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How to Identify Independent and Dependent Clauses


Independent and Dependent Clauses

What Is a Clause?

A clause is a group of words containing both a subject (who or what the sentence is about) and a verb (which describes the main action of the subject). There are two kinds of clauses: independent and dependent clauses. Most simply, an independent clause can form a complete sentence on its own and a dependent clause cannot (at least, not by itself).

Think of it this way: an independent clause is like a cup of coffee, and a dependent clause is like a caffeine lover. Caffeine lovers are dependent on coffee, so the two can be joined (quite happily) to form a cohesive unit. Similarly, two cups of coffee, or two independent clauses, can be combined. However, you cannot put two caffeine-dependent people together to form a working unit without any coffee. It just doesn’t work. They need caffeine.

The same is true with sentences. You can join an independent clause and a dependent clause. You can even join two independent clauses (as long as you use proper punctuation and/or a coordinating conjunction). But you can’t stick two dependent clauses together and expect to form a sentence.

Simple enough, right? Let’s go into more detail and look at some examples of independent and dependent clauses.

Independent Clauses

Independent and Dependent Clauses Infographic
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An independent clause contains a subject (again, who or what the sentence is about) and a predicate (which tells us something about the subject, such as what the subject is doing). As mentioned, these clauses can function as their own complete sentences, but they can also be combined with other clauses (either independent or dependent) to create longer sentences. Consider this example:

The coffee was brewing because it was early morning.

We can break this sentence down into two parts. The first part is the coffee was brewing. This is an independent clause because it contains both a subject and a verb: the subject is the coffee and the verb phrase is was brewing. This clause can stand on its own as a complete sentence.

The coffee was brewing.

However, we still have additional information:

. . . because it was early morning.

This is not an independent clause because it lacks a subject. Instead, we have a dependent clause (also called a subordinate clause). Dependent clauses can’t stand alone; that is, they require the support of independent clauses to constitute a complete sentence, just as the coffee lover needs coffee to function.

Joining Independent Clauses

An independent and a dependent clause can be joined to form a single sentence, as you’ve seen in the above example. But can two independent clauses be joined in one sentence? Let’s go back to that delicious cup of coffee. Here is a sentence with one independent clause and one dependent clause.

The coffee was brewing because it was early morning.

Let’s delete because and form two sentences:

The coffee was brewing. It was early morning.

We now have two independent but related clauses, each forming its own sentence. Because the content of these clauses is related, we might want to connect them somehow. How can we do this in a single sentence? Using a semicolon, of course!

The coffee was brewing; it was early morning.

What initially began as a sentence made up of an independent and a dependent clause has become a sentence with two independent clauses. If semicolons aren’t really your style, you can also use a comma and a conjunction to join two independent clauses. Like two cups of coffee poured into one humongous cup, two independent clauses can be joined with little work.

Dependent Clauses

Sentence Structure EbookAs you’ve already learned, dependent clauses cannot stand alone in a sentence, just as tired people cannot function without coffee. A dependent (or subordinate) clause begins with a subordinating conjunction, such as if, after, before, because, although, or when, and it requires the support of an independent clause to constitute a complete sentence.

There are a few different types of dependent clauses: adjective clauses, adverbial clauses, and noun clauses.

Adjective Clauses

An adjective clause is a dependent clause that describes a noun in another part of a sentence. Usually, an adjective clause is very close to the noun it describes. Adjective clauses begin with the relative pronouns who, whom, whose, that, or which. They can also begin with the relative adverbs whenwhere, or why.

There’s the café that you’ve been looking for all day.

The subject is the café. Pay close attention to the word that and what follows it. The phrase that you’ve been looking for all day gives us information about or describes the noun café. That means it’s an adjective clause, and because an adjective clause is a type of dependent clause, it cannot stand on its own.

Adverbial Clauses

Adverbial clauses are dependent clauses that tell us why, when, how, or under which conditions something occurs. Look at the following example.

Although you already had six cups of coffee, you decided to buy more coffee anyway.

We know the adverbial clause can’t be you decided to buy more coffee anyway because it can stand alone as a complete sentence. However, the adverbial clause, although you already had six cups of coffee, tells us under what circumstances you decided to buy more coffee. The adverbial clause, which is a dependent clause, needs the independent clause to form a complete sentence.

Noun Clauses

Noun clauses can act as either the subject or the object of a clause, and they usually begin with words like what, whywho, and that.

I don’t care what the doctors say about caffeine intake.

In the first part of the sentence, the subject is I, and don’t care is the verb phrase. The noun clause is what the doctors say about caffeine intake. This clause describes what it is that the subject doesn’t care about and is therefore dependent (like some caffeine-obsessed people I know).


Here’s a brief summary: independent clauses are made up of a subject and predicate, and can stand alone as a sentence. Like cups of coffee, they’re perfect on their own. Dependent clauses are made up of a subject and predicate but cannot stand alone due to the presence of a subordinating word, such as althoughif, or because. Dependent clauses are like coffee lovers; they cannot stand on their own. They need coffee!

Dependent clauses can be any of the following: adjective clauses, which describe nouns; adverbial clauses, which tell us whywhen, how, or under which conditions something occurs in a sentence; or noun clauses, which act as the subject or the object of a clause and usually begin with words like whatwhywho, and that. Dependent clauses need independent clauses like coffee lovers need coffee. Together, they can’t be stopped!

Image source: Mike Kenneally/, Padurariu Alexandru/

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How to Use Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Collective Nouns

Subject–verb agreement in the English language is complicated. When you have to deal with tense, gender, number, irregular verb forms (Need I go on?), it can be quite the task to ensure that the subjects and verbs in your sentences agree. Assembling the pieces of this grammar puzzle correctly is not easy.

To add another layer of difficulty, collective nouns are crafty little pieces of the grammar puzzle that introduce even more challenges to achieving subject–verb agreement.

Collective nouns are used to refer to a group and, as with other nouns, may include people, places, ideas, or things. Some examples of collective nouns include the words group, congregation, committee, pack, public, minority, audience, jury, and band.

The tricky thing is that, when trying to figure out how to use collective nouns, the question of whether to use a singular or plural verb form depends on whether you are writing in American or British English.

Collective Nouns in American English

In American English, collective nouns generally take the singular verb form.

The jury has (singular) reached a verdict.

