Ground Rules for Writers


Ground Rules for Writers

A Quick and Easy Reference Guide for All the Painful Punctuation, Ghastly Grammar, and Pesky Sound Alike Words, fracking up Your Work!

Susan Ball & Sheryl Wright

Book 1 in Your Easy Writing Reference Series

Copyright © 2016 by Sheryl Wright

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or manner, by any means, mechanical, electronic or other including by photocopying, recording or via information storage and retrieval systems, without the express permission of the Author, except for the inclusion of brief quotations in reviews.

Lego® is a Registered Trade Mark of Lego A/S (The Lego Group).

“The 15 Punctuation Marks” illustration is used with permission from the Copyright holder: Curtis Newbold, Copyright © 2016, The Visual Communication Guy: Design, Writing, and Teaching Resources, All in One Place! All rights reserved. Owned and Operated by Newbold Communication & Design.

Cover: Vestra Design


Foundry Guides is an imprint of Write2press.com.

Table of Contents



Chapter One: The Words We Love to Mess Up

All the Close but No Cigar Words

Homophones, the Sound Alike Words

Homographs: Same Word, Different Meaning

The Un-word, Spelling Interjections and Exclamations

Chapter Two: Perfect Punctuation

Fundamental Punctuation Marks

Special Punctuation Marks

Chapter Three: Oh The Grammar!

Nouns and Verbs

Important functions of Nouns

A Noun Can Be Either a Proper Noun or a Common Noun

When – What?

Action and Linking Verbs

Conjunctions and Clauses

So, What is a Sentence?

Rules to Live By!

Last Thoughts… Suggestions?

Bonus Section


Connect with Sheryl Wright

Connect with Susan Ball

Connect with Curtis Newbold

Connect with Sarah Lever


Susan Ball is a skilled and experienced Self-Love Activist, Life Coach and NLP Practitioner, as well as being a survivor of abuse. She brings intuition along with proven strategies to her work, and much to her clients’ delight. She works with all those who are ready to transition into their fearless story. To fall deeply, madly in love with themselves so they can live fulfilling and confident lives. Susan is a regular contributor to “Thrive: Live Life Fearlessly”. She dreams of living off the grid in her ‘Tiny Wrecky House’.

Website | [email protected] | Facebook

Sheryl Wright is the author of five works of fiction including the award winning Contrary Warriors series and Don’t Let Go. Her nonfiction work includes Primers on several Supply Chain Management Software systems and FAA Standards for Flight Training Devices. While most of her focus today is on writing fiction, the Ground Rules for Writers emerged from the cheat notes she compiled over her lengthy career. After sharing her notes with several emerging writers, she was encouraged to release this volume.

Website | [email protected] | Facebook | Twitter

Curtis Newbold, “The Visual Communication Guy: Design, Writing, and Teaching Resources, All in One Place!” provided the 15 Punctuation Marks illustration. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one illustration ropes them all in. For an HD copy of this or other helpful illustrations, please visit his website:


Sarah Lever, is the artistic force driving Vestra Design.



People started studying grammar long, long ago. Oops! Wrong story! Forget the galaxy far, far away. This story purportedly starts in ancient Greece, over two and a half millennia ago, when western students began the formal study of sentence structure along with philosophy and the arts. From then on, students have found it beneficial to study spelling, subject-verb agreement, punctuation, the parts of speech, and sentence patterns.

Grammar, oh grammar, how dare you frack me up!”

Why is that? Great speaking and writing skills—communication skills—are intrinsic to every facet of academics, business, and everyday life. If you intend to succeed in any career, it’s a good bet you need to get this right.

This book is divided into three areas of challenge for every writer: First we tame the ‘nyms or all the sound alike and close in meaning words. As painful as this is, you need to get these right. Editors are detail people by nature and often use these common and simple mistakes to gauge more than your skill but your own dedication. A few of these goofs can often mean the difference between acceptance and rejection! The remaining chapters capture the keys to getting your punctuation just right. Grammar is covered in the last chapter.

While this book is not intended to replace any professional dissertation on English Grammar, it will cover the important aspects you need to know and wake those dormant lessons from school days long past.

The Words that We Love to Mess Up

These are common words that are confusing to use, and may be encountered in reading and speech. Review our strategies for differentiating words that are close in meaning, usage, and sound. There are also rules for non-words that could puzzle anyone, even your grade two spelling teacher. No, we didn’t make these up!

Achieving the Perfect Punctuation in your Writing

A lot of people take proper punctuation for granted, but misplaced periods or commas have been known to cause serious scandals and may have even sparked a few wars! So, don’t just haphazardly throw around dashes, dots and the kitchen sink when you’re not sure where they fit. Check out our handy rules and put the punctuation exactly where it belongs.

Oh the horror,” oops Oh the Grammar!

These are key rules, enabling you to formulate great compositions with proper word usage and sentence structure. The truth is, the fewer grammatical mistakes, the better your reader will understand your work and the more respected your efforts. It’s not brain surgery but it can feel like someone’s pulling your hair out!

Chapter One: The Words We Love to Mess Up

This chapter deals with spelling and correct word usage. The most basic unit of language is the word. They are the building blocks of communications. Imagine your vocabulary as a huge box of Lego® blocks. One word equals one block! With each block you stick together, you begin to bring your creations, your verbal musing, to life. We build sentences, paragraphs, essays, and novels using one block at a time. Using the wrong word rarely causes the world to end but it can be embarrassing.

The English language is vast yet most speakers rely on only a limited vocabulary to get through life. Expanding your vocabulary is tantamount to succeeding but using common words correctly is far more important. Learning to express yourself simply and fittingly in a variety of ways through all the words you know should be your prerequisite. Writers who master the basics rarely resort to fancy language and flowers prose to deliver their point.

In This Chapter

Section One is “All the ‘Close but No Cigar’ Words.” These are words somewhat related to one another, but not the same. There are no rewards for using these words incorrectly.

Section Two contains a list of “Sound Alike Words.” You guessed it, words that sound the same but mean completely different things. Like the words in Section One, these share similar properties, but using them inappropriately could make your work hard to understand or appear amateurish. Avoiding these mistakes helps ensure readers understand your actual intent.

Section Three “The Un-Words, Spelling Interjections, and Exclamations.” These are actually effects used in writing to deliver an extra boost of personality or a touch of creativity. It’s also good to recognize these words when you encounter them in print. Un-words make the best impact in writing dialog or piffy text messages. Using these deceptively simple un-words correctly adds authenticity to your work, much like using slang correctly, but use them sparingly. Consider un-words your secret weapon!

All the Close but No Cigar Words

These words are close in meaning, use, and pronunciation. Because of this, a lot of people might mistake one for the other. Usage does vary, though sometimes only slightly. These words are also the tell-tale-sign some editors use to gauge your skill as a writer!

A while, Awhile

A while is a phrase where ‘while’ functions as a noun that means ‘a short period of time’. Example: I met her a while ago.

Awhile is equivalent to the phrase ‘for a while’; it functions as an adverb, so should describe a verb in a sentence. Example: We’ll have to wait awhile for a table to open up.

Accept, Except

Accept means ‘to receive something that was offered’ or ‘to come to believe something as correct’. Example: He accepted a pair of shoes as a gift.

Except means ‘not including’ or ‘other than’. Example: All my friends will go to the beach except for Miranda.

Affect, Effect

Affect means ‘to make a difference’ most likely in an emotional way. Example: That new story affected him very deeply.

Effect is the result of a cause. Example: The negative effects of pollution on the environment are a concern.

Allusion, Illusion

Allusion means ‘an expression meant to call something to mind without explicitly mentioning what it is’. Example: The product’s name is an allusion to its creator.

Illusion means ‘something likely to be misinterpreted or incorrectly perceived by the senses,’ ‘a false idea or belief,’ or ‘a deceptive appearance or impression’. Example: Like many others, he was deceived by the optical illusion.

Breath, Breathe

Breath the intake and epilation of air from the lungs. Example: She coached him to slow down and catch his breath.

Breathe Take air into the lungs and then expel it, especially as a regular physiological process. Example: It was easy to see he couldn’t breathe after his hard run.

Complement, Compliment

Complement means ‘to complete something’. Example: The light grey sofa is a perfect complement to the white walls.

Compliment is praise or polite congratulation. Example: Eric complimented Kyla on her new haircut.

Conscious, Conscience

Conscious means ‘to be aware of’ or ‘awake’. Example: Ames is always conscious of his appearance.

Conscience is an inner voice that guides someone’s moral behavior. Example: His guilty conscience made him very upset.

Council, Counsel

Council means ‘a body of people formally constituted and meeting regularly for the purposes of deliberation, legislation, or advising someone in authority’ or ‘a body of people formally tasked with managing the affairs of a municipal district’. Example: The council believes this is the best course of action.

Counsel means ‘advice’ (noun), ‘lawyer/s conducting a case’ (noun), or ‘to give advice to someone’ (verb). Example: He consulted with his counsel prior to the arraignment.

Dual, Duel

Dual means ‘consisting of two parts’. Example: She fulfilled the dual role of observer and mentor.

Duel means ‘a contest between two people with the aim of settling a point’. Example: The duel left one man wounded and the other dead.

Elicit, Illicit

Elicit means ‘to evoke a response from someone else as a reaction’. Example: His goal was to elicit approval from the governing body.

Illicit means ‘forbidden by law or custom’. Example: His illicit actions landed him in prison.

Eminent, Imminent

Eminent means ‘famous and respected within a particular sphere or profession’. Example: It is somewhat ironic that one of today’s most eminent business women was actually born into poverty.

Imminent means ‘about to happen’. Example: Their imminent danger was always on their minds.

Farther, Further

Farther is a greater distance than another object in the same space. Example: My house is the one farther down the block.

Further means ‘to a greater extent’; used when physical distance is not involved. Example: I would like to further discuss my report with you.

Flour, Flower

Flour means ‘powder obtained by grinding wheat or other grain’. Example: They measured enough flour to make a dozen loaves of bread.

Flower means ‘a plant characterized by petals and sepals surrounding reproductive organs known as stamens and carpels’. Example: A wilted flower lay on the windowsill.

Foreword, Forward

Foreword means ‘a short introduction to a book, often by someone besides the author’. Example: He asked one of his fellow professors to write the foreword.

Forward means ‘toward the front’. Example: The sergeant ordered the platoon to move with the command, “Forward March!”

Idea, Ideal

Idea is a thought or plan. Example: She doesn’t think that’s a good idea.

Ideal is the concept of something being perfect, usually not found in reality. Example: The weather today is not ideal for a beach trip.

Patience, Patients

Patience means ‘the capacity to tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset’. Example: Looking after the unruly students was a true test of the new teacher’s patience.

Patients is the plural of ‘patient’ (‘a person receiving or about to receive medical treatment’). Example: This medication is prescribed for patients with difficulty sleeping.

Homophones, the Sound Alike Words

This is a list of words that sound alike but are completely different in definition and usage. When said out loud, they might sound the same, but that’s all they have in common. It is important to distinguish sound alike words or your message might be completely lost or misinterpreted.

These words are called homophones, which is a term derived from ‘homo’ meaning ‘same’ and ‘phone’ meaning ‘sound’. You hear them, you know them, or understand them by implication or inference but can you spell them? In reading, the correct spelling is often all you have available to convey your intent. Be attentive and spot the differences.

