Higher Writing Fixing Technical Errors
In this session we will look at: • Sentence construction • Punctuation • Linking phrases
Common errors • Non-sentences/sentence fragments • Poor punctuation • Simplistic style • At Higher level you must show that you can write with style. Fixing the above problems will work wonders in improving your grade.
What is a sentence? • Contains a subject and a verb. • Is a complete thought. • There are differing types of sentence and you must learn the difference.
Simple sentence (main clause) • Contains a subject and a verb. • E.g. The novel ‘The Wasp factory’ was written by Iain Banks. • Which is the subject and which is the verb? • Come up with one of your own.
Compound sentence • Two simple sentences joined by a coordinating conjunction. • ‘The Wasp Factory’ is a novel by Iain Banks, and it is set on the coast of northern Scotland. • Coordinating conjunctions: For, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. • Write one of your own…
Complex sentence • Made up of a main clause and a subordinate clause • A subordinate clause begins with a subordinate conjunction or a relative pronoun and will contain both a subject and a verb. • It is not a complete sentence. The reader needs additional information to finish the thought.
Subordinate conjunction • After • Although • As • Because • Before • Even if • Even • Though • If • Once • Provided • That • Rather than • Since • So that • Than • That • Until • When • Whenever • Where • Whereas • Wherever • Whether • While • Why
Relative pronouns • Which • Whichever • Who • Whoever • Whom • Whose
Examples • Until Mr Williams has a cup of tea, • Finish with a main clause (must make sense on its own). • ‘The Wasp Factory’ is classed as Gothic horror, because it has much gruesome content. • Come up with a few of your own, experimenting with different subordinate conjunctions.
What are the following punctuation marks and why are they used? • . • , • “ • ‘ • - • () • ; • :
Semi-colons and colons These two punctuation marks are often confused and their effects are often confused as well.
Semi-colon (semi+ half so a half colon= ;) Semicolon (;) The main task of the semicolon is to mark a break that is stronger than a comma but not as final as a full stop. It’s used between two main clauses that balance each other and are too closely linked to be made into separate sentences, as in these two examples. Unlike a comma, it can be used instead of a conjunction: • The road runs through a beautiful wooded valley; the railway line follows it. • An art director searched North Africa; I went to the Canary Islands. You can also use a semicolon as a stronger division in a sentence that already contains commas- to break up a list: • The study showed the following: 76% of surveyed firms monitor employee Web-surfing activities, with 65% blocking access to unauthorized Internet locations; over one-third of the firms monitor employee computer keystrokes; half reported storing and reviewing employee emails; 57% monitor employee telephone behaviour, including the inappropriate use of voicemail. • Write two closely related sentences and join with a semicolon.
Colon= : Colon (:) There are three main uses of the colon: 1. between two main clauses in cases where the second clause explains or follows from the first (providing extra information about the first clause): • That is the secret of my extraordinary life: always do the unexpected. • It wasn’t easy: to begin with, I had to find the right house. 2. to introduce a list: • The price includes the following: travel to London, flight to Venice, hotel accommodation, and excursions. • The job calls for skills in the following areas: proofing, editing, and database administration. 3. before a quotation, and sometimes before direct speech: • The headline read: ‘Taxi Driver Battles Gangsters’. • They shouted: ‘Our families are starving! We need land!’ Task: use a colon when writing about ‘The Wasp Factory’.
Apostrophes Apostrophe (’) • Many people have difficulty with this punctuation mark. The best way to get apostrophes right is to understand when and why they are used. There are two main cases • Using apostrophes to show possession • Using apostrophes to show omission
Apostrophes showing possession You use an apostrophe to show that a thing or person belongs or relates to someone or something: instead of saying the party of Ben or the weather of yesterday, you can write Ben’s party and yesterday’s weather. Here are the main guidelines for using apostrophes to show possession: Singular nouns and most personal names With a singular noun or most personal names: add an apostrophe plus s: • We met at Ben’s party. • The dog’s tail wagged rapidly. • Yesterday’s weather was dreadful.
