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I. Introduction 1
2. Essentials of English Language 7
3. The Sentence 103
4. Figurative Language 116
5. Punctuation 123
6. Letter Writing 189
7. Errors 206
8. Pitfalls to A void 218
9. Style 233
10. Suggestions 243
1I. Slang 252
12. Writing for Newspapers 260
13. Choice of Words 269
"This page is Intentionally Left Blank"
Chapter 1
Most people believe that there is a very definite set of
English rules which, when followed, will produce correct
English. In reality, this is not true. A better question to ask
is, "What is appropriate English?" The answer to that
question depends on many things:
• The relationship of the spsakers (e.g., good friends
speak to each other different than an employer
speaks to employees).
• The situation in which the communication takes
place (e.g., people have to provide different kinds
of information when talking over the telephone
than when talking face-to-face).
• The topic of the communication (e.g., you may
speak differently in telling a joke than you would
in discussing a math principle), etc.
You should aim at teaching students language that will
help them achieve their goals appropriately. For example,
they may want to be able to request help in a store. You
would teach them to do it in such a way that they would
get the help and that the people helping them would not
think that they were rude, stupid, nor snobbish. Overall,
teachers have a tendency to try to teach styles of English
that are too formal for most of the situations their students
will encounter. Try to avoid this fault. Contractions (I'm,
2' Introduction
~ I ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
he's, they'll) are always used except in very formal
We can assure you that you do not know what correct
English is. If you are a native speaker of English and pick
up any of the weighty books on English usage, it will
probably be an illuminating and humiliating experience. It
always is for me, at any rate.
Our grasp of unusual vocabulary is dubious, our
grammar is not complete, and we make many of the
mistakes the authorities mock: If you are an British English
speaker, you will be just horrified by the number of
Americanisms you use (like the one I inserted just now); if
you are an American, I think you'll be horrified by how
corporate and tech speak have changed your language (it
is disgusting, American authorities railed not too long ago,
to say "authored", but now it is something every time it
click the button on Movable Type; "donut" was until fairly
recently spelt "doughnut").
There are huge sections of "The King's English" which
it simply cannot understand - and since we have studied
Latin and went to a posh English private school - and
through that book, it's obvious that the authors had a sense,
pretentious or not, of "beauty" and how it applied to English
words, a sense which we know that at least it should lack
All the words in the English language are divided into
nine great classes. These classes are called the Parts of
Speech. They are Article, Noun, Adjective, Pronoun, Verb,
Adverb, Preposition, Conjunction and Interjection. Of
these, the Noun is the most important, as all the others are
more or less dependent upon it. A Noun signifies the name
of any person, place or thing, in fact, anything of which we
can have either thought or idea.
There are two kinds of Nouns, Proper and Common.
Common Nouns are names which belong in common to a
Introduction r3
race or class, as man, city. Proper Nouns distinguish
individual members of a race or class as John, Philadelphia.
In the former case man is a name which belongs in common
to the whole race of mankind, and city is also a name which
is common to all large centres of population, but John
signifies a particular individual of the race, while
Philadelphia denotes a particular one from among the cities
of the world.
Nouns are varied by Person, Number, Gender, and
Case. Person is that relation existing between the speaker,
those addressed and the subject under consideration,
whether by discourse or correspondence. The Persons are
First, Second and Third and they represent respect,ively the
speaker, the person addressed and the person or thing
mentioned or under consideration.
Number is the distinction of one from more than one.
There are two numbers, singular and plural; the singular
denotes one, the plural two or more. The plural is generally
formed from the singular by the addition of s or es.
Gender has the same relation to nouns that sex has to
individuals, but while there are only two sexes, there are
four genders, viz., masculine, feminine, neuter and
Sometimes things which are without life as we conceive
it and which, properly speaking, belong to the neuter
gender, are, by a figure of speech called Personification,
changed into either the masculine or feminine gender, as,
for instance, we say of the sun, He is rising; of the moon,
She is setting.
Case is the relation one noun bears to another or to a
verb or to a preposition. There are three cases, the
Nominative, the Possessive and the Objective. The
nominative is the subject of which we are speaking or the
agent which directs the action of the verb; the possessive
case denotes possession, while the objective indicates the
person or thing which is affected by the action of the verb.
An Article is a word placed before a noun to show
---:;;-""14 Introduction
~ I ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
whether the latter is used in a particular or general sense.
There are but two articles, a or an and the.
An Adjective is a word which qualifies a noun, that is,
which shows some distinguishing mark or characteristic
belonging to the noun.
So you're looking to improve your writing skills, are
you? Are you finding out that all of the lessons from your
book weren't as thorough as you once thought? Even if
you've got the basics of English punctuation under your
belt, it's always a good idea to brush up on your English
punctuation skills. Especially if you're trying to impress a
potential boss with a stellar resume, you need to make sure
that you are using English punctuation correctly. For
writing correct english follow these pointers:
Periods: Use a period at the end of a sentence that isn't
a question or an exciting point. Anytime you've used a short
form of a word or an abbreviation, you'll also need to use a
period where you've cut the word short (for example,
instead of "et cetera", you would write "etc."). In this case,
you need to know that it's okay to have the period there
and at the end of the sentence, since they are being used
for different reasons.
Commas: This is perhaps the most confusing
punctuation mark in the English language. It's very versatile,
almost too much so. You can use a comma to separate a list
of words, to separate two phrases in the same sentence, or
even to separate the parts of a date. You need a comma
when you are using more than one adjective to describe
something (like a big, fat, expensive mortgage). And you
also need to use a comma if you're inserting something
into a sentence that breaks up the natural flow of it (I
thought, as I was sitting here, that I should mention this
one as well).
We see that the section within the commas breaks up
the flow of an otherwise normal sentence, so it needs to be
Introduction \5
separated by commas. Each place is followed by a comma.
And if you can handle one more, you'll need to use a comma
before you quote something (for example, she said, "I really
enjoyed meeting you"). Believe it or not, this is not an
exhaustive list, but it covers most of the key uses for a
Exclamation marks: Use an exclamation mark to end a
sentence that is exciting. If someone is yelling, use an
exclamation mark at the end of their words. Or, if you've
included sound effects that are loud or dramatic, use an
exclamation mark
Question marks: Okay, this is a no-brainer, but just in
case, let's review. Use a question mark at the end of a
sentence that asks a question. Moving on ....
Quotation marks: If someone is speaking, you need to
separate their words with quotation marks. Or, if you have
borrowed words that someone else has written, you need
to separate their words from your own with quotation
Apostrophes: Apostrophes have two uses in correct
English punctuation. Use an apostrophe when using
contractions (didn't, couldn't, isn't). In this case, the
apostrophe replaces the missing letters - "did not" loses the
0, and the 0 is replaced with an apostrophe to look like
"didn't". Also, an apostrophe is used when talking about
someone's possessions, or things that belong to them. For
example, that is Santa's sleigh, and Rudolph's nose. Leaving
out the apostrophe here would simply make the words look
plural, and that's not the correct use of English punctuation
Colons: Use a colon before you insert a list of words or
phrases after an otherwise complete sentence. (I'm a great
writer for four reasons: my passion, dedication, education
and qualifications.) You should also use a colon when you're
linking two clos,ely-related sentences, or if you're wanted
to separate a really important word or phrase from the rest
of a sentence (for example, She made my favorite meal:
o __________________________________ _
spaghetti). And you also need a colon when you're
introducing a long quote (instead of using quotation marks)
or when you're beginning a letter.
Semi-colon: Use a semi-colon when separating indepen-
dent clauses (smaller sentences that make sense on their
own in part of a bigger sentence). Use a semi-colon if before
the word however or therefore if it falls in the middle of a
sentence. You'll also need to use a semi-colon if you've got
a long and complicated list (instead of using a comma).
Chapter 2
Essentials of English Language
In order t9 speak and write the English language
correctly, it is imperative that the fundamental principles
of the Grammar be mastered, for no matter how much
we may read of the best authors, no matter how much
we may associate with and imitate the best speakers, if
we do not know the underlying principles of the correct
formation of sentences and the relation of words to one
another, we will be to a great extent like the parrot, that
merely repeats what it hears without understanding the
import of what is said.
Of course the parrot, being a creature without reason,
cannot comprehend; it can simply repeat what is said to it,
and as it utters phrases and sentences of profanity with as
much facility as those of virtue, so by like analogy, when
we do not understand the grammar of the language, we
may be making egregious blunders while thinking we are
speaking with the utmost accuracy.
There are four great divisions of Grammar, viz.:
Orthography, Etymology, Syntax, and Prosody.
Orthography treats of letters and the mode of
combining them into words.
______________________ __
Etymology treats of the various classes of words and
the changes they undergo.
Syntax treats of the connection and arrangement of
words in sentences.
Prosody treats of the manner of speaking and reading
and the different kinds of verse.
The three first mentioned concern us most.
A letter is a mark or character used to represent an
articulate sound. Letters are divided into vowels and
. consonants. A vowel is a letter which makes a distinct sound
by itself. Consonants cannot be sounded without the aid of
vowels. The vowels are a, e, i, 0, u, and sometimes wand y
when they do not begin a word or syllable.
A syllable is a distinct sound produced by a single effort
of [Transcriber's note: 1-2 words illegible] shall, pig, dog.
In every syllable there must be at least one vowel.
A word consists of one syllable or a combinati'on of
Many t'u.les; are given for the dividing of words into
syllables, but the best is to follow as closely as possible the
divisions by the organs of speech in properly
pronouncing them.
An Article is a word placed before a noun to show
whether the noun is used in a particular or general sense.
There are two articles, a or an and the. A or an is called
the indefinite article because it does not point put any
particular person or thing but indicates the noun in its
widest sense; thus, a man means any man whatsoever of
the species or race.
Essentials of English Language r9
The is called the definite article because it points out
some particular person or thing; thus, the man means some
particular individual.
Using Articles
What is an article? Basically, an article is an adjective.
Like adjectives, articles modify nouns.
English has two articles: the and a/an. The is used to
refer to specific or particular nouns; a/an is used to modify
non-specific or non-particular nouns. We call the the definite
article and a/an the indefinite article.
the = definite article
a/an = indefinite article
For example, if I say, "Let's read the book," I mean a
specific book. If I say, "Let's read a book," I mean any book
rather than a specific book.
Here's another way to explain it: The is used to refer to
a specific or particular member of a group. For example, "I
just saw the most popular movie of the year." There are
many movies, but only one particular movie is the most
popular. Therefore, we use the.
"A/an" is used to refer to a non-specific or non-particular
member of the group. For example, "I would like to go see
a movie." Here, we're not talking about a specific movie.
We're talking about any movie. There are many movies, and
I want to see any movie. I don't have a specific one in mind.
Let's look at each kind of article a little more closely.
Indefinite Articles: a and an
"A" and "an" signal that the noun modified is
indefinite, referring to any member of a group. For example:
• liMy daughter really wants a dog for Christmas."
This refers to any dog. We don't know which dog
because we haven't found the dog yet.
• "Somebody call a policeman!" This refers to any
policeman. We don't need a specific policeman; we
need any policeman who is available.
• "When I was at the zoo, I saw an elephant!" Here,
we're talking about a single, non-specific thing, in
this case an elephant. There are probably several
elephants at the zoo, but there's only one we're
talking about here.
Remember, using a or an depends on the sound that
begins the next word. So ...
• a + singular noun beginning with a consonant: a
boy; a car; a bike; a zoo; a dog
• an + singular noun beginning with a vowel: an
elephant; an egg; an apple; an idiot; an orphan
• a + singular noun beginning with a consonant
sound: a user (sounds like Iyoo-zer,' i.e. begins
with a consonant I
' sound, so 'a' is used); a
university; a unicycle
• In some cases where "h" is pronounced, such as
"historical," us an:
An historical event is worth recording.
Remember that this rule also applies when you use
Introductory Composition at Purdue (lCaP) handles first-
year writing at the University. Therefore, an ICaP memo
generally discusses issues concerning English 106 instructors.
Another case where this rule applies is when acronyms
start with consonant letters but have vowel sounds:
An MSDS (material safety data sheet) was used to record
the data. An SPCC plan (Spill Prevention Control and
Countermeasures plan) will help us prepare for the worst.
If the noun is modified by an adjective, the choice
between a and an depends on the initial sound of the
adjective that immediately follows the article:
• a broken egg
• an unusual problem
• a European country (sounds like Iyer-o-pi-an,' i.e.
begins with consonant 'y' sound)
Remember, too, that in English, the indefinite articles
are used to indicate membership in a group:
Essentials of English Language III
• I am a teacher. (I am a member of a large group
known as teachers.)
• Brian is an Irishman. (Brian is a member of the
people known as Irish.)
• Seiko is a practicing Buddhist. (Seiko is a member
of the group of people known as Buddhists.)
Definite Article: the
The definite article is used before singular and plural
nouns when the noun is specific or particular. The signals
that the noun is definite, that it refers to a particular member
of a group. For example:
"The dog that bit me ran away." Here, we're talking
about a specific dog, the dog that bit me.
"I was happy to see the policeman who saved my
cat!" Here, we're talking about a particular policeman.
Even if we don't know the policeman's name, it's still a
particular policeman because it is the one who saved the
"I saw the elephant at the zoo." Here, we're talking
about a specific noun. Probably there is only one elephant
at the zoo.
Count and Noncount Nouns
The can be used with noncount nouns, or the article
can be omitted entirely.
• "I love to sail over the water" (some specific body
of water) or "I love to sail over water" (any water).
• "He spilled the milk all over the floor" (some
specific milk, perhaps the milk you bought earlier
that day) or "He spilled milk all over the floor"
(any milk).
"A/an" can be used only with count nouns.
• "I need a bottle of water."
• "I need a new glass of milk."
Most of the time, you can't say, "She wants a water,"
unless you're implying, say, a bottle of water.
______________________ __
Geographical Use of the
There are some specific rules for using the with
geographical nouns.
Do not use the before:
• names of most countries/territories: Italy, Mexico,
Bolivia; however, the Netherlands, the Dominican
Republic, the Philippines, the United States
• names of cities, towns, or states: Seoul, Manitoba,
• names of streets: Washington Blvd., Main St.
• names of lakes and bays: Lake Titicaca, Lake Erie
except with a group of lakes like the Great Lakes
• names of mountains: Mount Everest, Mount Fuji
except with ranges of mountains like the Andes or
the Rockies or unusual names like the Matterhorn
• names of continents (Asia, Europe)
• names of islands (Easter Island, Maui, Key West)
except with island chains like the Aleutians, the
Hebrides, or the Canary Islands
Do use the before:
• names of rivers, oceans and seas: the Nile, the Pacific
• points on the globe: the Equator, the North Pole
• geographical areas: the Middle East, the West
• deserts, forests, gulfs, and peninsulas: the Sahara,
the Persian Gulf, the Black Forest, the Iberian Peninsula
Some common types of nouns that don't take an article
• Names of languages and nationalities: Chinese,
English, Spanish, Russian
• Names of sports: volleyball, hockey, baseball
• Names of academic subjects: mathematics, biologtJ,
history, computer science
A versus An
How do you know when to use the indefinite articles?
Essentials of English Language ru
"A" goes before all words that begin with consonants.
• a cat
• a dog
• a purple onion
• a buffalo
• a big apple
With one exception: Use "an" before unsounded h.
• an honorable peace
• an honest error
"An" goes before all words that be{In with vowels:
• an apricot
• an egg
• an Indian
• an orbit
• an uprising
With two exceptions: When u makes the same sound
as the y in you, or 0 makes the same sound as w in won,
then a is used.
• a union
• a united front
• a unicorn
• a used napkin
• a U.S. ship
• a one-legged man
Note: The choice of article is actually based upon the
phonetic (sound) quality of the first letter in a word, not on
the orthographic (written) representation of the letter. If the
first letter makes a vowel-type sound, you use "an"; if the
first letter would make a consonant-type sound, you use
"a." So, if you consider the rule from a phonetic perspective,
there aren't any exceptions. Since the 'h' hasn't any phonetic
representation, no audible sound, in the first exception, the
sound that follows the article is a vowel; consequently, 'an'
is used. In the second exception, the word-initial'y' sound
(unicorn) is actually a glide [j] phonetically, which has
consonantal properties; consequently, it is treated as a
consonant, requiring 'a'.
A noun is the name of any person, place or thing as
John, London, book. Nouns are proper and common.
Proper nouns are names applied to particular persons
or places.
Common nouns are names applied to a whole kind or
Nouns are inflected by number, gender and case.
, Number is that inflection of the noun by which we
indicate whether it represents one or more than one.
Gender is that inflection by which we signify whether
the noun is the name of a male, a female, of an inanimate
object or something which has no distinction of sex.
Case is that inflection of the noun which denotes the state
of the person, place or thing represented, as the subject of an
affirmation or question, the owner or possessor of something
mentioned, or the object of an action or of a relation. ,
Thus in the example, "John tore the leaves of Sarah's
book," the distinction between book which represents only
one object and leaves which represent two or more objects
of the same kind is called Number; the distinction of sex
between John, a male, and Sarah, a female, and book and
leaves, things which are inanimate and neither male nor
female, is called Gender; and the distinction of state between
John, the person who tore the book, and the subject of the
affirmation, Mary, the owner of the book, leaves the objects
torn, and book the object related to leaves, as the whole of
which they were a part, is called Case.
