smell
  • sound
  • look
  • appear
  • seem

Some examples:

  • “The dog is black.” Black is an adjective that modifies the noun dog, but it comes after the verb is. (Remember that “is” is a form of the verb “be.”) What kind of dog is it? A black dog.
  • “Brian seems sad.” Sad describes the noun, Brian, not the verb, seemsSad answers the question “which way does Brian seem?”
  • “The milk smells rotten.” What kind of smell does the milk have? A rotten one.
  • “The speaker sounds hoarse.” Hoarse answers the question “which way does the speaker sound?”
  • “The ice-cream looks melted.” Here, melted does not describe the verb looks. It describes the noun ice creamWhat kind of ice cream does it look like? Melted ice cream.
  • “Alex feels sleepy.” What kind of way does Alex feel? Sleepy.

The Basic Rules: Adverbs

Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. (You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, though that is not always the case.) The most common question that adverbs answer is how.

Let’s look at verbs first.

  • “She sang beautifully.” Beautifully is an adverb that modifies sang. It tells the reader how she sang.
  • “The cellist played carelessly.” Carelessly is an adverb that modifies played. It tells the reader how the cellist played.

Adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs.

  • “That woman is extremely nice.” Nice is an adjective that modifies the noun woman. Extremely is an adverb that modifies nice; it tells the reader how nice she is. How nice is she? She’s extremely nice.
  • “It was a terribly hot afternoon.” Hot is an adjective that modifies the noun afternoon. Terribly is an adverb that modifies the adjective hotHow hot is it? Terribly hot.

Adverbs answer the question how. They can also answer the questions whenwhere, and why.

  • “She arrived late.” Late describes when she arrived.
  • “They all went there for the party.” There is where they all went to the party.
  • “The swim team practices every morning to develop good habits.” To develop good habits acts as an adverbial infinitive phrase that explains why the swim team practices every morning. Answering the question why usually requires an infinitive phrase.

In general, adverbs answer the following questions:

  • How?
  • When?
  • Where?
  • Why?

Examples of Differences between Adjectives and Adverbs

Be sure to note the differences between the following examples:

“The dog smells clean.” Here, clean describes the dog itself. It’s not that he smells something clean; it’s that he’s had a bath and does not stink. Clean describes what kind of smell comes from the dog making it an adjective.

“The dog smells carefully.” Here, carefully describes how the dog smells, making it an adverb. We imagine him sniffing cautiously.


“Kai dressed for the quick recital.” Here, quick describes the noun, recital, making it an adjectiveWhat kind of recital? A quick one.

“Kai dressed quickly for the recital.” Quickly describes the way Kai dressed, making it an adverb because it modifies the verb dressedHow did Kai dress? Quickly.


“Look at the nice bed.” Nice modifies the noun, bed, in this sentence, making it an adjective.

“Look at the nicely made bed.” Nicely modifies the adjective, made, in this sentence, making it an adverb.


“Joseph seems strange and upset.” Strange and upset modify the proper noun, Joseph, in this sentence, so strange and upset are both adjectives.

“Joseph seems strangely upset.” Strangely modifies the adjective, upset, in this sentence, so strangely is an adverb.

In general, when a word has the ending “-ly,” it will act as an adverb. Pay close attention to how the noun is modified, as this is the final criteria when deciding between an adjective and adverb.

Exercise 1: Adjective or Adverb Exercise 1

Choose the correct item:

