Guide to Grammar and Writing

You might complain that having perfect grammar and carefully crafted sentences is outdated in today's world of IM-speak and 140-character blogs. And, while you might have a point, the ability to convey oneself clearly in writing hasn't gone the way of cassette tapes quite yet. In fact, it's crucial in a multitude of settings, from crafting that cover letter for your next job, to publishing articles online or in print-any situation where it's important to convince someone to listen to what you have to say. 

We've hunted down the best resources on all the major aspects of good writing, from how to tell if your comma use is grammar-legal, to how to structure an essay. Check out these links on sentences, paragraphs, essays and punctuation that can help make formal writing as easy as texting.

Sentences - Paragraphs - Essays - Punctuation

Sentences

  • Crafting Strong Sentences: A Guide and Workbook: Use this guide from an introductory writing seminar at University of California Davis to refresh yourself on all the basic college writing techniques you've forgotten (or slept through). This 100-page guidebook offers exercises to help you distinguish grammar errors, weird diction, and tense issues.
  • Writing Complete, Grammatically Correct Sentences: Who knew so many things could go wrong in one little sentence? Learn how to spot and repair sentence fragments, run-ons, and subject-verb agreement issues here.
  • Writing Clean, Concise Sentences: Here you'll find a very detailed handout about different ways you can refine your sentence to clarify the message and make it shine. Find out ways to make your verbs more active, and how to cut out unnecessary words.
  • Sentence Variation: If you've mastered the basics of forming a strong sentence, you might be wondering how you can improve your sentence-crafting skills even more. Check out this site, which offers good tips on how to vary your sentence structure to make your writing more interesting.
  • Focusing Sentences Through Parallelism: Parallelism is a writing technique that can make sentences sound better and flow more naturally. Learn how to implement this simple tool in your own writing, using this resource from the University of Richmond.

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Paragraphs 

  • Crafting Paragraphs: Use this Cleveland University resource to learn the purpose of a paragraph, and how you can structure paragraphs so that they flow and make sense. It also discusses ways to combine your paragraphs in order to develop a cohesive total work.
  • Crafting the Evidence, Analysis, and Transition for Each Paragraph: If you're the type who likes a solid formula for writing, you'll appreciate this handy guide. It discusses the different types of sentences in a paragraph, and the purpose each should serve.
  • Topic Sentences: The topic sentence is the anchor for any paragraph. Here you'll find the techniques for writing a precise, well-structured topic sentence that will hold the rest of your paragraph together.
  • Paragraph Development: Use this resource to determine what information you should combine into a single paragraph. It also covers paragraph structure and common paragraph problems.
  • Paragraphs and Topic Sentences: An important part of writing good paragraphs is creating a sense of coherence between all of the constituent sentences. Learn different techniques for building coherence in this resource from Indiana University.
  • Writing a Personal Statement: From college admissions to job applications, the personal essay is something everyone will have to write at some point in their lives. Use this resource to learn what questions you should answer in a personal essay, and common mistakes that can bring down the quality of your work. 

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Essays

  • Essay Writing: Essay writing can be difficult to untangle because it's such an abstract concept-an "essay" is simply a long piece of writing, after all. Use this resource to learn the four different kinds of essay, and to get a handle on the techniques that are used in each.
  • Essay Writing Assistant: Here you'll find a collection of helpful resources on every aspect of essay writing. Get tips on essay documentation, as well as structural issues, grammar, and punctuation.
  • Writing a Research Paper: Many essays are based around a research project, in which the writer investigates a topic using outside sources, and then writes about their findings. This great resource covers all steps of the research paper process, from finding sources to final revisions.
  • Persuasive Essays, the Basics: This article reviews the structures and techniques that can be used to convince readers of a certain position. It breaks down the different parts of the persuasive essay and includes illustrative examples.
  • Writing Philosophy Papers: The more abstract a topic, the harder it is to write a compelling essay about it. Luckily, this detailed Oregon State University guide covers the best practices for writing about that most abstract of subjects, philosophy.

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Punctuation

  • Grammar and Punctuation: What the heck is a semicolon good for anyway? The University of Wisconsin writing lab demystifies the semicolon, dashes, commas, and other nagging grammar questions.
  • Punctuation: The Purdue Online Writing Lab has detailed handouts on a number of punctuation issues. Read about apostrophes, clauses, and sentence patterns here.
  • Guide to Grammar and Style: Check out this digitized version of an entire grammar text. Search alphabetically for particular punctuation or grammar questions you may have.
  • Common Errors in English Usage: Is the proper spelling "back yard" or "backyard"? Find the answer to this question, and the correct version of hundreds of other commonly misspelled words, here.
  • The Elements of Style: You can read and search Strunk's classic grammar and composition text on this site. It covers punctuation, paragraphs, and overall form.

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