Count and Non Count Nouns
Definition of Count and Noncount nouns
The main difference between count and noncount nouns
is whether you can count the things they refer to or not.
Count nouns refer to things that exist as separate and
distinct individual units. They usually refer to what can be
perceived by the senses.
Essentials of English Language ItS
Example sentences:
I stepped in a puddle. (How many puddles did you step
in? Just one.)
I drank a glass of milk. (Glasses of milk can be counted)
I saw an apple tree. (Apple trees can be counted)
Noncount nouns refer to things that can't be counted
because they are thought of as wholes that can't be cut into
parts. They often refer to abstractions and occasionally have
a collective meaning (for example, furniture).
warmth leisure precision
Example Sentences:
I dove into the water. (How many waters did you dive
into? The question doesn't make any sense; therefore water
is noncountable.)
I saw the milk spill. (How many milks? Milk cannot be
I admired the foliage. (How many foliages? Foliage
cannot be counted.)
Think of the batter from which a cake is made. Before
you put the batter into the oven, it can't be divided into
parts because it's a thick liquid. Once it has been baked, it
l)ecomes solid enough to be cut into pieces. Noncount nouns
are like cake batter; count nouns are like pieces of cake
Note: Since the issue is complicated and almost no rule
is absolute, there will be exceptions to these definitions;
however, we can show some general patterns. Bear in mind
that what is counti'lble in another language may not be
countable in English, and vice versa.
Uses of Count and Noncount Nouns
The Rule
From fIe definitions of mass and count given you may
have already guessed the rule for pluralizing them:
• Most count nouns pluralize with
• Noncount nouns don't pluralize at all
This rule works for all of the nouns in the lists of
examples in the first section. Check this rule for yourself
before reading further.
An Exception to the Rule
For a number of nouns, the rule needs slight revision.
Certain nouns in English belong to both classes: they have
both a non count and a count meaning. Normally the
noncount meaning is abstract and general and the count
meaning concrete and specific. Compare:
• I've had some difficulties finding a job. (refers to
a number of specific problems)
• The talks will take place in the Krannert building.
(refers to a number of specific lectures)
• The city was filled with bright lights and harsh
sounds. (refers to a number of specific lights and
• She succeeded in school with little difficulty. (refers
to the general idea of school being difficult)
Essentials of English Language ~
• I dislike idle talk. (refers to talking in general)
• Light travels faster than sound. (refers to the way
light and sound behave in general)
Note: A special case of the use of noncount nouns in a
count sense has to do with classification. Sometimes a
usually noncount noun can be understood as one item
separate and distinct from other items of the same category.
The nouns that function in this way often denote foods and
beverages: food(s), drink(s), wine(s), bread(s), coffee(s),
fruit(s), and so on.
• There are several French wines to choose from.
(= kinds of wine)
• ~ prefer Sumatran coffees to Colombian.
(= kinds of coffee)
• }Ve use a variety of different batters in our bakery.
(= kinds of batter)
A recent entry into this class is homework, which at least
among some students has the count plural homeworks in
addition to its non count use. (For example, "You're missing
three of ,the homeworks from the first part of the course.")
Because this usage is not firmly established and is likely to
be considered nonstandard, you should check with your
instructor before using it in writing.
A Revision of the Rule
These exceptions require that the rule for pluralizing
be revised: count nouns and nouns used in a count sense
pluralize; noncount nouns and nouns used in a noncount
sense do not.
The two possibilities in each half of the rule require
different choices. If you know that a particular noun must
be either count or noncount and cannot be both, you need
to decide only if it is possible to pluralize the noun. On the
other hand, if you know that a particular noun may be used
in either a count or noncount sense, then you need to decide
whether it is appropriate to pluralize.
______________________ __
To summarize, we may put the rule in a chart, like this:
Pluralizes with -s Doesn't Pluralize
Count Noun XX
Count Use XX
Noncount Noun XX
Noncount Use XX
Nouns and Articles
Choosing which article to use (if any) with a noun is a
complex matter because the range of choices depends on
whether the noun in question is 1) count or noncount and
2) singular or plural.
Both count nouns (whether singular or plural) and
noncount nouns take articles.
Combinations of Nouns and Articles
The following chart shows which articles go with which
kinds of Notice that this, that, these, and those
have been included because, like the, they mark the noun
that they modify as definite, which means that the noun
refers 1) to a unique individual or 2) to some person,
event, or object known to both the writer and reader from
their general knowledge or from what has been
previously mentioned in a piece of writing.
Count XX
Count Singular
I ate an apple.
the this, that these, those no article
Essentials of English Language Ii9
I rode the bus.
Does she live in this house? No, she lives in that house
over there.
Count Plural
I like to feed the birds.
Do you want these books?
No, I want those books up there.
Cats are interesting pets.
The water is cold.
This milk is going sour.
Music helps me relax.
Quantity Terms
The following chart shows which quantity words go
with which kinds of nouns. Note that quantity words can
be used in combinations such as many more, many fewer, much
more, and much less, any of which can be preceded by how
to form questions or relative clauses. Negatives like not and
no can also be applied to many of these terms.
much, less,
little, a little,
very little
Count plural
Noncount XX
Count Singular
I practice every day.
some, any,
all, a lot of,
no, none of
I'd like one donut, please.
many, both, each,
several, every,
few/fewer/fewest anY,one
, a few, one of
the, a couple of
______________________ __
Count Plural
Can I have some chips?
She has a lot of books, and many are autographed.
I have fewer pencils than you.
Can I have some water?
She has a lot of strength, and much is due to her
I have less courage than you.
Countable Nouns
Countable nouns refer to things that we can count. Such
nouns can take either singular or plural form.
Concrete nouns may be countable.
There are a dozen flowers in the vase.
He ate an apple for a snack.
Collective nouns are countable.
She attended three classes today.
London is home to several orchestras.
Some proper nouns are countable.
There are many Greeks living in New York.
The Vanderbilts would throw lavish parties at their
Newport summer mansion.
Uncountable Nouns
Uncountable nouns refer to things that we cannot
count. Such nouns take only singular form.
Abstract nouns are uncountable.
The price of freedom is constant vigilance.
Her writing shows maturity and intelligence.
Some concrete nouns are uncountable (when
understood in their undivided sense).
The price of oil has stabilized recently.
May I borrow some rice?
Essentials of English Language rn
While uncountable nouns do not generally take a plural
form, sometimes they may be pluralized when used in a
countable sense.
The difference between the uncountable and countable
meanings of nouns that are used in either sense can be seen
in the following chart:
Uncountable Sense Countable Sense
Art is often called an imitation of life. I read a book about the folk arts of Sweden.
Life is precious. A cat has nine lives.
He likes to eat pizza. How many pizzas should we order?
Religion has been a Many religions are practiced in the United
powerful force in history. States.
She has beautiful skin. The hull of a kayak is made of animal skins.
Dr. Moulton is an expert in ancient Greek We have several sculptures in our home.
sculpture. Where are those important papers?
We use only recycled paper in our office.
Using Articles with Countable and Uncountable
A countable noun always takes either the indefinite (a,
an) or definite (the) article when it is singular.
When plural, it takes the definite article if it refers to a
definite, specific group and no article if it is used in a general
The guest of honour arrived late.
You are welcome as a guest in our home.
The guests at your party yesterday made a lot of noise.
Guests are welcome here anytime.
Uncountable nouns never take the indefinite
article (a or an), but they do take singular verbs.
The is sometimes used with uncountable nouns in
the same way it is used with plural countable nouns,
that is, to refer to a specific object, group, or idea.
Information is a precious commodity in our
computerized world.
The information in your files is correct.
Sugar has become more expensive recently.
Please pass me the sugar.
Categories of Uncountable Nouns
Abstract Material Generic
advice meat fruit
help rice wildlife
information bread equipment
knowledge cake machinery
trouble coffee furniture
work ice cream mail
enjoyment water luggage
fun oil jewelry
recreation grass clothing
relaxation hair money
Quantity Adjectives with Countable
and Uncountable Nouns
Some, Any
with - s
(otper games)
Both words modify either countable or uncountable
There are some cookies in the jar. (countable)
There is some water on the floor. (uncountable)
Did you eat any food? (uncountable)
Do you serve any vegetarian dishes? (countable)
Much, Many
Much modifies only uncountable nouns.
How much money will we need?
They ate so much cake that they started to feel sick.
Much effort will be required to solve this problem.
Many modifies only countable nouns.
How many children do you have?
They had so many books that they had to stack them in
the hall.
Many Americans travel to Europe each year.
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A lot of, lots of
These words are informal substitutes for much and many.
Lots of effort will be required to solve this problem.
A lot of Americans travel to Europe each year. (countable)
Little, Quite a little, Few, Quite a few
Little and quite a little modify cnly uncountable nouns.
We had a little ice cream after dinner.
They offered little help for my problem. (meaning "only
a small amount")
They offered quite a little help for my problem. (meaning
"a large amount") (See quite a bit of below.)
Few and quite a few modify only countable nouns.
A few doctors from the hospital play on the softball team.
Few restaurants in this town offer vegetarian dishes.
(meaning "only a small number")
Quite a few restaurants in this town offer vegetarian
dishes. (meaning "a large number")
A little bit of, Quite a bit of
These informal phrases usually precede uncountable
nouns. Quite a bit of has the same meaning as quite a little
and is used more commonly.
There's a little bit of pepper in the soup. (meaning "a
small amount")
There's quite a bit of pepper in the soup. (meaning "a large
This word modifies both countable and uncountable
I don't have enough potatoes to make the soup.
We have enough money to buy a car.
Plenty of
This term modifies both countable and uncountable
There are plenty of mountains in Switzerland.
She has plenty of money in the bank.
This word modifies both countable and uncountable
There were no squirrels in the park today.
We have no time left to finish the project.
A pronoun is a word used in place of a noun; as, "John
gave his pen to James and he lent it to Jane to write her
copy with it." Without the pronouns we would have to write
this sentence,-"John gave John's pen to James and James
lent the pen to Jane to write Jane's copy with the pen."
There are three kinds of pronouns-Personal, Relative
and Adjective Pronouns.
Personal Pronouns are so called because they are used
instead of the names of persons, places and things. The
Personal Pronouns are I, Thou, He, She, and It, with their
plurals, We, Ye or You and They. I is the pronoun of the
first person because it represents the person speaking.
Thou is the pronoun of the second person because it
represents the person spoken to.
He, She, It are the pronouns of the third person because
they represent the persons or things of whom we are
speaking. Like nouns, the Personal Pronouns have number,
gender and case. The gender of the first and second person
is obvious, as they represent the person or persons speaking
and those who are addressed. The personal pronouns are
thus declined:
First Person.
Sinf<. Plural.
N. I We
P. Mine Ours
o. Me Us
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Second Person.
M. or F.
S i n ~ . Plural.
N. Thou You
P. Thine Yours
0. Thee You
Third Person.
Sing. Plural.
N. He They
P. His Theirs
o. Him Them
Third Person.
Sing. Plural.
N. She They
P. Hers Theirs
o. Her Them
Third Person.
S i n ~ . Plural.
N. It They
P. Its Theirs
o. It Them
N. B. In colloquial language and ordinary writing Thou,
Thine and Thee are seldom used, except by the Society of
Friends. The Plural form You is used for both the
nominative and objective singular in the second person and
Yours is generally used in the possessive in place of Thine
The Relative Pronouns are so called because they relate to
some word or phrase going before; as, "The boy who told
the truth;" "He has done well, which gives me great
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pleasure. "Here who and which are not only used in place
of other words, but who refers immediately to boy, and
which to the circumstance of his having done well. The
word or clause to which a relative pronoun refers is called
the Antecedent.
The Relative Pronouns are who, which, that and
Who is applied to persons only; as, liThe man who was
Which is applied to the lower animals and things
without life; as, liThe horse which I sold." liThe hat which I
That is applied to both persons and things; as, liThe
friend that helps." liThe bird that sings." liThe knife that
What is a compound relative, including both the
antecedent and the relative and is equivalent to that which;
as, "I did what he desired," i.e. "I did that which he desired."
Relative pronouns have the singular and plural alike.
Who is either masculine or feminine; which and that
are masculine, feminine or neuter; what as a relative
pronoun is always neuter.
That and what are not inflected.
Who and which are thus declined:
Sinx. and Plural Sing. and Plural
N. Who N. Which
P. Whose P. Whose
O. Whom O. Which
Who, which and what when used to ask questions are called
Interrogative Pronouns. Adjective Pronouns partake of the
nature of adjectives and pronouns and are subdivided as
Demonstrative Adjective
Pronouns which directly point out the person or object.
Essentials of English Language 127
They are this, that with their plurals these, those, and yon,
same and selfsame. Distributive Adjective Pronouns used
distributively. They are each, every, either,
neither.Indefinite Adjective Pronouns used more or less
indefinitely. They are any, all, few, some, several, one, other,
another, none. Possessive Adjective Pronouns denoting
possession. They are my, thy, his, her, its, our, your, their.N.
B. -(The possessive adjective pronouns differ from the
possessive case of the personal pronouns in that the latter
can stand alone while the former cannot. "Who owns that
book?" ''It is mine." Yob cannot say "it is my," the word
book must be repeated.)
Using Pronouns Clearly
Because a pronoun REFERS BACK to a noun or TAKES
THE PLACE OF that noun, you have to use the correct
pronoun so tl'\at your reader clearly understands which
noun your pronoun is referring to.
pronouns should:
Agree in number: If the pronoun takes the place of a
singular noun, you have to use a singular pronoun. If a
student parks a car on campus, he or she has to buy a
parking sticker.
(NOT: If a student parks a car on campus, they have to
buy a parking sticker.)
Remember: the words everybody, anybody, anyone,
each, neither, nobody, someone, a person, etc. are singular
and take singular pronouns. Everybody ought to do his or
her best. (NOT: their best)
Neither of the girls brought her umbrella. (NOT: their
Note: Many people find the construction "his or her"
wordy, so if it is possible to use a plural noun as your
antecedent so that you can use "they" as your pronoun, it
may be wise to do so. If you do use a singular noun and the
context makes the gender clear, then it is permissible to use
just "his" or "her" rather than "his or her."
-zBlL ______________________
Agree in person: If you are writing in the "first person"
(.1), don't confuse your reader by switching to the "second
person" (you) or "third person" (he, she, they, it, etc.).
Similarly, if you are using the "second person," don't switch
to "first" or "third."
When a person comes to class, he or she should have
his or her homework ready.
(NOT: When a person comes to class, you should have
your homework ready.)
Refer clearly to a specific noun: Don't be vague or ambiguous.'
NOT: Although the motorcycle hit the tree, it was not
damaged. (Is "it" the motorcycle or the tree?)
NOT: I don't think they should show violence on TV.
(Who are "they"?)
NOT: Vacation is coming soon, which is nice. (What is
nice, the vacation or the fact that it is corning soon?)
NOT: George worked in a national forest last summer.
This may be his life's work. (What word does "this" refer to?)
NOT: If you put this sheet in your notebook, you can refer
to it. (What does "it" refer to, the sheet or your notebook?)
Pronoun Case
Pronoun Case is really a very simple matter. There are
three cases.
• Subjective case: pronouns used as subject.
• Objective case: pronouns used as objects of verbs
or prepositions.
• Possessive case: pronouns which express ownership.
Pronouns Pronouns as Pronouns that show
as Subjects Objects Possession
I me my (mine)
you you your (yours)
he, she, it him, her, it his, her (hers), it (its)
we us our (ours)
they them their (theirs)
who whom whose
Essentials of English Language 129
The pronouns This, That, These, Those, and Which do
not change form.
Some problems of case:
1. In compound structures, where there are two
pronouns or a noun and a pronoun, drop the other
noun for a moment. Then you can see which case
you want.
NOT: Bob and me travel a good deal.
(Would you say, "me travel"?)
NOT: He gave the flowers to Jane and 1.
(Would you say, "he gave the flowers to I"?)
NOT: Us men like the coach.
(Would you say, "us like the coach"?)
2. In comparisons. Comparisons usually follow than
or as:
He is taller than I (am tall).
This helps you as much as (it helps) me.
She is as noisy as I (am).
Comparisons are really shorthand sentences which
usually omit words, such as those in the parentheses in the
sentences. If you complete the comparison in your head,
you can choose the correct case for the pronoun.
NOT: He is taller than me.
(Would you say, "than me am taU"?)
3. In formal and semiformal writing:
Use the subjective form after a form of the verb
to be.
Formal: It is 1.
Informal: It is me.
Use whom in the objective case.
Formal: To whom am I talking?
Informal: Who am I talking to?
A verb is a word which implies action or the doing of
something, or it may be defined as a word which affirms,
commands or asks a question.
______________________ __
Thus, the words John the table, contain no assertion,
but when the word strikes is introduced, something is
affirmed, hence the word strikes is a verb and gives
completeness and meaning to the group.