Ad, Add

Ad is a shortened form of ‘advertisement’ with Adv another form

Add means ‘to join to something else so as to increase the size, amount, or number’ or ‘to put together multiple amounts or numbers to calculate their total value’

Examples: Let’s run an ad on Craigslist. Then add up the calls we receive.

Advice, Advise

Advice means ‘guidance or recommendation, usually from someone knowledgeable’

Advise means ‘to offer suggestions to someone’

Examples: Please ask if he wants our advice. We will only advise those party members.

Aid, Aide

Aid means ‘practical help’ (noun) or ‘to help someone in the achievement of something’ (verb)

Aide means ‘an assistant to a person of importance’

Examples: “May I aid with the preparations?” the Generals Aide de Camp asked organizers.

Ail, Ale

Ail means ‘trouble in mind or body’

Ale means ‘a type of beer, usually with bitter flavor and higher alcohol content’

Examples: When you ail from hangover, a nice, cold local ale may pick you up.

Air, Ere, Heir

Air means ‘the invisible gaseous substance surrounding the earth’ (noun), ‘an impression of a quality or manner given by someone or something’ (noun), ‘to express an opinion publicly’ (verb), or ‘to expose an otherwise enclosed space to ventilate it’ (verb) Examples: Noun – The toxic substances make the air unsuitable for breathing. Verb – He was given an opportunity to air out his grievances.

Ere is an archaic expression, meaning ‘before’

Example: We hope you will return ere long.

Heir means ‘a person legally entitled to the property or rank of another on that person’s death’ or ‘a person inheriting and continuing the legacy of a predecessor’

Example: She is the designated heir to the throne.

Aisle, I’ll, Isle

Aisle is a passage between rows of objects like seats as in a theater or shelves as in a supermarket

I’ll is a contraction or shortened version of ‘I will’; think of the apostrophe (‘) as a stand in for the missing ‘wi’

Isle is often used to refer a small island or peninsula

Example: The baking soda is in the last aisle.

I’ll be back tomorrow with the paperwork.

They plan to visit the emerald isle.

Altar, Alter

Altar means ‘table used in a religious ritual, specifically for making sacrifices or offerings to a deity’

Alter means ‘to make typically minor changes’

Example: The priest blessed the communion bread and wine on the altar.

The organizing committee expressed their intention to alter the schedule of events.

Ate, Eight

Ate is the past tense of the verb ‘eat’

Eight is a number (integer) greater than seven by one

Examples: He ate half the muffins and only left the remaining eight for the rest of us!

Bail, Bale

Bail means ‘temporary release from prison in exchange for a sum of money prior to appearing in court’ (noun) or ‘to release a prisoner on payment of bail’ (verb)

Bale means ‘a bundle of items tightly wrapped and bound’ (noun) or ‘to make bales out of something’ (verb)

Example: Since he was charged with murder, he was not allowed to post bail.

The farmer dropped a bale of hay in each corral.

Band, Banned

Band means ‘a group of individuals, typically musicians’ (noun), ‘a strip or loop of material put around something’ (noun), ‘a stripe or elongated area of a color different from that of its surroundings’ (noun), ‘to surround an object with a strip or ring’ (verb), or ‘to mark something with a stripe of a different color’

Banned is the past tense of the verb ‘ban’ (which means ‘to prohibit’ or ‘to exclude’)

Examples: The band got together to play a set.

She used a red band to keep the scroll from spreading flat.

The library banned the controversial author’s latest book.

Bare, Bear

Bare means ‘not clothed or covered’ (adjective), ‘without any addition’ (adjective), or ‘to uncover’ (verb)

Bear means ‘to carry’ or ‘to support’ or ‘in reference to the mammal’ (noun)

Examples: In his haste, he grabbed the boiling pot with his bare hands.

If I bare my stomach everyone will my scars.

I don’t think the platform could bear all that weight.

It’s not uncommon to see black bears in this area.

Beat, Beet

Beat means ‘to strike’ (verb), ‘to defeat’ (verb), ‘a main accent or rhythmic unit in music or poetry’ (noun), ‘an area which a police officer is assigned to patrol’ (noun), or ‘completely exhausted’

Beet could be either an herbaceous, edible plant or the edible root of the beet plant

Examples: She beat him at chess twice this afternoon.

Trooper Jenkins begins patrolling his beat at nine in the evening.

I’m beat from doing all those chores.

Blew, Blue

Blew is the past tense of the verb ‘blow’

Blue could be either a color or a state of being melancholy, sad, or depressed

Example: The wind blew the leaves all over the yard.

The clear blue sky provided a perfect backdrop for the airshow.

The recent turn of events left her feeling blue.

Break, Brake

Break means to ‘separate’ or ‘shatter into pieces’ due to a blow or shock; it could also mean an interruption in the continuing course of an event

Brake is a mechanism in a vehicle that allows it to stop or slow down

Example: If you’re not careful, you might break that vase.

Avery slammed on the brakes when she saw a moose on the road.

Bread, Bred

Bread means either ‘baked food made of flour, water, and yeast’ or ‘money’

Bred could be either the past tense of the verb ‘breed’ or an adjective denoting ‘being reared in a specific environment or way’

Example: You’ll be shocked when you find out how much a simple loaf of bread costs here.

He once bred Labrador retrievers for a living.

There was little to no doubt that the Spartans were bred for war.

By, Buy, Bye

By is preposition that identifies an agent as the performer of an action; it also indicates a way for achieving a result

Buy means to purchase or acquire after payment

Bye is an informal form of ‘goodbye’; formally, it is a sports term that refers to a participant in a competition who advances to the next round without having to play

Example: The painting that hangs in the lobby is by the artist Hans Van Dyson. Frankie will buy the flowers tomorrow morning. Christian called, “Bye,” before driving off in his car.

Capital, Capitol

Capital could be either ‘a seat of government of a country or region’ (noun), ‘money or other assets for the purpose of starting a business or investing’ (noun), a term for describing a criminal offense that warrants the death penalty

Capitol means ‘a building or group or buildings wherein the functions of a state government, particularly its legislature, are carried out’

Examples: Manila is the capital of the Philippines.

We feel we have invested enough capital into this endeavor.

In some countries, drug trafficking is considered a capital crime.

There is a congressional hearing scheduled at the capitol today.

Ceiling, Sealing

Ceiling means ‘upper interior surface’

Sealing is the gerund or present participle of the verb ‘seal’ (which means ‘to fasten’ or ‘to apply a coating to make a surface more impervious’)

Example: The cracks in the ceiling were starting to worry her. He applied a generous amount of sealing wax.

Cell, Sell

Cell means ‘a small room wherein a prisoner is locked up’ or ‘the smallest structural and functional unit of an organism’

Sell means ‘to give in exchange for money’ or ‘use the merits of an idea to persuade others to accept that idea’

Example: The conditions in the cell were deplorable.

That store used to sell those types of batteries.

Cent, Scent

Cent is a hundredth of a decimal currency unit like a dollar

Scent means ‘a distinctive smell’ or ‘a trail indicated by an animal’s characteristic smell’

Example: He couldn’t raise a single red cent.

The bloodhound picked up and followed the scent.

Chews, Choose

Chews is the singular present tense of the verb ‘chew’ (which means ‘to bite and work food in the mouth with the use of the teeth, making it easier to swallow’) in the case of a 3rd person subject

Choose means ‘to select a better or more appropriate alternative among two or more options’ or simply ‘to decide on a course of action’

Example: He often chews with his mouth open, much to the chagrin of his companions.

Why did you choose this product instead of the other one?

Cite, Sight, Site

Cite means ‘to quote’ (verb), ‘to summon’ (verb), or ‘a citation’

Sight means ‘the power of seeing’ (noun) ‘a thing that one sees’ (noun), or ‘to take aim with a gun’

Site means ‘an area of ground meant for constructing a building or monument’ or ‘a website’

Example: The student was reprimanded for having forgotten to cite his sources.

The sight was truly beautiful to behold from any angle.

The city government decided to erect a new hospital on this particular site.

Coarse, Course

Coarse means ‘rough in texture’ when referring to an object or ‘rude’ when referring to a person’s manner

Course means a path or route followed by a moving object, most likely a transport vehicle; it could also mean a part of the meal

Example: The sand on the riverbank is black and very coarse.

The pilot changed her flight course as advised by air traffic control.

Days, Daze

Days is the plural of ‘day’ (‘a period of 24 hours’ or ‘a particular period in the past’)

Daze means ‘to make someone unable to react properly’ or ‘a state of bewilderment’

Example: We leave for Washington in two days.

The shocking news left her in a daze that seemed to last for hours.

Dear, Deer

Dear means ‘being regarded with deep affection’ or ‘an affectionate form of address

Deer is the hoofed mammal characterized by bony antlers

Example: She liked talking about the people and things she holds most dear.

Desert, Dessert

Desert means ‘to abandon, usually in a disloyal or treacherous manner’

Dessert is the sweet course eaten at the end of a meal


Abandonment: You can expect to be court-martialed if you desert your post.

Reward: Complete this and receive your just desert!

Wasteland: I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. (I couldn’t resist)

They had pecan pie for dessert.

Die, Dye

Die means ‘to stop living’ or no longer be alive

Dye means ‘a substance used to add color to or change the color of something’ or ‘the act of applying dye to an object’

Example: You could die from overexposure to that kind of radiation.

Why did you dye your hair blonde?

Discreet, Discrete

Discreet means ‘being careful in speech and actions to avoid offending others’

Discrete means ‘being individually separate and distinct’

Example: He was discreet in the way he gathered information.

Fortunately, the people who wrote the instruction manual broke down each process into a series of simpler, discrete steps.

Fair, Fare

Fair means ‘in accordance with rules’

Fare means ‘money paid in exchange for transportation’

Example: He was noted for being a strict but fair supervisor.

We can expect an increase in the train fare within this year.

Find, Fined

Find means ‘to discover unexpectedly’

Fined is the past tense of ‘fine’ (‘to make someone pay a sum of money as punishment for violating a rule’)

Example: Did you find your missing library card?

He was fined for parking his car right next to a fire hydrant.

Fir, Fur

Fir is a type of evergreen tree

Fur means ‘short, soft hair of animals’

Example: One of the attractions of the ranch were the tall fir trees.

Her dog had light brown fur.

Flea, Flee

Flea is a small insect that feeds on animal blood, typically mammals, and birds

Flee means ‘to run away from something or someone’

Example: A flea left bite marks on his dog’s skin.

They had no choice but to flee lest they be captured by the angry mob.

For, Fore, Four

For is a preposition used to indicate the place someone or something is going to or toward; or a person or thing that something is sent or given to

Fore means ‘situated in front’

Four is a number (integer) greater than three (3) and one less than five (5)

Example: I baked this cake for my grandmother.

The sick dog had trouble pushing itself up by its fore legs.

The accident on the freeway involved four cars.

This letter is for Madame Genevieve.

Jenna has four days left to submit her application.

Grate, Great

Grate means ‘to make an irritating sound’; to drag or force something against a grate

Great means ‘considerably above normal or average’

Example: Did the hinges grate when you opened the door?

He wanted to grate the cheese for the recipe.

They went to great lengths to ensure the success of the event.

Groan, Grown

Groan means ‘a deep inarticulate sound in response to pain or despair’

Grown means ‘mature’

Example: He let out a low groan upon realizing the enormity of his assigned task.

No one expects a grown man to behave in that manner.

Hall, Haul

Hall means ‘a large indoor area for meetings, concerts, or other events’

Haul means ‘to pull or drag with effort’

Example: Scores of people filed into the hall to watch the performance.