  1. He (correct, correctly) defined the terms. The answer sounded (correctly, correct).
  2. She (quickly, quick) adjusted the fees. She adapted (quick, quickly) to any situation.
  3. He measured the floor (exact, exactly). They proved to be (perfectly, perfect) (exact, exactly) measurements.
  4. The stillness of the tomb was (awfully, awful). The tomb was (awfully, awful) still.
  5. It was a (dangerously, dangerous) lake to swim in. The man was (dangerous, dangerously) drunk. The gas smelled (dangerously,dangerous).
  6. She performed (magnificent, magnificently). It was a (magnificent, magnificently) beautiful performance.
  7. Her voice sounds (beautifully, beautiful). She sang the song (exact, exactly) as it was written. We heard it (perfectly, perfect).
  8. He was a very (sensibly, sensible) person. He acted very (sensible, sensibly).
  9. Mike wrote too (slow, slowly) on the exam. He always writes (slow, slowly).
  10. Talk (softly, soft) or don’t talk at all. The music played (softly, soft).
  11. Andrea knows the material very (good, well). She always treats us (good, well).
  12. You must send payments (regular, regularly). We deal on a (strictly, strict) cash basis.
  13. The mechanic’s tools were (well, good). The foreman said that his work was (good, well) done.
  14. She worked (careful, carefully) with the sick child. She was a very (careful, carefully) worker.
  15. He did not pass the course as (easy, easily) as he thought he would.
  16. I find this novel very (interesting, interestingly). It was (interesting, interestingly) written.

Week 2: Review Adjectives and Adverbs (again)

Okay, little buddies. I just got done grading your grammar worksheets from this week and the average grade for the class was a D (ouch). So that means that we need to do some more work on this subject.

Therefore, I am postponing our lesson on Appositives until NEXT WEEK.

This week what I need you to do is to go over the answers to the work from last week and see where you went wrong.

THEN, I need you to re-read the lesson from last week (above), and do a new exercise.

Make sure you take your time and check your work. You don’t want to be making careless mistakes.

Exercise : Adjective or Adverb Exercise 2

In the following sentences, cross out the incorrect words and write in the correct form in the blanks. If the sentence is correct as it is, write “correct” in the blank.

1. Terrence plays quarterback as well as Brian._______________

2. The game hadn’t hardly begun before it started to rain.____________

3. This was sure a mild winter.__________________

4. Jane behaves more pleasant than Joan.________________

5. When you are a parent, you will think different about children.___________

6. I felt badly about not having done good on my final exams._____________

7. Whether you win is not near as important as how you play._____________

8. Asian music often sounds oddly to Western listeners.______________

9. Does your car run well enough to enter the race?_________________

10. I felt safely enough to go out at night on my own._________________

11. You can see the distant mountains clear with these binoculars.______________

12. Our team was real sharp last Saturday afternoon during the game.___________

Week 3: Appositives

(Week of September 26-29)


The Basic Rules: Appositives

An appositive is a noun or pronoun — often with modifiers — set beside another noun or pronoun to explain or identify it. Here are some examples of appositives (the noun or pronoun will be italicized; the appositive will be underlined).

  • Your friend Bill is in trouble.
  • My brother’s cara sporty red convertible with bucket seats, is the envy of my friends.
  • The chief surgeonan expert in organ-transplant procedures, took her nephew on a hospital tour.

An appositive phrase usually follows the word it explains or identifies, but it may also precede it.

  • A bold innovator, Wassily Kandinsky is known for his colorful abstract paintings.
  • The first state to ratify the U. S. ConstitutionDelaware is rich in history.
  • A beautiful collieSkip was my favorite dog.

Punctuation of appositives

In some cases, the noun being explained is too general without the appositive; the information is essential to the meaning of the sentence. When this is the case, do not place commas around the appositive; just leave it alone. If the sentence would be clear and complete without the appositive, then commas are necessary; place one before and one after the appositive.

Here are some examples.

  • The popular US president John Kennedy was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.

Here we do not put commas around the appositive because it is essential information. Without the appositive, the sentence would be, “The popular US president was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.” We wouldn’t know who the president is without the appositive.

  • John Kennedythe popular US president, was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.

Here we put commas around the appositive because it is not essential information. Without the appositive, the sentence would be, “John Kennedy was known for his eloquent and inspirational speeches.” We still know who the subject of the sentence is without the appositive.

  • John Kennedy the popular US president was quite different from John Kennedy the unfaithful husband.

Here we do not put commas around either appositive because they are both essential to understanding the sentence. Without the appositives, the sentence would just be John Kennedy was quite different from John Kennedy. We wouldn’t know what qualities of John Kennedy were being referred to without the appositive.

Exercise: Appositive Exercise

Underline and correctly punctuate the appositives (with a comma when necessary) in the following sentences. Not all require punctuation.