The simple form of the verb without inflection is called
the root of the verb; e. g. love is the root of the verb, -"To
Verbs are regular or irregular, transitive or intransitive.
A verb is said to be regular when it forms the past
tense by adding ed to the present or d if the verb ends in
e. When its past tense does not end in ed it is said to be
A transitive verb is one the action of which passes over
to or affects some object; as "I struck the table." Here the
action of striking affected the object table, hence struck is a
transitive verb.
An intransitive verb is one in which the action remains
with the subject; as "I walk," "I sit," "I run."
Many intransitive verbs, however, can be used
transitively; thus, "I walk the horse;" walk is here
Verbs are inflected by number, person, tense and mood.
Number and person as applied to the verb really
belong to the subject; they are used with the verb to
denote whether the assertion is made. regarding one or
more than one and whether it is made in reference to the
person speaking, the person spoken to or the person or
thing spoken about.
Irregular Verbs: Overview and List
In English, regular verbs consist of three main parts:
the root form (present), the (simple) past, and the past
participle. Regular verbs have ·an -ed ending added to the
root verb for both the simple past and past participle.
Irregular verbs do not follow this pattern, and instead take
on an alternative pattern.
The following is a partial list of irregular verbs found
Essentials of English Language ~
in English. Each listing consists of the present/root form of
the verb, the (simple) past form of the verb, and the past
participle form of the verb.
List of Irregular Verbs in English
Present Past Past Particie.'e
be was, were been
become became become
begin began begun
blow blew blown
break broke broken
bring brought brought
build built built
burst burst burst
buy bought bought
burst burst burst
catch caught caught
choose chose chosen
corne carne corne
cut cut cut
dealdealt dealt
do did done
drink drank drunk
drive drove driven
eat ate eaten
fall fell fallen
feed fed fed
feel felt felt
fight fought fought
find found found
fly flew flown
forbid forbade . forbidden
Essentials of English Language
forget forgot forgotten
forgive forgave forgiven
freeze froze frozen
get got gotten
give gave given
go went gone
grow grew grown
have had had
hear heard heard
hide hid hidden
hold held held
hurt hurt hurt
keep kept kept
know knew known
lay laid laid
leadled led
leave left left
let let let
lie lay lain
lose lost lost
make made made
meet met met
pay paid paid
quit quit quit
read read read
ride rode ridden
run ran run
say said said
see saw seen
seek sought sought
sell sold sold
Essentials of English Language rn
send sent sent
shake shook shaken
shine shone shone
singsang sung
sit sat sat
sleep slept slept
speak spoke spoken
spend spent spent
spring sprang sprung
stand stood stood
steal stole stolen
swim swam swum
swing swung swung
take took taken
teach taught taught
tear tore torn
tell told told
think thought thought
throw threw thrown
understand understood understood
wake woke (waked) woken (waked)
wear wore worn
win won won
write wrote written
In their tenses verbs follow the divisions of time.
They have present tense, past tense and future tense with
their variations to express the exact time of action as to
an event happening, having happened or yet to happen.
Sequence of Tenses
Strictly speaking, in English, only two tenses are
______________________ __
marked in the verb alone, present (as in "he sings") and
past (as in "he sang"). Other English language tenses, as
many as thirty of them, are marked by other words called
auxiliaries. Understanding the six basic tenses allows one
to re-create much of the reality of time in his writing. The
Simple Present: They walk
Present Perfect: They have walked
Simple Past: They walked
Past Perfect: They had walked
Future: They will walk
Future Perfect: They will have walked
Problems in sequencing tenses usually occur with the
perfect tenses, all of which are formed by adding an auxiliary
or auxiliaries to the past participle, the third principal part.
ring, rang, rung
walk, walked, walked
The most common auxiliaries are forms of "be," "can,"
"do," "may," "must," "ought," "shall," "will," "has,"
"have," "had," and they are the forms we shall use in this
most basic discussion.
Present Perfect
The present perfect consists of a past participle (the
third principal part) with "has" or "have."
It designates action which began in the past but which
continues into the present or the effect of which still
1. Betty taught for ten years. (simple past)
2. Betty has taught for ten years. (present perfect)
The implication in (1) is that Betty has retired; in (2),
that she is still teaching.
1. John did his homework. He can go to the movies.
2. If John has done his homework, he can go to the
Infinitives, too, have perfect tense forms when
combined with "have," and sometimes problems arise when
Essentials of English Language r35""
infinitives are used with verbs such as "hope," "plan,"
"expect," and "intend," all of which usually point to the
future (1 wanted to go to the movie. Janet meant to see the
doctor.) The perfect tense sets up a sequence by marking
the action which began and usually was completed before
the action in the main verb.
1. I am happy to have participated in this campaign!
2. John had hoped to have won the trophy.
Thus the action of the main verb points back in time;
the action of the perfect infinitive has been completed.
The past perfect tense designates action in the past just
as simple past does, but the action of the past perfect is
action completed in the past before another action.
1. John raised vegetables and later sold them. (past)
2. John sold vegetables that he had raised. (past perfect)
The vegetables were raised before they were sold.
1. Renee washed the car when George arrived
(simple past)
2. Renee had washed the car when George arrived.
(past perfect)
In (1), she waited until George arrived and then washed
the car. In (2), she had already finished washing the car by
the time he arrived.
In sentences expressing condition and result, the past
perfect tense is used in the part that states the condition.
1. If I had done my exercises, I would have passed the
2. I think George would have been elected if he
hadn't sounded so pompous.
Future Perfect Tense
The future perfect tense designates action that will have
been completed at a specified time in the future.
1. Saturday I will finish my housework. (simple
2. By Saturday noon, I will have finished my
housework. (future perfect)
______________________ __
1. Judy saved thirty dollars. (past)
2. Judy will save thirty dollars. (future)
3. Judy has saved thirty dollars. (present perfect)
4. Judy had saved thirty dollars by the end of last
month. (past perfect)
5. Judy will have saved thirty dollars· by the end of
this month. (future perfect)
Notice: There can be only one "would have" action
group in a sentence. .
Passive Verb Tenses
Simple Present
• The company ships the computers to many foreign
• Computers are shipped to many foreign countries
Present Progressive
• The chef is preparing the food.
• The food is being prepared.
Simple Past
• The delivery man delivered the package yesterday.
• The package was delivered yesterday.
Past Progressive
• The producer was making an announcement.
• An announcement was being made.
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• Our representative will pick up the computer.
• The computer will be picked up.
Present Perfect
• Someone has made the arrangements for us.
• The arrangements have been made for us.
Past Perfect
• They had given us visas for three months.
• They had been given visas for three months.
Future Perfect
• By next month we will have finished this job.
• By next month this job will have been finished.
• You can use the computer.
• The computer can be used.
Active Verb Tenses
Simple Present
Present or Action Condition
• I hear you.
• Here comes the bus.
General Truths
• There are thirty days in September.
Non-action; Habitual Action '
• I like music.
• I run on Tuesdays and Sundays.
Future Time
The train leaves at 4:00 p.m.
Present Progressive
Activity in Progress
• I am playing soccer now.
Verbs of Perception
• He is feeling sad.
Simple Past
Competed Action
• We visited the museum yesterday.
Completed Condition
• The weather was rainy last week.
Past Progressive
Past Action that took place over a period of time
• They were climbing for twenty-seven days.
Past Action interrupted by another
• We were eating dinner when she told me.
With will/won't - Activity or event that will or won't exist
or happen in the future
• I'll get up late tomorrow.
• I won't get up early.
With going to - future in relation to circumstances in the
• I'm hungry.
• I'm going to get something to eat.
Present Perfect
With verbs of state that begin in the past and lead up to and
include the present
Essentials of English Language 139
• He has lived here for many years.
To express habitual or continued action
• He has worn glasses all his life.
With events occurring at an indefinite or unspecified time
in the past - with ever, never, before
• Have you ever been to Tokyo before?
Present Perfect Progressive
To express duration of an action that began in the past,
has continued into the present, and may continue into the
• David has been working for two hours, and he
hasn't finished yet.
Past Perfect
To describe a past event or condition completed before another
event in the past
• When I arrived home, he had already called.
In reported speech
• Jane said that she had gone to the movies.
Future Perfect
To express action that will be completed by or before a
specified time in the future
• By next month we will have finished the job.
• He won't have finished his work until 2:00.
Verb Tense Consistency
Controlling Shifts in Verb Tense
Throughout this part on verb tense, example sentences
with nonstandard or inconsistent usage have verbs in dark
Writing often involves telling stories. Sometimes we
narrate a story as our main purpose in writing; sometimes
we include brief anecdotes or hypothetical scenarios as
illustrations or reference points in an essay.
Even an essay that does not explicitly tell a story
involves implied time frames for the actions discussed and
states described. Changes in verb tense help readers
understand the temporal relationships among various
narrated events. But unnecessary or inconsistent shifts in
tense can cause confusion. Generally, writers maintain one
.tense for the main discourse and indicate changes in time
frame by changing tense relative to that primary tense,
which is usually either simple past or simple present. Even
apparently non-narrative writing should employ verb
tenses consistently and clearly.
General guideline: Do not shift from one tense to another
if the time frame for each action or state is the same.
• The ocean contains rich minerals that washed
down from rivers and streams.
Contains is present tense, referring to a current state;
washed down is past, but should be present (wash down)
because the minerals are currently continuing to wash
Corrected: The ocean contains rich minerals that wash
down from rivers and streams.
• About noon the sky darkened, a breeze sprang up,
and a low rumble announces the approaching
Darkened and sprang up are past tense verbs; announces
is present but should be past (announced) to maintain
consistency within the time frame.
Corrected: About noon the sky darkened, a breeze
sprang up, and a low rumble announced the approaching
• Yesterday we had walked to school but later rode
the bus home.
Had walked is past perfect tense but should be past to
maintain consistency within the time frame (yesterday); rode
is past, r...ferring to an action completed before the current
time frame.
Essentials of English Language 141
Corrected: Yesterday we walked to school but later rode
the bus home.
General guideline: Do shift tense to indicate a change in
time frame from one action or state to another.
• The children love their new tree house, which they
built themselves.
Love is present tense, referring to a current state
(they still love it now;) built is past, referring to an
action completed before the current time frame
(they are not still building it.)
• Before they even began deliberations, many jury
members had reached a verdict.
Began is past tense, referring to an action completed
before the current time frame; had reached is past perfect,
referring to action from a time frame before that of another
past event (the action of reaching was completed before the
action of beginning.)
• Workers are installing extra loudspeakers because
the music in tonight's concert will need
Are installing is present progressive, referring to an
ongoing action in the current time frame (the workers are
still installing, and have not finished;) will need is future,
referring to action expected to begin after the current time
frame (the concert will start in the future, and that's when
it will need amplification.)
Controlling Shifts in a Paragraph or Essay
General guideline: Establish a primary tense for the
main discourse, and use occasional shifts to other tenses to
indicate changes in time frame.
• Rely on past tense to narrate events and to refer
to an author or an author's ideas as historical
entities (biographical information about a historical
______________________ __
figure or narration of developments in an author's
ideas over time).
• Use present tense to state facts, to refer to
perpetual or habitual actions, and to discuss your
own ideas or those expressed by an author in a
particular work. Also use present tense to describe
action in a literary work, movie, or other fictional
narrative. Occasionally, for dramatic effect, you
may wish to narrate an event in present tense as
though it were happening now. If you do, use
present tense consistently throughout the narrative,
making shifts only where appropriate.
• Future action may be expressed in a variety of
ways, including the use of will, shall, is going to,
are about to, tomorrow and other adverbs of time,
and a wide range of contextual cues.
Using Other Tenses in Conjunction with Simple
It is not always easy (or especially helpful) to try to
distinguish perfect and/or progressive tenses from simple ones
in isolation, for example, the difference between simple past
progressive ("She was eating an apple") and present perfect
progressive ("She has been eating an apple"). Distinguishing
these sentences in isolation is possible, but the differences
between them make clear sense only in the context of other
sentences since the time-distinctions suggested by different
tenses are relative to the time frame implied by the verb tenses
in surrounding sentences or clauses.
Example 1: Simple past narration with perfect and
progressive elements
On the day in question ...
By the time Tom noticed the doorbell, it had already rung
three times. As usual, he had been listening to loud music on
his stereo. He turned the stereo down and stood up to answer
the door. An old man was standing on the steps. The man
began to speak slowly, asking for directions.
Essentials of English Language ~
In this example, the progressive verbs had been listening
and was standing suggest action underway at the time some
other action took place. The stereo-listening was underway
when the doorbell rang. The standing on the steps was
underway when the door was opened. The past perfect
progressive verb had been listening suggests action that began
in the time frame prior to the main narrative time frame
and that was still underway as another action began.
If the primary narration is in the present tense, then
the present progressive or present perfect progressive is
used to indicate action that is or has been underway as some
other action begins. This narrative style might be used to
describe a scene from a novel, movie, or play, since action
in fictional narratives is conventionally treated as always
present. For example, we refer to the scene in Hamlet in
which the prince first speaks (present) to the ghost of his
dead father or the final scene in Spike Lee's Do the Right
Thing, which takes place (present) the day after Mookie has
smashed (present perfect) the pizzeria window. If the
example narrative were a scene in a play, movie, or novel,
it might appear as follows.
Example 2: Simple present narration with perfect and
progressive elements
In this scene ...
By the time Tom notices the doorbell, it has already rung
three times. As usual, he has been listening to loud music on
his stereo. He turns the stereo down and stands up to answer
the door. An old man is standing on the steps. The man begins
to speak slowly, asking for directions.
In this example as in the first one, the progressive verbs
has been listening and is standing indicate action underway
as some other action takes place. The present perfect
progressive verb has been listening suggests action that began
in the time frame prior to the main narrative time frame
and that is still underway as another action begins. The
remaining tense relationships parallel those in the first
______________________ __
In all of these cases, the progressive or -ing part of the
verb merely indicates ongoing action, that is, action
underway as another action occurs. The general comments
about tense relationships apply to simple and perfect tenses,
regardless of whether there is a progressive element
It is possible to imagine a narrative based on a future
time frame as well, for example, the predictions of a psychic
or futurist. If the example narrative were spoken by a
psychic, it might appear as follows.
Example 3: Simple future narration with perfect and
progressive elements
Sometime in the future ...
By the time Tom notices the doorbell, it will have already
rung three times. As usual, he will have been listening to loud
music on his stereo. He will turn the stereo down and will
stand up to answer the door. An old man will be standing on
the steps. The man will begin to speak slowly, asking for
In this example as in the first two, the progressive verbs
will have been listening and will be standing indicate ongoing
action. The future perfect progressive verb will have been
listening suggests action that will begin in the time frame
prior to the main narrative time frame and that will still be
underway when another action begins. The verb notices here
is in present-tense form, but the rest of the sentence and
the full context of the narrative cue us to understand that it
refers to future time. The remaining tense relationships
parallel those in the first two examples.
General Guidelines for Use of Perfect Tenses
In general the use of perfect tenses is determined by
their relationship to the tense of the primary narration. If
the primary narration is in simple past, then action initiated
before the time frame of the primary narration is described
in past perfect. If the primary narration is in simple present,
then action initiated before the time frame of the primary
Essentials of English Language f45
narration is described in present perfect. If the primary
narration is in simple future, then action initiated before
the time frame of the primary narration is described in
fu ture perfect.
Past primary narration corresponds to Past Perfect (had
+ past participle) for earlier time frames.
Present primary narration corresponds to Present
Perfect (has or have + past participle) for earlier time frames.
Future primary narration corresponds to Future Perfect
(will have + past participle) for earlier time frames.
The present perfect is also m:ed to narrate action that
began in real life in the past but is not completed, that is,
may continue or may be repeated in the present or future.
For example: "I have run in four marathons" (implication:
"so far ... I may run in others"). This usage is distinct from
the simple past, which is used for action that was completed
in the past without possible continuation or repetition in
the present or future. For example: "Before injuring my leg,
I ran in four marathons" (implication: "My injury prevents
me from running in any more marathons").
Time-orienting words and phrases like before, after, by
the time, and others-when used to relate two or more
actions in time-can be good indicators of the need for a
perfect-tense verb in a sentence.
• By the time the Senator finished (past) his speech,
the audience had lost (past perfect) interest.
• By the time the Senator finishes (present: habitual
action) his speech, the audience has lost (present
perfect) interest.
• By the time the Senator finishes (present: suggesting
future time) his speech, the audience will have lost
(future perfect) interest.
• After everyone had finished (past perfect) the main
course, we offered (past) our guests dessert.
• After everyone has finished (present perfect) the
main course, we offer (presenf: habitual action) our
guests dessert.
• After everyone has finished (present perfect) the
main course, we will offer (future: specific one-time
. action) our guests dessert.
• Long before the sun rose (past), the birds had arrived
(past perfect) at the feeder.
• Long before the sun rises (present: habitual action),
the birds have arrived (present perfect) at the feeder.
• Long before the sun rises (present: suggesting
future time), the birds will have arrived (future
perfect) at the feeder.
Sample Paragraphs
The main tense in this first sample is past. Tense shifts
are inappropriate and are indicated in bold.
The gravel crunched and spattered beneath the wheels
of the bus as it swung into the station. Outside the window,
shadowy figures peered at the bus through the darkness.