The public is (singular) alarmed at the rising cost of housing.

In these examples, the collective nouns are treated as a whole. The jury, as a group, has collectively reached the verdict. All of the public is alarmed by rising housing costs. If you want to know how to use collective nouns in American English, you are all set: collective nouns will almost always take singular verbs.

As is the case with most pieces of the grammar puzzle, however, there are a few exceptions to this rule. A few words, such as police and people, are most often used with plural verbs, even in American English.

Collective Nouns in British English

If you are working in British English, you must consider the context of the phrase to determine whether a singular or plural verb form is correct. When you are working with a collective noun and are writing in British English, you must consider whether the members or elements of the group are working in unison (i.e., as a cohesive whole) or whether the individual members or elements of the group are acting separately.

The audience claps (singular) in excitement.

The committee disagree (plural) on the timeline for the project.

The band are (plural) practicing their individual instruments.

Parts of SpeechTo American English speakers who are familiar with collective nouns and singular verbs, the last two examples above might sound odd. But try to think of it this way: the members of the committee disagree with one another regarding the timeline for the project. The opinions differ within the committee itself. The distinct members of the band are practicing their specific instruments. To ensure that the use of the plural verb form is correct in these sentences, test it by adding the word members after the collective nouns.

For example:

The committee members disagree on the timeline for the project.

The band members are practicing their individual instruments.


When working with collective nouns, remember that singular verbs are generally used in American English. In British English, it is important to analyze the context in which the collective noun is used. Employ a singular verb form when the members are performing the action in unison; employ a plural verb form when the individual members of the group are acting independently.

With these simple tricks, you should have no trouble assembling the tricky puzzle of English grammar, even when you’re dealing with collective nouns.

So you now understand how to use collective nouns. If you would like to brush up on the other parts of speech, check out this trusty ebook written by the grammar experts at

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A Guide to Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns

Reflexive and Intensive PronounsSometimes, it’s all about me. Or you. Or maybe her or him. Heck, it might even be all about it. Regardless of what the subject of a given sentence might be, it’s very likely that you’ll need to refer back to it or that you’ll want to give it a bit of extra attention. After all, it is the subject of its very own sentence. Like any good celebrity, the subject of a sentence is perfectly okay with being talked about. A lot. I don’t exactly know how to put this, but like myself, the subject of a sentence is kind of a big deal.

Think of the subject of a sentence as the star of a show. Sure, there are lots of other important players, but without that lead role, there really isn’t a story to tell or a show to put on. Before we get more into our topic of reflexive and intensive pronouns, here’s a quick reminder about what exactly it means to be the subject of a sentence.

Sentence Subjects: A Quick Refresher

There are two components that make up every complete sentence: the subject and the predicate. The subject is what or whom the sentence is about; that is, the subject is the entity performing the verb. For example:

Stella was the star of the show.

The verb in the above sentence is was. Who was? Stella was! That means Stella is the subject of the sentence (and a star in more than one respect). The rest of the sentence, was the star of the show, is the predicate. That’s right—anything that isn’t the subject is the predicate. Now that we know how to find the subject, let’s go back to our discussion about reflexive and intensive pronouns.

Reflexive Pronouns

You now know how to find the subject of a sentence. But do you know how to refer back to that subject? That’s where reflexive pronouns come in. The purpose of a reflexive pronoun is to refer to the subject of the sentence. Here’s an example of a reflexive pronoun in action:

Stella went to the matinee by herself.

The reflexive pronoun is preceded by the subject. The subject may be the noun (e.g., Stella) or the pronoun representing the noun (e.g., she, meaning Stella). Both the subject and the reflexive pronoun must be included the same clause. Who went to the matinee? Stella, the subject. Whom did she go with? Herself, also the subject. (I told you, this Stella is a star.)

There are only eight reflexive pronouns in the English language: myself, yourself, herself, himself, itself, ourselves, yourselves, and themselves. Each of these reflexive pronouns has its own personal pronoun with which it is paired:

















Intensive Pronouns

So far, this has all been fairly straightforward, right? Well, this new bit of information might make things a bit fuzzier: just as there are eight reflexive pronouns, there are only eight intensive pronouns. Now here comes the real plot twist: they are the same eight pronouns. What is the difference between reflexive and intensive pronouns if they are literally the same words?

Unlike reflexive pronouns, which are necessary to the sentence, intensive pronouns merely work to give emphasis to the subject or object. An intensive pronoun can be removed without the meaning of the sentence changing. Take a look:

Stella herself had never performed in a matinee.

The emphasis added by an intensive pronoun may serve many different purposes. In the above example, the use of herself could indicate that Stella is being contrasted to another player in the matinee. Perhaps she is going to see a friend perform. Or it could be suggesting that Stella disapproves of matinees. Without any other context for this sentence, it’s difficult to tell what role the emphasis may be playing.

Reflexive and Intensive Pronouns Compared

What happens when we remove the intensive pronoun from the example above?

Stella had never performed in a matinee.

That’s right—it’s still a sentence, and Stella is still the star of the show (though not, unfortunately, of the matinee). But what about removing a reflexive pronoun? Let’s revisit this sentence:

Stella went to the matinee by herself.

Now how about this sentence without the reflexive pronoun?

Stella went to the matinee by.

No matter how much you may or may not like cliff-hangers, you can’t deny that the above example is one incomplete sentence.


Now that you’re an expert on reflexive and intensive pronouns, it’s time to get out there and start talking about yourself. Go on! Tell Stella to get out of here, and become the star of your own sentences!

Image source: Nosnibor137/

Parts of Speech

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Using Correlative Conjunctions, or Why I’m Secretly a Bad Canadian

Using Correlative Conjunctions

Using Correlative ConjunctionsI’m secretly a very bad Canadian. It’s true that I love poutine and bacon (together or separately) and that I say sorry when someone else bumps into me. The occasional eh has been known to slip from my lips, and I once got an X-ray for free. But there’s one thing that makes me a very, very bad Canadian:

I hate winter.

I’m already planning my future as a retired snowbird. But with the prospect of retirement so far away, I have to find something else to look forward to. I need something to help me get through the frigid, skin-freezing torment that is Canadian winter to the wet, cool spring on the other side. That’s where spring television comes in.