  1. My son, the policeman, will be visiting us next week.
  2. The captain ordered the ship’s carpenters to assemble the shallop, a large rowboat.
  3. Walter, the playboy and writer, is very attached to his mother, Mrs. Hammon.
  4. Paul Newman the famous American actor directed five motion pictures.
  5. Elizabeth Teague, a sweet and lovable girl, grew up to be a mentally troubled woman.
  6. Sweetbriar a company known throughout the South is considering a nationwide advertising campaign.
  7. An above-average student and talented musician John made his family proud.
  8. The extremely popular American film Titanicwas widely criticized for its mediocre script.
  9. Citizen Kanethe greatest American film ever made won only one Academy Award.
  10. 60 Minutesthe TV news magazine program featured a story on the popular singer Whitney Houston.

Week 4 Grammar

(week of October 3-6)


Using Articles


This handout discusses the differences between indefinite articles (a/an) and definite articles (the).

Contributors:Paul Lynch, Allen Brizee, Elizabeth Angeli
Last Edited: 2011-03-03 10:04:28

What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective. Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.

English has two articles: the and a/anThe is used to refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite article and a/an the indefinite article.

the = definite article

a/an = indefinite article

For example, if I say, “Let’s read the book,” I mean a specific book. If I say, “Let’s read a book,” I mean any book rather than a specific book.

Here’s another way to explain it: The is used to refer to a specific or particular member of a group. For example, “I just saw the most popular movie of the year.” There are many movies, but only one particular movie is the most popular. Therefore, we use the.

“A/an” is used to refer to a non-specific or non-particular member of the group. For example, “I would like to go see a movie.” Here, we’re not talking about a specific movie. We’re talking about any movie. There are many movies, and I want to see any movie. I don’t have a specific one in mind.

Let’s look at each kind of article a little more closely.

Indefinite Articles: a and an

“A” and “an” signal that the noun modified is indefinite, referring to any member of a group. For example:

  • “My daughter really wants a dog for Christmas.” This refers to any dog. We don’t know which dog because we haven’t found the dog yet.
  • “Somebody call a policeman!” This refers to any policeman. We don’t need a specific policeman; we need any policeman who is available.
  • “When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!” Here, we’re talking about a single, non-specific thing, in this case an elephant. There are probably several elephants at the zoo, but there’s only one we’re talking about here.

Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that begins the next word. So…

  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
  • an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan
  • a + singular noun beginning with a consonant sound: a user (sounds like ‘yoo-zer,’ i.e. begins with a consonant ‘y’ sound, so ‘a’ is used); a universitya unicycle
  • an + nouns starting with silent “h”: an hour
  • a + nouns starting with a pronounced “h”: a horse
    • In some cases where “h” is pronounced, such as “historical,” you can use an. However, a is more commonly used and preferred.

A historical event is worth recording.

Remember that these rules also apply when you use acronyms:

Introductory Composition at Purdue (ICaP) handles first-year writing at the University. Therefore, an ICaP memo generally discusses issues concerning English 106 instructors.

Another case where this rule applies is when acronyms start with consonant letters but have vowel sounds:

An MSDS (material safety data sheet) was used to record the data. An SPCC plan (Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures plan) will help us prepare for the worst.

If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice between a and an depends on the initial sound of the adjective that immediately follows the article:

  • a broken egg
  • an unusual problem
  • a European country (sounds like ‘yer-o-pi-an,’ i.e. begins with consonant ‘y’ sound)

Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles are used to indicate membership in a group:

  • I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group known as teachers.)
  • Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the people known as Irish.)
  • Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member of the group of people known as Buddhists.)

Definite Article: the

The definite article is used before singular and plural nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member of a group. For example:

The dog that bit me ran away.” Here, we’re talking about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.

“I was happy to see the policeman who saved my cat!” Here, we’re talking about a particular policeman. Even if we don’t know the policeman’s name, it’s still a particular policeman because it is the one who saved the cat.

“I saw the elephant at the zoo.” Here, we’re talking about a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant at the zoo.

Count and Noncount Nouns

The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article can be omitted entirely.