They were asked to haul the trash bin all the way to the end of the alley.

Hear, Here

Hear means to perceive the sound made by something with the use of the ear; it also means ‘to know’ or ‘be aware’

Here indicates a place or position where something or someone can be found

Example: I can hear my neighbor’s radio playing loud rock music.

I remember leaving my bag here on the floor.

Higher, Hire

Higher is the comparative form of ‘high’ (‘of great vertical extent’)

Hire means ‘to employ’

Example: The higher elevation afforded the group a spectacular view of the adjacent valley.

You should give a good explanation as to why they should hire you.

Hoarse, Horse

Hoarse means ‘sounding rough and harsh, often due to shouting or a sore throat’

Horse is a four-legged hoofed mammal characterized by its flowing mane and tail

Example: Her hoarse voice prevented her from delivering the speech.

This is the fifth race this horse has won.

Its, It’s

Its is the possessive form of ‘it or when you are claiming that something belongs to a place, animal or thing; it is similar to ‘’his’ being the possessive form of ‘he’ and ‘hers’ being the possessive form of ‘she’

It’s is a contraction or a shortened version of ‘it is’; think of the apostrophe (‘) as a stand-in for the missing ‘i’

Example: Our dog would wag its tail when it’s hungry.

Jam, Jamb

Jam means ‘to squeeze or pack tightly into a space’

Jamb means ‘a side post or surface of a doorway or window’

Example: If you jam all those pens inside that small container, you could end up damaging it.

The cracked jamb was another indication of the structure’s old age.

Know, No

Know means ‘to be aware’ of something or ‘to be informed, usually formally through education

No indicates a negative response; it is the opposite of ‘yes’

Example: I do not know her full name.

There is no more sugar in the pantry.

Lead, Led

Lead is a verb that means ‘to be in charge of’ or a noun that refers to a soft metal that is bluish-white in color

Led is the past tense of ‘lead’ when used as a verb

Example: She lead the new students on a tour of the college.

The x-ray apron is lined with lead.

The mayor led the parade through the city.

Lessen, Lesson

Lessen means ‘to diminish’

Lesson means ‘activity with the aim of teaching someone about something’

Example: This new piece of information does little to lessen the risks we face.

He learned a valuable lesson about respect that afternoon.

Lie, Lye

Lie means ‘to assume a horizontal resting position’

Lye is a strong alkaline solution often used in washing and in making soap

Example: The nurse advised the patient to just lie down for at least an hour.

Remember to wear gloves, goggles, and other protective gear when working with lye.

Loose, Lose

Loose means ‘not fitting tightly’ or ‘setting free’

Lose means ‘to misplace’ or ‘to no longer have’

Example: This t-shirt is a bit loose on me.

I don’t want to lose any money from gambling.

Meat, Meet, Mete

Meat means ‘animal (typically mammals) flesh consumed as food’

Meet means ‘to come into the presence of someone’

Mete means ‘to dispense justice, usually in the form of punishment or harsh treatment’

Example: Lean meat is an excellent source of protein.

May we meet this Thursday?

The police officers defied the order to mete out harsh punishment to the protesters.

Miner, Minor

Miner is a person who works in mineral excavation, usually in a subterranean mine or an open pit mine

Minor is a person under the age of full legal responsibility

Example: A miner should always wear protective gear when working.

He was not allowed entry into the casino because he was a minor.

Missed, Mist

Missed is the past tense of ‘miss’ (‘failing to hit, reach, or come into contact with’)

Mist means ‘a cloud of tiny water droplets suspended in the air and limiting visibility to a lesser extent than fog’

Example: He missed his flight to Hawaii because of the traffic jam on the way to the airport.

A thin mist enveloped the mountaintop village nearly every morning.

One, Won

One is the lowest cardinal number

Won is the past and past participle of ‘win’ (‘to be successful or victorious in a contest or conflict’)

Example: Only one other option is available to the department at this time.

Their team won the last three games, thus ensuring their place in the semifinals.

Pail, Pale

Pail is another term for ‘bucket’

Pale means ‘light in color or having little color’

Example: He placed a pail on the floor to catch the water dripping from the ceiling.

The interior was painted in a pale shade of blue.

Pair, Pare, Pear

Pair means ‘a set of two things used together or regarded as a unit’

Pare means ‘to reduce something in size, extent, quantity, or number’

Pear is a yellowish- or brownish-green fruit

Example: She bought a new pair of shoes the other day.

You could pare fruits more easily with a small knife.

She put the leftover pear in the chiller.

Passed, Past

Passed is the past and past participle tense of ‘pass’ (‘to move or cause to move in a specified direction’)

Past means ‘the time or a period of time before the moment of speaking or writing’

Example: We passed by the cornfields on the way to farm.

She insisted that what she did in the past does not define who she is now.

Peace, Piece

Peace is quiet or calm; it could also mean the freedom from war or violence

Piece is a part of a whole created by slicing, breaking or cutting; it could also be used to refer to parts being assembled into one

Example: The treaty signed by the countries after the war will ensure everlasting peace.

I would like a piece of the delicious apple pie.

Plain, Plane

Plain means ‘a large area of flat land with few trees’

Plane is another term for ‘airplane’ (‘powered flying vehicle’)

Example: The plain was the setting of many significant events in the town’s long history.

One of the plane’s parts needs replacing before reentering air service.

Poor, Pore, Pour

Poor means ‘lacking possessions for living at a standard considered comfortable or normal’

Pore means ‘to read or study attentively and thoroughly’; Pore as in skin

Pour means ‘to cause liquid to flow from one container into another’

Example: The family donated their old clothes to the poor people in their community.

It is imperative that you pore over the details before you decide on the next step.

Do not pour the wine into the glasses just yet.

Principal, Principle

Principal means ‘main or most important’; Principal of a school

Principle means ‘a truth or proposition that serves as a basis for a system of belief or behavior’

Example: Alleviating poverty was the principal topic of the presentation.

This was another guiding principle adopted by their organization.

Profit, Prophet

Profit means ‘a financial gain’

Prophet means ‘a person who is said to predict the future’

Example: Potential profit one of the biggest motivators in starting a business.

The followers of that particular faith regard him as a prophet.

Rain, Rein, Reign

Rain is precipitation or liquid water falling from the sky as in raindrops or rainfall

Rein is a long material, usually a strap attached to the front of an animal such a horse, to help control and direct it

Reign is the period of rule of a sovereign like a king or queen

Example: The weather channel says it’s going to rain today.

Sam lost his grip on the reins and fell off his horse.

Queen Isabella’s first reign was for only 22 days before her uncle dethroned her.

Raise, Rays, Raze

Raise means ‘lift’ or elevating an object to a higher level

Rays are the lines of light radiating from an illuminated body like the sun or any other light source

Raze means to ‘destroy completely’ like a village or a building as in a demolition

Example: Just raise your hand if you have the answer to the question.

The sun’s rays are blinding me.

The entire town was razed to the ground by barbaric tribes.

Rap, Wrap

Rap means ‘a quick, sharp knock or blow’

Wrap means ‘to cover or enclose, usually in soft material’

Example: There came a rap on the door at five in the morning.

The enterprising medic was forced to wrap a piece of cloth around the injured soldier’s arm.

Role, Roll

Role means ‘an actor’s part in a play, movie, or television program’

Roll means ‘to move or cause to move in a particular direction by turning over and over on an axis’

Example: Mark Hamill is best known for his role as Luke Skywalker.

Inertia causes the ball to roll forward even if no one is pushing it.

Sail, Sale

Sail means ‘a piece of material extended on a mast to catch the wind and propel a vehicle, usually a waterborne transport’

Sale means ‘the act of selling something’

Example: The boat had trouble moving along because of the damaged sail.

He feels bad at not having made a sale today.

Scene, Seen

Scene means ‘a sequence of action in a motion picture, play, television show, or book’

Seen is the past participle of ‘see’

Example: The movie was banned in some countries because of a controversial scene.

I have not seen him since Friday.

Seam, Seem

Seam means ‘a line along which two pieces of fabric are sewn together in a garment’

Seem means ‘to give the impression of something or having a particular quality’

Example: This seam could come completely undone if you don’t fix it right away.

You seem unusually tense this morning.

Shear, Sheer

Shear means ‘to break off or cause to break off due to structural strain’

Sheer means ‘fine or transparent’

Example: The wing could shear off while the airplane is in flight.

The sheer fabric dress was one of their fastest-selling products.

Soar, Sore

Soar means ‘to fly or rise high into the air’

Sore means ‘painful or aching’

Example: We watched the sleek jet soar into the clouds.

His thumbs were sore from playing all those video games.

Stake, Steak

Stake means ‘a strong wooden or metal post with a point at one end’

Steak means ‘a thick slice of beef or other high-quality meat’

Example: The best way of killing a vampire is to drive a wooden stake into its heart.

Unlike others in the group, Brad wanted his steak well done.

Stare, Stair

Stare is a long fixed look with the eyes wide open

Stair is steps that lead from one floor to another, usually inside a building

Example: He would just sit on that bench and stare at people passing by.

The elevator is broken so I had to take the stairs.

Stationary, Stationery

Stationary means ‘not moving or not intended to be moved’

Stationery means ‘paper or any other writing material’

Example: The truck slid down the icy street, finally hitting a stationary object.

The stationery store is just a short walk from our office.

Tail, Tale

Tail means ‘the rearmost part of an animal or object’

Tale means ‘a story or narrative’

Example: My pet parrot is missing a few tail feathers but is otherwise okay.

The plaintiff recounted her tale of what happened during the incident.

Team, Teem

Team means ‘a group of players forming one side in a game or sporting event’

Teem means ‘to be full of or swarming with’

Example: The team’s efforts paid off with a big win.

Our textbooks teem with terms many of the students don’t yet understand.

Then, Than

Then is used to signal a succeeding event and can be used in place of ‘next’ or ‘afterwards’; it can also be used to mean ‘after that time’

Than is used in comparisons and contrast

Example: We went to the movies first then had dinner at a Chinese restaurant.

Your new cellphone is lighter than mine.

There, Their, They’re

There is an adverb used to point out a place or position

Their is used to identify an object as belonging to a group of two or more people or things

They’re is a substitute for They Are, a Contraction; It is not a modifier, but may be used as a noun (who or what does the action) or a verb (action or state of being)

Example: I left my keys on the hook but they’re not there anymore.

Their cars were all parked on the side of the road.

They’re the best drivers in the group.

To, Two, Too

To is a preposition used to indicate a movement towards a particular direction or location

Two (2) is the sum of one plus one; it is one number less than three

Too is an adverb that indicates something as ‘overly’ or ‘a lot’; it could be used as an equivalent for ‘also’

Example: Please take this envelope to Ms. Bernstein in the IT Department.

I have been waiting for two hours for that report.

The soup they served was too salty for me.

Threw, Through

Threw is past tense of ‘throw’ (‘to propel something with force through the air by a movement of the arm and hand’)

Through means ‘moving in one side and out the other side of an opening, channel, or location’

Example: He threw the ball into the air.

Some people do not like the idea of driving through a dark tunnel.

Tide, Tied

Tide means ‘alternate rising and falling of a body of water’

Tied is the past tense and past participle of ‘tie’ (‘to attach or fasten’)

Example: It’s possible to walk between these two small islands during low tide.

You can’t keep your boat tied to this pier all night.

