Each page corresponds to a specific grammar or usage problem for student writers. When you click on a link, you will be taken to a page with an explanation of the problem and how to correct it. On each page there will be links to free PDF files. The primary PDF contains an explanation on the first page and exercises on the second. Some worksheet pages have additional exercises. I will add supplemental exercises over time.
If you would like all (20 different topics) of the worksheets, along with the answers and tips on teaching (or learning) every topic, get the answers (with teaching tips) to every worksheet, a total of 208 pages of grammar and usage exercises, with answers and tips for teaching for $7.00.
A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined only with a comma and no other conjunction. Remember that an independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as a sentence. It is one of the most common errors in student writing. A comma splice is fairly easy to correct. The page and the primary worksheet contain easy ways to correct it.
A fused sentence occurs when two independent clauses are joined with no punctuation whatsoever. The clauses are simply connected or "fused." Sometimes comma splices and fused sentences are called "run on sentences." We use the more descriptive terms, "comma splices" and "fused sentences."
A sentence fragment is a group of words that starts with a capital letter and ends with a period. This group of words, however, cannot stand alone as a sentence. A sentence fragment usually needs an idea to complete its meaning or the syntax needs to be changed.
Many native and non-native speakers of English alike do not understand the difference between using the word lie and using the word lay. This worksheet attempts to clarify the difference. Both lie and lay are verbs, meaning that they indicate an action of some sort. However, the verb lie and the verb lay are two absolutely different words, like rhinoceros and apple. They are not variants of the same word.
A common error in our writing is using the apostrophe (or NOT using it) incorrectly when trying to show that something belongs to someone. The most common manifestation of this error is the use of its, it's, and its' (This last form does not exist in standard written English.)
People are so mystified (confused) about the use of who and whom that some of us are tempted to throw our hands in the air and say, “it just doesn’t matter.” But it does matter. Those who know (and not just English teachers), judge those who misuse it. Not using who and whom correctly can cost you, not just in school, but also in life. Who is the subject form and whom is the object form.
In the words of Joseph Williams, “A noun derived from a verb or adjective has a technical name: nominalization." This worksheet examines briefly the nature of nominalizations and offers concrete suggestions for rewriting them.
This worksheet discusses the question of agreement between a pronoun and its antecedent. An antecedent is a word that comes before something. The root ante, meaning “before,” gives you a clue. In English grammar we have a term called number, and it means one of two things: singular (only one) or plural (more than one). A pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent. In other words, if you use a singular noun or pronoun, you must use a singular pronoun to refer to the original.
In formal writing, students often mix pronouns in the same sentence, freely substituting "you" and "they." These shifts in pronouns create a shift in point of view, which may confuse readers. This worksheet discusses common pitfals in pronoun shifts.
A “dangling participle” has no noun in the sentence to which the participle would logically attach. A “misplaced participle” does have a noun, but that noun does not come directly after the participle, thus creating a confusing sentence. This worksheet discusses common errors in writing misplaced or dangling participles and ways to correct them.
The term voice refers to the structure of a sentence. There are two “voices” in English grammar, active voice and passive voice. In an active voice sentence, the agent (the one who does the action in the sentence) is used explicitly as the grammatical subject. The thing that the agent does something to (the direct object) comes after the verb. In a passive voice sentence, the thing that the agent does something to, is used as the grammatical subject of the sentence. The agent (the one who does the action) is placed after the subject, usually in a prepositional phrase.
Having a strong authorial voice refers to the tone of the writer. An author has a strong voice (in writing) if she presents her information with conviction and authority. Using expressions such as "in my opinion" or "it is my belief that" weakens the author's voice. This lesson gives writers simple hints on writing with authority and conviction.
Sometimes students overuse the verbs "to be" and "to have" including their different forms. Such writing weakens the prose, making nouns do the bulk of the work. This sheet provides an explanation of what weak verbs are and simple steps to strengthen weak verbs in a sentence.
Non-native speakers of English as well as native speakers misuse the words "less" and "fewer." These words are used in comparisons. The word "less" is used with non-count nouns, while the word "fewer" is used with count nouns. For example, "James has fewer shoes than Anna." Shoes are countable. However, "James has less anxiety than Timothy." Anxiety is not countable.
In a parallel sentence, items of equivalent meaning are expressed using the same grammatical structure. Faulty parallelism occurs when those items are expressed using different structures. For example, the sentence "Ariel plays the flute, performs ballet, and records books for the blind" is parallel." The three verbs, "plays," "performs," and "records" are exprssed using the same grammatical structure.
The demonstratives this, that, these, and those, when they are used as pronouns, can sometimes make your writing unclear. In general, use the demonstrative word as an adjective, instead of a pronoun, at the beginning of a sentence.
Take, for example, the following sentences: "Justin Bieber taught himself to play the piano, drums, guitar, and trumpet. This made Justin Bieber capable of laying his own tracks in a studio."The word "This" in the second sentence is used as a demonstrative pronoun, but what does "This" really refer to? A careful writer will make that referent obvious: "This versatility made Justin Bieber capable of laying his own tracks in a studio."
All sentences have a subject and a verb, and that subject and verb must agree. Singular subjects require a singular verb form, while plural subjects require a plural verb form. Subject-Verb agreement is simple, in principle, but it is not always easy to carry out in speaking and writing. Three verbs, in particular, often confuse students: to be, to have, and to do.
Sometimes writers rush through sentences, and the results are sometimes convoluted blurbs. Some handbooks call these sentence types "faulty predication," and indeed sometimes the predication is faulty. However, a more appropriate term may be "confusing sentences" because sometimes these sentences are written so poorly that the meaning is lost.
Some common patterns include the "xxx is when" and "the reason for xxx is because." For example, "The reason why Hugh received an F is because he did not study." The easiest way to correct a sentence of this type is to look for the "agent" or "doer of the action." In this case, the agent is "Hugh." Use the agent as the grammatical subject of the sentence, and state what the agent does as the verb.
Revised: Hugh received an F because he did not study.
A great deal of the writing that high school and college students do involves commenting on the writing of others. When we use material from other writers, we must "give credit to" (or attribute) the information to those other writers. Verbs of attribution make it simple for us to do so.