Throughout the winter, knowing that my favorite shows will be returning in a matter of months is one of the only things that gets me through. It’s all I’ve been thinking about all day, which has made it rather challenging for me to write this post on correlative conjunctions. Luckily, I finally realized that I don’t need to choose between thinking about spring television and teaching you about correlative conjunctions—I can do both!

With that being said, let’s dive right in to the worlds of absurd comedy, fantasy, detective work, low-security female prison life, and, of course, grammar.

What Are Correlative Conjunctions?

As you know, a conjunction is a connector between different parts of a sentence, whether between two clauses, phrases, or words. Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions that work in pairs to show a relationship between two elements of equal importance. In other words, correlative conjunctions combine two relative parts of speech.

I think I’ll watch either House of Cards or Game of Thrones.

Just as there aren’t very many people as attractive as Kit Harrington, there aren’t very many correlative conjunction pairs to work with. The main correlative conjunctions in English are:







No Sooner/Than


As Many/As



Not Only/But Also

Correlative Conjunctions at Work

Most correlative conjunctions, when shown in context, are fairly straightforward. They make comparisons between two things, whether to say that they are equal, that they are different, or that one is superior to the other. Here are some examples to help you better understand how some of the different correlative conjunctions can be put to use.

Not only do I think Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt is funny, but I also think Ellie Kemper is a lovable leading lady.

Neither Stannis nor Daenerys will ever take the Iron Throne.

Both Sherlock and Elementary feature a modern-day Sherlock Holmes, though one is clearly superior to the other.

I can never decide whether I prefer Orange Is the New Black or Girls.

I do not usually enjoy politics, but House of Cards is a fantastic show.

Correlative Conjunctions and Commas

My Ideal Winter As you can see, correlative conjunctions aren’t too difficult to understand. Even if you didn’t know what they were called before now, you’ve certainly been using them in your writing for a long time. That brings me to my next point—many people incorrectly use commas with correlative conjunctions, like this:

You either love Kimmy Schmidt’s Titus Andromedon, or you hate him.

I would rather be best friends with Arya, than with Sansa.

I would no sooner choose Elementary over Sherlock, than I would eat my own hair.

All of the commas in the above examples are incorrect. As a general rule, there should not be a comma between a pair of correlative conjunctions. There are, of course, some exceptions. The most notable exception would be when a parenthetical clause interrupts the conjunction pair, as in this example:

It seems that neither Piper, one of the lead characters of Orange Is the New Black, nor Alex, her sometimes girlfriend, can stay out of trouble for long.

In the above example, the information provided about the characters makes up two separate nonrestrictive clauses. These clauses require the use of commas, and as such, it’s okay to interrupt the correlative conjunction pair (neither/nor) with these commas. Here’s one more example:

Both Kevin Spacey, who plays Frank Underwood, and Robin Wright, who plays Claire Underwood, have won Golden Globe awards for their performances in House of Cards.


The bad news: if you live near one of the poles, you’ll probably just have to deal with numb fingers and nose icicles.

The good news: in most places, winter doesn’t last forever. Plus, you’ve now learned all there is to know about correlative conjunctions, so you can explain to people why you would rather have the ending of Game of Thrones ruined for you than have to shovel your driveway again.

The best news: there’s still lots to learn about the parts of speech, and you’ll be able to learn it all with Inklyo’s newest ebook, The Complete Guide to the Parts of Speech, available now on Amazon. In between chapters, snuggle up and binge-watch Netflix. You can do it all!

Image sources: tpsdave/, alenkasm/

Parts of Speech

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The Ultimate Proofreading Checklist

Ultimate Proofreading Checklist

Ultimate Proofreading Checklist

Okay, so you have to proofread something. Deep breaths. Unless you’re a professional proofreader, you’re likely not too thrilled to find yourself in this situation. You’ve already spent eight hours sitting at your desk writing this document, and three more hours just editing it. Now, you have to proofread it, too?!

Yes, yes, you do. But it’s not all bad. I’m going to give you a choice. It’s time to pick (drum roll, please) . . . your proofreading hat!Proofreading HatsProofreading hat? Really?

Yes, really. Putting on your proofreading hat (literal or figurative—your call) will help you get into the right frame of mind. The more you wear your hat while you proofread, the more you’ll associate your hat with proofreading and the more easily you’ll face the tasks that lie ahead.

I know it’s daunting, but at least you have a cool hat!

And luckily for you, we’ve compiled a proofreading checklist for you. All you have to do is follow it. Easy peasy, right? So, proofreaders, rev up your desk chairs, and don your proofreading hats proudly!

The Ultimate Proofreading Checklist

Complete a First Pass

  • Correct typos. Scan through the document, and make sure everything is spelled correctly. Changing to a different font type can help the eye to catch errors.
  • Thoroughly revise homophones (words that sound the same but have different spellings and meanings). The most common are their/they’re/there, but also consider discrete/discreet, persecute/prosecute, and farther/further.
  • Revise the document based on the conventions of your version of English and your preferred audience/style guide. While U.S. English calls for the serial comma, U.K. English generally does not. You can use the percentage symbol in technical writing, but you should spell out “percent” in most written paragraphs. All the words in your title are capitalized in MLA style, but only the first word is capitalized in most Harvard style guides. All these little rules should be followed according to your location and your audience. Always consult your preferred style guide.
  • Don’t forget to proofread figures and tables. This includes formatting. Make sure the numbering is consistent.
  • Check for faulty parallelism, especially regarding collective nouns. For example, the word “class” is treated as a singular subject.
  • Make sure you’ve used hyphens, en dashes, and em dashes appropriately. The hyphen is used to create compound words, the en dash indicates range, and the em dash is used to break up sentences.
  • Be consistent with spelling. All terms and names should be spelled the same throughout the entire document.
  • Ditto with spelling out numbers. Most style guides spell out numbers between one and nine, and use numerals for numbers 10 and up, unless you’re starting a sentence. Consult your preferred style guide for the correct formatting of dates, times, percentages, equations, etc.
  • Eliminate redundancy, and shorten run-on sentences. Eliminate verbosity. “Due to the fact that” should be cut and replaced with “because.”
  • Revise comma splices. If you’ve split up two independent clauses with a comma, you’ve spliced your sentence. Repair by separating your sentence or introducing a semicolon.
  • Introduce all acronyms. Before using an acronym, present it. There’s nothing more confusing to a reader than a series of letters with zero help from the author about what they mean. After you properly introduce your acronym, you can use it throughout the rest of the paper, except in titles.
  • Cut off the other hand. Sorry, that was graphic. I just mean that, if you’re transitioning with “on the other hand,” “on one hand” has to come before it. To remedy this problem, you can always just use “conversely” instead.
  • Consider tone and language. Verify that the word choice is appropriate for your intended genre/medium/audience.
  • Check that your paragraphs flow together nicely. Like a rickety bridge, any poor connections should be further supported.
  • Verify that your tense is consistent throughout. Slipping between past and present tense is a very common mistake that’s extremely jarring to the reader.
  • ProofreadingCampMake sure your vocabulary is varied. If you’ve said “in addition” for the last three sentences, try changing it up. If you’ve used the word “beautiful” 11 times in a document, a thesaurus can’t hurt. Just make sure you know the exact definition and connotations of any word you use and make sure it conveys the intended meaning.
  • Clarify everything. Ambiguous word choices and sentence structures should be eliminated.
  • Ensure that all your reference information is there. Conversely, do not cite something that does not appear in the work. Make sure the in-text citations match the ones in the reference page.
  • If you find that you’re making major changes, stop proofreading and edit instead. If you’re writing, you’ll probably introduce new errors into your document. Edit first, and make the big changes. Then go back to proofreading.
  • Take off your proofreading hat and walk away for a bit. Drink a cup of coffee, or step outside into the sunshine. At the very least, look at something far away from your desk for no less than 40 seconds. Then, take a deep breath, and get your proofreading hat back on. It’s time for your second pass. Don’t fret. If you’ve done a good job with your first pass, then you can take off your proofreading hat really soon. It’s sad, I know.