Vain, Vane, Vein

Vain means ‘having an excessively high opinion of oneself’

Vane means ‘the blade a weather vane, or turbine

Vein is a tube forming part of the human body’s circulatory system

Example: Not that many people liked her because she was so vain.

The vane indicates that the wind was coming from the northwest.

His heart attack was caused by blockage in a particular vein.

Waist, Waste

Waist is the part of the human body below the ribs and above the hips’

Waste means ‘to use or expend carelessly or to no purpose’

Example: Exercising regularly allowed her to trim a few inches off her waist.

What could cause you to waste so much paper in just one afternoon?

Way, Weigh

Way means ‘a method or manner of doing something’

Weigh means ‘to find out how heavy someone or something is’

Example: This is one way of getting our message through to him.

This portable scale will enable us to weigh these small samples in the field.

Weak, Week

Weak means ‘lacking in physical strength and energy’

Week is a period of seven days

Example: His rare condition left him too weak to move without any assistance.

I expect the package to arrive within a week or two.

Weather, Whether

Weather means ‘the state of the atmosphere at a specific place and time’

Whether is a conjunction expressing doubt or choice between alternatives

Example: The weather is expected to clear up tomorrow morning.

How will you determine whether the product you are considering will suit your needs?

Were, We’re, or Where

Were is the plural form of ‘was’ making it the past, plural form of ‘be’

We’re is a contraction or a shortened version of ‘we are’; think of the apostrophe (‘) as a stand in for the missing ‘a’

Where is an adverb used to refer to the location of a person or object; it is often used at the beginning of an interrogative sentence or a question asking for a particular location

Example: The McCoy’s were not happy about the new family that moved in next door.

We’re going to the mall to buy presents for all the children.

Where is the supermarket on Hampshire Street?

Whole, Hole

Whole means ‘all of something’ or ‘the complete body’

Hole is an ‘indentation on a surface or a cavity in a solid object’

Example: I am so hungry that I could eat a whole cow.

My dog buried the bone in a big hole in our backyard.

Your, You’re

Your is used to refer to an object as belonging or associated with a person or persons; used in second-person point of view

You’re is a contraction or shortened version of ‘you are’; think of the apostrophe (‘) as a stand in for the missing ‘a’

Example: You should leave your wet shoes by the door.

You’re going to get lost if you don’t take a map.

Homographs: Same Word, Different Meaning

Homographs are words that are spelled the same but have different meanings. Below are some examples of homographs (Please note that some homographs are already included in the previous portions of this book).


Conduct (emphasis on 1st syllable) is ‘the manner in which a person behaves’ or ‘the action or manner of managing an organization or an activity’

Conduct (emphasis on 2nd syllable) means ‘to carry out’ or ‘to behave’

Example: His conduct during the evaluation period was commendable.

The Captain charged him with Conduct Unbecoming.

Remember to conduct yourself in a manner befitting your position.


Desert (emphasis on 1st syllable) is a region wherein few life forms can exist because of lack of water

Desert (emphasis on 2nd syllable) means ‘to abandon, usually in a disloyal or treacherous manner’

Example: You should be mindful of the dangers of travelling through the desert.

He never explained why he decided to desert his family.


fair means ‘in accordance with rules’

fair could also mean ‘of light color, particularly when referring to the hair or complexion’

fair could also mean ‘gathering or exhibition’

Example: She found the salary offered by the company to be fair.

Her fair skin drew stares wherever she went.

He went to the trade fair to gather new ideas on how to run his business.


fare means ‘money paid in exchange for transportation’;

fare could also mean ‘to perform in a specified way in a particular situation or over a particular period of time’

Example: Do you have enough to pay for the bus fare?

I heard they did not fare well in the competition.


grate means ‘to make an irritating sound’

grate could also mean ‘a frame of metal bars used either for partition, cover, or holding fuel (like in a fireplace or stove)’

Example: I’ll grate the cheese if you get the eggs.

The grate was covered in rust, rendering it useless.


Jam means ‘to squeeze or pack tightly into a space’

Jam could also mean ‘an edible substance made from small, pureed pieces of fruit’

Example: Be careful not to jam all those documents into the pigeonhole.

Raspberry jam was never one of his favorites.


Lie means ‘to assume a horizontal resting position’

Lie could also mean ‘to speak falsely with the intent to deceive’

Example: You should lie down and get some rest.

You face a fine or imprisonment if you lie under oath.


Minor is a person under the age of full legal responsibility

Minor could also mean ‘lesser in importance, seriousness, or significance’

Example: As a minor, you are prohibited by law from buying liquor in this state.

Since this is a minor issue, it could be set aside for discussion at a later meeting.


Past means ‘the time or a period of time before the moment of speaking or writing’

Past could also be a preposition meaning ‘to or on the further side of’

Example: Reading about the past can help us better understand the present.

The fleeing car quickly went past a group of surprised onlookers.


Plain means ‘a large area of flat land with few trees’

Plain could also mean ‘simple or ordinary in character’

Example: They searched the open plain for any sign of the missing horses.

This sculpture seemed so plain by comparison to the others on display.


Principal means ‘main or most important’

Principal could also mean ‘a person with the highest authority in an organization, typically a school’

Example: The country’s principal city was one of the areas hit by flooding.

The principal announced the names of the students with the highest grades.


Rap means ‘a quick, sharp knock or blow’

Rap could also mean ‘a type of music wherein words are recited rapidly and rhythmically instead of being sung’

Example: The unexpected rap made everyone look anxiously towards the door.

He feels rap music is no longer as popular as it was before.


Roll means ‘to move or cause to move in a particular direction by turning over and over on an axis’

Roll could also mean ‘a small round piece of bread’

Example: In less than a week, he taught his dog how to roll over.

She accidentally dropped her roll onto the floor.


Vain means ‘having an excessively high opinion of oneself’

Vain could also mean ‘producing no result’

Example: It was vain for him to believe he was the only one qualified to lead.

He dropped by her cubicle every day in a vain attempt to make her like him.

The Un-word, Spelling Interjections and Exclamations

The words on this list are exclamations or interjections, sounds that characters make in reaction to events or revelations. They are usually used at the beginning of a line of dialogue. They could also be used for character thoughts. Some are standard words. Others are sounds used as words. (Some words have additional meanings and uses beyond those noted here.)

Keep this list handy for those odd sound words and interjections that everybody uses but no one can quite decide how to spell. Yes, you can create your own interjections or modify common ones, but be consistent within a story and across a series of stories. Make your Editor happy by adding them, especially those with unusual spellings, to your style sheets.

There Are Options—you can extend some of these words, dramatizing them, by repeating letters, or you can draw out the sound by using hyphens. But there’s no need to go overboard by adding more than two or three repeating letters although all writers and editors have their preference.

aah– drawn out sound of pleasure, relief, or relaxation; the plural is often paired with ooh for an exclamation of wonder or surprise (oohs and aahs)

ah– placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; variations are er, uh, and um; also an interjection signifying understanding (Ah, I get it)

aha– exclamation of discovery or realization

ahh– exclamation of surprise or fright; also a variant of aah used as a sound of pleasure, relief, or relaxation

argh– exclamation of frustration, comparable to rats or drat; sometimes used for a pirate’s exclamation

arrr– pirate’s sound of agreement; pirate’s exclamation

aw– mild exclamation of protest, disappointment, or entreaty (Aw, I didn’t mean it.)

aww– exclamation over the cuteness of something

bah– old-fashioned exclamation of dismissal or contempt; compare to the contemporary word so (Bah, who cares? Bah! Humbug!)

beh– variation of bah

blah– interjection used as filler (typically written three times) to show that either someone droned on about a topic or what had been said was predictable and/or commonplace and all parties now listening understand what was said without it being necessary to repeat what was said (And then she moaned about her husband. You know blah blah blah.)

blech– mild to medium exclamation of disgust

blergh– an interjection of any combination of disgust, boredom, dissatisfaction, and other negative emotions; also blurgh and blargh; probably from a combination of bleh and argh and/or ugh.

criminy– mild swear word, somewhat old-fashioned; euphemism for Christ

duh– exclamation of exasperation or disdain over the explanation of something obvious

eh– mild exclamation of unconcern or indifference (Eh, who cares.); solicitation to repeat something (Eh, what was that?); question tag (Canadian, eh?)

er– placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; may be followed by an ellipsis (Er . . . I’m not sure.); variations: ah, um, and uh

erm– variation of er (I’ve never seen this in a published book that I can recall and never heard a real person say it, but it shows up in a lot of manuscripts I see)

ew– exclamation of disgust, typically over something nasty; can be made more dramatic by repeating letters (Ewww, that’s foul. Eeew, that stinks.)

geez– exclamation of exasperation; a mild oath to be used in place of Jesus; also sheesh

hmm– placeholder interjection signifying that the speaker is thinking or considering a response to what has been said

hoo-ah– U.S. Army and US Air Force sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry; may be written as Hooah

hoo-yah– U.S. Navy sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry; may be written as Hooyah

huh– interjection used to signify a dawning revelation or admittance of ignorance over a piece of information (Huh, is that so); also used as a question tag to solicit agreement (I guess this means we’re leaving now, huh?)

humph– mild exclamation of disagreement or reluctant agreement; also exclamation of displeasure; variations include hmph, hrmph, harumph, harumpf, harrumph; old-fashioned and often put in the mouths of elderly men and women

hrmph, hmph, harumph, harumpf, harrumph– variations of humph

ick– exclamation of disgust; also yuck

jeez– exclamation of exasperation; a mild oath to be used in place of Jesus or geez; using “g” instead of the leading “j” may be preferred by some writers

meh– old-fashioned mild interjection of dismissal or indifference, much like beh

mm-hmm– murmur of agreement that may also indicate inattention; much like uh-huh

mmm– murmur of pleasure

mwahaha– mock-sinister laugh, often used for a villain; also mwah-ha-ha; variant is bwahaha

nah– informal no; opposite of yeah; [pronounced two ways: like the n-a in nap or the n-o in not rather than as nay]

nope– informal no; opposite of yep

nuh-uh– childish argumentative no; opposite of yuh-huh; [stress onuh]

oh– word signifying comprehension or surprise (often overused in dialogue); can be drawn out by repeating letters (Ohhh, it’s so beautiful.); [pronounced like the letter o]

oof– like oomph, often comic or exaggerated sound of breath being knocked from someone from a blow to the belly; [a short sound, usually not changed by adding letters]

ooh-rahUSMC sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry; May be written as Oohrah

ooh– exclamation of wonder or surprise; often paired with aah (oohs and aahs); [rhymes with Sue and dew]

oomph– sound of exhalation of breath, often after a collision (may be comic)

oorah– U.S. Marine sound of agreement or affirmation; battle cry

ow– exclamation of pain

pfft– old-fashioned sound of dismissal or unconcern (not common in contemporary fiction); also phfft

phew– exclamation of relief, often used humorously in contemporary fiction

phooey– mild interjection used to show disagreement or disbelief; also a mild curse word akin to darn or drat, but more genteel

pshaw– old-fashioned exclamation of contempt or disagreement (not common in contemporary fiction except in historicals and as deliberate reference to its use in the past); [the p is pronounced]

psst– (usually) quiet interjection used to gain the attention of someone else

sheesh– exclamation of exasperation; a mild oath used in place of Jesus; also geez

shh or shhh– command to keep quiet, often accompanied by finger to lips

shssh– variation of shhh

shush– command to keep quiet, a combination of shh and hush; more a true word than a sound

ta-da– exclamation to express success or to point attention at something

ugh– exclamation of mild disgust

uh– placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; may be followed by an ellipsis (Uh, I think it’s that one. Uh… I’m not sure that what you’re saying is true.); variations are ah, er, and um

uh, uh, uh– command, often to young children, to stop doing something (Uh, uh, uh, don’t touch that.)