  • “I love to sail over the water” (some specific body of water) or “I love to sail over water” (any water).
  • “He spilled the milk all over the floor” (some specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier that day) or “He spilled milk all over the floor” (any milk).

“A/an” can be used only with count nouns.

  • “I need a bottle of water.”
  • “I need a new glass of milk.”

Most of the time, you can’t say, “She wants a water,” unless you’re implying, say, a bottle of water.

Geographical use of the

There are some specific rules for using the with geographical nouns.

Do not use the before:

  • names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico, Bolivia; however, the Netherlands, theDominican Republic, the Philippines, the United States
  • names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba, Miami
  • names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
  • names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
  • names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
  • names of continents (Asia, Europe)
  • names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West) except with island chains like the Aleutians, the Hebrides, or the Canary Islands

Do use the before:

  • names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
  • points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
  • geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
  • deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara, the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula

Omission of Articles

Some common types of nouns that don’t take an article are:

  • Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese, English, Spanish, Russian (unless you are referring to the population of the nation: “The Spanish are known for their warm hospitality.”)
  • Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
  • Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biology, history, computer science

Exercise 1 : A or An?

In the following phrases, supply either a or an:

  1. ____ bingo game
  2. ____ idiot
  3. ____ good job
  4. ____ rotten plum
  5. ____ used fork
  6. ____ uncle
  7. ____ historian
  8. ____ apple
  9. ____ hair
  10. ____ artichoke
  11. ____ horrible movie
  12. ____ opera
  13. ____ fine opera
  14. ____ television
  15. ____ earthquake
  16. ____ icicle
  17. ____ plant
  18. ____ eggplant
  19. ____ honorable discharge
  20. ____ intelligent man
  21. ____ table
  22. ____ up stairway
  23. ____ paper clip
  24. ____ animal
  25. ____ usual feeling
  26. ____ interest
  27. ____ alibi
  28. ____ early bird
  29. ____ couch
  30. ____ airplane
  31. ____ grade
  32. ____ pair
  33. ____ idea
  34. ____ energy level

Week 5 Grammar

Mini Grammar Lesson–Adjectives and Adverbs

Modifiers: Precise Meanings

Modifiers make your writing more specific. Notice how adjectives help you visualize those blue suede shoes that Roger wants. Adjectives (and adjective phrases) answer the question what kind? which one? How many? or How much? Adverbs (and adverb phrases) answer the question where? when? how often? in what way? or to what extent? The modifiers in these sentences from Hughes’s story are single words, compound words, and phrases:

  1. “The large woman simply turned around and kicked him right square in his blue-jeaned sitter.”
  2. “He looked as if he were fourteen or fifteen, frail and willow-wild, in tennis shoes and blue jeans.”


  • For each numbered sentence above, tell whether the bold modifiers are acting as adjectives or adverbs.
  • Then rewrite each sentence three times, replacing the underlined modifiers with words and phrases of your own. Each time, give Mrs. Jones or the boy a totally different appearance. (For example, you might put Roger in hiking boots or a plaid shirt.)

When you write a description of a character, use precise adjectives and adverbs. Don’t overdo it with modifiers, though. Sometimes a simple word is best.

Week 6 Grammar


Using Articles

Review the lesson on articles and complete the following exercises.

Exercise : Articles Exercise 1

Directions: Fill in the blank with the appropriate article, aan, or the, or leave the space blank if no article is needed.

  1. I want ____ apple from that basket.
  2. ____ church on the corner is progressive.
  3. Miss Lin speaks ____ Chinese.
  4. I borrowed ____ pencil from your pile of pencils and pens.
  5. One of the students said, “____ professor is late today.”

6 Eli likes to play ____ volleyball.

  1. I bought ____ umbrella to go out in the rain.
  2. My daughter is learning to play ____ violin at her school.
  3. Please give me ____ cake that is on the counter.
  4. I lived on ____ Main Street when I first came to town.
  5. Albany is the capital of ____ New York State.
  6. My husband’s family speaks ____ Polish.
  7. ____ apple a day keeps the doctor away.
  8. ____ ink in my pen is red.
  9. Our neighbors have ____ cat and ____ dog.

Exercise : Articles Exercise 2

Directions: Write the following paragraphs, inserting aan, and the where needed.