Complete a Second Pass

  • Use an automated spell-checker. Know when to accept changes and when to ignore them. Remember that the computer is not always correct.
  • Format the document according to your preferred style guide. This includes margins, headers, paragraphs, spacing, font type and size, etc. It’s finicky work, but it’s important.
  • Double-check your spacing. It’s very common for writers to accidentally space twice between words and sentences. Words should always have only one space between them, and a single space between sentences is quickly becoming the norm. Check your style guide to be sure which is preferred here, but whatever your decision, be consistent.
  • Make sure to quadruple-check important parts of the document. It’s embarrassing when a word is spelled wrong in the title or the conclusion.
  • Read the entire document one more time. Does it flow well? How does it look as a whole? Do you need to make any final changes?

Talk about hat hair! It’s time to hang up your trusty proofreading hat for another day. In the meantime, you can always learn to improve your proofreading skills with ProofreadingCamp. Or, hey, if you think you look weird in hats, we know some people with a collection of hats who would be happy to do your proofreading for you.

Image source: Andrew E. Weber/


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The Order of Adjectives

Order of Adjectives Poster
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You might be thinking, “Order of adjectives? Can’t I just lump them all together in front of the noun and call it a day?” It might surprise you to discover that when adjectives are presented in a series, there’s actually a particular order they must follow. Often, native English speakers follow this order out of habit, knowing that “the big red car” sounds better than “the red big car.”

However, for those just learning the language, understanding the correct order of adjectives can be tricky. Here is the order a list of adjectives should follow:

  1. Determiner
  2. Opinion
  3. Size
  4. Age
  5. Shape
  6. Color
  7. Material
  8. Origin
  9. Purpose

We’ll explain what each of these means and provide some examples so you can figure out exactly where you should be placing different types of adjectives in relation to your noun. (The noun here is puppies. Because everybody loves puppies.)


Determiners include articles (a, an, or the) and other limiters (e.g., your, eight, or his).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The determiner in the example is ten (because you can never have too many puppies).


An adjective of opinion describes an observation or what someone thinks about something (e.g., beautiful, tasty, or horrific).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The opinion in the example is lovable (even though some would argue that’s not so much an opinion as a fact).


Size describes how big or small something is (e.g., bigsmall, minuscule, or enormous).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The size in the example is small.


As you would expect, age describes how young or old something is (e.g., youngoldancient, or new).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The age in the example is young. (We’re talking puppies, not dogs. Not everyone is a dog person, but everyone is a puppy person.)


The next descriptor is the shape of the item being described (e.g., roundsquare, or flat).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The shape in the example is pudgy. Awww!

Parts of Speech


Over halfway there, folks! Next in the list is color (e.g., redpinkish, or yellow).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The color is usually pretty easy to spot. In the example, it’s beige.


The material describes what something is made out of (e.g., woodencotton, silver, or metal).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

Although we all know puppies are made out of love and happiness, technically speaking it’s probably more accurate to describe them as fuzzy.


Origin describes where something is from (e.g., Frenchwestern, or solar).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The origin in the example is French. (These are French bulldog puppies, a breed that originates, as you would expect, in France.)


Purpose describes what something is used for or what it does (e.g., racing [as in racing car] or sleeping [as in sleeping bag]).

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

The purpose of these puppies is to be companions, so the adjective in the example is pet.


Now that you’ve listed all the adjectives, it’s time to identify the word you have been describing (i.e., the noun). Finally! We have reached the puppies.

Ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.

In the example, the noun is puppies, in case you didn’t get the memo . . .


While there are no rules limiting the number of adjectives that can be used, two or three are generally sufficient. (Otherwise, you begin to sound like Al Harrington of Family Guy marketing his Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tubemen!) Most readers would prefer to read “pudgy, fuzzy puppies” than “ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies.” Though I’d take either, if we’re being perfectly honest.

Now that you’ve got the order of adjectives down, find out how to use the other parts of speech with this handy ebook!

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The Language Sandwich: An Overview of the Nine Parts of Speech

The Language Sandwich

A sandwich.

Sandwiches are the best kind of food.

Not only do sandwiches contain different kinds of foods, but they are held together by even more food. You can eat them with your hands or with a knife and fork; you can eat them for breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, or dinner; you can make them sweet or savory, hot or cold; and you can make them with various parts of the English language (the nine parts of speech, to be exact).

Wait, what now?