uh huh– interjection signifying understanding and sometimes, but not always, agreement (use it to show someone is saying they understand what is being said even though they might not agree with what is said); informal yes; also uh-huh

uh oh– exclamation of dismay or anticipation of something bad happening; used often by young children; also uh-oh

uh uh– informal no; also uh-uh and unh-unh

um– placeholder signifying hesitation, confusion, ignorance, or even guilt, often indicating that the speaker is thinking frantically; variations are ah, er, and uh; often repeated as um, um, um (Um, um, um, I’m thinking) and stretched out as ummm

unh-unh– informal no; variant of uh uh and uh-uh

whoa– exclamation of surprise or shock (not woah)

yay– exclamation of triumph or victory (Yay, we won!)

yea– yes; used in the context of a spoken vote; rhymes with and is often paired with nay

yeah– contemporary informal yes; opposite of nah (Yeah, I get it.)

yech– variation of yuck, an exclamation of disgust

yeow– exclamation of pain, shock, or surprise; also yow

yep– informal yes; opposite of nope (Yep, I’m in.)

yikes– exclamation of (negative) surprise or shock; comic

you who– common greeting, often from an acquaintance usually about to surprise or shock you with some fact

yow– variation of yeow, an exclamation of pain, shock, or surprise

yowza– exclamation of pleasure or pleased surprise or a pleasant shock

yuck-– exclamation of disgust; also ick

yuh-huh– argumentative or insistent childish yes; [accent on huh]; opposite of nuh-uh

Chapter Two: Perfect Punctuation

Punctuations appear as very small symbols in written text, so it is easy to dismiss them as unimportant. However, a misplaced question mark or comma can give a different meaning to your sentence. It could easily cause confusion in the people you are trying to communicate with and form relationships. Thus, it is important to learn these rules. They may look simple and insignificant, but they can create a big impact.

Here is a handy guide of the different punctuation marks. This chapter will divide them into two types: fundamental punctuation marks and special punctuation marks. You will learn what each one is for in the rest of the sections.

To see the full chart or to download a high-resolution version, please visit: [+ http://thevisualcommunicationguy.com/2014/06/05/the-15-punctuation-marks-in-order-of-difficulty/+]

Fundamental Punctuation Marks

This section lists punctuation marks that are most commonly used when writing in English. A simple mistake here can change your message. Getting it right conveys more than correct English, punctuation instills emotion, helping the reader connect to character or understand the nuance of your narrative. The variety and style of your writing is enhanced dramatically with varied punctuation, marking mood and effect, varying tone, and creating pace. While writers’ style differs dramatically, your use of punctuation must remain constant for clarity and reader acceptance.

Period (.) – used to end a declarative sentence; read in a flat tone

Example: You are going to the mall.

Question Mark (?) – used to end an interrogative sentence; read in a rising tone as when asking a question

Example: Are you going to the mall?

Exclamation Point (!) – used to end a sentence with emphasis or strong emotion; read in an excited or urgent tone as when exclaiming something

Example: You are going to the mall!

Comma (,) – used to separate phrases, clauses or items presented as a list; read as a natural pause

Example: I need to buy eggs, milk, and flour for the recipe.

Semicolon (;) – used to separate two independent clauses of a compound sentence; used to separate items in a list especially when commas were already used

Example: Gina is an A student; she is our class valedictorian.

Colon (:) – used before a quote (when not using quotation marks) or a list; also used to indicate time and ratio

Examples: Anne Frank wrote: “The final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Ellipsis (…) – used to indicate missing text or an incomplete sentence

Example: I just feel bad because…

Apostrophe (’) – used to stand in for missing letters, usually in contractions (e.g., isn’t/is not); it also indicates possession and the plural form of letters or numbers

Example: That is Hector’s favorite t-shirt.

Special Punctuation Marks

This section deals with punctuation marks that are used to draw attention to parts of your writing or are used to create intended effects. Most of them come in families with member punctuation marks that may look very much alike but function differently from one another. Learn to distinguish a (–) from a (—) dash and double quotation marks (“xxx”) from single ones (‘xxx’‘). Yes, those are pairs of different punctuation marks and their differences are very significant. Find out about them now!

En Dash, and the Hyphen

The difference among these three kinds of dashes is not as obvious when you first see them. However, the en dash (–), em dash (—), and hyphen (-) are used in very different ways.


The clearest difference among the three dashes is the width of the line. The en (–) dash and em dash (—) are called as such because the widths of the dashes are approximately the width of the lowercase letters for ‘n’ and ‘m’ respectively. This form originated from the time of manual printing presses and typewriters. The form continues to be used in digital fonts. The hyphen (-) is shorter than the en dash.


En Dash – used to indicate a specific range; it connects to things that are linked in terms of distance

Examples: World War II (1939–1945) was a very dark time in our history. You can find the essay on pages 123–135 of your textbook.

Em Dash– used for effect in a sentence to express an interruption or a missing thought; it is also used to indicate the source of a quote

Examples: There is really only one person responsible for all this—my little brother Joshua. “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there.” —Lewis Carroll

Hyphen – used to connect two things that are closely related; usually seen in compound words

Examples: My mother-in-law is excited to see her grandchildren. I can’t find my favorite blue-green dress.


Using Brackets

The brackets are a family of punctuation marks usually used as matched pairs that sets a portion of text apart from the rest of the text. There are different kinds of brackets with the following as the most commonly used: round brackets or parentheses ( ), square brackets or crotchets [ ], curly brackets or braces { }, and angle brackets or chevrons <>.


Round Brackets or Parentheses ( )–used to include additional information that clarifies or veers away from the main point; sometimes functions similarly to a pair of commas

Examples: Brendon Richards (representative for Ms. Burns) gave an official statement to the public. The Tales of Jack Rabbit (the second book in the series) was sold out in minutes.

Square Brackets or Crotchets [ ]–used to indicate omitted text usually when directly quoting from a source; also used to clarify details that are in the original source but may have been lost in the quoted text

Examples: “As a type of finch the [yellow] canary is medium-sized,” averaging 13 centimeters in length. Gregory did not know about it [the rumors] at the time.

Curly Brackets Braces { }– used to indicate a set of choices or a list; most commonly found in mathematics, computer programming or music and not in ordinary writing; sometimes used in the same way as parentheses when other brackets were already used in the text in order to avoid confusion

Examples: Please select a color {blue, yellow, red} for your item. The report (Harris Jewelers Theft [filed May 5 {by Officer Stevens}]) was missing.

Angle Brackets or Chevrons <>– used to highlight text; commonly used to insert translations or unreadable sections of a handwritten or indecipherable text that was typed out

Examples: J’adore mon chat . Dear Charlie, I hope keeping well.


Quotation Marks

Quotation marks are punctuation marks used as matching pairs of either double (“xxx”) or single (‘xxx’) used to indicate the beginning and the end of a quote or to highlight certain words or phrases that are significant in a text.

Special Uses – quotation marks are used for drawing attention to certain words or phrases especially when they are used in a sarcastic manner or when they are slang

Example: It was such a “fun” party, if by fun you mean boring. I like her because she is a very “fun” gal.

Literary Titles–quotation marks are used for the titles of short literary works like poetry, short stories, newspaper and magazine articles, songs, radio shows and TV shows (novels and works bound as a book are italicized instead)

Example: “The Tempest” is my favorite Shakespearean play. Crystal Crane stars in the new TV show “Beautiful and Damned” which will premiere on Monday.


Quotes and Dialogue–quotation marks are also used to denote a direct quote or a dialogue; when found in the middle of a sentence, the first quotation mark is preceded by a comma and the second quotation mark is preceded by the applicable punctuation mark (usually a comma for quotes in the middle of the sentence or a period, question mark or exclamation point for the end of the sentence)

Example: “I think that’s all right,” Jason said, “but it would be better if we found another way.” “Is anyone else hungry?” asked my mom.

Punctuation Outside the Quotation Mark–depending on the intended meaning, the second quotation mark could also be succeeded by an applicable punctuation mark

Example: I can’t believe that he said, “The sun revolves around the earth”! When did she say, “I want a puppy for my birthday”?

Single Quotation Marks – used for a quote within a quote

Example: I asked, “Why would they say, ‘There is nothing we can do’?”

Depicting a Dialogue–in a series of quotes as in a dialogue, every new quote by a different speaker is indicated by a paragraph

Example: (One continuous dialogue)

“Do you want to grab some coffee?” I asked David.

He replied, “Sure. Why not?”


“Where do you want to go?”

I said, “Charlie’s Café.”



There are several techniques for creating emphasis in a text. They are used to distinguish certain words and phrases in order to set them apart from the rest of the text. The most common methods are: italics, underline, and boldface. The techniques are interchangeable and the choice is usually a matter of preference by the writer.


Italics–the characters of a text are set so that they slant to the right; in word processing applications, this is indicated by the symbol ‘I’; this is also used for title of long literary works like novels

Examples: The red car parked across the street is his vehicle. The Great Gatsby is one of the most loved American classic novels.

Underline–the characters of a text are marked by a line underneath; this is indicated by the ‘U’ symbol

Example: The local government will not demolish the building.

Boldface–the characters of a text are modified so that they appear bigger and darker; this is indicated by the ‘B’ symbol

Example: Many people including Paul Marks will attend the event.

Chapter Three: “Oh the Horror”, oops, Oh The Grammar!

Now that you’ve found the right word and added the correct punctuation, it is time to check your grammar. Many people overlook the study of grammar rules, but knowing the basics would help you to write and speak well.

The best way to understand the rules is to know the reasoning behind them. Once you have that down, your sentences will flow smoothly. Each section in this chapter will explain the most basic grammar guidelines for the English language.


In This Chapter

Section One starts with the basics which are “Nouns and Verbs.” These are the two most important and fundamental class of words in the English language. Learning their different functions and sub-types is mandatory.

Section Two asks, “When, What?” It will deal with tenses or the period in time when a verb occurs. You will learn about past, present, and future tenses and everything in between. It is always good to make clear if something happened yesterday, today, or tomorrow. It will definitely save you from the embarrassment of forgetting birthdays and anniversaries but the lesson here is capturing the essence of the moment by using the perfect tense.

Section Three covers “Action and Linking Verbs” which are two important types of verbs. Being able to use both properly will result in sentences that are easy to read and understand.

Section Four deals with the “Active Versus Passive Voice!” Know when it is appropriate to use one over the other. This section is especially useful when you are writing in different genres, or switching your perspective in time, such as a flashback. Every writer has their own ratio of active versus passive voice within their work. The key is in variety, and in finding that authentic balance that sounds like the story you wish to create.

Section Five is about “Conjunctions and Clauses.” A clause is what you could consider a sentence fragment—it is almost a sentence or, rather, a part of it. The concept is a step above words and forms the basis for sentences. Learn how to use them right as they have an impact on your sentence structure or the way you arrange the parts of your sentences.

Section Six inquires, “So, Just what is a Sentence?” Throwing a bunch of words and clauses together do not necessarily get you a meaningful sentence. Be ready to create sentences that look good and express your message perfectly. Balancing all the parts to creating sentences well, is the only way to expressing your genuine voice in your written work.