Somewhere in the crowd, two, maybe three, people were
waiting for me: a woman, her son, and possibly her
husband. I could not prevent my imagination from churning
out a picture of them, the town, and the place I will soon
call home. Hesitating a moment, I rise from my seat, these
images flashing through my mind. (adapted from a
Inappropriate shifts from past to present, such .?s those
that appear in the paragraph, are sometimes hard to resist.
The writer becomes drawn into the narrative and begins to
relive the event as an ongoing experience. The inconsistency
should be avoided, however. In the sample, will should be
would, and rise should be rose.
The main tense in this second sample is present. Tense
shifts-all appropriate-are indicated in bold.
A dragonfly rests on a branch overhanging a small
stream this July morning. It is newly emerged from brown
nymphal skin. As a nymph, it crept over the rocks of the
stream bottom, feeding first on protozoa and mites, then,
as it grew larger, on the young of other aquatic insects. Now
Essentials of English Language ~
an adult, it will feed on flying insects and eventually will
mate. The mature dragonfly is completely transformed from
the drab creature that once blended with underwater sticks
and leaves. Its head, thorax, and abdomen glitter; its wings
are iridescent in the sunlight. (adapted from an article in
the magazine Wilderness)
This writer uses the present tense to describe the
appearance of a dragonfly on a particular July morning.
However, both past and future tenses are called for when
she refers to its previous actions and to its predictable
activity in the future.
Verbs with Helpers
Recent Past (Present Perfect)
A conjugation of Have + [Verb + ed] describes an action
that began in the past and continues into the present or that
occurred in the recent past.
• The child has finished the candy.
• I have gone to college for one year.
• He has worked hard all day.
Distant Past (Past Perfect)
Had + [Verb + ed] describes actions that began and
ended in the past.
• Mike had promised to repair Joe's bike.
• I had eaten dinner before he came.
Present Continuous Action (Present Progressive)
Is + [Verb + ing] shows action that is in progress now
or is going to happen in the future.
• I am taking Spanish this semester.
• He is getting ready for the party this evening.
• Next week they are going to Florida.
Past Continuous Action (Past Progressive)
Was + [Verb + ing] shows action that was in progress
at a certain time in the past.
• Yesterday I was working in the garden.
• He was smoking a pack a day before he quit.
• The dogs were barking all night.
Other Helping Verbs (Modals)
[Helper] + [Verb], such as can, will, shall, may, could,
may, would, should, might must keep the same form.
They do not change to agree with the subject.
you I
he I can do that assignment easily.
There are also modal phrases (some of which don't
change form), such as:
• Could Have + Verb
• Would Have + Verb
• Must Have + Verb
(Not could "of" or would "of")
• I could have won the prize if I had entered the
• He must have bought the ticket already.
• Used to + Verb
• Have to + Verb
• Have Got to + Verb
• Be Able to + Verb
• Ought to + Verb
• Be Supposed to + Verb
Essentials of English Language 149
• I used to think that all dogs have fleas.
• I am supposed to come back next week.
Active and Passive voice
Verbs in the active voice show the subject acting. Verbs
in the passive voice show something else acting on the
subject. Most writers consider the active voice more forceful
and tend to stay away from passives unless they really need
Active: Tim killed the chicken hawk.
Passive: The chicken hawk was killed by Tim.
Indicative, Imperative, and Subjunctive Mood:
Most verbs we use are in the indicative mood, which
indicates something:
• He was here.
• I am hungry.
• She will bring her books.
Some verbs are in the imperative mood, which
expresses commands or requests. Though it is not stated,
the understood subject of imperative sentences is you.
• Be here at seven o'clock. (Understood: You be here
at seven o'clock.)
• Cook me an omelette. (Understood: You cook me an
• Bring your books with you. (Understood: You bring
your books with you.)
When verbs show something contrary to fact, they are
in the subjunctive mood. When you express a wish or
something that is not actually true, use the past tense or
past perfect tense; when using the verb 'to be' in the
subjunctive, always use were rather than was:
______________________ __
• If he were here ... (Implied: ... but he's not.)
• I wish I had something to eat. (Implied: ... but I don't.)
• It would be better if you had brought your books
with you. (Implied: ... but you haven't brought them.)
Indicative: I need some help.
Imperative: Help me!
Subjunctive: If I were smart, I'd call for help.
There are four simple moods,-the Infinitive, the
Indicative, the Imperative and the Subjunctive.
The Mood of a verb denotes the mode or manner in which
it is used. Thus if it is used in its widest sense without reference
to person or number, time or place, it is in the Infinitive Mood;
as "To run." Here we are not told who does the running, when
it is done, where it is done or anything about it.
When a verb is used to indicate or declare or ask a
simple question or make any direct statement, it is in the
Indicative Mood. "The boy loves his book." Here a direct
statement is made concerning the boy. "Have you a pin?"
Here a simple question is asked which calls for an answer.
When the verb is used to express a command or entreaty
it is in the Imperative Mood as, "Go away." "Give me a penny."
When the verb is used to express doubt, supposition
or uncertainty or when some future action depends upon a
contingency, it is in the subjunctive mood; as, "If I come,
he shall remain."
Many grammarians include a fifth mood called the
potential to express power, possibility, liberty, necessity,
will or duty. It is..formed by means of the auxiliaries may,
can, ought and must, but in all cases it can be resolved into
the indicative or subjunctive. Thus, in "I may write if I
choose," "may write" is by some classified as in the potential
mood, but in reality the phrase I may write is an indicative
Essentials of English Language rst
one while the second clause, if I choose, is the expression
of a condition upon which, not my liberty to write, depends,
but my actual writing.
Verbs have two participles, the present or imperfect,
sometimes called the active ending in ing and the past or
perfect, often called the passive, ending in ed or d.
The infinitive expresses the sense of the verb in a substantive
form, the participles in an adjective form; as "To rise early is
healthful." "An early rising man." "The newly risen sun."
The participle in ing is frequently used as a substantive
and consequently is equivalent to an infinitive; thus, "To rise
early is healthful" and "Rising early is healthful" are the same.
The principal parts of a verb are the Present Indicative,
Past Indicative and Past Participle; as:
Love Loved Loved
Sometimes one or more of these parts are wanting, and
. then the verb is said to be defective.
Present Past Passive Participle
Can Could (Wanting)
May Might
Shall Should "
Will Would "
Ought Ought "
Verbs may also be divided into principal and auxiliary.
A principal verb is that without which a sentence or clause
can contain no assertion or affirmation. An auxiliary is a
verb joined to the root or participles of a principal verb to
express time and manner with greater precision than can
be done by the tenses and moods in their simple form. Thus,
the sentence, "I am writing an exercise; when I shall have
finished it I shall read it to the class." has no meaning
without the principal verbs writing, finished read; but the
meaning is rendered more definite, especially with regard
to time, by the auxiliary verbs am, have, shall. There are
nine auxiliary or helping verbs, viz., Be, have, do, shall, will,
______________________ __
may" can, ought, and must. They are called helping verbs,
because it is by their aid the compound tenses are formed.
The verb To Be is the most important of the auxiliary
verbs. It has eleven parts, viz., am, art, is, are, was, wast,
were, wert; be, being and been.
The active voice is that form of the verb which shows
the Subject not being acted upon but acting; as, "The cat
catches mice." "Charity covers a multitude of sins. "The
passive voice: When the action signified by a transitive verb
is thrown back upon the agent, that is to say, when the
subject of the verb denotes the recipient of the action, the
verb is said to be in the passive voice.
"John was loved by his neighbors." Here John the subject
is also the object affected by the loving, the action of the verb
is thrown back on him, hence the compound verb was loved
is said to be in the passive voice. The passive voice is formed
by putting the perfect participle of any transitive verb with
any of the eleven parts of the verb To Be.
Active and Passive Voice
Active Voice
In sentences written in active voice, the subject
performs the action expressed in the verb; the subject acts.

The dog bit the boy.

Pooja will present her research at the conference.

Scientists have conducted experiments to test the hypothesis.
Watching a framed, mobile world through a car's windshield reminds
me of watching a movie or TV.
Essentials of English Language
In each example, the subject of the sentence performs
the action expressed in the verb.
Would you like to see examples of all the verb tenses
in active voice?
Passive Voice
In sentences written in passive voice, the subject
receives the action expressed in the verb; the subject is acted
upon. The agent performing the action may appear in a "by
the ... " phrase or may be omitted.
(agent performing action has been omitted.)

Research will be presented by Pooja at the conference.

Experiments have been conducted to test the hypothesis.
I of watching a movie or TV by ;atching a:med, mo:e
world through a car's windshield.
Sometimes the use of passive voice can create awkward
sentences, as in the last example. Also, overuse of passive
voice throughout an essay can cause your prose to seem
flat and uninteresting. In scientific writing, however,
passive voice is more readily accepted since using it allows
one to write without using personal pronouns or the names
of particular researchers as the subjects of sentences. This
practice helps to create the appearance of an objective, fact-
based discourse because writers can present research and
conclusions without attributing them to particular agents.
Instead, the writing appears to convey information that is
not limited or biased by individual perspectives or personal
You can recognize passive-voice expressions because
the verb phrase will always include a form of be, such as
am, is, was, were, are, or been. The presence of a be-verb,
however, does not necessarily mean that the sentence is in
passive voice. Another way to recognize passive-voice
sentences is that they may include a "by the ... " phrase after
the verb; the agent performing the action, if named, is the
object of the preposition in this phrase.
Choosing Active Voice
In most nonscientific writing situations, active voice is
preferable to passive for the majority of your sentences.
Even in scientific writing, overuse of passive voice or use
of passive voice in long and complicated sentences can cause
readers to lose interest or to become confused. Sentences
in active voice are generally-though not always- clearer
and more direct than those in passive voice.
Passive (mdlrect) Active (direct)

Over one-t3 applicants to the school
The entrance exam was failed by over
one-third of the applicants to the school.
failed the entrance exam.

The brakes were slammed on by her as

She slammed on the brakes as the car sped
the car sped downhill.

Your bicycle has been damaged. I have damaged your bicycle.
(agent ornltted)
Sentences in active voice are also more concise than
those in passive voice because fewer words are required to
express action in active voice than in passive.
Passive (more wordy) ActIVe (more concise)
bill is being considered
The on
by the committee.
the bill.
will have
By then, the sound ea:" have
be completely remixed by the
completely remixed the soun track.
sound engineers.
Changing Passive to Active
If you want to change a passive-voice sentence to active
voice, find the agent in a "by the ... " phrase, or consider
carefully who or what is performing the action expressed
Essentials of English Language rss
in the verb. Make that agent the subject of the sentence, and
change the verb accordingly. Sometimes you will need to
infer the agent from the surrounding sentences which
provide context.
Passive Voice Agent Charged to ActIVe Voice
The read by
most of the
most of the class.
Agent not
specified; most

Results will be published In
The researchers WI! pu fish their
the next issue of the journal.
su as
results in the next issue of journal.
"the researchers
A policy 0 whitewashing and
The CIA dire;;tor and his se
cover-up h been pursued b
and hiS clos
advisors have pursued a p Hcy of
the CIA director and his close
whitewashing and cover-up.

agent not
MistaKes were made.
most likely
We made mistakes.
agents such
as "we"
Choosing Passive Voice
While active voice helps to create clear and direct
sentences, sometimes writers find that using an indirect
expression is rhetorically effective in a given situation, so
they choose passive voice. Also, writers in the sciences
conventionally use passive voice more often than writers
in other discourses. Passive voice makes sense when the
agent performing the action is obvious, unimportant, or
unknown or when a writer wishes to postpone mentioning
the agent until the last part of the sentence or to avoid
mentioning the agent at all.
The passive voice is effective in such circumstances
because it highlights the action and what is acted upon
rather than the agent performing the action.
Active Passive
The dispatcher is notifying police that three Police are bemg notified that three prisoners
prisoners have escaoed. ha"e escaoed.
Surgeons successfully J'erformed a new A new experimentalliver·transplant operation
exoerimentalliver-transplant ooerallon yesterday was l'<'rformed successfully yesterday.
"Authorttles makt rules to be broken," he said "Rules are made to be broken," he said
defiantly. defiantly.
The dispatcher is notifiJing police that three prisoners
have escaped. Police are being notified that three prisoners
have escaped.
Surgeons successfully performed a new experimental
liver-transplant operation yesterday. A new experimental
liver-transplant operation was performed successfully
1/ Authorities make rules to be broken," he said defiantly.
"Rules are made to be broken," he said defiantly.
In each of these examples, the passive voice makes
sense because the agent is relatively unimportant compared
to the action itself and what is acted upon.
Changing Active to Passive
If you want to change an active-voice sentence to
passive voice, consider carefully who or what is performing
the action expressed in the verb, and then make that agent
the object of a "by the ... " phrase. Make what is acted upon
the subject of the sentence, and change the verb to a form
of be + past participle. Including an explicit "by the ... " phrase
is optional.
Active Voice Aaent Changed to Passive Voice
The pres9,0fficer vetoed presiding
the committ 's officer
was vetoed by the presiding officer.
The fair
A fair crisis is being
resolution to the crisiS.
sought. (by the leaders)

traces of i e on the surface
on the surface of Mars. (by scientists)
of Mars.
In each of these examples, the passive voice is useful
for highlighting the action and what is acted upon instead
of the agent.
Some Suggestions
• A void starting a sentence in active voice and then
Shifting to passive.
Essentials of English Language rs7
Unnecessaru shm in voice Revised
Many customers in the restaurant found the Many customers in the restaurantfound
coffee too bitter to drink, but it was still the coffee too bitter to drink, but they still
ordered frequentlv. ordered it frequently.
He tried to act cool when he slipped in the He tried to act cool when he slipped in the
puddle, but he was still laughed at by the puddle, but the other students still laughed
other students. athim.
• A void dangling modifiers caused by the use of
passive voice. A dangling modifier is a word or
phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in
the sentence.
Dan!f(iin!i( modiffer with passive voice Revised
To save time, the paper was written on a To save time, Kristin wrote
computer. (Who was saving time? The the paper on a computer.
Seeking to layoff workers without taking the Seeking to layoff workers
blame, consultants were hired to break the bad without taking the blame,
news. Who was seeking to layoff workers? the CEO hired consultants
The consultants?) to break the bad news.
• Don't trust the grammar-checking programs in
word-processing software. Many grammar
checkers flag all passive constructions, but you may
want to keep some that are flagged. Trust your
judgement, or ask another human being for their
opinion about which sentence sounds best.
A gerund is a verbal that ends in -ing and functions as
a noun. The term verbal indicates that a gerund, like the
other two kinds of verbals, is based on a verb and therefore
expresses action or a state of being. However, since a gerund
functions as a noun, it occupies some positions in a sentence
that a noun ordinarily would, for example: subject, direct
object, subject complement, and object of preposition.
Gerund as subject:
• Traveling might satisfy your desire for new
experiences. (Traveling is the gerund.)
• The study abroad programme might satisfy your
desire for new experiences. (The gerund has been
Gerund as direct object:
• They do not appreciate my singing. (The gerund
is singing.)
• They do not appreciate my assistance. (The gerund
has been removed)
Gerund as subject complement:
• My cat's favourite activity is sleeping. (The gerund
is sleeping.)
• My cat's favourite food is salmon. (The gerund has
been removed.)
Gerund as object of preposition:
• The police arrested him for speeding. (The gerund
is speeding.)
•. The police arrested him for criminal activity. (The
gerund has been removed.)
A Gerund Phrase is a group of words consisting of a
gerund and the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s) or noun
phrase(s) that function as the direct object(s), indirect
object(s), or complement(s) of the action or state expressed
in the gerund, such as:
The gerund phrase functions as the subject of the
Finding a needle in a haystack would be easier than
what we're trying to do.
Finding (gerund)
• A needle (direct object of action expressed in
gerund) in a haystack (prepositional phrase as
. adverb)
The Gerund Phrase Functions as the Direct Object of
the Verb Appreciate
• I hope that you appreciate my offering you this
Essentials of English Language ~
My (possessive pronoun adjective form, modifying the
gerund) offering (gerund)
You (indirect object of action expressed in gerund) this
opportunity (direct object of action expressed in gerund)
The Gerund Phrase Functions as
the Subject Complement
• Newt's favourite tactic has been lying to his
Lying to (gerund)
His constituents (direct object of action expressed in
The Gerund Phrase Functions as the
Object of the Preposition for
• You might get in trouble for faking an illness to
avoid work.
Faking (gerund)
An illness (direct object of action expressed in gerund)
To avoid work (infinitive phrase as adverb)
The Gerund Phrase Functions as the
Subject of the Sentence
• Being the boss made Jeff feel uneasy.
Being (gerund)
The boss (subject complement for Jeff, via state of being
expressed in gerund)
A gerund virtually never requires any punctuation with it.
Points to remember:
• A gerund is a verbal ending in -ing that is used as
a noun.
• A gerund phrase consists of a gerund plus
modifier(s), object(s), and/or complement(s).
• Gerunds and gerund phrases virtually never
require punctuation.