  1. I have horse of my own. I call her Pretty Girl. She is intelligent animal, but she is not thoroughbred horse. I could never enter her in race, even if I wanted to. But I do not want to. She is companion, for my own pleasure. I took her swimming day or two ago.
  2. Horse knows when he is going to race. How does he know? His breakfast was scanty. (He is angry about that.) He does not have saddle on his back. He is being led, not ridden, to grandstand. He is led under grandstand into unusual, special stall. Horse is nervous. Sometimes he does not know what to do when starting gate flies open and track is before him. If he does not begin to run instantly, other horses are already ahead of him. During race, when he sees another horse just ahead of him, he will try to pass him. Sometimes jockey holds him back to save his energy for last stretch. Eventually horse gets to run as fast as he can. Exercise boy, watching owner’s favorite jockey riding horse he has exercised day after day, says nothing. Secretly, he is planning for day when he will be jockey himself, and his horse will be first to cross finish line.
  3. Most people have fewer hours to give to time-consuming activities of clubs than they used to have, but most people in small town belong to club or two. One of clubs is likely to be social and benevolent organization, such as Rotary or Elks. Business people are likely to belong, also to either Kiwanis Club or Lions. Such business people’s organizations may meet as often as once a week in one of private dining rooms of town’s leading hotel for lunch. They have good lunch, hear good program, and continue their fundraising program for worthy organization, such as local hospital.

Week 7–Grammar Mini-Lesson

Dialogue–Who’s Talking

Dialogue in a story can advance the plot, reveal the thoughts of a character, or present important information to a reader. In American usage, dialogue is enclosed in double quotation marks (” “). Usually a new paragraph lets us know when a different person begins to speak, as in this example from “The Cask of Amontillado”:

“You do not comprehend?” he said.

“Not I.” I replied.

“Then you are not of the brotherhood.”

Most writers use tag lines (such as he said and I replied) to identify the speakers in a dialogue. Some writers do not always use tag lines, however. Poe, for example has written long passages of conversation between Montresor and Fortunato in which neither speaker is directly identified. Remember that tag lines should not be enclosed in quotation marks.


Look back at the dialogue at the beginning of the story, at the dialogue on page 59, where it begins “Amontillado!” to “I have no engagement; –come!”

  • rewrite this section on the bottom of page 59.
  • make sure you start a new paragraph each time someone else speaks.
  • Insert some tag lines– he replied, I said, etc.

Remember this, when you write dialogue for an essay or a short story. Each time a new persons speaks it is a new paragraph!!!

Week 8–Grammar Mini-Lesson

Pronoun Problems– Please copy the notes below and then complete the activity.

Some pronouns in English sound exactly like other words: its and it’s; their and they’re; whose and who’s; your and you’re. Words that sound alike are not a problem when you are speaking, but they can be troublesome when you are writing. To avoid making mistakes you must be aware of the difference between a possessive pronoun and a pronoun contraction. 

  • A possessive pronoun (such as its, their, whose, your) shows ownership or relationship.
  • A pronoun contraction (such as it’s, they’re, who’s, and you’re) is shortened form of a pronoun and a verb (it is, they are, who is, you are). A pronoun contraction always contains and apostrophe.

Practice Activity

Choose the correct pronoun from each underlined pair in parenthesis.

  1. “But her husband exclaimed, ‘My, but (your/you’re) silly!”
  2. “‘(Its/It’s) embarrassing not to have a jewel or gem — nothing to wear on my dress.'”
  3. “‘Why not wear some flowers? (Their/They’re) very fashionable this season.'”
  4. “The next day they took the case to the jeweler (whose/who’s) name they found inside.”

Check the pronouns in your writing. Have you used a possessive where a contraction should have been used? Have you spelled a possessive pronoun with an apostrophe?

Exercise 2: Underline the correct contraction or possessive pronoun for each sentence.

Ann and Maria like to shop on (their, they’re) days off. (Their, They’re) favorite place to shop is J.C. Penny’s at the mall. (Its, It’s) fun to catch all the great sales. (They’re, Their) mom can’t believe (they’re, their) buying more clothes. She’s worried about (who’s, whose) going to keep up with all of them. Ann and Maria don’t know (who’s, whose) clothes belong to whom!