Did I lose you at the end there? (Or maybe in the middle, where you got up to make yourself a delicious sandwich?) Yes, we can make a sandwich using grammar! And it will be an amazing sandwich, I assure you. After all, the English language has different components, or ingredients if you will, just as sandwiches do. It’s made up of the nine parts of speech, and they’re put together in such a way that everything just works. (Just like that confusingly delicious peanut butter and lettuce sandwich of grade school days. Don’t look at me like that. Just try it.)

We can think of the different parts of speech like different parts of the English language. This will be helpful for understanding how sentences are put together, and it’s also a great way to remember how everything fits together. I hope you’re hungry because it’s time to chow down!

The Nine Parts of Speech

The Language Sandwich Infographic
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If our recipe is “The English Language,” then our ingredients list consists of the nine parts of speech.

  1. Nouns (the bread)
  2. Verbs (the meat)
  3. Pronouns (the type of bread)
  4. Adverbs (the type of meat)
  5. Adjectives (the butter)
  6. Conjunctions (the cheese)
  7. Articles (the mayo)
  8. Prepositions (the lettuce)
  9. Interjections (the mustard)

Click to enlarge the adjacent infographic for a quick go-to guide detailing the parts of speech (and their edible equivalents). But stick with me, and I will define the parts of speech in more detail. By the end of this article, everything will make sense. Let’s start assembling that sandwich!

Nouns (The Bread)

We use nouns to name things, such as a person (e.g., Dagwood), an animal (e.g., a bear), an object (e.g., a grill), a place (e.g., Montreal), actions (e.g., creation), abstract ideas (e.g., love), or qualities (e.g., greed). The capitalized nouns here are all proper nouns, which means they refer to specific people or places, and the lowercase ones are common nouns.

Nouns are the bread of the sandwich. Without the bread, we’d just have a sloppy mess. The sentence kneads nouns. (See what I did there?) And just as there are many different kinds of bread, there are many different kinds of nouns. Nouns are the best thing since sliced bread. (Yeah, we went there.)

Verbs (The Meat)

A verb is used to describe an action (make, as in you make too many sandwiches), an event (toast, as in the bread is toasted), or a state (eat, as in I need to eat). Verbs have different types, tenses, and moods, and they must agree with their subjects to form a correct sentence.

Verbs are the meat of a sentence. A sentence does not exist without a verb, just as a sandwich does not exist without meat. (I can hear the vegetarians and peanut-butter-and-jelly lovers crying out at this point, but go with us here.) Just as you need both a noun and a verb to form a sentence, most people agree you need at least bread and meat to make a sandwich.

Pronouns (The Type of Bread)

Pronouns are used in place of nouns. The purpose of pronouns is to avoid repetition and make sentences easier to understand. A noun that is replaced by a pronoun is referred to as the antecedent. Some of the most common pronouns to remember are he, she, it, they, and this.

Choosing a pronoun is like choosing which type of bread to use for your sandwich. Will it be white bread (he), whole-wheat bread (she), rye (it), sourdough (they), or pita bread (this)? Though there are many types of bread out there—white, whole wheat, rye, baguettes, naan—at the end of the day, it’s all still bread, and we can call it such. The same goes for pronouns, which we use in the place of nouns.

Further, there is a proper type of bread for every sandwich. You can’t just use banana bread to make a pulled-pork sandwich! In the same way, you can’t use he to describe the Queen of England. (Well, you could, but you’d be wrong, and I don’t think Her Majesty would appreciate it.)

Adverbs (The Type of Meat)

An adverb is a part of speech that describes how someone or something performs an action. It is different from an adjective, which describes someone or something. Adverbs give more information about how an action is carried out.

For example, you can put meat in your sandwich (as you should). But what kind of meat? Will it be honey ham, prosciutto, or bologna? Choosing the type of meat greatly influences how the sandwich will taste. It’s the same with adverbs! “She ate the sandwich vigorously” is a different flavor of sentence than “She ate the sandwich slowly.”

Adjectives (The Butter)

Adjectives are simply words used to describe or modify nouns (people, places, things) and pronouns (e.g., I, she, he, it, they, etc.) by depicting, quantifying, or identifying them. When a series of adjectives is used to describe one noun, the adjectives must follow a particular order (like in the case of ten lovable, small, young, pudgy, beige, fuzzy, French pet puppies I know).

Just as butter is closely related to bread, adjectives are closely related to nouns. And just as butter gives flavor to the bread, adjectives give flavor to nouns. (I was going to try to come up with a clever butter pun, but the margarine for error was too high. Ba dum tss!)

Parts of Speech

Conjunctions (The Cheese)

A conjunction is a part of speech that functions as a connector between two sentences, clauses, phrases, or words. In writing, conjunctions can be effectively used in lieu of starting a new sentence. The proper use of conjunctions allows for a more natural flow and rhythm in writing. Popular conjunctions include for, and, nor, but, or, yet, and so.

Because conjunctions draw relationships between parts of the sentence, they’re kind of like cheese. Gooey, delicious, melting cheese. Mmmmm. . . Sorry, what was I talking about again? Oh, right! Cheese is like a conjunction because conjunctions connect the parts of a sentence.

Articles (The Mayo)

Articles help determine whether you are referring to something of a specific type (with definite articles) or something of a general type (with indefinite articles). There are only three articles (the, an, or a) in the English language, so they are very easy to find in a sentence once you know them!

Just like sandwiches are somewhat incomplete without mayo, sentences are incomplete without articles. Also, it’s pretty easy to tell when a sandwich doesn’t have mayo because it’ll be very, very dry. And nobody likes a dry sandwich! It’s just sad.

Prepositions (The Lettuce)

Prepositions link nouns, pronouns, and phrases to the other words in a sentence. The word or phrase that is introduced is called the object of the preposition. Simple prepositions include about, above, after, around, before, below, beneath, during, following, inside, into, near, onto, outside, over, through, to, toward, under, and upon. 

Let us consider how lettuce is like prepositions. Lettuce acts as a bridge between the bread and the meat. Plus, no sandwich is complete without that wonderful crunch. In the same way, prepositions are that missing link. They govern nouns (or pronouns) to express a relationship between nouns (or pronouns) and other words in a sentence.

Interjections (The Mustard)

An interjection is not necessarily grammatically connected to the sentence (e.g., “Hmmm . . . that’s right”), but it is designed to convey the emotion of the speaker or narrator. Interjections are often followed by an exclamation mark; for example, “yum!” and “wow!” are both interjections.