Apostrophes showing possession Personal names that end in –s With personal names that end in -s: add an apostrophe plus s when you would naturally pronounce an extra s if you said the word out loud: • He joined Charles’s army in 1642. • Dickens's novels provide a wonderful insight into Victorian England. • Thomas's brother was injured in the accident. Note that there are some exceptions to this rule, especially in names of places or organizations, for example: • St Thomas’ Hospital If you aren’t sure about how to spell a name, look it up in an official place such as the organization’s website. With personal names that end in -s but are not spoken with an extra s: just add an apostrophe after the -s: • The court dismissed Bridges' appeal. • Connors' finest performance was in 1991.
Apostrophes showing possession Plural nouns that end in –s With a plural noun that already ends in -s: add an apostrophe after the s: • The mansion was converted into a girls’ school. • The work is due to start in two weeks’ time. • My duties included cleaning out the horses’ stables. Plural nouns that do not end in -s With a plural noun that doesn’t end in –s: add an apostrophe plus s: • The children’s father came round to see me. • He employs 14 people at his men’s clothing store. The only cases in which you do not need an apostrophe to show belonging is in the group of words called possessive pronouns - these are the words his, hers, ours, yours, theirs (meaning ‘belonging to him, her, us, you, or them’) - and with the possessive determiners. These are the words his, hers, its, our, your, their (meaning 'belonging to or associated with him, her, it, us, you, or them'). Also its. It’s falls under the category of apostrophes showing omission!!
Apostrophes showing omission An apostrophe can be used to show that letters or numbers have been omitted. Here are some examples of apostrophes that indicate missing letters: • I’m - short for I am • he’ll - short for he will • she’d – short for she had or she would • pick ’n’ mix - short for pick and mix • it’s hot - short for it is hot • didn’t - short for did not It also shows that numbers have been omitted, especially in dates, e.g. the Berlin Wall came down in the autumn of ’89 (short for 1989).
It’s or its? These two words can cause a lot of confusion: many people are uncertain about whether or not to use an apostrophe. These are the rules to remember: its (without an apostrophe) means ‘belonging to it’: • The dog wagged its tail. • Each case is judged on its own merits. it’s (with an apostrophe) means ‘it is’ or ‘it has’: • It’s been a long day. • It’s cold outside. • It’s a comfortable car and it’s got some great gadgets.
Dashes Dash (–) ( not to be confused with a hyphen!!)) A dash is used: 1. in pairs, to mark off information or ideas that are not essential to an understanding of the rest of the sentence (parenthesis): • Thousands of children – like the girl in this photograph – have been left homeless. • My son – where has he gone? – would like to meet you. 2. to show other kinds of break in a sentence where a comma, semicolon, or colon would be traditionally used: • One thing’s for sure – he doesn’t want to face the truth. • Things have changed a lot in the last year – mainly for the better. Dashes are especially common in informal writing, such as personal emails or blogs, but it’s best to use them sparingly when you are writing formally.
Hyphens (not to be confused with dashes!!) A Hyphen joins two words together to make a new one i.e. He was holding a half-full glass. However, it is not as simple as that as in the sentence ‘Is the glass half full?’ you don't need a hyphen between half and full. The hyphen is only used when the word is a compound modifier that comes before a noun! Here's another example: • They were in a long-term relationship. (In that sentence, I hyphenated long-term because it comes before the noun relationship. Long-term is a compound adjective that modifies the word relationship.) • Their relationship was long term. (No hyphen. I didn't hyphenate long term because it comes after the noun.)
Hyphens Can Change a Sentence's Meaning Sometimes it is especially important to hyphenate the compound modifier because words can mean different things depending on the hyphenation. When you hyphenate the words, you are applying them as a single unit to the noun. For example, there's a difference between a hot-water bottle with a hyphen and a hot water bottle without a hyphen. When you hyphenate hot-water, you're making it a single compound modifier that applies to the word bottle. It's a bottle for holding hot water. But when you don't hyphenate hot water, the words are separate modifiers and you're describing a water bottle that is currently hot: • A hot-water bottle is a bottle for holding hot water. • A hot water bottle is a water bottle that is hot. Always consider whether hyphenation will affect your meaning.