A participle is a verbal that is used as an adjective and
most often ends in -ing or -ed. The term verbal indicates that
a participle, like the other two kinds of verbals, is based on
a verb and therefore expresses action or a state of being.
However, since they function as adjectives, pa!ticiples
modify nouns or pronouns. There are two types of
participles: present participles and past participles. Present
participles end in -ing. Past participles end in -ed, -en, -d, -t,
or -n, as in the words asked, eaten, saved, dealt, and seen.
• The crying baby had a wet diaper.
• Shaken, he walked away from the wrecked car.
• The burning log fell off the fire.
• Smiling, she hugged the panting dog.
A participial phrase is a group of words consisting of a
participle and the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s) or noun
phrase(s) that function as the direct object(s), indirect
object(s), or complement(s) of the action or state expressed
in the participle, such as:
Removing his coat, Jack rushed to the river.
The participial phrase functions as an adjective
modifying Jack.
Removing (participle)
his coat (direct object of action expressed in participle)
Delores noticed her cousin walking along the shoreline.
The participial phrase functions as an adjective
modifying cousin.
walking (participle)
along the shoreline (prepositional phrase as adverb)
Children introduced to music early develop strong
intellectual skills.
The participial phrase functions as an' adjective
modifying children.
introduced (to) (participle)
music (direct object of action expressed in participle)
early (adverb)
Essentials of English Language ~
Having been a gymnast, Lynn knew the importance of
The participial phrase functions as an adjective
modifying Lynn.
Having been (participle)
a gymnast (subject complement for Lynn, via state of
being expressed in participle)
Placement: In order to prevent confusion, a participial
phrase must be placed as close to the noun it modifies as
possible, and the noun must be clearly stated.
• Carrying a heavy pile of books, his foot caught on a
step. *
• Carrying a heavy pile of books, he caught his foot on
a step.
In the first sentence there is no clear indication of who
or what is performing the action expressed in the participle
carrying. Certainly foot can't be logically understood to
function in this way. This situation is an example of a
dangling modifier error since the modifier (the participial
phrase) is not modifying any specific noun in the sentence
and is thus left /I dangling." Since a person must be doing
the carrying for the sentence to make sense, a noun or
pronoun that refers to a person must be in the place
immediately after the participial phrase, as in the second
Punctuation: When a participial phrase begins a
sentence, a comma should be placed after the phrase.
• Arriving at the store, I found that it was closed.
• Washing and polishing the car, Frank developed sore
If the participle or participial phrase comes in the
middle of a sentence, it should be set off with commas only
if the information is not essential to the meaning of the
• Sid, watching an old movie, drifted in and out of
• The church, destroyed by a fire, was never rebuilt.
Note that if the participial phrase is essential to the
meaning of the sentence, no commas should be used:
• The student earning the highest grade point average
will receive a special award.
• The guy wearing the chicken costume is my cousin.
If a participial phrase comes at the end of a sentence, a
comma usually precedes the phrase if it modifies an earlier
word in the sentence but not if the phrase directly follows
the w0rd it modifies.
• The local residents often saw Ken wandering
through the streets.
(The phrase modifies Ken, not residents.)
• Tom nervously watched the woman, alarmed by
her silence. (The phrase modifies Tom, not woman.)
• A participle is a verbal ending in -ing (present) or
-ed, -en, -d, -t, or -n (past) that functions as an
adjective, modifying a noun or pronoun.
• A participial phrase consists of a participle plus
modifier(s), object(s), and/or complement(s).
• Participles and participial phrases must be placed
as close to the nouns or pronouns they modify as
possible, and those nouns or pronouns must be
clearly stated.
• A participial phrase is set off with commas when
- Comes at the beginning of a sentence
- Interrupts a sentence as a nonessential element
- Comes at the end of a sentence and is separated
from the word it modifies.
An infinitive is a verbal consisting of the word to plus
a verb (in its simplest "stem" form) and functioning as a
noun, adjective, or adverb. The term verbal indicates that
an infinitive, like the other two kinds of verbals, is based
Essentials of English Language f63
on a verb and therefore expresses action or a state of being.
However, the infinitive may function as a subject, direct
object, subject complement, adjective, or adverb in a
sentence. Although an infinitive is easy to locate because
of the to + verb form, deciding what function it has in a
sentence can sometimes be confusing.
• To wait seemed foolish when decisive action was
required. (subject)
• Everyone wanted to go. (direct object)
• His ambition is to fly. (subject complement)
• He lacked the strength to resist. (adjective)
• We must study to learn. (adverb)
Be sure not to confuse an infinitive-a verbal consisting
-< of to plus a verb-with a prepositional phrase beginning
with to, which consists of to plus a noun or pronoun and
any modifiers.
• Infinitives: to fly, to draw, to become, to enter, to
stand, to catch, to belong
• Prepositional Phrases: to him, to the committee, to
my house, to the mountains, to us, to this address
An Infinitive Phrase is a group of words consisting of
an infinitive and the modifier(s) and/or (pro)noun(s) or
noun phrase(s) that function as the actor(s), direct object(s),
indirect object(s), or complement(s) of the action or state
expressed in the infinitive, such as:
• We intended to leave early.
The Infinitive Phrase Functions as the
Direct Object of the Verb Intended
To leave (infinitive)
Early (adverb)
• I have a paper to write before class.
The Infinitive Phrase Functions as an
Adjective Modifying Paper
To write (infinitive)
Before class (prepositional phrase as adverb)
______________________ __
• Phil agreed to give me a ride.
The Infinitive Phrase Functions as the
Direct Object of the Verb Agreed
• To give (infinitive)
• Me (indirect object of action expressed in infinitive)
• A ride (direct object of action expressed in
They asked me to bring some food.
The Infinitive Phrase Functions as the
Direct Object of the Verb Asked
• Me (actor or "subject" of infinitive phrase)
• To bring (infinitive)
• Some food (direct object of action expressed in
Everyone wanted Carol to be the captain of the
The Infinitive Phrase Functions as the
Direct Object of the Verb Wanted
• Carol (actor or "subject" of infinitive phrase)
• To be (infinitive)
• The captain (subject complement for Carol, via state
of being expressed in infinitive)
• Of the team (prepositional phrase as adjective)
Actors: In these last two examples the actor of the
infinitive phrase could be roughly characterized as the
"subject" of the action or state expressed in the infinitive. It
is somewhat misleading to use the word subject, however,
since an infinitive phrase is not a full clause with a subject
and a finite verb. Also notice that when it is a pronoun, the
actor appears in the objective case (me, not I, in the fourth
example). Certain verbs, when they take an infinitive direct
object, require an actor for the infinitive phrase; others can't
have an actor. Still other verbs can go either way, as the
charts below illustrate.
Essentials of English Language f65
Verbs that take infinitive objects without actors:
agree begin continue decide
fail hesitate hope intend
learn neglect offer plan.
prefer pretend promise refuse
remember start try
• Most students plan to study.
• We began to learn.
• They offered to pay.
• They neglected to pay.
• She promised to return.
In all of these examples no actor can come between the
italicized main (finite) verb and the infinitive direct-object
Verbs that take infinitive objects with actors:
advise allow convince remind
encourage force hire teach
instruct invite permit tell
implore incite appoint order
• He reminded me to buy milk.
• Their fathers advise them to study.
• She forced the defendant to admit the truth.
• You've convinced the director of the programme to
change her position.
• I invite you to consider the evidence.
In all of these examples an actor is required after the
italicized main (finite) verb and before the infinitive direct-
object phrase.
Verbs that use either pattern:
ask expect (would) likewant
• I asked to see the records.
______________________ __
• I asked him to show me the records.
• Trent expected his group to win.
• Trent expected to win.
• Brenda likes to drive fast.
• Brenda likes her friend to drive fast.
In all of these examples the italicized main verb can take
an infinitive object with or without an actor.
Punctuation: If the infinitive is used as an adverb and
is the beginning phrase in a sentence, it should be set off
with a comma; otherwise, no punctuation is needed for an
infinitive phrase.
• To buy a basket of flowers, John had to spend his
last dollar.
• To improve your writing, you must consider your
purpose and audience.
Points to Remember
• An infinitive is a verbal consisting of the word to
plus a verb; it may be used as a noun, adjective,
or adverb.
• An infinitive phrase consists of an infinitive plus
modifier(s), object(s), complement(s), and/or
• An infinitive phrase requires a comma only if it is
used as an adverb at the beginning of a sentence.
Split Infinitives
Split infinitives occur when additional words are included
between to and the verb in an infinitive. Many readers find a
single adverb splitting the infinitive to be acceptable, but this
practice should be avoided in formal writing.
• I like to on a nice day walk in the woods. *
On a nice day, I like to walk in the woods. (revised)
• I needed to quickly gather my personal possessions.
(acceptable in informal contexts)
Essentials of English Language ~
I needed to gather my personal possessions quickly.
(revised for formal contexts)
Comparing Gerunds and Participles
Look at the following pair of sentences. In the first, the
use of a gerund (functioning as a noun) allows the meaning
to be expressed more precisely than in the second. In the
first sentence the interrupting itself, a specific behaviour,
is precisely indicated as the cause of the speaker's irritation.
In the second the cause of the irritation is identified less
precisely as Bill, who just happens to have been
interrupting. (In the second sentence, interrupting is
actually a participle, not a gerund, since it functions as an
adjective modifying Bill.)
I was irritated by Bill's constant interrupting.
I was irritated by Bill, constantly interrupting.
The same pattern is shown in these other example pairs
below: in the first of each pair, a gerund (noun-function) is
used; in the second, a participle (adjective-function). Notice
the subtle change in meaning between the two sentences
in each pair.
The guitarist's finger-picking was extraordinary. (The
technique was extraordinary.)
The guitarist, finger-picking, was extraordinary. (The
person was extraordinary, demonstrating the technique.)
He was not impressed with their competing. (The
competing did not impress him.) i '
He was not impressed with them competing. (ThetJ did
not impress him as they competed.)
Grandpa enjoyed his grandchildren's running and
Grandpa enjoyed his grandchildren, running and
laughing."" (Ambiguous: who is running and laughing?)
Comparing Gerunds and Infinitives
The difference in the form of gerunds and infinitives is
quite clear just from comparing the following lists:
• Gerunds: swimming, hoping, telling, eating,
• Infinitives: to swim, to hope, to tell, to eat, to dream
Their functions, however, overlap. Gerunds always
function as nouns, but infinitives often also serve as
nouns. Deciding which to use can be confusing in many
situations, especially for people whose first language is
not English.
Confusion between gerunds and infinitives occurs
primarily in cases in which one or the other functions as
the direct object in a sentence.
In English some verbs take gerunds as verbal direct
objects exclusively while other verbs take only infinitives
and still others can take either. Many such verbs are listed
below, organized according to which kind of verbal direct
object they take.
Verbs that take only infinitives as verbal direct objects:
agree decide expect hesitate
learn need promise negled
hope want plan attempt
propose intend pretend
I hope to go on a vacation soon.
(NOT: I hope going on a vacation soon.*)
He promised to go on a diet.
(NOT: He promised going on a diet.*)
They agreed to sign the treaty.
(NOT: They agreed signing the treaty.*)
Because she was nervous, she hesitated to speak.
(NOT: Because she was nervous, she hesitated
speaking. *)
They will attempt to resuscitate the victim
Essentials of English Language I 69
(NOT: They will attempt resuscitating the victim.*)
Verbs that take only gerunds as verbal direct objects
deny risk delay consider
can't helP k e ~
give up be fond of
finish quit put off jlrartIce
postpone tolerate suggest stop (quit)
regret enjoy keep (on) dishke
admit avoid recall mind
miss detest appreciate recommend
get!be through get!be tired of get!be accustomed to get/be used to
They always avoid drinking before driving.
(NOT: They always avoid to drink before driving.*)
I recall asking her that question.
(NOT: I recall to ask her that question.*)
She put off buying a new jacket.
(NOT: She put off to buy a new jacket. *)
Mr. Allen enjoys cooking.
(NOT: Mr. Allen enjoys to cook.*)
Charles keeps calling her.
(NOT: Charles keeps to call her.*)
Verbs that take gerunds or infinitives as verbal direct
start begin continue
prefer like love
She has continued to work at the store.
She has continued working at the store.
They like to go to the movies.
They like going to the movies.
Brent started to walk home.
Brent started walking home.
Forget and remember
These two verbs change meaning depending on
whether a gerund or infinitive is used as the object.
______________________ __
Jack forgets to take out the cat. (He regularly forgets.)
Jack forgets taking out the cat. (He did it, but he doesn't
remember now.)
Jack forgot to take out the cat. (He never did it.)
Jack forgot taking out the cat. (He did it, but he didn't
remember sometime later.)
Jack remembers to take out the cat. (He regularly
Jack remembers taking out the cat. (He did it, and he
remembers now.)
Jackremembered to take out the cat. (He did it.)
Jack remembered taking out the cat. (He did it, and he
remembered sometime later.)
In the second of each pair of example sentences, the
past progressive gerund form having taken can be used in
place of taking to avoid any possible confusion.
Sense verbs that take an object plus a gerund or a simple
Certain sense verbs take an object followed by either a
gerund or a simple verb (infinitive form minus the word
to). With many of the verbs that follow the object, the use
of the gerund indicates continuous action while the use of
the simple verb indicates a one-time action. Still, sometimes
the simple verb can indicate continuous action if one-time
action wouldn't make sense in the context.
hear notice watch
smell observe
We watched him playing basketball. (continuous action)
We watched him play basketball. (continuous action)
I felt my heart pumping vigorously. (continuous action)
I felt my heart pump vigorously. (continuous action)
She saw them jumping on the bed. (continuous action)
She saw them jump on the bed. (one-time action)
Tom heard the victim shouting for help. (continuous action)
Essentials of English Language [71
Tom heard the victim shout for help. (one-time action)
The detective noticed the suspect biting his nails.
(continuous action)
The detective noticed the suspect bite his nails. (one-
time action)
We could smell the pie baking in the kitchen.
(continuous action)
We could smell the pie bake in the kitchen. (continuous
Sometimes the simple-verb version might seem
unconventional, so it's safer in most cases to use the gerund
The conjugation of a verb is its orderly arrangement in
voices, moods, tenses, persons and numbers.
Here is the complete conjugation of the verb "Love" -
Active Voice.
Present Past Past Participle
Love Loved Loved
Infinitive Mood
To Love
Indicative Mood
Sing. Plural
1st person I love We love
2nd person You love You love
3rd £erson He loves Thel:: love
Sing. Plural
1st person I loved We loved
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
You loved
He loved
I shall love
You will love
He will love
You loved
They loved
They will love
You will love
We shall love
[Transcriber's note: 1st person plural and 3rd person
plural reversed in original]
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Sing. Plural
I have loved We have loved
You have loved You have loved
He has loved They have loved
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Sing. Plural
I had loved We had loved
You had loved You had loved
He had loved They had loved
Sing. Plural
1st person I shall have We shall have loved
2nd person You will have You will have loved
3rd person He will have They will have loved
Imperative Mood
Essentials of English Language f73
Sing. Plural
2nd person Love (you) Love (you)
Subjunctive Mood
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
To love
Sing. Plural
If I love If we love
If you love If you love
If he love If they love
Sing. Plural
If I loved If we loved
If you loved If you loved
If he loved If they loved
Sing. Plural
If I have loved If we have loved
If you have If you have loved
If he has loved If they have loved
Sing. Plural
If I had loved If we had loved
If you had loved If you had loved
If he had loved If they had loved
To have loved
Present Past Perfect
Loving Loved Having loved
Passive Voice
Indicative Mood
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Sing. Plural
I am loved We are loved
You are loved You are loved
He is loved They are loved
Sing. Plural
I was loved We were loved
You were loved You were loved
He was loved They were loved
I shall be loved
You will be
We shall be loved
You will be loved
He will be loved They will be loved
I have been
You have been
He has been
We have been
You have been
They have been
1st person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Essentials of English Language ~
I had been
I had loved
We had been
We had loved
You had been You had been
loved loved
He had been They had been
loved loved
Sing. Plural
I shall have been We shall have
loved been loved
You will have been You will have
loved been loved
He will have been They will have
loved been loved
Imperative Mood
Sing. Plural
2nd person Be (you) loved Be (you) loved
Subjunctive Mood
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
If I be loved
If you be loved
If he be loved
If I were loved
If we be loved
If you be loved
If they be loved
If they were
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
1st person
2nd person
3rd person
Being loved
If you were
If he were loved
If you were
If we were loved
If I have been
If you have been
If he has been
If we have been
If you have been
If they have
been loved
Sing. Plural
If I had been If we had been
loved loved
If you had been If you had been
loved loved
If he had been If they had been
loved loved
Present Perfect
To be loved To have been
Past Perfect
Been loved Having been
(N. B. - Note that the plural form of the personal pronoun,
YOLl, is llsed in the second person singular throughout. The old
form thou, except in the conjugation of the verb "To Be," may
be said to be obsolete. Tn the third person singular he L'
Esse1ltials of E1lglish Language ~
representative of the three personal pronouns of the third
person, He, She and It.)