Like interjections, mustard can be surprising (oh!) in taste and smell, adding a little something extra to the sandwich. And like mustard, interjections change the flavor of the whole sentence. You’re done building your sandwich, so slap some mustard on it and tie a napkin around your neck.


I hope you’re ready to eat. We’ve been through the nine parts of speech and now have a magnificent English-language sandwich to consume. It might even bring a tear to your eye.

There’s nothing more satisfying than the first bite of a beautifully layered sandwich you’ve worked so hard to put together. So now that you’re finished, it’s time to enjoy. Why not kick back, eat your sandwich, and crack open a book?

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5 Struggles Faced by International Students

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome Them

Five Struggles Faced by International Students and How to Overcome ThemBeing an international student is an incredible experience. Many students travel from all over the world to attend universities in the United States and in Canada. While many of these students do very well in their new environments, most still face struggles at some point or another. Moving across the globe all by yourself—usually at the young age of 18 or 19—is a pretty big deal. If you’re an international student in North America and you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, don’t panic—you are not alone. Here is a list of five common struggles for international students, along with the best methods for overcoming them.

Struggle #1: Language Barriers

The Problem: Even if you’ve been speaking English for your entire life, learning to understand native English speakers can be a major challenge. Depending on where you are studying, the dialect could be almost impossible for you to understand right away—native English speakers can also have trouble understanding the dialects of English speakers living in regions different than their own. Even if dialect isn’t a factor, speed and slang certainly are added obstacles. Native English speakers may speak so quickly that you can’t separate the words, and they may use lots of terms and phrases that mean absolutely nothing to someone who is not well-versed in English colloquialisms. Being unable to communicate fully in English upon arrival at school can make it very difficult to make friends and to fully succeed in your classes.

The Solution: Make friends! This may seem difficult, but really, a university is the perfect venue for meeting people with whom you share common interests. Just like you’re interested in North American culture, customs, and language, many native students will be interested in where you come from and what your life was like in your home country. If you take time to communicate with your new friends exactly what your language limitations are, many of them will work to accommodate your needs.

The more you speak English with your new friends, the easier it will become to understand their speech and to generate more of your own. For example, I had a friend at my university who was an international student from Pakistan. His English skills were already very good upon arriving in Canada, but he had a hard time with slang and idioms. Instead of just avoiding the use of these phrases, he created a method for learning them. Whenever someone used a phrase with which he was unfamiliar, he asked what it meant. After the person explained—usually with some difficulty, as it is very difficult to explain why phrases like “I’m feeling under the weather” or “take it with a grain of salt” mean what they do—my friend would write down the phrase, along with its meaning, in a memo pad on his cellphone. He would then casually try these new phrases in his own speech with his friends to make sure he was using them correctly.

Struggle #2: Academic Issues

The Problem: Like most international students, you may be very serious about succeeding academically. After all, you did travel across the globe to receive your education. Still, sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try—some assignments or tasks may be too challenging. This can be especially true for projects that involve strong English language skills or abstract writing abilities, like essays. It can be very frustrating to fully understand a concept but be unable to express it satisfactorily in English.

The Solution: Talk to your teachers! Most professors want to help their students succeed. Though it may make you nervous at first, utilize resources like office hours and study groups. Stop in to talk to your instructor if you are struggling with an assignment. It is perfectly acceptable at North American universities to actively seek help when you are having a hard time. If your professors are unable to help you themselves, they can refer you to resources that they think will be helpful, like your university’s academic writing center.

Struggle #3: Homesickness

The Problem: Moving away to school is a major transition, even when you aren’t moving a two-day plane ride away. It’s easy to quickly fall into homesickness, especially if you find yourself feeling isolated. You may start missing your family, your friends, the customs of your home country, and even the food you are used to eating.

The Solution: Once again, the solution to this struggle is to make friends! While it’s great to call home sometimes to chat with your family and friends, you shouldn’t rely on this contact to keep yourself from being homesick. Instead, you should spend lots of time with new friends. These can be both international students like yourself and North American students. You may find that it makes you feel better to tell your new friends about your life at home, to sometimes speak your native tongue with friends from your country, to teach foreign words to native English speakers, and even to expose your new friends to the foods you are accustomed to eating.

Struggle #4: Staying Active

The Problem: Your lifestyle may change drastically when you move to school. If you’re anything like other students, you’ll probably find yourself spending lots of time sitting around. Whether you’re hanging out with friends, sitting in class, studying for exams, or writing a paper, you may have a hard time getting the same amount of exercise you’re used to. On top of that, the new foods you’re eating may be drastically different from (and greasier than) your regular diet. It doesn’t take very long for what North Americans cutely call “the Freshman 15” to settle onto your hips. And let me tell you—there is nothing cute about it.

The Solution: Take advantage of your school’s resources. Don’t be afraid to try going to the gym—after all, you have a free membership! Most university recreational centers also offer free fitness classes and intramural sports. Even if physical exercise has never been your cup of tea, you should make an attempt to do something other than hang out in your dorm room. Consider joining an academic or social club, and try to become familiar with the city you’re staying in by using public transportation and going for walks. Staying busy and active will also help you avoid homesickness.

Struggle #5: Other Problems

The Problem: You’ve made friends. You’ve joined clubs. You’ve attended classes, written papers, and studied for exams. But still, something is missing. You’re not happy. Maybe there’s something personal going on in your life, or maybe you’re just having a hard time with the transition to post-secondary education. Whatever the reason, you’re not enjoying your life, and that’s a problem.

The Solution: While it may be difficult for some international students to understand, in North America, it is completely acceptable to ask for help when you are having problems. Most universities offer counseling services for their students. Usually, a certain number of sessions are covered by your student health plan, which means you can talk to a counselor for free. Utilize these resources while you can—these types of services are not usually free of cost in contexts other than school, and they can be very helpful when you’re trying to deal with complicated issues. Don’t struggle alone—learn how to reach out.


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Grammar Errors in Your Favorite Songs

Grammar Errors in Your Favorite

What You Can Learn from These 4 Lyric Mistakes

Grammar Errors in Your Favorite“Music is the universal language of mankind,” according to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. But does the same logic apply to lyrics? What about lyrics riddled with grammatical errors?

