Welcome to the Grammar and Punctuation Information Resource Center. This center will provide you with informational handouts and guidelines for identifying and resolving grammar, punctuation, and mechanics issues. It also provides several layers of self-check exercises so that you can evaluate your own progress.
Active and Passive Sentences: Are you plagued by comments on your papers about overusing the passive voice? Do you want to stop seeing that comment? This handout defines what the passive and active voices are and provides you with guidelines about when it is appropriate or desirable to use each.
Comma Splices and Fused Sentences: This handout provides you with easy-to-understand definitions of the comma splice and the fused sentence. It also gives you advice on, explanations about, and examples of the easiest ways to correct these problems in your own writing.
Dangling Modifiers: If you get this comment on your papers, do you know what it means? Can you spot a dangling modifier? This grammar problem can cause serious misreading, but it’s notoriously difficult to figure out. You can learn what this troublesome grammar issue is and how to fix it in your writing by reading this handout.
Eliminating Fragments: This handout illustrates the most common causes of unintentional fragments in written communication. It also provides you with advice about how to spot them in your papers and how to fix them easily.
Faulty Predication: Faulty predication occurs when a sentence’s subject and predicate do not make sense together, and this problem can certainly create headaches and confusion for readers.
Parallelism: Parallelism is sometimes a difficult concept to get a handle on. This handout can help. Part 1 defines and illustrates the concept and part 2 shows you how to correct the problem.
Parts of Speech: Can’t remember what a preposition is or does? This handout provides a basic review of the building blocks of sentences—the parts of speech. It provides examples of the parts of speech at use within sentences. We recommend it as a quick refresher before you go on to the other handouts.
Prepositions: This handout provides definitions as well as examples of prepositions in use. It also gives advice on dealing with the most common problems in choosing the right preposition to say what you mean.
Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement: This grammar problem is arguably the most prevalent in current use, and it’s one that is so common it’s difficult to “hear.” This handout walks you through the most common agreement errors and shows you how to get rid of them.
Relative Clauses: This handout will show you what a relative clause is and how to use it effectively in your writing to make the structure of your ideas more obvious to your readers. It will also give you advice about punctuating it correctly.
Subject/Verb Agreement (Part 1): This part of the subject/verb agreement handout defines the problem that occurs when your subject and your verb don’t agree in number (singular or plural). It provides guidelines for deciding whether to use a singular or plural verb by identifying the real subject of the sentence.
Subject/Verb Agreement (Part 2): This handout is a continuation of the Subject/Verb Agreement handout and goes into more specific detail about how to identify the real subject of the sentence and avoid the problem.
Using Tense Shifts Effectively: One of the most important skills in writing is the ability to move your audience logically through different time frames by using the correct verb tense. This handout defines the tenses and illustrates through examples how to use them appropriately.
A Personal Editing Log: This easy-to-use handout provides you with a one-page organizer for keeping track of the frequency of your own most personal grammar problems and allows you to monitor your improvement.
Apostrophes: Tired of being undecided about where and when to use an apostrophe? This handout will help you learn how to use apostrophes by gathering together in one place the rules for the only two ways to use apostrophes. It also offers explanation and lots of examples.
Capitalization: This handout provides rules and examples for correct capitalization.
Using Colons Correctly: One of the most common punctuation errors is the misuse of the colon. This handout provides guidelines for determining whether to use a colon within your sentence to set up a list or to join two sentences. Believe it or not, the decision is easy when you know the trick. This handout does not cover the conventional uses of the colon (after the greeting in business letters, in expressions of time, between title and subtitle, etc.).
Comma Use: This handout contains the rules and examples of the most common legitimate uses of the comma, such as in compound sentences, after introductory elements, and in dates. It also discusses some of the most common misuses of the comma.
End Punctuation (PDF 137 KB): This handout discusses the three different kinds of end punctuation (period, question mark, and exclamation mark). It also discusses end punctuation and citation. New August 2009!
Using Dashes Correctly (PDF 125 KB): This handout discusses the three different types of dashes (the em-dash, the en-dash, and the 3-em dash). New August 2009!
Using Semicolons Correctly: Are you sure you’re using that semicolon correctly? You can use it in only two ways. Find out what they are in this handout: it offers you rules, examples and advice about how to use this punctuation mark correctly and effectively.
Repetition and Redundancy (PDF 114 KB): This handout discusses the use of repetition for rhetorical effect and three specific types of repetition (isocolon, anaphora, epistrophe) and the need to avoid redundancy and two types of redundancy (rhetorical tautology and RAS syndrome).
Polysyndeton and Asyndeton (PDF 135KB): This handout discusses two stylistic devices: polysyndeton and asyndeton. Polysyndeton can be used to emphasize words and phrases because the repeated use of conjunctions slows the reader down. Asyndeton has the reverse effect: the reader speeds up because conjunctions are omitted.