In-Word Hyphenation Meaning also matters when you are trying to decide whether to use a hyphen within a word. For example, if you didn't press your jeans properly and you need to re-press them, you would write that with a hyphen: I need to re-press my jeans. Otherwise, people might think you mean the verb repress meaning "to stifle or put down." You re-press jeans, but repress bad memories: • You need to re-press your jeans. • You need to repress those bad memories. You use a hyphen when when you're joining a prefix to a word that must be capitalized and when joining a letter to a word. For example, you use a hyphen in • Anti-American • Un-American • Pre-Mesozoic • X-ray • A-list • T-shirt Also, you use hyphens to write out numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine. For example • Thirty-five • Sixty-four • Ninety-three
How to Use Commas!!!! Commas are tricky because there are so many different ways you can use them, but one of the most common ways to use commas is to separate two main clauses that are connected by a coordinating conjunction. That just means that when you join two things that could be sentences on their own with a word such as “and,” “but,” or “or,” you need a comma before the conjunction: • Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves. Squiggly ran to the forest is a complete sentence, and Aardvark chased the peeves is also a complete sentence. To join them with a comma, you need the word “and” or some other coordinating conjunction. If you just put a comma between them, that's an error called a comma splice or a comma fault: • Squiggly ran to the forest, Aardvark chased the peeves. (wrong!! Comma splice!!!)
Comma splicing!!! (poor commas!!) What Is a Comma Splice? Here's an example • Sara obviously named that one, she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. (wrong) It's easy to see in that example why the error is called a comma splice: it's because the comma is used to splice together two complete sentences when that isn't the function of a comma. Commas aren't meant to join main clauses all by themselves; to force them into that role is to perpetrate a comma splice. The good news is that it's easy to fix a comma splice once you're aware of the problem. Because the two clauses are complete sentences, you can treat them that way and use a full stop. • Sara obviously named that one. She was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. It's a full stop's job to separate complete sentences.
How to Use a Semicolon to Fix a Comma Splice • Sara obviously named that one, she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. (wrong) If the two sentences are closely related to each other, as they are in the sentence above, you can use a semicolon to connect them without a coordinating conjunction: • Sara obviously named that one; she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns. The semicolon makes sense because the second clause expands on the reasoning of the first clause. He's saying that it's obvious that Sara named the cow because she liked “Happy Days” reruns and the cow is named after a “Happy Days” character. You can think of a semicolon as a “sentence splicer” because its job is to splice complete sentences together.
How to Use Coordinating Conjunctions to Fix a Comma Splice Sometimes, you can also fix a comma splice by adding a coordinating conjunction. It doesn't work with the last example sentence because it doesn't make any sense to add an “and” or any of the other coordinating conjunctions. It changes the meaning to say ‘Sara obviously named that one, and she was a sucker for those old “Happy Days” reruns’ . But if I go back to the other sentence with a comma splice—’Squiggly ran to the forest, Aardvark chased the peeves’—you can see that it makes sense to connect those two sentences with a coordinating conjunction and a comma: • Squiggly ran to the forest, and Aardvark chased the peeves.
More Comma Splice Examples Let's take one more mangled sentence and see if we can fix it! This one is where the writer’s explaining how one of the characters lured in investors for his evil plan: • ‘They were getting it, he had them.’ (wrong) So in the comma splice repair kit, we've got full stops, semicolons, and coordinating conjunctions.
‘They were getting it, he had them.’ (wrong) Does the full-stop work? The full stop definitely works: They were getting it. He had them. Does the semi-colon work? The semicolon works because the two clauses are related: They were getting it; he had them. Does a conjunction work? And in this case we can add a coordinating conjunction to fix the problem too: They were getting it, and he had them.
Comma Splice Summary • Commas aren't meant to join main clauses all by themselves; to force them into that role is to perpetrate a comma splice. That's bad, but it's easy to fix- use a full-stop, semi-colon or comma and conjunction instead.
Still unsure?? Let Grammar Girl help you!! Go to: http://grammar.quickanddirtytips.com/
Why? • Knowing these words and phrases will help improve your writing. • It will help the flow of your argument. • I have provided a list for your benefit. • You should try to bring these in to your own writing. • If used at the start of a sentence, offset with a comma. • E.g. Additionally, Furthermore, However,