Some people have a hard time listening to grammar errors in songs. These people believe that rules are rules, and that artists should somehow figure out a way to make tricky lines work without using double negatives or bending the rules of verb moods. Well, I say “Phooey” to those people. That’s right, I just used a slang word! You know why? Because I’m speaking in a casual (rather than formal) tone—the main concern is that I adequately convey my meaning.

When it comes to language, there is a time and a place for everything. When you’re writing a casual blog post, you don’t need to be as strict with your language usage as you do when you’re writing a formal paper. When you’re speaking, you don’t need to follow the rules the same way that you do when you’re writing, and when you’re singing a song, you can toss caution to the wind and make your own rules, as long as the result sounds good. It’s true that song lyrics often have very obvious grammatical errors, but what would you rather passionately belt along to “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone” or the much more laborious “There is no sunshine when she’s gone”? You could even make the sentence longer: “There is not any sunshine while she is away.” Is that what you want? To make classic songs unsingable? I didn’t think so.

Still, this is a grammar blog, and as such, I have to assume that you’ve come here to learn about grammar rules. So let’s take a look at some examples of grammatical errors in song lyrics and see what lessons we can learn from them.

1. Objective versus Subjective Pronouns

The culprit: Lady Gaga

The songs: “Bad Romance,” “You and I”

In her megahit “Bad Romance,” Gaga sings: “I want your love and/I want your revenge/You and me could write a bad romance.” As I’m sure your grandmother has pointed out to you hundreds of times, this should be “you and I.” Ironically, Gaga makes the opposite error in her other single, which is actually titled “You and I“: “Somethin’, somethin’ about my cool Nebraska guy/Yeah something about, baby, you and I.”

Gaga has misused her pronouns in both of these songs. The pronoun I is used when the I in question is the subject of the sentence, while the pronoun me is used when the me that is referred to is the object of the sentence.

The easiest way to remember when to use I versus when to use me is to remove the other noun or pronoun from the sentence. So, in the case of “Bad Romance,” we would test this by saying “I want your revenge/Me could write a bad romance.” When the lyric is written like this, it becomes clear that the correct pronoun here is I, because I is the subject of the sentence in question. Conversely, for “You and I,” we can test the lyric by saying “Somethin’ about, baby, I.” You would never say “something about I.” This should be “something about me,” because me is the object of the sentence. The lyric should thus be “something about, baby, you and me.”

Why we forgive Gaga: First, we can forgive Gaga because Mother Monster is not the first songwriter to make this mistake. Other artists with songs incorrectly named “You and I” include Stevie Wonder, Barbra Streisand, John Legend, and many more. For most of these songs, I has been chosen over me for the sake of rhyming.

This is also a common error that people make in everyday speech, probably because somewhere down the grammar line someone started the rumor that it’s never correct to say “you and me.” As for the “Bad Romance” error, we’re going to give Gaga some credit and say she purposefully used bad grammar in her lyric about a bad romance. Plus, you know, this line had to fit in with the rest of the song’s lyrics: “Rah-rah-ah-ah-ah/Roma-ro-ma-ma/Ga-ga-oo-la-lah.” Much words. Very lyric.

2. Moody Verbs

Elvis Presley.The culprit: Elvis Presley

The song: “Hound Dog”

“When they said you was high class, well that was just a lie…” And when they said Elvis was a grammar nerd, well, that was clearly just a lie as well. The problem with this lyric is the use of the word was. The word were should be used here instead, but why? Because this sentence calls for the subjunctive mood of the verb to be. The subjunctive mood is used when referring to something that hasn’t happened/isn’t going to happen (like a wish, a desire, or a possible future event), or to something that is not true. In this case, the claims that the “hound dog” was high class were untrue, hence the need for the subjunctive were.

Why we forgive Elvis: Have you ever watched a late-1950s video of Elvis Presley performing “Hound Dog”? Have you seen this man dance? Have you seen the way his legs move as if independent from his body? I’m sure you haven’t, because if you had, you wouldn’t be concerned with such trifles as incorrect verb moods in his lyrics. Come on now, people—priorities!

3. Double Negatives

The culprit: The Rolling Stones

The song: “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”
What’s wrong with saying “I can’t get no satisfaction“? Nothing, as long as your name is Mick Jagger and you’re singing this classic rock song. The grammatical problem with this lyric is the use of the double negative. If the Stones are not getting “no satisfaction,” does this mean they are indeed getting some satisfaction? This unclear meaning is the reason why double negatives are generally not acceptable in written language, though the intended meaning of these statements is usually clear enough in a colloquial spoken context.

Why we forgive The Rolling Stones: Because saying “I can’t get any satisfaction” just doesn’t have the same punch to it, and because this is widely considered to be one of the greatest songs of all time. Besides that, what fun would rock stars be if they followed all the rules?

4. Lay versus Lie

The culprit: Bob Dylan

The song: “Lay Lady Lay”

In this oft-covered classic, Dylan entreats his lady not to leave. “Lay, lady, lay, lay across my big brass bed,” he croons over and over again. The problem here? Dylan is repeatedly using the wrong word. Technically speaking, the lyrics here should be “Lie, lady, lie, lie across my big brass bed.” Why is this?

The word lay should only be used when a direct object is involved. An easier way to think of this is to remember that you have to be talking about the act of laying something, usually as in laying something down. If Dylan were laying his lady down, or if he was asking her to lay herself down, his lyrics would be correct. On a side note, Bon Jovi clearly knew what’s up here, as evidenced by the lyrics of their song “Bed of Roses”: “I wanna lay you down on a bed of roses.” So, Jon Bon Jovi can lay his lady down on a bed of roses, someone can lay down their arms, or you can lay something on me. But when I’m sleepy, I have to go lie down.

Why we forgive Bob: For one thing, this is a very common error in spoken language. It’s one of those mistakes that do not really change the intended meaning of what a person is trying to say, so it’s generally an acceptable error to make when speaking. The problem that we’re sure Dylan was facing here was the fact that the proper word choice, lie, has more than one meaning. To lie means to recline or rest, yes, but it also means saying something that’s not true. Dylan probably didn’t want people to think that he was inviting a big fat liar to hang out in his big brass bed with him, so he opted to use the wrong word because it actually gave the song a clearer meaning.