An adjective is a word which qualifies a noun, that is,
shows or points out some distinguishing mark or feature
of the noun; as, A black dog.
Adjectives have three forms called degrees of
comparison, the positive, the comparative and the
The positive is the simple form of the adjective without
expressing increase or diminution of the original quality:
The comparative is that form of the adjective which
expresses increase or diminution of the quality: nicer.
The superlative is that form which expresses the
greatest increase or diminution of the quality: nicest.
An adjective is in the positive form when it does not
express comparison; as, "A rich man."
An adjective is in the comparative form when it
expresses comparison between two or between one and a
number taken collectively, as, "John is richer than James";
"he is richer than all the men in Boston."
An adjective is in the superlative form when it
expresses a comparison between one and a number of
individuals taken separately; as, "John is the richest man
in Boston."
Adjectives expressive of properties or circumstances
which cannot be increased have only the positive form; as,
A circular road; the chief end; an extreme measure.
Adjectives are compared in two ways, either by adding
er to the positive to form t h ~ comparative and est to the
positive to form the superlative, or by prefixing more to the
positive for the comparative and most to the positive for
the superlative; as, handsome, handsomer, handsomest or
handsome, more handsome, most handsome.
Adjectives of two or more syllables are generally
compared by prefixing more and most.
Many adjectives are irregular in comparison; as, Bad,
worse, worst; Good, better, best.
Adjectives with Countable and Uncountable Nouns
Both modifij countable and uncountable nouns.
There is some water on the floor.
There are some Mexicans here.
Do you have any food?
Do you have any apples?
MUCH modifies only uncountable nouns.
They have much money in the bank.
MANY modifies only countable nouns.
Many Americans travel to Europe.
A Lot of/Lots of
These are informal substitutes for MUCH and MANY. They
are used with uncountable nouns when they mean MUCH and
with countable nouns when they mean MANY.
They have lots of money in the bank.
A lot of Americans travel to Europe.
LITTLE modifies only uncountable nouns.
He had little food in the house.
FEW modifies only countable nouns.
There are a few doctors in town.
A Little Bit of
'ntis phrase is informal and always precedes an uncountable
There is a little bit of pepper in the soup.
Essentials of English Language f79
ENOUGH modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
There is enough money to buy a car.
I have enough books to read.
Plenty of
This phrase modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
They have plenty of money in the bank.
There are plenty of millionaires in Switzerland.
NO modifies both countable and uncountable nouns.
There is no time to finish now.
There are no squirrels in the park.
Usage of Adjectives
Adjectives tell us more about a noun.
They can:
Describe feelings or qualities:
He is a lonely man
They are honest people
Give nationality or origin:
Pierre is French
This clock is German
Our house is Victorian
Tell more about a thing's characteristics:
A wooden table.
The knife is sharp.
Tell us about age:
He's a young man
My coat is very old
Tell us about size and measurement:
John is a tall man.
_This is a very long film.
Tell us about colour:
Paul wore a red shirt.
The sunset was crimson and gold.
Tell us about material/what something is made of:
It was a wooden table
She wore a cotton dress
Tell us about shape:
A rectangular box
A square envelope
Express a judgement or a value:
A fantastic film
Grammar is boring
Where a number of adjectives are used together, the
order depends on the function of the adjective. The usual
order is:
Value/opinion, Size, Ageffemperature, Shape, Colour,
Origin, Material
Value/opinion delicious, lovely, charming
Size small, huge, tiny
Ageffemperature old, hot, young
Shape round, square, rectangular
Colour red, blonde, black
Origin Swedish, Victorian, Chinese
Material plastic, wooden, silver
• a lovely old red post-box
• some small round plastic tables
• some charming small silver ornaments
EssClltials of English Language ~
Forming the Comparative and Superlative
Number of sill/abies Comparative SlIperlath'e
onesvllable + -er + -est
tall taller tallest
one syllable with the spelling consonant + single vowel + consonant: double the final
fat fatter fattest
big bigger bigges t
sad sadder saddest
~ ~ M
, ~ ~
~ ~
Number of syllables Comparative Superlative
two syllables + -er OR more + adj + -est OR most + adj
ending in: -y, -I!!, -ow
ending in: -Ie, -er or -li re
these common adjectives - handsome, polite, pleasant, common, quiet
happy happier/ more happy happiest! most
yellow yellower/ more yellow yellowest! most
simple simpler/ more simple simplest! most
tender tenderer/ more tender tenderest! most
If you are not sure, use MORE + OR MOST +
Note: Adjectives ending in '-y' like happy, pretty, busy, sunny, lucky etc. replace the-y
with -ier or -iest in ·the comparative and superlative form
busl/ busier bllsiest
Number of syllables Comparative Superlative
three syllables or more more + adj most+adj
important more important most important
expensive more expensive most expensive
• A cat is fast, a tiger is faster but a cheetah is the
• A car is heavy, a truck is heavier, but a train is the
• A park bench is comfortable, a restaurant chair is
more comfortable, but a sofa is the most comfortable
Irregular Comparatives and Superlatives
These adjectives have completely irregular comparative
and superlative forms:
Adiective Comparative SlIperlative
good better best
bad worse worst
little less least
much more most
far further / farther furthest / farthest
The + Superlative
'the' is placed before the superlative:
For example:
• He is the richest man in the world.
• That is the biggest crocodile I have ever seen.
• She is the tallest girl in her class.
Comparative + Than
To compare the difference J?etween two people, things
or events.
• Mt. Everest is higher than Mt. Blanc.
• Thailand is sunnier than Norway.
• A car is more expensive than a bicycle.
• Albert is more intelligent than Arthur.
As + Adjective + As
To compare people, places, events or things, when there
is no difference, use as + adjective + as:
Essentials of English Language rB3
• Peter is 24 years old. John is 24 years old. Peter is
as old as John.
More examples:
• Moscow is as cold as 5t. Petersburg in the winter.
• Ramona is as happy as Raphael.
• Einstein is as famous as Darwin.
• A tiger is as dangerous as a lion.
Not as + Adjective + as
Difference can also be shown by using not so/as ... as:
• Mont Blanc i ~ not as high as Mount Everest
• Norway is not as sunny as Thailand
• A bicycle is not as expensive as a car
• Arthur is not as intelligent as Albert
Comparisons of Quantity
To show difference: more, less, fewer + than
To show no difference: as much as , as many as, as few as,
as little as
Comparisons of Quantity
To show difference: more, less, fewer + lhan
With countable nouns: more / fewer
• Eloise has more children than Chantal.
• Chantal has fewer children than Eloise.
• There are fewer dogs in Cardiff than in Bristol
• I have visited fewer countries than my friend has.
• He has read fewer books than she has.
With uncountable nouns: more / less
• Eloise has more money than Chantal.
• Chantal has less money than Eloise.
• I spend less time on homework than you do.
• Cats drink less water than dogs.
• This new dictionary gives more information than
the old one.
So, the rule is:
MORE + nouns that are countable or uncountable
FEWER + countable nouns
LESS + uncountable nouns
To show no difference: as much as , as many as, as few as,
as little as
• as many as / as few as + countable nouns
• as much as / as little as + uncountable nouns
With countable nouns:
• They have as many children as us.
• We have as many customers as them.
• Tom has as few books as Jane.
• There are as few houses in his village as in mine.
• You know as many people as I do.
• I have visited the States as many times as he has.
With uncountable nouns:
• John eats as much food as Peter.
• Jim has as little food as Sam.
• You've heard as much news as I have.
• He's had as much success as his brother has.
• They've got as little water as we have.
An adverb is a word which modifies a verb, an adjective
or another adverb. Thus, in the example-"He writes well,"
the ad verb shows the manner in which the writing is
performed; in the examples-"He is remarkably diligent"
and "He works very faithfully," the adverbs modify the
adjective diligent and the other adverb faithfully by
expressing the degree of diligence and faithfulness. Adverbs
are chiefly used to express in one word what would
otherwise require two or more words; thus, There signifies
in that place; whence, from what place; usefully, in a useful
manner. Adverbs, like adjectives, are sometimes varied in
their terminations to express comparison and different
degrees of quality. Some adverbs form the comparative and
superlative by adding er and est; as, soon, sooner, soonest.
Essentials of English Language rss
Adverbs which end in ly are compared by prefixing more
and most; as, nobly, more nobly, most nobly.
A few adverbs are irregular in the formation of the
comparative and superlative; as, well, better, best.
Usage of Adverbs
Adverbs modify, or tell us more about other words,
usually verbs:
• The bus moved slowly.
• The bears ate greedily.
Sometimes they tell us more about adjectives:
• You look absolutely fabulous!
They can also modify other ad verbs:
• She played the violin extremely well.
• You're speaking too quietly.
1. In most cases, an adverb is formed by adding '-ly'
to an adjective:
slow slowly
• Time goes quickly.
• He walked slowly to the door.
• She certainly had an interesting life.
• He carefully picked up the sleeping child.
If the adjective ends in '-y', replace the 'y' with 'i' and
add '-ly':
If the adjective ends in -'able', '-ible', or '-Ie', replace the
'-e' with '-y': .
If the adjective ends in '-ic', add '-ally':
Adjective Adverb
basic basically
economic economically
tragic tragically
Note: Exception: public - publicly
2. Some adverbs have the same form as the adjective:
Adjective Adverb
early late
fast near
hard straight
high wrong
• It is a fast car.
• He drives very fast.
• This is a hard exercise.
• He works hard.
• We saw many high quildings.
• The bird flew high in the sky.
3. 'Well' and 'good'
'Well' is the adverb that corresponds to the adjective
• He is a good student.
• He studies well.
• She is a good pianist.
• She plays the piano well.
Essentials of English Language rB7
• They are good swimmers.
• They swim well.
Comparative forms of Adverbs
In general, comparative and superlative forms of
adverbs are the same as for adjectives:
• add -er or -est to short adverbs:
the hardest
the latest
fast faster the fastest
• Jim works harder than his brother.
• Everyone in the race ran fast, but John ran the fastest
of all.
with adverbs ending in -ly, use more for the comparative
,and most for the superlative:
Adverb Comparative Superlative
more quietly
more slowly
most quietly
most slowly
seriously more seriously most seriously
• The teacher spoke more slowly to help us to
• Could you sing more quietly please?
Some adverbs have irregular comparative forms:
Adverb C01nparative Superlative
badly worse worst
far farthest/furthest farther/further
little less least
well better best
• The little boy ran further than his friends.
• You're driving worse today than yesterday!
BE CAREFUL! Sometimes 'most' can mean 'very':
• We were most grateful for your help
• I am most impressed by this application.
The Basic Rules: Adjectives
Adjectives modify nouns. To modify means to change
in some way. For example:
• "I ate a meal." Meal is a noun. We don't know what
kind of meal; all we know is that someone ate a
• "I ate an enormous lunch." Lunch is a noun, and
enormous is an adjective that modifies it. It tells us
what kind of meal the person ate.
Adjectives usually answer one of a few different
questions: "What kind?" or "Which?" or "How many?" For
• liThe tall girl is riding a new bike." Tall tells us
which girl we're talking about. New tells us what
kind of bike we're talking about.
• liThe tough professor gave us the final exam." Tough
tells us what kind of professor we're talking about.
Final tells us which exam we're talking about.
• "Fifteen students passed the midterm exam; twelve
students passed the final exam." Fifteen and twelve
both tell us how many students; midterm and final
both tell us which exam.
So, generally speaking, adjectives answer the following
• Which?
• What kind of?
• How many?
The Basic Rules: Adverbs
Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
Essentials of English Language f89
(You can recognize adverbs easily because many of them
are formed by adding -ly to an adjective, though that is not
always the case.) The most common question that adverbs
answer is how.
Let's look at verbs first.
• "She sang beautifully." Beautifully is an adverb that
modifies sang. It tells us how she sang.
• "The cellist played carelessly." Carelessly is an
adverb that modifies played. It tells us how the
cellist played.
Adverbs also modify adjectives and other adverbs.
• "That woman is extremely nice." Nice is an adjective
that modifies the noun woman. Extremely is an
adverb that modifies nice; it tells us how nice she
is. How nice is she? She's extremely nice.
• "It was a terribly hot afternoon." Hot is an adjective
that modifies the noun afternoon. Terribly is an
adverb that modifies the adjective hot. How hot is
it? Terribly hot.
So, generally speaking, adverbs answer the question
how. (They can also answer the questions when, where, and
Some Other Rules
Most of the time, adjectives come before nouns.
However, they come after the nouns they modify, most
often when the verb is a form of the following:
• be
• feel
• taste
• smell
• sound
• look
• appear
• seem
Some examples:
• "The dog is black." Black is an adjective that
901 Essentials of English Language
modifies the noun dog, but it comes after the verb.
(Remember that "is" is a form of the verb "be.")
• "Brian seems sad." Sad is an adjective that modifies
the noun Brian.
• "The milk smells rotten." Rotten is an adjective that
modifies the noun milk.
• "The speaker sounds hoarse." Hoarse is an adjective
that modifies the noun speaker.
Be sure to understand the differences between the
following two examples:
"The dog smells carefully." Here, carefully describes
how the dog is smelling. We imagine him sniffing very
"The dog smells clean." Here, clean describes the dog
itself. It's not that he's smelling clean things or something;
it's that he's had a bath and does not stink.
A preposition connects words, clauses, and sentences
together and shows the relation between them. "My hand
is on the table" shows relation between hand and table.
Prepositions are so called because they are generally
placed before the words whose connection or relation with
other words they point out.
Prepositions for Time, Place, and Introducing
One Point in Time
On is used with days:
• I will see you on Monday.
• The week begins on Sunday.
At is used with noon, night, midnight, and with the
time of day:
• My plane leaves at noon.
• The movie starts at 6 p.m.
Essentials of English Language 191
In is used with other parts of the day, with months, with
years, with seasons:
• He likes to read in the afternoon.
• The days are long in August.
• The book was published in 1999.
-e The flowers will bloom in spring.
Extended Time
To express extended time, English uses the following
prepositions: since, for, by, from-to, from-until,
• She has been gone since yesterday. (She left
yesterday and has not returned.)
• I'm going to Paris for two weeks. (I will spend two
weeks there.)
• The movie showed from August to October.
(Beginning in August and ending in October.)
• The decorations were up from spring until fall.
(Beginning in spring and ending in fall.)
• I watch TV during the evening. (For some period of
time in the evening.)
• We must finish the project within a year. (No longer
than a year.)
To express notions of place, English uses the following
prepositions: to talk about the point itself: in, to express
something contained: inside, to talk about the surface: on,
to talk about a general vicinity, at.
• There is a wasp in the room.
• Put the present inside the box.
• I left your keys on the table.
• She was waiting at the comer.
Higher Than a Point
To express notions of an object being higher than a
point, English uses the following prepositions: over, above.
• He threw the ball over the roof.
• Hang that picture above the couch.
Lower Than a Point
To express notions of an object being lower than a point,
English uses the following prepositions: under, underneath,
beneath, below.
• The rabbit burrowed under the ground.
• The child hid underneath the blanket.
• We relaxed in the shade beneath the branches.
• The valley is below sea-level.
Close to a Point
To express notions of an object being close to a point,
English uses the following prepositions: near, by, next to,
between, among, opposite.
• She lives near the schooL
• There is an ice cream shop by the store.
• An oak tree grows next to my house
• The house is between Elm Street and Maple Street.
• I found my pen lying among the books.
• The bathroom is opposite that room.
To introduce Objects of Verbs
English uses the following prepositions to introduce
objects of the following verbs.
At: glance, laugh, look, rejoice, smile, stare
• She took a quick glance at her reflection.
(exception with mirror: She took a quick glance in the
• You didn't laugh at his joke.
• I'm looking at the computer monitor.
• We rejoiced at his safe rescue.
• That pretty girl smiled at you.
• Stop staring at me __
Of:' . .approve, consist,
• I don't approve of his speech.
Essentials of English Language f93"
• My contribution to the article consists of many
• He came home smelling of alcohol.
Of (or about): dream, think
• I dream of finishing college in four years.
• Can you think of a number between one and ten?
• I am thinking about this problem.
For: call, hope, look, wait, watch, wish
• Did someone call for a taxi?
• He hopes for a raise in salary next year.
• I'm looking for my keys.
• We'll wait for her here.
• You go buy the tickets and I'll watc}1 for the train.
• If you wish for an "A" in this class, you must work
Prepositions of Direction
Prepositions of direction are few in number but they
are also important to note. They include the following and
are best learned and understood in context.
Study the examples below carefully and then do the
exercise that follows. You can check your answers to see
how well you know these prepositions of direction.
AROUND = in a circular direction
I've driven around this neighborhood three times and I
still can't find their house.
AT = in the (general) direction of
The little boy threw a stone at the little girl.
AWAY FROM = leaving a place, a person or an object
She ran away from home when she was sixteen.
DOWN = descending motion
Raindrops ran down the windscreen making it difficult
to see the road.
DOWN TO = descending motion expressing a final
The child fell down to the ground.
FOR = having the view or destination of The Israelites
set out for The Promised Land when they left Egypt.
INTO = a destination within something
The frightened deer disappeared into the forest.