Week 9 Grammar–Possessive Pronouns and Pronoun Contractions Part 2

Exercise 1: Underline the correct contraction or possessive pronoun for each sentence.

  1. (Your, You’re) going to the mall in (your, you’re) car today.
  1. (Whose, Who’s) the guest speaker tonight?
  1. (Their, They’re) sure (their, they’re) books were stolen?
  1. (Whose, Who’s) is the best apple pie in the baking contest?
  1. (Its, It’s) finally time to celebrate because the class receives (its, it’s) award.

6.  (Your, You’re) sure that (their, they’re) still here?

  1. (Their, They’re) leaving on Saturday for (their, they’re) trip to Russia.
  1. (Its, It’s) sad that (its, it’s) time to leave the park. The children enjoyed (its, it’s) slides and swings.
  1. (Your, You’re) new book looks interesting.
  1. (Whose, Who’s) are these video tapes in my car?
  1. Your, You’re) helping (your, you’re) mother in the kitchen today.
  1. (Whose, Who’s) the new engineer in the construction department?
  1. (Their, They’re) positive (their, they’re) names were on the passenger list.
  1. (Whose, Who’s) is the winning entry in the life sciences division of the science fair?

Exercise 2: Punctuate the quotations.

  1. yikes shouted harrison that scaffold is about to break loose from the pulleys
  1. rita isnt your sister a lab technician at the university asked george

Week 10–No Grammar

Week 18–Sentence Fragments

Sentence Fragments


This handout provides an overview and examples of sentence fragments.

Contributors:Purdue OWL
Last Edited: 2013-02-21 09:18:59

Fragments are incomplete sentences. Usually, fragments are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected from the main clause. One of the easiest ways to correct them is to remove the period between the fragment and the main clause. Other kinds of punctuation may be needed for the newly combined sentence.

Below are some examples with the fragments shown in italics. Punctuation and/or words added to make corrections are highlighted in bold. Notice that the fragment is frequently a dependent clause or long phrase that follows the main clause.

  • Fragment:Purdue offers many majors in engineering. Such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
    Possible Revision: Purdue offers many majors in engineering, such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
  • Fragment: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game. Leaving her team at a time when we needed her.
    Possible Revision: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game, leaving her team at a time when we needed her.
  • Fragment: I need to find a new roommate. Because the one I have now isn’t working out too well.
    Possible Revision: I need to find a new roommate because the one I have now isn’t working out too well.
  • Fragment: The current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands. Which is why we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
    Possible Revision: Because the current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands, we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.

You may have noticed that newspaper and magazine journalists often use a dependent clause as a separate sentence when it follows clearly from the preceding main clause, as in the last example above. This is a conventional journalistic practice, often used for emphasis. For academic writing and other more formal writing situations, however, you should avoid such journalistic fragment sentences.

Some fragments are not clearly pieces of sentences that have been left unattached to the main clause; they are written as main clauses but lack a subject or main verb.

No main verb

  • Fragment: A story with deep thoughts and emotions.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Direct object: She told a story with deep thoughts and emotions.
    • Appositive: Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a story with deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for decades.
  • Fragment: Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Complete verb: Toys of all kinds were thrown everywhere.
    • Direct object: They found toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
  • Fragment: A record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Direct object: I’ve noticed a record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired
    • Main verb: A record of accomplishment began when you were first hired.

No Subject

  • Fragment: With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Remove preposition: The ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
  • Fragment: By paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Remove preposition: Paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
  • Fragment: For doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
    Possible Revisions:

    • Remove preposition: Doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
    • Rearrange: Phil got fired for doing freelance work for a competitor.

These last three examples of fragments with no subjects are also known as mixed constructions, that is, sentences constructed out of mixed parts. They start one way (often with a long prepositional phrase) but end with a regular predicate. Usually the object of the preposition (often a gerund, as in the last two examples) is intended as the subject of the sentence, so removing the preposition at the beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors.