Section Seven will give you “Rules to Live By!” to cap off everything you learned in the book. These are rules that even seasoned writers miss or forget, so commit them to heart to improve your writing and craft flawless results.


Nouns and Verbs

There are many different classes of words, which are also called ‘parts of speech.’ The most basic classes of words in language are nouns and verbs. All sentences have them. Without nouns and verbs, sentences will be about nothing and cannot be used to describe or express facts, thoughts, or ideas.

A noun is a word that names or identifies a person, animal, thing, place, or concept. The term ‘noun’ comes from the Latin word nomen, which translates to ‘name.’ All languages have words that can be considered nouns. These are examples of nouns to help you distinguish them from other parts of speech and to give you guidance when using them in your sentences.


Person – a word that denotes a person, which can be a proper name, title, occupation, or gender

Examples: Mariella went shopping for new clothes. He was not very happy about it.

Animal – a word that denotes an animal, which can be a proper name, scientific name, species, or class

Examples: The dog barked at the mailman. Fluffy drank milk from her bowl.

Place – a word that denotes a place, which can be a proper name, actual location, or general vicinity

Examples: The Grand Theater is open from 9:00 AM to 11:00 PM daily. Let’s go to the mall later.

Thing – a word that denotes a thing or object, which can be living or non-living and has a proper name, kind, or class

Examples: I think I left my cellphone. Don’t forget to buy some chips.

Idea – a word that denotes an idea or an abstract concept, which can be something that eventually comes true in reality or exist in the imagination

Examples: Love is a very wonderful feeling. You need to follow the law. Function of Nouns in Sentences

Important Functions of Nouns

Nouns as subjects – Every sentence has a verb that has a subject. The verb refers to an action and the subject refers to the who or what doing the action verb. (Learn more about this in Section Three and Four.)

Example: Hannah played the guitar. The action verb is played while Hannah is the one doing the playing. Hannah is the subject of the sentence. It is also a noun.

Complete subject versus Simple subject – The complete subject is the who or the what doing the action verb including all of the modifiers or description that go along with it.

Examples: The tall, handsome gentleman took his coat off. A shiny, silver medal hung from her neck. The simple subject is the who or the what doing the action verb not including all of the modifiers or description that go along with it.

Examples: The tall, handsome gentleman took his coat off. A shiny, silver medal hung from her neck.

Nouns as direct objects – In some sentences, it is clear that the subject is performing the action verb on a who or what, which is called the direct object. This direct object can be a noun.

Examples: Roxie carried her Persian cat. Roxie is the subject who is doing the action verb carried. The answer to the question “What is Roxie carrying?” is her Persian cat.

Nouns as indirect objects – It is not often that one would see indirect objects in a written text, so it would be good to know how to recognize them. When trying to look for the indirect object in the sentence, it would be good to first identify the direct object. Once that has been spotted, take a look at the who or the what that gets the direct object—that is the indirect object.

Example: Jared baked his mom a cake on her birthday. The subject is Jared, the action verb is baked, and the direct object is cake. Who gets the cake? The answer is mom. So, mom is the indirect object.

Nouns as objects of prepositions – Prepositional phrases are comprised of a preposition and a noun, pronoun, or gerund or the object of the preposition. The latter usually has modifiers that add descriptions.

Example: Students must submit their finished exams by noon. The subject of the sentence is students with the action verb as submit. The direct object of the action verb is their finished exams. The sentence ends with a prepositional phrase with the preposition by and the noun noon.

Nouns as object complements – An object complement is a noun, pronoun, or adjective (word, phrase, or clause) that follow and describe the direct object in a sentence. There must be a direct object in the sentence in order to have an object complement.

Example: My brother named his newborn baby Alexander. The subject of the sentence is my brother with the action verb as named. The direct object of the action verb is his newborn baby. The noun Alexander describes his newborn baby. So, that noun complements the direct object.

Nouns as subject complements – A subject complement is a noun, pronoun or adjective that follows a linking verb. (See Section Three for a more detailed discussion on linking verbs.)

Example: Jamie is a talented violinist. The subject of the sentence is Jamie with the linking verb is followed by the noun as a subject complement which is violinist. In this example, Jamie is equated to the noun violinist, so it complements the subject.

A Noun Can Be Either a Proper Noun or a Common Noun

Proper Nouns – A proper noun is the name of non-generic items. They are specific names for persons, animals, things, places, or concepts. They are capitalized even though they occur in the middle of a sentence.

Common Nouns – A common noun is the name of generic items. They are general names for persons, animals, things, places, or concepts. They are not capitalized except for common nouns that begin a sentence or form part of a title of a work. (The full title itself would be considered a proper noun.)

Examples: I saw two baby pandas at the zoo. (Both ‘pandas’ and ‘zoo’ are common nouns.) My best friend Justine attended Holly Oaks College. (Both ‘Justine’ and ‘Holly Oaks College’ are proper nouns for a person and a school, respectively.) Mr. Smith will be my new landlord. (‘Mr. Smith’ is a proper noun while ‘landlord’ is a common noun.)


Common VS Proper Nouns

This table provides some very basic distinctions for comparison:

When – What?

When using verbs in writing, it is important to identify when the action they denote occurred. This allows readers to follow the sequence or chronology of actions and situations. Also, by accurately identifying the time, it helps to clarify the meaning of the sentence and avoids confusion in the reader.

For instance, you might want to express that an important action as already completed, but the incorrect use of one word in the sentence could lead to confusion. Have you ever had to re-read a section or chapter, confused by the timing of events? Learn how to incorporate the idea of time into your verbs by using the different tense forms. This might be a bit difficult for second language learners with no equivalent tenses to compare. The simple tenses are usually easy to learn, but the progressive, perfect, and perfect-progressive forms can be challenging. This is where good reading habits come into play. By taking a look at how other writers use the different tenses, you will generate a better frame of reference in your own work.

Do not be intimidated by all the different tenses available to use. They are all just varieties of the simple tenses. Once you understand the basic forms, building on that knowledge and using the other forms in English will come naturally.


Verbs Tenses

Verb tenses are used in the English language to express time. The correct tense answers the question, “When does the action occur?” By choosing different verb tense forms, the writer can create varying responses to this question.

There are three simple tenses: a Past Form that denotes an action done in the past, a Present Form denoting an action happening in the present, and a Future Form denoting an action to be done in the future. Each basic tense also has a Perfect Form denoting a completed action, a Progressive Form denoting an ongoing action, and a Perfect Progressive Form that denotes an ongoing action that will be completed at some point in the future.


Simple Tenses

Present Tense – express a repeating, continuing situation or action that is only true now or at this moment; also expresses an idea that happens to be true right now

Example: Gemma reads one book every day.

Past Tense – express a situation or action that began and was completed in a time period gone by; the basic form of verbs in the past tense is an –ed ending; there are also irregular past tense forms that do not follow that format

Example: I planted a seedling in my backyard yesterday.

Future Tense – express a situation or action that will happen in a time period after this moment; the basic form of verbs in the future tense is a ‘will’ or ‘shall’ before the verb

Example: The chairperson will appoint a new team leader next Wednesday.

Progressive Forms

Present Progressive Tense – express a situation or action that is occurring at the very moment that the statement was written down; the form of verbs in the present progressive tense is an ‘am’, ‘is’, or ‘are’ before the verbs and an–ing ending

Example: Lisa is washing the dishes right now.

Past Progressive Tense – express an action that occurred in the past at the same moment that another action happened; the form of verbs in the past progressive tense is a ‘was’ or ‘were’ before the verbs and an–ing ending

Example: The postman was delivering the mail when he heard a scream from inside the house.

Future Progressive Tense – express a continuous action that will happen in the future; the form of verbs in the future progressive tense is a ‘will be’ or ‘shall be’ before the verbs and an –ing ending.

Example: Jeremy will be studying during the football match this weekend.


Perfect Forms

Present Perfect Tense – express an action that began in the past and continues to this point now or occurred at an indefinite time in the past; the form of verbs in the present perfect tense is a ‘has’ or ‘have’ and the past participle form of the verb (usually with an –ed ending; there are also special past participle forms that do not follow that format)

Example: Everyone has seen the video by now.

Past Perfect Tense – express an action that happened in the past before another action that happened in the past; the form of verbs in the past perfect tense is a ‘had’ before the verbs and the past participle form of the verb

Example: Ben had cleaned the house before his parents came home.

Future Perfect Tense – express an action that will happen in the future before another action occurs; the form of verbs in the future perfect tense is a ‘will have’ before the verbs and the past participle form of the verb

Example: Dennis will have finished his homework by dinnertime.


Perfect Progressive Forms

Present Perfect Progressive – express an action that started in the past, continues in the present, and might continue in the future; the form of verbs in the present perfect progressive tense is a ‘has been’ or ‘have been’ before the verbs and the present participle form of the verb (formed with an –ing ending)

Example: They have been calling the office since last week.

Past Perfect Progressive – express a past, continuing action that was completed before another action in the past; the form of verbs in the past perfect progressive tense is a ‘had been’ before the verbs and the present participle form of the verb (formed with an –ing ending)

Example: That alarm had been beeping for thirty minutes before Kieran finally woke up.

Future Perfect Progressive – express a future, continuing action that will happen before a definite time in the future; the form of verbs in the future perfect tense is a ‘will have been’ before the verbs and the present participle form of the verb (formed with an –ing ending)

Example: The builders will have been working for sixty days when the safety inspector comes around.


Irregular Verbs

There are verbs with simple past and past participle forms that can be considered irregular. These are considered irregular because they are not formed the regular way which is to simply add an –ed to the end of the word. They are formed in a variety of ways with no obvious pattern. Sometimes, instead of an –ed ending, they are formed with an –en ending. In other instances, there is no addition of letters at the end and instead, some letters are dropped. The most baffling cases for beginners are those irregular verbs that completely change their spelling when transformed into simple past and past participle forms. Take a look at some examples of irregular verbs in the table below:



Many writers make the mistake of adding the wrong ending to an irregular verb. For example, ‘chose’ is not written as ‘chosed’ in the past tense but remains simply ‘chose’. Similarly, the past participle form of ‘fly’ is not ‘flewn’ but ‘flown’. There is no logical pattern for these irregular verbs, so it would be best to familiarize yourself with these types of verbs through reading.

In addition, the simple past tense verb does not need an auxiliary verb to form. It consists of only one part, which is the verb in the simple past tense. On the other hand, the part participle tense verb always requires one or more auxiliary verbs (i.e., has, have, had). That’s a good way to distinguish simple past from past participle verbs.

Examples: My mom went to the market last week. Charles Dickens wrote A Tale of Two Cities in 1859. Lola Luna had become an international pop star before she turned 19. The bird has flown away and is not yet back in its nest.

Action and Linking Verbs

Aside from presenting time through their form, verbs can also express meaning through their position in a sentence and when used with other parts in everyday speech. This is especially important when you want to add more information about the action or clarifying details on what is happening in the sentence. There are different types of verbs including Action Verbs, Transitive Verbs, Intransitive Verbs, and Linking Verbs. They are all used to support the subject of a sentence.

Knowing what type of verb to use will improve your writing and allow you to express meaning in a variety of ways. Sometimes, the written text sounds awkward or forced because the writer has only used one type of verb (usually just simple action verbs) when there are many patterns that one could try out. Learn to experiment with verbs in your writing to give your work more life. Also, take a look at your favorite writer’s use of verbs in sentences and get an idea of all the different ways verbs can be used and written to your advantage.