ONTO = a destination on something
He put the plate onto the table and began to eat his
OUT OF = a destination outside of something
He ran out of the room as if he were on fire.
TO = in the specific direction of
To the hospital, please. And hurry! This is an
Could you give this DVD to Jill, please?
TOWARDS = in the general direction of
We were driving towards the city centre when we had
an accident.
UP = ascending, in a general motion
The smoke from the fire went up into the sky.
UP TO = ascending, expressing specific destination
You'll be able to reach the cat if you climb up to the top
of the tree.
Set Phrases using Prepositions of Direction
He couldn't wait for his vacation to get away from it all.
The cost of a new car brought him down to earth.
When situations worsen we say we go from out of the
frying pan, into the fire.
Special Note
When you shout at someone. (You are angry)
When you shout to someone. (You want to attract their
You throw the ball at someone. (You want to hit them
with the ball.)
You throw the ball to someone. (You want them to have
it, you give it to them.)
Essentials of English Language r%
A conjunction joins words, clauses and sentences; as
"John and James." "My father and mother have come, but I
have not seen them."
The conjunctions in most general use are and, also;
either, or; neither, nor; though, yet; but, however; for, that;
because, since; therefore, wherefore, then; if, unless, lest.
A conjunction is a word that "joins". A conjunction joins
two parts of a sentence.
Here are some example conjunctions:
Coordinating Subordinating
Conjunctions Conjunctions
and, but, or, nor, although, because, since,
for, yet, so unless
We can consider conjunctions from three aspects.
Conjunctions have three basic forms:
• Single Word
for example: and, but, because, although
• Compound (often ending with as or that)
For example: provided that, as long as, in order that
• Correlative (surrounding an adverb or adjective)
For example: so ... that
Conjunctions have two basic functions or "jobs":
• Coordinating conjunctions are used to join two
parts of a sentence that are grammatically equal.
The two parts may be single words or clauses, for
- Jack and Jill went up the hill.
- The water was warm, but I didn't go swimming.
• Subordinating conjunctions are used to join a
subordinate dependent clause to a main clause, for
I went swimming although it was cold.
• Coordinating conjunctions always come between
the words or clauses that they join. .
• Subordinating conjunctions usually come at the
beginning of the subordinate clause.
Coordinating Conjunctions
The short, simple conjunctions are called "coordinating
conjunctions" :
• and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so
A coordinating conjunction joins parts of a sentence (for
example word'5 or independent clauses) that are
grammatically equal or similar. A coordinating conjunction
shows that the elements it joins are similar in importance
. and structure: '
Look at these examples - the two elements that the
coordinating conjunction joins are shown in square brackets
[ ]:
• I like [tea] and [coffee].
• [Ram likes tea], but [Anthony likes coffee].
Coordinating conjunctions always come between the
words or clauses that they join.
When a coordinating conjunction joins independent
clauses, it is always correct to place a comma before the
• I want to work as an interpreter in the future, so I
am studying Russian at university.
However, if the independent clauses are short and well-
balanced, a comma is not really essential:
• She is kind so she helps people.
When "and" is used with the last word of a list, a
comma is optional:
• He drinks beer, whisky, wine, and rum.
Essentials of English Language r97""
• He drinks beer, whisky, wine and rum.
The 7 coordinating conjunctions are short, simple
words. They have only two or three letters. There's an easy
way to remember them - their initials spell:
For And Nor But Or Yet 50
Subordinating Conjunctions
The majority of conjunctions are "subordinating
conjunctions". Common subordinating conjunctions are:
• after, although, as, because, before, how, if, once,
since, than, that, though, till, u:t;ltil, when, where,
whether, while
A subordinating conjunction joins a subordinate
(dependent) clause to a main (independent) clause:
Look at this example:
main or subordinate or
independent dependent clause it was raining.
Ram went although
swimming subordinating
A subordinate or dependent clause "depends" on a
main or independent clause. It cannot exist alone. Imagine
that somebody says to you: "Hello! Although it was
raining." What do you understand? Nothing! But a main
or independent clause can exist alone. You will understand
very well if somebody says to you: "Hello! Ram went
A subordinating conjunction always comes at the
beginning of a subordinate clause. It "introduces" a
subordinate clause. However, a subordinate clause can
sometimes come after and sometimes before a main clause.
______________________ __
Thus, two structures are possible:
Ram went swimming although it was raining.
Although it was raining, Ram went swimming.
An interjection is a word used to express some sudden
emotion of the mind. Thus in the examples,-" Ah! there
he comes; alas! what shall I do?" ah, expresses surprise, and
alas, distress.
Nouns, adjectives, verbs and adverbs become
interjections when they are uttered as exclamations, as,
nonsense! strange! hail! away! etc.
Interjection is a big name for a little word. Interjections
are short exclamations like Oh!, Urn or Ah! They have no
real grammatical value but we use them quite often, usually
more in speaking than in writing. When interjections are
inserted into a sentence, they have no grammatical
connection to the sentence. An interjection is sometimes
followed by an exclamation mark (!) when written.
Interjections like er and urn are also known as
"hesitation devices". They are extremely common in
English. People use them when they don't know what to
say, or to indicate that they are thinking about what to say.
You should learn to recognize them when you hear them
and realise that they have no real meaning.
The table below shows some interjections with
interjection Meaning Example
ah Expressing pleasure "Ah, that feels good."
Expressing realization" Ah, now I understand."
Expressing "Ah well, it can't be
Resignation heped."
Essentials of English Language
Expressing surprise "Ah! I've won!"
alas Expressing grief or "Alas, she's dead now."
dear Expressing pity "Oh dear! Does it hurt?"
Expressing surprise "Dear me! That's a
eh Asking for repetition "It's hot today." "Eh?" "I
said it's hot today."
Expressing enquiry "What do you think of
that, eh?"
Expressing surprise "Eh! Really?"
Inviting agreement "Let's go, eh?"
er Expressing hesitation "Lima is the capital
of ... er ... Peru."
hello, hullo Expressing greeting "Hello John. How are
you today?"
Expressins surprise "Hello! Ml car's sone!"
hey Calling attention "Hey! look at that!"
Expressing surprise, "Hey! What a good
Joy etc idea!"
hi "Hi! What's new?"
hmm Expressing hesitation, "Hmm. I'm not so sure."
Doubt or disasreement
oh,o Expressing surprise "Oh! You're here!"
Expressing pain "Oh! I've got a
Expressing pleading "Oh, please say 'yes'!"
ouch Expressing pain "Ouch! That hurts!"
uh Expressing hesitation "Uh .. .! don't know the
answer to that."
uh-huh Expressing agreement "Shall we go?"
urn, umm Expressing hesitation "85 divided by 5
is ... um ... 17."
well Expressing surprise "Well I never!"
Introducing a remark "Well, what did he say?"
We have now gone through the parts of speech and
have stated the functions of each. As they all belong to the
same family they are related to one another but some are
in closer affinity than 0thers. To point out the exact
relationship and the dependency of one word on another
is called parsing and in order that every etymological
connection may be distinctly understood a brief resume of
the foregoing essentials is here given:
The signification of the noun is limited to one, but to
anyone of the kind, by the indefinite article, and to some
particular one, or some particular number, by the definite
Nouns, in one form, represent one of a kind, and in
another, any number more than one; they are the names of
males, or females, or of objects which are neither male nor
female; and they represent the subject of an affirmation, a
command or a question, -the owner or possessor of a
thing,-or the object of an action, or of a relation expressed
by a preposition.
Adjectives express the qualities which distinguish
one person or thing from another; in one form they
express quality without comparison; in another, they
express comparison between two, or between one and a
number taken collectively,-and in a third they express
comparison between one and a number of others taken
Pronouns are used in place of nouns; one class of them
is used merely as the substitutes of names; the pronouns of
another class have a peculiar reference to some preceding
words in the sentence, of which they are the substitutes,-
and those of a third class refer adjectively to the persons or
things they represent. Some pronouns are used for both the
Essentials of English Language 1101
name and the substitute; and several are frequently
employed in asking questions.
Affirmations and commands are expressed by the verb;
and different inflections of the verb express number, person,
time and manner. With regard to time, an affirmation may
be present or past or future; with regard to manner, an
affirmation may be positive or conditional, it being doubtful
whether the condition is fulfilled or not, or it being implied
that it is not fulfilled;-the verb may express command or
entreaty; or the sense of the verb may be expressed without
affirming or commanding. The verb also expresses that an
action or state is or was going on, by a form which is also
used sometimes as a noun, and sometimes to qualify nouns.
Affirmations are modified by adverbs, some of which
can be inflected to express different degrees of modification.
Words are joined together by conjunctions; and the
various relations which one thing bears to another are
expressed by 'prepositions. Sudden emotions of the mind,
and exclamations are expressed by interjections.
Some words according to meaning belong sometimes
to one part of speech, sometimes to another. Thus, in "After
a storm comes a calm," calm is a noun; in ''It is a calm
evening," calm is an adjective; and in "Calm your fears,"
calm is a verb.
The following sentence containing all the parts of
speech is parsed etymologically:
"I now see the old man coming, but, alas, he has walked
with much difficulty."
I, a personal pronoun, first person singular, masculine
or feminine gender, nominative case, subject of the verb see ..
Now, an adverb of time modifying the verb see.
See, an irregular, transitive verb, indicative mood,
present tense, first person singular to agree with its
nominative or subject I.
The, the definite article particularizing the noun man.
Old, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the noun
Man, a common noun, 3rd person singular, masculine
gender, objective case governed by the transitive verb see.
Coming, the present or imperfect participle of the verb
lito corne" referring to the noun man.
But, a conjunction.
Alas, an interjection, expressing pity or sorrow.
He, a personal pronoun, 3rd person singular, masculine
gender, nominative case, subject of verb has walked.
Has walked, a regular, intransitive verb, indicative
mood, perfect tense, 3rd person singular to agree with its
nominative or subject he.
With, a preposition, governing the noun difficulty.
Much, an adjective, positive degree, qualifying the
noun difficulty.
Difficulty, a common noun, 3rd person singular, neuter
ger:tder, objective case governed by the preposition with.
N.B.-Much is generally an adverb. As an adjective it is
thus compared:
Chapter 3
The Sentence
A sentence is an assemblage of words so arranged as
to convey a determinate sense or meaning, in other words,
to express a complete thought or idea. No matter how short,
it must contain one finite verb and a subject or agent to
direct the action of the verb.
"Birds fly;" "Fish swim;" "Men walk;" -are sentences.
A sentence always contains two parts, something
spoken about and something said about it. The word or
words indicating what is spoken about form what is called
the subject and the word or words indicating what is said
about it form what is called the predicate.
In the sentences given, birds, fish and men are the
subjects, while fly, swim and walk are the predicates.
There are three kinds of sentences, simple, compound
and complex.
The simple sentence expresses a single thought and
consists of one subject and one predicate, as, "Man is mortal."
A compound sentence consists of two or more simple
sentences of equal importance the parts of which are either
expressed or understood, as, "The men work in the fields
and the women work in the household," or "The men work
in the fields and the women in the household" or "The men
and women work in the fields and in the household."
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A complex sentence consists of two or more simple
sentences so combined that one depends on the other to
complete its meaning; as; "When he returns, I shall go on
my vacation." Here the words, "when he returns" are
dependent on the rest of the sentence for their meaning.
A clause is a separate part of a complex sentence, as
"when he returns" in the last example.
A phrase consists of two or more words without a finite
Without a finite verb we cannot affirm anything or
convey an idea, therefore we can have no sentence.
Infinitives and participles which are the infinite parts
of the verb cannot be predicates. "I looking up the street"
is not a sentence, for it is not a complete action expressed.
When we hear such an expression as "A dog running along
. the street," we wait for something more to be added,
something more affirmed about the dog, whether he bit or
barked or fell dead or was run over.
Thus in every sentence there must be a finite verb to
limit the subject.
When the verb is transitive, that'is, when the action
cannot happen without affecting something, the thing
affected is called the object.
Thus in "Cain killed Abel" the action of the killing
affected Abel. In "The cat has caught a mouse," mouse is
the object of the catching.
Of course in simple sentences the natural order of
arrangement is subject-verb-object. In many cases no
other form is possible. Thus in the sentence "The cat has
caught a mouse," we cannot reverse it and say "The mouse
has caught a cat" without destroying the meaning, and in
any other form of arrangement, such as·"A mouse, the cat
has caught," we feel that while it is intelligible, it is a poor
way of expressing the fact and one which jars upon us more
or less.
The Sentence rto5
In longer sentences, however, when there are more
words than what are barely necessary for subject, verb and
object, we have greater freedom of arrangement and can .
so place the words as to give the best effect. The proper
placing of words depends upon perspicuity and precision.
These two combined give style to the structure.
Most people are familiar with Gray's line in the
immortal Elegy-"The ploughman homeward plods his
weary way." This line can be paraphrased to read 18
different ways. Here are a few variations:
Homeward the ploughman plods his weary way.
The ploughman plods his weary way homeward.
Plods homeward the ploughman his weary way.
His weary way the ploughman homeward plods.
Homeward his weary way plods the ploughman.
Plods the ploughman his weary way homeward.
His weary way ,the ploughman plods homeward.
His weary way homeward the ploughman plods.
The ploughman plods homeward his weary way .
. The ploughman his weary way plods homeward.
and so on. It is doubtful if any of the other forms are
superior to the one used by the poet. Of course his
arrangement was made to comply with the rhythm and
rhyme of the verse. Most of the variations depend upon the
emphasis we wish to place upon the different words.
In arranging the words in an ordinary sentence we
should not lose sight of the fact that the beginning and end
are the important places for catching the attention of the
reader. Words in these places have greater emphasis than
In Gray's line the general meaning conveyed is that a
weary ploughman is plodding his way homeward, but
according to the arrangement a very slight difference is
effected in the idea. Some of the variations make us think
more of the ploughman, others more of the plodding, and
still others more of the weariness.
As the beginning and end of a sentence are the most
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important places, it naturally follows that small or
insignificant words should be kept from these positions. Of
the two places the end one is the more important, therefore,
it really calls for the most important word in the sentence.
Never commence a sentence with And, But, Since, Because,
and other similar weak words and never end it with
prepositions, small, weak adverbs or pronouns.
The parts of a sentence which are most closely
connected with one another in meaning should be closely
connected in order also. By ignoring this principle many
sentences are made, if not nonsensical, really ridiculous and
ludicrous. For instance: "Ten dollars reward is offered for
information of any person injuring this property by order
of the owner." "This monument was erected to the memory
of John Jones, who was shot by his affectionate brother."
In the construction of all sentences the grammatical
rules must be inviolably observed. The laws of concord, that
is, the agreement of certain words, must be obeyed.
1. The verb agrees with its subject in person and
number. "I have," "Thou hast," (the pronoun thou
is here used to illustrate the verb form, though it
is almost obsolete), "He has," show the variation
of the verb to agree with the subject. A singular
subject calls for a singular verb, a plural subject
demands a verb in the plural; as, "The boy writes,"
"The boys write."
The agreement of a verb and its subject is often
destroyed by confusing (1) collective and common
nouns; (2) foreign and English nouns; (3)
compound and simple subjects; (4) real and
apparent subjects. -
(1) A collective noun is a number of individuals
or things regarded as a whole; as, class
regiment. When the individuals or things are
prominently brought forward, use a plural
verb; as The class were distinguished for
ability. When the idea of the whole as a unit is
The Sentence f107
under consideration employ a singular verb; as
The regiment was in camp. (2) It is sometimes
hard for the ordinary individual to distinguish
the plural from the singular in foreign nouns,
therefore, he should be careful in the selection
of the verb. He should look up the word and
be guided accordingly. "He was an alumnus of
Harvard." "They were alumni of Harvard." (3)
When a sentence with one verb has two or
more subjects denoting different things,
connected by and, the verb should be plural;
as, "Snow and rain are disagreeable." When the
subjects denote the same thing and are
connected by or the verb should be singular;
as, "The man or the woman is to blame." (4)
When the same verb has more than one subject
of different persons or numbers, it agrees with
the most prominent in thought; as, "He, and
not you, is wrong." "Whether he or I am to be
2. Never use the past participle for the past tense nor
vice versa. This mistake is a very common one. At
every turn we hear "He done it" for "He did it."
"The jar was broke" instead of broken. "He would
have went" for "He would have gone," etc.
3. The use of the verbs shall and will is a rock upon
which even the best speakers come to wreck. They
are interchanged recklessly. Their significance
changes according as they are used with the first,
second or third person. With the first person shall
is used in direct statement to express a simple
future action; as, "I shall go to the city to-morrow."
With the second and third persons shall is used to
express a determination; as, "You shall go to the
city to-morrow," "He shall go to the city to-
With the first person will is used in direct
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statement to express determination, as, "I will
go to the city to-morrow." With the second and
third persons will is used to express simple
future action; as, "You will go to the city to-
morrow," "He will go to the city to-morrow."
A very old rule regarding the uses of shall and
will is thus expressed in rhyme:
In the first person simply shall foretells,
In will a threat or else a promise dwells.
Shall in the second and third does threat,
Will simply then foretells the future feat.