Final Thoughts

I’ve used some specific examples for the sake of this article, but in reality, these same errors occur in songs all the time. You can choose to harp incessantly on the artists who make these errors in their music, or you can pull an Adele Dazeem and let it go. If you can’t listen to the magical ballad that is “Let It Go” without criticizing the lyrics, I don’t think I can help you.

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Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can’t Believe You Didn’t Learn

Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can't Believe You Didn't Learn Until University

Top 10 Grammar Rules You Can't Believe You Didn't Learn Until UniversityGrammar is an exhaustive subject, with layers of rules from the basic to the obscure. Teaching styles have changed over the past century, and common rules your grandmother learned through memorization and practice could be a mystery to younger generations encouraged to stray from those rules and let their creativity flow. Below are the top 10 grammar rules that you may not have learned until university.

1. A comma and a coordinating conjunction should be used to combine two independent clauses.

What do you call a series of ideas linked by only a comma? A run-on sentence (or comma splice)! This mistake runs rampant in academic writing, regardless of how well the writer thinks he or she knows English. Even worse is that a lot of people are not taught the difference between independent and dependent clauses before attending university, when writing—and writing well—becomes a fact of life.

How detrimental is the comma splice? Run-on sentences detract from the readability and flow of any writing. Arguments can quickly become convoluted and incomprehensible when too many ideas are introduced in one long sentence. When writing needs to be clear and concise, thoughts should be organized using punctuation in all the right places.

Do this:

Holiday shopping is stressful for a lot of people, but some families budget for it.

Not this:

A snowy, cold winter is common in Canada, people sometimes have a hard time keeping up with shoveling, there are storms when the snow gets so high that you cannot make it out of your driveway for days!

2. A semicolon is most often used to separate two independent, closely related clauses.

The rules for using a semicolon are clearly unknown to many people who reach the university level. Writers use this commonly misunderstood form of punctuation in haphazard, mysterious ways. A semicolon is often mistaken for a colon, is used in place of the comma, or even appears at the end of sentences in truly odd situations.

Do this:

Reality TV is a favorite pastime for many people; however, those who hate reality TV have a lot of complaints.

Not this:

Reality TV is a favorite pastime for many people. However; those who hate reality TV have a lot of complaints.

3. A colon is used after a complete sentence to introduce a word, phrase, clause, list, or quotation.

The colon, often mistaken for or incorrectly replaced with the semicolon, has several uses that remain elusive to many writers. The colon is all too often forgotten completely or found in the wrong places at the wrong times.

Do this:

We must remember to buy the following groceries: eggs, milk, flour, and apples.

Not this:

We must remember to buy the following groceries eggs, milk, flour, and apples.

4. A list or comparison of equally significant ideas should use the same grammatical pattern.

Items in a series need to have a parallel structure that uses equal grammatical units. This means that nouns should follow nouns, and subordinate clauses should follow subordinate clauses. If you use a certain form of a verb in each segment of the series, it should be the same in each segment.

Do this:

Her car needed its tires rotated, oil changed, and windshield wipers replaced.

Not this:

Her car needed its tires rotated, oil changing, and its windshield wipers to be replaced.

5. Do not split your infinitives in formal writing.

The infinitive split is a common grammatical mistake that many people don’t even realize they are making. An infinitive is the most basic form of a verb that is not bound by a particular subject or tense, as in “to type.” What writers often do is insert a modifier between the “to” and its accompanying verb—a definite grammar no-no in formal writing (although this rule is disputed in more casual writing). To keep sentences clear, never split your infinitives.

Do this:

I’ll need my best tennis shoes if I’m going to run quickly.

Not this:

I’ll need my best tennis shoes if I’m going to quickly run.

6. A hyphen connects, an en dash separates numbers in a sequence, and an em dash offsets nonessential information from the rest of a sentence.

Where were you when you discovered that a dash isn’t just a dash and that a hyphen belongs in a particular place and not in others? Really, there are three separate forms of punctuation that all look like a dash: the hyphen (-), the en dash (–), and the em dash (—). A hyphen is used to connect compound adjectives, such as blue-green, or compound verbs, such as freeze-dried. It is also used in modifying compounds when modifiers come before a noun, such as high-speed connection.

En dashes, however, are the proper punctuation to use when displaying a range of numbers, like so: 5–10. Em dashes can be used much like a comma to offset nonessential information—information that doesn’t change the meaning of the sentence but does add description.

7. Adjectives modify nouns; adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.

The difference between an adjective and an adverb seems lost on many writers who never learned the grammatical difference. An adjective is a word that modifies only a noun, whereas an adverb is a word that usually ends in “ly” and modifies verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Knowing these differences is important when you need to keep your writing concise, as most adverbs can be removed from a sentence without changing the meaning.


The large, purple flowers on the orchid were wilting.


The large, purple flowers on the orchid were slowly wilting.

8. “I.e.” stands for “that is,” and “e.g.” stands for “for example.”

Many people believe that i.e. and e.g. can be used interchangeably. Both are abbreviations of Latin terms, but each is used in a specific situation. The first, i.e., stands for the Latin term id est, whereas e.g. stands for exempli gratia. I.e. should be used to offer more information or to restate an idea, and e.g. should be used to include an example.


“There are three main methods of motor transportation in the city (i.e., if you can’t afford taxis, try the subway or bus).”


The bake sale included a huge variety of treats (e.g., cookies, pies, cakes, and pastries).

9. Explain an acronym in full the first time it appears. Every usage afterward should be the acronym.

Acronyms can also be mysterious to a writer who doesn’t know the correct grammatical usage. Just remember, an acronym needs to be written out fully the first time it appears in a writing and then used consistently throughout the rest of the writing each time the term appears.

First use:

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) was founded in England in 1824.

Second use:

The SPCA is dedicated to protecting animal welfare and finding homes for unwanted animals.

10. A modifier (a word, phrase, or clause that describes something else) goes next to the thing it modifies.

Misplacing your modifier can lead to some very confused readers. A sentence can sound awkward or the meaning can be changed completely if a word, phrase, or clause is separated from the word it describes.

Do this:

I picked up my new hamster, Bert, who was small and fluffy.

Not this:

Small and fluffy, I picked up my new hamster, Bert.

Even if you didn’t learn them until university, remembering these top 10 grammar rules is sure to strengthen your writing and help you earn better grades. To enhance your grammar skills even further, consider taking an online grammar training course, such as GrammarCamp.


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