Action Verbs, Transitive, Intransitive, and Linking Verbs

Action Verbs are verbs that denote something is happening, something a person, animal, place, thing, or even concept can do. That is why they are called ‘action’ verbs. Examples: Paula watched her favorite TV show. Henry ate the cake that his mom baked.

Watched, ate, and baked are things that people do. If you are not sure if a sentence has an action verb, then take a look at every word contained in the sentence and ask, “Can a (person, animal, place, thing, or idea) actually do this?” If yes, then there is an action verb.

Action verbs are either transitive or intransitive. That means that some verbs are used with a direct object while other verbs do not need a direct object. Some verbs can also be both transitive and intransitive depending on their use and meaning.

Transitive verbs have a direct object or a person or thing that receives the subject’s action. The term ‘transitive’ is derived from ‘trans’ which means to go through or across. So, the action has to pass through the verb towards the object. Thus, when a verb requires an object to be the receiver of the action of that verb, then that is a transitive verb. Examples: Kara loves her dad. (The direct object is ‘her dad’.) The plumber will fix the leaking faucet soon. (The direct object is ‘the leaking faucet’.)

Intransitive verbs do not require a direct object to express their meaning. Most are succeeded by a preposition, adjective, adverb, infinitive, or gerund. Unlike transitive verbs, intransitive verbs do not require an object to be the receiver of the action of that verb. Examples: Vanessa arrived late to the meeting. The emergency team responded swiftly and efficiently.

Linking verbs are called as such because they link two parts of speech, usually two nouns where one is the subject and the other the complement (that completes information regarding the subject). The most common linking verbs in the English language are forms of ‘to be’ like is, are, have been, was, were, may have been, will have been, and so on. These are also called ‘be verbs.’ Examples: I was a dancer when I was younger. The dolphins were trained to perform stunts.

Active versus Passive Voice!

Now that you know what action verbs are, you will be able to grasp the concept of active and passive voice in the English language. The voice of a verb tells the reader if the subject of the sentence is the performer or the receiver of the action denoted by the verb. In the English language there are two types of voices: active voice and passive voice. They are named after the activity of the subject in the sentence—whether they are acting or not acting.

At first glance, there might not seem to be much of a difference in meaning between the two voices, Active and Passive but look closer:


Active Voice

When the subject causes the action of the action verb, then the sentence is said to be in the active voice. So, the doer of the action is active or doing something in the sentence.

Examples: The dog ate my homework. Families will attend the annual parade. That little boy lost his kite.

Passive Voice

You can also rearrange a sentence in such a way that it now has a passive voice. So, the subject is no longer active, rather, it is the one being acted upon by the verb. In other words, the doer of the action is inactive (not doing anything) or passive in the sentence. Examples: My homework was eaten by the dog. The annual parade will be attended by families. A kite was lost by that little boy.

The passive voice adds more words and changes the normal pattern of sentences, so readers may find it harder to understand or more trying to read. The active voice sounds more fluid and conversational. Most people do use the active voice in everyday talk. In writing, the active voice is also preferred, but the passive voice can create certain effects that the writer intends. For instance, the passive voice can be used when the doer of the action in the sentence is not known, not needed, or not wanted. It can also be used to draw attention to the action of the sentence instead of the doer of the action.

The passive voice adds variety to sentences which makes it more exciting to read. However, the passive voice, although grammatically correct in most instances, does sound incorrect. It also sounds dated and too formal. It is often used in literary prose, poetry, and even academic writing (where the researcher wants to be objective and would distance himself or herself from the work done). Know what genre you are writing in and your audience when choosing the voice to use in your work.


Conjunctions and Clauses

From nouns and verbs, we move on to larger parts of a sentence. Sentences are composed of one or more clauses. These are clusters of words that create meaning in a variety of ways by forming different patterns. These clauses are joined together by conjunctions or words that allow one clause to flow to the other which gives the sentence coherence and unity.

There are different types of conjunctions that correspond to the different types of clauses that link together. Learn about them here and be able to distinguish their forms and functions so that you will be able to better use them in your own writing.



A conjunction is a word that links together two or more words, phrases, or clauses. It acts as the glue in a sentence by joining parts together. Conjunctions give your writing much better flow.

There are three different types of conjunctions and you will learn about them in this section.

Coordinating Conjunctions

There are seven coordinating conjunctions: so, yet, or, but, nor, and, for. These words glue together two words, two phrases, or two independent clauses. Coordinating conjunctions are used when you want to give the same emphasis to two main clauses. The next section on subordinating conjunctions explains what conjunction to use when one does not want to give equal importance to two clauses. Coordinating conjunctions are used in three ways: to connect two main clauses, to connect two items, and to connect three or more items in a series.

Connecting two main clauses

Coordinating conjunctions are used to join together two equal independent clauses. (Learn more about independent clauses later on in the section on ‘Clauses’.)

Example: I cleaned my closet and my sister washed the dishes.

Connecting two items

Coordinating conjunctions can also connect two similar items in a sentence.

Example: John is a football player and an A-student.

Connecting three or more items in a series

Coordinating conjunctions link the last item in a series to the rest of the list.

Example: Her shopping list included toothpaste, soap, shampoo, and mouthwash.

Subordinating Conjunctions

These conjunctions glue together dependent adverb clauses with independent clauses. (Learn more about independent clauses later on in the section on ‘Clauses’.) These sentences are called complex sentences. (The types of sentences will be discussed further in Section Seven.) The following is a List of Subordinate Conjunctions:


The subordinating conjunction has two uses. First, it allows for a transition between two different ideas in a sentence. The transition usually denotes a place, time or cause and effect relationship. Second, it reduces that significance of one clause so that the readers give more importance to the other. This is because the more important clause contains the main idea of the sentence, while the less important clause just contains the supporting idea. Example: Whenever I smell blueberry pancakes, I think of home.


Correlative Conjunctions

These conjunctions are used in pairs (either / or, both / and), but they are used in a similar way to coordinating conjunctions. In other words, they glue things together that are the same.

Example: Neither David nor Sally knew about the meeting at noon.


There are four types of clauses: the main or independent clause, the subordinate or dependent clause, the adjective or relative clause, and the noun clause. All these clauses should contain at least a subject and a verb. Without a subject or a verb, the clause is called a fragment or a phrase instead. They can be distinguished from one another through their different characteristics.

Main or Independent Clause

All main clauses follow the pattern: subject + verb = complete thought. That means together they can stand on their own, and are considered complete sentences. That’s why they are called ‘independent’.

Examples: My pet iguana loves his new box. The door lock is broken.

Subordinate or Dependent Clause

All subordinate clauses follow the pattern: subject + verb = incomplete thought. They are unable to stand on their own and are not considered complete sentences. They need to ‘depend’ on another clause in order to form a complete meaning.

Examples: So my pet iguana loves his new box. Because the door lock is broken.

Relative Clauses

A relative clause always begins with a relative pronoun (e.g., who, whose, whom, which, that) or a relative adverb (e.g., where, when, why). Like dependent clauses, relative clauses are unable to stand on their own as complete sentences. They must be connected to an independent clause in order to express a complete thought.

Examples: That my pet iguana loves. Who broke the door lock?

Noun Clauses

Any clause that is able to function as a noun is considered a noun clause. To find out if a clause is a noun clause, try replacing the entire clause with a simpler word that also acts as a noun.

Example: I really want to know what the baker puts in this bread. (The clause can be replaced by the noun ‘the ingredients’ and keep its meaning intact.)


So, What is a Sentence?

Review the Simple, Compound and Complex Sentences below to add more variety in everything you write.


Simple Sentence

A simple sentence is comprised of a single independent clause with one subject and one verb. It already expresses a complete thought.

Examples: I went to the dentist yesterday. They can’t find her missing book.

Compound Sentence

A compound sentence is comprised of two or more independent clauses or simple sentences. They are formed by joining the two independent clauses together with either a semicolon or a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (i.e., so, yet, or, but, nor, and, for).

Examples: Henrik went home but Xenia stayed behind. The dinner should start at 5:00 PM or it will be delayed by an hour.

Complex Sentence

A complex sentence is comprised of at least one independent clause and one dependent clause. They are formed by joining the two clauses with a subordinating conjunction.

Examples: Though he was not in the mood, he still went to his friend’s party. Everyone in the room laughed, because Franny told a funny joke.


Rules to Live By!

Now that you have reviewed all the parts of speech, it is important to remember some basic rules when writing in the English language. Sticking to these rules will help you achieve good grammar and let you express your meaning accurately.


Subject Verb Agreement

Basic Rule to remember is a singular subject should have a singular verb while a plural subject should have a plural verb.

Examples: My sister is walking to the store. The apples are on the table.


Rule 1 The subject is identified as that which comes before a phrase that begins with ‘of’.

Example: A box of chocolates makes anybody happy. (The subject is box not chocolates. So, the subject is singular which makes the verb singular as in makes.)

Rule 2 In general, a plural verb is used with two or more subjects that are connected by ‘and’.

Example: A pair of boots and a coat are what you should be wearing this rainy day.

Rule 3 Two singular subjects linked by or, either / or, or neither / nor need a singular verb.

Example: Either my mom or my aunt is helping today with the garage sale. (Only one person is doing the action, so the verb should be in singular form.)

Rule 4 The verb in a sentence that contains or, either / or, or neither / nor agrees with the noun or pronoun that is closest to it.

Examples: Neither the jackets nor the bag is on sale. Neither the jacket nor the bags are on sale.

Rule 5 When a sentence begins with ‘here’ or ‘there’, the subject is the one following the verb.

Example: There are four stages to go through.

Rule 6 When the subject is separated from its verbs using the words as well, along with, as, not, besides, etc, then these words are not part of the subject. They must be ignored in favor of the true subject.

Example: The princess, along with her ladies-in-waiting, is delighted with the arrival of the duke.

Rule 7 Words that denote portions like a lot, some, all, a majority are guided by the noun after of. If the noun after of is singular, then the verb is singular. If the noun is plural, then the verb is plural.

Example: Some of the children are playing in the garden. Most of the pizza is gone.

Rule 8 The singular verb is used when it comes to sums of money, periods of time and distances, which are considered as one unit.

Examples: Three kilometers is too far. Five dollars is a small price to pay.



Parallelism in a sentence simply refers to using the elements in the sentence in a way that is identical in terms of structure or similar in meaning. This helps achieve symmetry and balance in writing.

Examples: This is what he wanted, and it is also what he needed. Gemma is funny and kind. During the presentation, the boys recited a poem and the girls performed a dance routine.


Personal Pronouns and Agreement

Every time you use a personal pronoun like she, it or they, you need to have an antecedent, which is a word that the pronoun is replacing. This will help keep you from repeating the same noun over and over again. The personal pronoun must also agree with its antecedent. So, if the antecedent is singular, then the pronoun should also be singular. If it is plural, then the pronoun should also be plural.

Examples: Maika did not want to speak when she was called to answer. The gentlemen were fine with the result even though they were shocked.


Bonus Section

Excerpt from Ground Rules for Essay Writers

Susan Ball’s new companion to the Ground Rule for Writer’s delivers all the keys you need to create great essays! This excerpt delivers a step-by-step process for getting your essay citation right every time. Look for the Ground Rules for Essay Writers from Amazon in 2017.


From The Chapter On Citations:

Style Guides, Rules, and Where do I Use Italics?

Going to school is an exciting time in your life. You’re excited and nervous and anxious. You’ve enrolled in your courses and its time to get started.