Exercise : Sentence Fragments Exercise 1

The sentences below appeared in papers written by students. Act as their editor, marking a C if the sentences in the group are all complete and an F if any of the sentences in the group is a fragment. Could you tell these writers why the fragments are incomplete sentences?

____ 1. Then I attended Morris Junior High. A junior high that was a bad experience.

____ 2. The scene was filled with beauty. Such as the sun sending its brilliant rays to the earth and the leaves of various shades of red, yellow, and brown moving slowly in the wind.

____ 3. He talked for fifty minutes without taking his eyes off his notes. Like other teachers in that department, he did not encourage students’ questions.

____ 4. Within each group, a wide range of features to choose from. It was difficult to distinguish between them.

____ 5. A few of the less serious fellows would go into a bar for a steak dinner and a few glasses of beer. After this meal, they were ready for anything.

____ 6. It can be really embarrassing to be so emotional. Especially when you are on your first date, you feel that you should be in control.

____ 7. The magazine has a reputation for a sophisticated, prestigious, and elite group of readers. Although that is a value judgment and in circumstances not a true premise.

____ 8. In the seventh grade every young boy goes out for football. To prove to himself and his parents that he is a man.

____ 9. She opened the door and let us into her home. Not realizing at the time that we would never enter that door in her home again.

____10. As Christmas grows near, I find myself looking back into my childhood days at fun-filled times of snowball fights. To think about this makes me happy.

____11. Making up his mind quickly. Jim ordered two dozen red roses for his wife. Hoping she would accept his apology.

____12. They were all having a good time. Until one of Joe’s oldest and best friends had a little too much to drink.

____13. Although it only attained a speed of about twelve miles an hour. My old rowboat with its three-horsepower motor seemed like a high-speed job to me.

____14. With my brother standing by my side, I reached for the pot handle. Tilting the pot way too much caused the boiling water to spill.

____15. The small, one-story houses are all the same size and style. With no difference except the color.

____16. Being a friend of mine like he was when we first joined the soccer team. Together we learned a lot.

Week 20–Comma Splices, Run On Sentences, and Incomplete Sentences

Exercise : Identifying Independent and Dependent Clauses

Read the directions and fix the three incorrect sentences.

A comma splice is the use of a comma between two independent clauses. You can usually fix the error by changing the comma to a period and therefore making the two clauses into two separate sentences, by changing the comma to a semicolon, or by making one clause dependent by inserting a dependent marker word in front of it.

The following sentences in italics are incorrect. In the first question, fix the comma splice

1. Incorrect: I like this class, it is very interesting.

Repair the Fused Sentence

Fused sentences happen when there are two independent clauses not separated by any form of punctuation. This error is also known as a run-on sentence. The error can sometimes be corrected by adding a period, semicolon, or colon to separate the two sentences.

2. Incorrect: My professor is intelligent I’ve learned a lot from her.

Fix the Sentence Fragment

Sentence fragments happen by treating a dependent clause or other incomplete thought as a complete sentence. You can usually fix this error by combining it with another sentence to make a complete thought or by removing the dependent marker.

3. Incorrect: Because I forgot the exam was today.

Week 21–Sentence Fragments Exercise 3

Exercise : Sentence Fragments Exercise 3

The following paragraph has no capital letters or periods to mark the beginnings and ends of sentences. Add capitals, periods, commas, and/or other punctuation that may be needed to make the word groups into complete sentences. Your goal is to be sure that there are no fragments.

my brother was always my best friend when I was a child especially as we two were almost alone in the world we lived with our old grandmother in a little house, almost a shack, in the country whenever I think of him now I see a solemn, responsible boy a boy too old for his years who looked out for me no matter what once there was a bully John Anson who looked enormous to me though he was probably an average twelve-year-old John had it in for me because he liked Littice Grant who liked me he decided to beat me up right before her eyes I was lucky my brother came by he didn’t interfere any he just stood there somehow though his presence gave me confidence I kicked the stuffing out of John Anson if my brother hadn’t been there I don’t think I could have done it.