Inevitably the essay will rear its ugly head. It is the main piece of writing where you will argue your point and win others over to your side. And with the essay comes the confusing art of reference citations. Giving credit to your source is extremely important and must be accurately done!

Properly citing your references is critical to the success of your writing. Writers rely on facts to make their arguments and those facts must be properly attributed to their original author.

Citations can be very confusing and you may find yourself asking, “The quotes go where? Oh not there because it’s two authors? Sorry! I meant to say that needs an underline not a quote. Which part do I put in italics?” This is where Style Guides become our best friend. There are several available and each style guide is specifically targeted to a niche writing style. Here are the three main guides:

The Chicago Manual of Style

The most comprehensive stylebook ever created. Its primary use is by book authors of both fiction and non-fiction. The Chicago Manual of Style has the rules you can’t find in the MLA Handbook. For example, how to handle punctuation in bulleted or numbered lists is not addressed in MLA but you’ll find it in Chicago.

The Associated Press Style Book

Commonly referred to as the AP Style, it is used by newspaper and magazine writers and is not generally used by authors or students writing research papers.

The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers

Primarily used by college and university students who are majoring in the humanities and liberal arts. MLA is the standard for essay and research paper citations. No essay should be written without your MLA Handbook right next to you!

For the purposes of this guide, we will be using only, The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers as our reference style.

Media Type

There are six (6) major types of written or visual material that can be cited in an essay and each one has very specific citation rules. Your first questions will be to ask: What am I Citing? Where did I find it?

BOOK: A written work or composition found in print, or digitally as an e-book. Can be non-fiction or fiction.

MAGAZINE: A popular work published periodically (weekly, monthly etc.) focusing on a specific interest or subject.

NEWSPAPER: A periodical publication containing current events, news, interviews and opinion articles.

WEBSITE: A collection of pages that provides information about a certain topic.

JOURNAL: A scholarly work published periodically, containing highly specified research.

FILM: A motion picture or movie. Can be a fictional movie, documentary or even YouTube videos!


Formatting Dates


With the exception of May, June and July, which are spelled out in full, the names of the months must be abbreviated as follows:


UNDATED SOURCES: Use “n.d.” (for “no date”) in the appropriate place in your citation. When this is used after a period in a citation, capitalize the “n” (“N.d.”).

Knowles, Allison. House of Dust. N.d. Sculpture. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Grove Art Online. Web. 7 Aug. 2006.

Books: Print

Basic MLA Format Rules for Print Books

Author’s name comes first and is formatted as last name, then first name, separated by a comma: Austen, Jane.

The Book Title comes immediately after the author’s information and is always in italics: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice.

The next detail is the Publisher which is formatted as: City: Publisher’s Name, Publication Date: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, Eng: Thomas Egerton of London, 1813.

For a print books, the word Print must be inserted at the end of the citation. See the following list for examples:


Source: Works Cited List

Basic Book: Jans, Nick. The Last Light Breaking: Life among Alaska’s Inupiat Eskimos. Anchorage: Alaska Northwest Books, 1993. Print.


Basic MLA Format Rules for Print Books with Editions


Numbered Edition: Miller, John, and Tim Smith, eds. Cape Cod Stories: Tales from Cape Cod, Nantucket, and Martha’s Vineyard. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1996. Print.

Arking, Robert. The Biology of Aging: Observations and Principles. 3rd ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2006. Print.

Revised Edition: Culliney, John L. Islands in a Far Sea: The Fate of Nature in Hawai’i. Rev. ed. Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2006. Print.

Multi-Volume Set: Green, Constance McLaughlin. Washington. 2 vols. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1962-63. Print.

Chapter or Article in an Anthology: De Maria, Walter. “The Lightning Field.” 1980. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art: A Sourcebook of Artists’ Writings. Ed. Kristine Styles and Peter Selz. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996. 527-30. Print.


Books: E-Books

E-Books follow the same basic rules as Print Books with the following changes: Web Source is cited after the City

Publisher Information: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, Eng: Thomas Egerton of London, 1813. Project Gutenberg.

Print is replaced with Web: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, Eng: Thomas Egerton of London, 1813. Web.

The Web Release Date is the final bit of information and is formatted as Day—Month—Year: Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, Eng: Thomas Egerton of London, 1813. Web. 26 Aug 2008.

For Pride and Prejudice, the MLA Citation for the E-Book edition is:

Austen, Jane. Pride and Prejudice. London, Eng: Thomas Egerton of London, 1813. Web. 26 Aug 2008.


Source—Works Cited List

Library Database: Kornblum, William. At Sea in the City: New York from the Water’s Edge. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2002. NetLibrary. Web. 23 June 2006.

Free Web: Seton, Ernest Thompson. The Arctic Prairies: A Canoe-Journey of 2,000 Miles in Search of the Caribou. New York: C. Scribner’s Sons, 1911. Project Gutenberg. Web. 8 May 2006.


Magazines and Newspapers

Magazines can have daily, weekly or monthly editions and it’s important to ensure the edition is clearly cited with the date and the page numbers.

Monthly = Date Format will be Month, Year

Multi-Month = Date Form will be first, and last month, in the range: Apr.-May 2003

Weekly or Daily = Date Format will be Day, Month, Year

Format: Author’s last name, first name. “Title.” Magazine Name Date; Page Numbers. Print.

Format: Author’s last name, first name. “Title.” Magazine Name Date; Page Numbers. Name of Library Database. Web. Date added to library database.

Free Web sources do not have page numbers and this is noted in the citation as n.pag. (no page)


Source: Works Cited List

Print: Borowitz, Adam. “Pavlov’s Brother.” New Yorker 11 Nov. 2004: 63-65. Print.

Library Database: Borowitz, Adam. “Pavlov’s Brother.” New Yorker 11 Nov. 2004: 63-65. Academic Search Premier. Web. 12 Nov. 2006

Free Web: Springen, Karen. “Artful Aging.” Newsweek 25 Jan. 2005: n. pag. Web. 12 May 2005.


Newspapers follow a similar citation format to magazines with the addition of the Newspaper Edition. The edition is indicated as A1+, A2+ and so on.


Source—Works Cited List

Print: Brown, Patricia Leigh. “Tiffany Glass and Other Tales from the Crypt.“New York Times 5 Sept. 1999: A1+. Print.

Library Database: Brown, Patricia Leigh. “Tiffany Glass and Other Tales from the Crypt.“New York Times 5 Sept. 1999: A1+. ProQuest Newspapers. Web. 10 June 2006.

Free Web: Forman, Jackson. “Allston Gothic.” Boston Globe 12 Aug. 2003: n. pag. Web. 12 June 2006.


Academic Journals

Academic Journals usually include more than one author. The format for citing multiple authors is: Last name, First Name, Initial., First Name Initial Last Name, and First Name Initial Last Name.


Source: Works Cited List

Print: Hughes, Jane C., Elizabeth V. Brestan, and Linda Anne Valle. “Problem-Solving Interactions between Mothers and Children.” Child and Family Behavior Therapy 26.1 (2004): 1-16. Print.

Library Database: Hughes, Jane C., Elizabeth V. Brestan, and Linda Anne Valle. “Problem-Solving Interactions between Mothers and Children.” Child and Family Behavior Therapy 26.1 (2004): 1-16. PsycINFO. Web. 12 Nov. 2006.

Free Web: Martin, Pearl Y., and Sonia Jackson. “Educational Success for Children in Public Care: Advice from a Group of High Achievers.” Child and Family Social Work 7.2 (2002): 121-30. Web. 15 Nov. 2006.


Last Thoughts… Suggestions?

Want to suggest updates, additions, or corrections? Send your queries to: [email protected]


Thank you for your purchase of this book. Please consider returning to your retailers’ website and leaving a short review. Alternatively, you can visit the authors website or Foundry Guides and leave a comment or add your name for updates or the chance to nab free books along with all sorts of reader swag! We are always looking to expand our Test Crew!

Email the Authors

Susan Ball: [email protected]

Sheryl Wright: [email protected]


Ground Rule for Writers is book 1 in Your Easy Writing Reference Series from Foundry Guides. If you’re interested in writing, take a look at our courses and our Publishing Guarantee with Write2press.com and The Author Academy


Connect with Sheryl Wright

Sheryl Wright is the author of five works of fiction including the award winning [_ Contrary Warriors_] series and [_ Don’t Let Go_]. Her nonfiction work includes Primers on several Supply Chain Management Software systems and FAA Standards for Flight Training Devices.


While most of her focus today is on writing fiction, the Ground Rules for Writers emerged from the cheat notes she compiled over her lengthy career. After sharing her notes with several emerging writers, she was encouraged to release this volume.


Other Titles from Sheryl



Contrary Warriors, The Florida Academic Press, May 2015

Blood Legacy, The Florida Academic Press, May 2016

Carved In Ice, The Florida Academic Press, October 2016

Don’t Let Go, Bella Books, September 2016

Stay With Me, Bella Books, Coming in February 2017



Ground Rules for Nonfiction Book Writers, Foundry Guides, Coming November 2016

Ground Rules for Interactive Game Writers, Foundry Guides, Coming in February 2017


Website | [email protected]| Facebook | Twitter




Connect with Susan Ball

Susan Ball is a skilled and experienced Self-Love Activist, Life Coach and NLP Practitioner, as well as being a survivor of abuse. She brings intuition along with proven strategies to her work, and much to her clients’ delight. She works with all those who are ready to transition into their fearless story. To fall deeply, madly in love with themselves so they can live fulfilling and confident lives. Susan is a regular contributor to “Thrive: Live Life Fearlessly”. She dreams of living off the grid in her ‘Tiny Wrecky House’.

Website | mailto:[email protected]| Facebook


Other Titles from Susan



Ground Rules for Essay Writers, Foundry Guides, Coming in August 2017

Courage & Grace, Survive It Press, Coming in March 2017


Connect with Curtis Newbold

Curtis Newbold, “The Visual Communication Guy: Design, Writing, and Teaching Resources, All in One Place!” provided the 15 Punctuation Marks illustration. If a picture is worth a thousand words, this one illustration ropes them all in. For an HD copy of this or other helpful illustrations, please visit his Website


Connect with Sarah Lever

Sarah Lever, is the artistic force driving Vestra Design.


Ground Rules for Writers

A Quick and Easy Reference Guide for All the Painful Punctuation, Ghastly Grammar, and Pesky Sound Alike Words, Fracking Up Your Work! Description: The Ground Rules for Writers is a quick and easy reference guide for writing your best fiction or non-fiction. This guide is an excellent resource for solving all the pesky details messing up your hard work. Fully Indexed with a detailed lists of common words that are confusing to use, and may be encountered in reading and speech. The Ground Rules for Writers provides strategies for differentiating words that are close in meaning, usage, and sound. There are also rules for non-words that could puzzle anyone, even your grade two spelling teacher! Punctuation may be at risk of extinction, but misplaced periods or commas can make your writing difficult to read or even appear unskilled. Check out our handy rules and put the punctuation exactly where it belongs. The Ground Rules for Writers also delivers key rules for great Composition, enabling you to create your work with proper word usage and sentence structure. The truth is, the fewer grammatical mistakes, the better your readers will understand your work and the more they will enjoy your effort! The Ground Rules for Writers is suitable reference text for anyone who has been out of school for some time or where English is a second language.

  • Author: Sheryl Wright
  • Published: 2016-10-14 19:05:19
  • Words: 18464
Ground Rules for Writers Ground Rules for Writers