Week 23–Quotation Marks

Using Quotation Marks

The primary function of quotation marks is to set off and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that has come from somebody else. The quotation mark is also used to designate speech acts in fiction and sometimes poetry. Since you will most often use them when working with outside sources, successful use of quotation marks is a practical defense against accidental plagiarism and an excellent practice in academic honesty. The following rules of quotation mark use are the standard in the United States, although it may be of interest that usage rules for this punctuation do vary in other countries.

The following covers the basic use of quotation marks. For details and exceptions consult the separate sections of this guide.

Direct Quotations

Direct quotations involve incorporating another person’s exact words into your own writing.

1. Quotation marks always come in pairs. Do not open a quotation and fail to close it at the end of the quoted material.

2. Capitalize the first letter of a direct quote when the quoted material is a complete sentence.

Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that morning, said, “The alien spaceship appeared right before my own two eyes.”

3. Do not use a capital letter when the quoted material is a fragment or only a piece of the original material’s complete sentence.

Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings on the farm, he stated that the spaceship “certainly takes the cake” when it comes to unexplainable activity.

4. If a direct quotation is interrupted mid-sentence, do not capitalize the second part of the quotation.

“I didn’t see an actual alien being,” Mr. Johnson said, “but I sure wish I had.”

5. In all the examples above, note how the period or comma punctuation always comes before the final quotation mark. It is important to realize also that when you are using MLA or some other form of documentation, this punctuation rule may change.

When quoting text with a spelling or grammar error, you should transcribe the error exactly in your own text. However, also insert the term sic in italics directly after the mistake, and enclose it in brackets. Sic is from the Latin, and translates to “thus,” “so,” or “just as that.” The word tells the reader that your quote is an exact reproduction of what you found, and the error is not your own.

Mr. Johnson says of the experience, “It’s made me reconsider the existence of extraterestials [sic].”

6. Quotations are most effective if you use them sparingly and keep them relatively short. Too many quotations in a research paper will get you accused of not producing original thought or material (they may also bore a reader who wants to know primarily what YOU have to say on the subject).

Indirect Quotations

Indirect quotations are not exact wordings but rather rephrasings or summaries of another person’s words. In this case, it is not necessary to use quotation marks. However, indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you will be commiting plagiarism if you fail to do so.

Mr. Johnson, a local farmer, reported last night that he saw an alien spaceship on his own property.

Many writers struggle with when to use direct quotations versus indirect quotations. Use the following tips to guide you in your choice.

Use direct quotations when the source material uses language that is particularly striking or notable. Do not rob such language of its power by altering it.

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the end of slavery was important and of great hope to millions of slaves done horribly wrong.

The above should never stand in for:

Martin Luther King Jr. said of the Emancipation Proclamation, “This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice.”

Use an indirect quotation (or paraphrase) when you merely need to summarize key incidents or details of the text.

Use direct quotations when the author you are quoting has coined a term unique to her or his research and relevant within your own paper.

When to use direct quotes versus indirect quotes is ultimately a choice you’ll learn a feeling for with experience. However, always try to have a sense for why you’ve chosen your quote. In other words, never put quotes in your paper simply because your teacher says, “You must use quotes.”

Exercise : Quotation Marks Exercise

In the following sentences put in quotation marks wherever they are needed, and underline words where italics are needed.

1. Mary is trying hard in school this semester, her father said.

2. No, the taxi driver said curtly, I cannot get you to the airport in fifteen minutes.

3. I believe, Jack remarked, that the best time of year to visit Europe is in the spring. At least that’s what I read in a book entitled Guide to Europe.

4. My French professor told me that my accent is abominable.

5. She asked, Is Time a magazine you read regularly?

6. Flannery O’Connor probably got the title of one of her stories from the words of the old popular song, A Good Man Is Hard to Find.

7. When did Roosevelt say, We have nothing to fear but fear itself?

8. It seems to me that hip and cool are words that are going out of style.

9. Yesterday, John said, This afternoon I’ll bring back your book Conflict in the Middle East; however, he did not return it.

10. Can you believe, Dot asked me, that it has been almost five years since we’ve seen each other?

11. A Perfect Day for Bananafish is, I believe, J. D. Salinger’s best short story.

12. Certainly, Mr. Martin said, I shall explain the whole situation to him. I know that he will understand.


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