4. Take special care to distinguish between the
nominative and objective case. The pronouns are
the only words which retain the ancient distinctive
case ending for the objective. Remember that the
objective case follows transitive verbs and
prepositions. Don't say "The boy who I sent to see
you," but "The boy whom I sent to see you."
Whom is here the object of the transitive verb sent.
Don't say "She bowed to him and I" but "She
bowed to him and me" since me is the objective
case following the preposition to understood.
"Between you and I" is a very common expression.
It should be "Between you and me" since between
is a preposition calling for the objective case.
S. Be careful in the use of the relative pronouns who,
which and that. Who refers only to persons; which
only to things; as, "The boy who was drowned,"
"The umbrella which I lost." The relative that may
refer to both persons and things; as, "The man that
I saw." "The hat that I bought."
6. Don't use the superlative degree of the adjective
for the comparative; as "He is the richest of the
two" for "He is the richer of the two." Other
mistakes often made in this connection are (1)
Using the double comparative and superlative; as,
"These apples are much more preferable." "The
The Sentence f109
most universal motive to business is gain." (2)
Comparing objects which belong to dissimilar
classes; as "There is no nicer life than a teacher."
(3) Including objects in class to which they do not
belong; as, "The fairest of her daughters, Eve." (4)
Excluding an object from a class to which it does
belong; as, "Caesar was braver than any ancient
7. Don't use an adjective for an adverb or an adverb
for an adjective. Don't say, "He acted nice towards
me" but "He acted nicely toward me," and instead
of saying "She looked beautifully" say "She looked
beautiful. "
8. Place the adverb as near as possible to the word it
modifies. Instead of saying, "He walked to the door
quickly," say "He walked quickly to the door."
9. Not alone be careful to distinguish between the
nominative and objective cases of the pronouns,
but try to avoid ambiguity in their use.
The amusing effect of disregarding the reference of
pronouns is well illustrated by Burton in the following story
of Billy Williams, a comic actor who thus narrates his
experience in riding a horse owned by Hamblin, the
"So down I goes to the stable with Tom Flynn, and told
the man to put the saddle on him."
"On Tom Flynn?"
"No, on the horse. So after talking with Tom Flynn
awhile I mounted him."
"What! mounted Tom Flynn?"
"No, the horse; and then I shook hands with him and
rode off."
"Shook hands with the horse, Billy?"
"No, with Tom Flynn; and then I rode off up the
Bowery, and who should I meet but Tom Hamblin; so I got
off and told the boy to hold him by the head."
"What! hold Hamblin by the head?"
1 1 l n ~ ________________________________ Th __ e_S_e_n_te_n __ ce
"No, the horse; and then we went and had a drink
together ."
"What! you and the horse?"
"No, me and Hamblin; and after that I mounted him
again and went out of town."
"What! mounted Hamblin again?" .
"No, the horse; and when I got to Burnham, who should
be there but Tom Flynn,- he'd taken another horse and rode
out ahead of me; so I told the hostler to tie him up."
"Tie Tom Flynn up?"
"No, the horse; and we had a drink there."
"What! you and the horse?"
"No, me and Tom Flynn."
Finding his auditors by this time in a horse laugh, Billy
wound up with: "Now, look here, -every time I say horse,
you say Hamblin, and every time I say Hamblin you say
horse: I'll be hanged if I tell you any more about it."
There are two great classes of sentences according to
the general principles upon which they are founded. These
are termed the loose and the periodic.
In the loose sentence the main idea is put first, and then
follow several facts in connection with it. Defoe is an author
particularly noted for this kind of sentence. He starts out
with a leading declaration to which he adds several
attendant connections.
For instance in the opening of the story of Robinson
Crusoe we read: "I was born in the year 1632 in the city of
York, of a good family, though not of that country, my father
being a foreigner of Bremen, who settled first at Hull; he
got a good estate by merchandise, and leaving off his trade
lived afterward at York, from whence he had married my
mother, whose relations were named Robinson, a very good
family in the country and from I was called Robinson
Kreutznaer; but by the usual corruption of words in
England, we are now called, nay, we call ourselves, and
The Sentence WI
write our name Crusoe, and so my companions always
called me."
In the periodic sentence the main idea comes last and
is preceded by a series of relative introductions. This kind
of sentence is often introduced by such words as that, if,
since, because. The following is an example:
"That through his own folly and lack of circumspection
he should have been reduced to such circumstances as to
be forced to become a beggar on the streets, soliciting alms
from those who had formerly been the recipients of his
bounty, was a sore humiliation."
On account of its name many are liable to think the
loose sentence an undesirable form in good composition,
but this should not be taken for granted. In many cases it is
preferable to the periodic form.
As a general rule in speaking, as opposed to writing,
the .loose form is to be preferred, inasmuch as when the
periodic is employed in discourse the listeners are apt to
forget the introductory clauses before the final issue is
Both kinds are freely used in composition, but in
speaking, the loose, which makes the direct statement at
the beginning, should predominate.
As to the length of sentences much depends on the
nature of the composition. However the general rule may
be laid down that short sentences are preferable to long
ones. The tendency of the best writers of the present day is
towards short, snappy, pithy sentences which rivet the
attention of the reader. They adopt as their motto multum
in parvo (much in little) and endeavor to pack a great deal
in small space. Of course the extreme of brevity is to be
avoided. Sentences can be too short, too jerky, too brittle to
withstand the test of criticism. The long sentence has its
place and a very important one. It is indispensable in
argument and often is very necessary to description and
also in introducing general principles which require
elaboration. In employing the long sentence the
~ ~ ________________________________ Th __ e_S_e_n_tm ___ a
inexperienced writer should not strain after the heavy,
ponderous type. Johnson and Carlyle used such a type, but
remember, an ordinary mortal cannot wield the sledge
hammer of a giant. Johnson and Carlyle were intellectual
giants and few can hope to stand on the same literary
pedestal. The tyro in composition should never seek after
the heavy style. The best of all authors in the English
language for style is Addison. Macaulay says: "If you wish
a style learned, but not pedantic, elegant but not
ostentatious, simple yet refined, you must give your days
and nights to the volumes of Joseph Addison." The
simplicity, apart from the beauty of Addison's writings
causes us to reiterate the literary command - "Never use a
big word when a little one will convey the same or a similar
Macaulay himself is an elegant stylist to imitate. He is
like a clear brook kissed by the noon-day sun in the shining
bed of which you can see and count the beautiful white
pebbles. Goldsmith is another writer whose simplicity of
style charms.
The beginner should study these writers, make their
works his vade mecum, they have stood the test of time and
there has been no improvement upon them yet, nor is there
likely to be, for their writing is as perfect as it is possible to
be in the English language.
Apart from their grammatical construction there can
be no fixed rules for the formation of sentences. The best
plan is to follow the best authors and these masters of
language will guide you safely along the way.
The paragraph may be defined as a group of sentences
that are closely related in thought and which serve one
common purpose. Not only do they preserve the sequence
of the different parts into which a composition is divided,
but they give a certain spice to the matter like raisins in a
plum pudding. A solid page of printed matter is distasteful
The Sentence rti3
to the reader; it taxes the eye and tends towards the
weariness of monotony, but when it is broken up into
sections it loses much of its heaviness and the consequent
lightness gives it charm, as it were, to capture the reader.
Paragraphs are like stepping-stones on the bed of a
shallow river, which enable the foot passenger to skip with
ease from one to the other until he gets across; but if the
stones are placed too far apart in attempting to span the
distance one is liable to miss the mark and fall in the water
and flounder about until he is again able to get a foothold.
'Tis the same with written language, the reader by means
of paragraphs can easily pass from one portion of connected
thought to another and keep up his interest in the subject
until he gets to the end.
Throughout the paragraph there must be some
connection in regard to the matter under consideration,-a
sentence dependency. For instance, in the same paragraph
we must not speak of a house on fire and a runaway horse
unless there is some connection between the two. We must
not write consecutively:
liThe fire raged with fierce intensity, consuming the
greater part of the large building in a short time." liThe horse
took fright and wildly dashed down the street scattering
pedestrians in all directions." These two sentences have no
connection and therefore should occupy separate and
distinct places. But when we say-"The fire raged with
fierce intensity consuming the greater part of the large
building in a short time and the horse taking fright at the
flames dashed wildly down the street scattering pedestrians
in all directions," -there is a natural sequence, viz., the
horse taking fright' as a consequence of the flames and hence
the two expressions are combined in one paragraph.
As in the case of words in sentences, the most important
places in a paragraph are the beginning and the end,
Accordingly the first sentence and the last should by virtu¢
of their structure and nervous force, compel the reader's
attention. It is usually advisable to make the first sentenqe
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short; the last sentence may be long or short, but in either
case should be forcible. The object of the first sentence is to
state a point clearly; the last sentence should enforce it.
It is a custom of good writers to make the conclusion
of the paragraph a restatement or counterpart or application
of the opening.
In most cases a paragraph may be regarded as the
elaboration of the principal sentence. The leading thought
or idea can be taken as a nucleus and around it constructed
the different parts of the paragraph.
Anyone can make a context for every simple sentence
by asking himself questions in reference to the sentence.
Thus-"The foreman gave the order" - suggests at once
several questions; "What was the order?" "to whom did he
give it?" "why did he give it?" "what was the result?" etc.
These questions when answered will depend upon the
leading one and be an elaboration of it into a complete
If we examine any good paragraph we shall find it
made up of a number of items, each of which helps to
illustrate, confirm or enforce the general thought or purpose
of the paragraph.
Also the transition from each item to the next is easy,
natural and obvious; the items seem to come of themselves.
If, on the other hand, we detect in a paragraph one or more
items which have no direct bearing, or if we are unable to
proceed readily from item to item, especially if we are
obliged to rearrange the items before we can perceive their
full significance, then we are justified in pronouncing the
paragraph construction faulty.
No specific rules can be given as to the construction of
paragraphs. The best advice is, -Study closely the
paragraph structure of the best writers, for it is only through
imitation, conscious or unconscious of the best models, that
one can master the art.
The best paragraphist in the English language for the
essay is Macaulay, the best model to follow for the oratorical
The Sentence Ws
style is Edmund Burke and for description and narration
probably the greatest master of paragraph is the American
Goldsmith, Washington Irving.
A paragraph is indicated in print by what is known as
the indentation of the line, that is, by commencing it a space
from the left margin.
Chapter 4
Figurative Language
In Figurative Language we employ words in such a way
that they differ somewhat from their ordinary signification
in commonplace speech and convey our meaning in a more
vivid and impressive manner than when we use them in
their every-day sense. Figures make speech more effective,
they beautify and emphasize it and give to it a relish and
piquancy as salt does to food; besides they add energy and
force to expression so that it irresistibly compels attention
and interest. There are four kinds of figures, viz.: (1) Figures
of Orthography which change the spelling of a word; (2)
Figures of Etymology which change the form of words; (3)
Figures of Syntax which change the construction of
sentences; (4) Figures of Rhetoric or the art of speaking and
writing effectively which change the mode of thought.
We shall only consider the last mentioned here as they
are the most important, really giving to language the
construction and style which make it a fitting medium for
the intercommunication of ideas.
Figures of Rhetoric have been variously classified, some
authorities extending the list to a useless length. The fact is
that any form of expression which conveys thought may
be classified. -
The principal figures as well as the most important and
Figurative Language rIi7
those oftenest used are, Simile, Metaphor, Personification,
Allegory, Synechdoche, Metonymy, Exclamation,
Hyperbole, Apostrophe, Vision, Antithesis, Climax,
Epigram, Interrogation and Irony.
The first four are founded on resemblance, the second
six on contiguity and the third five, on contrast.
A Simile (from the Latin similis, like), is the likening of
one thing to another, a statement of the resemblance of
objects, acts, or relations; as "In his awful anger he was like
the storm-driven waves dashing against the rock." A simile
makes the principal object plainer and impresses it more
forcibly on the mind. "His memory is like wax to receive
impressions and like marble to retain them." This brings
out the leading idea as to the man's memory in a very
forceful manner. Contrast it with the simple statement-
"His memory is good." Sometimes Simile is prostituted to
a low and degrading use; as "His face was like a danger
signal in a fog storm." "Her hair was like a furze-bush in
bloom." "He was to his lady love as a poodle to its mistress."
Such burlesque is never permissible. Mere likeness, it
should be remembered, does not constitute a simile. For
instance there is no simile when one city is compared to
another. In order that there may be a rhetorical simile, the
objects compared must be of different classes. Avoid the
old trite similes such as comparing a hero to a lion. Such
were played out long ago. And don't hunt for farfetched
similes. Don't say-"Her head was glowing as the glorious
god of day when he sets in a flambeau of splendor behind
the purple-tinted hills of the West." It is much better to do
without such a simile and simply say-"She had fiery red
A Metaphor (from the Greek metapherein, to carryover
or transfer), is a word used to imply a resemblance but
instead of likening one object to another as in the simile we
directly substitute the action or operation of one for another.
If, of a religious man we say, - "He is as a great pillar
upholding the church," the expression is a simile, but if we
say-"He is a great pillar upholding the church" it is a
metaphor. The metaphor is a bolder and more lively figure
than the simile. It is more like a picture and hence, the
graphic use of metaphor is called "word-painting." It
enables us to give to the most abstract ideas form, colour
and life. Our language is full of metaphors, and we very
often use them quite unconsciously. For instance, when we
speak of the bed of a river, the shoulder of a hill, the foot of
a mountain, the hands of a clock, the key of a situation, we
are using metaphors.
Don't use mixed metaphors, that is, different metaphors
in relation to the same subject: "Since it was launched our
project has met with much opposition, but while its flight
has not reached the heights ambitioned, we are yet sanguine
we shall drive it to success." Here our project begins as a
ship, then becomes a bird and finally winds up as a horse.
Personification (from the Latin persona, person, and
tacere, to make) is the treating of an inanimate object as if it
were animate and is probably the most beautiful and
effective of all the figures.
"The mountains sing together, the hills rejoice and clap
their hands."
"Earth felt the wound; and Nature from her seat,
Sighing, through all her works, gave signs of woe."
Personification depends much on a vivid imagination
and is adapted especially to poetical composition. It has two
distinguishable forms: (1) when personality is ascribed to
the inanimate as in the foregoing examples, and (2) when
some quality of life is attributed to the inanimate; as, a
raging storm; an angry sea; a whistling wind, etc.
An Allegory (from the Greek allos, other, and
agoreuein, to speak), is a form of expression in which the
words are symbolical of something. It is very closely allied
to the metaphor, in fact is a continued metaphor.
Allegory, metaphor and simile have three points in
common,-they are all founded on resemblance. "Ireland
is like a thorn in the side of England;" this is simile. "Ireland
Figurative Language !1i9
is a thorn in the side of England;" this is metaphor. "Once
a great giant sprang up out of the sea and lived on an island
all by himself. On looking around he discovered a little girl
on another small island near by. He thought the little girl
could be useful to him in many ways so he determined to
make her subservient to his will. He commanded her, .}:JUt
she refused to obey, then he resorted to very harsh measures
with the little girl, but she still remained obstinate and
obdurate. He continued to oppress her until finally she
rebelled and became as a thorn in his side to prick him for
his evil attitude towards her;" this is an allegory in which
the giant plainly represents England and the little girl,
Ireland; the implication is manifest though no mention is
made of either country. Strange to say the most perfect
allegory in the English language was written by an almost
illiterate and ignorant man, and written too, in a dungeon
cell. In the "Pilgrim's Progress," Bunyan, the itinerant
tinker, has given us by far the best allegory ever penned.
Another good one is liThe Faerie Queen" by Edmund
Synecdoche (from the Greek, sun with, and
ekdexesthai, to receive), is a figure of speech which
expresses either more or less than it literally denotes. By it
we give to an object a name which literally expresses
something more or something less than we intend. Thus:
we speak of the world when we mean only a very limited
number of the people who compose the world: as, "The
world treated him badly." Here we use the whole for a part.
But the most common form of this figure is that in which a
part is used for the whole; as, "I have twenty head of cattle,"
"One of his hands was assassinated," meaning one of his
men. "Twenty sail came into the harbor," meaning twenty
ships. "This is a fine marble," meaning a marble statue.
Metonymy (from the Greek meta, change, and onyma,
a name) is the designation of an object by one of its
accompaniments, in other words, it is a figure by which the
name of one object is put for another when the two are so
related that the mention of one readily suggests the other.
Thus when we say of a drunkard - "He loves the bottle"
we do not mean that he loves the glass receptacle, but the
liquor that it is supposed to contain. Metonymy, generally
speaking, has, three subdivisions:
• When an effect is put for cause or vice versa: as
"Gray hairs should be respected," meaning old age.
"He writes a fine hand," that is, handwriting.
• When the sign is put for the thing signified; as,
"The pen is mightier than the sword," meaning
literary power is superior to military force.
• When the container is put for the thing contained;
as "The House was called to order," meaning the
members in the House.
Exclamation (from the Latin ex, out, and clamare, to
cry), is a figure by which the speaker instead of stating a
fact, simply utters an expression of surprise or emotion. For
instance when he hears some harrowing tale of woe or
misfortune instead of saying,-"It is a sad story" he exclaims
"What a sad story!"
Exclamation may be defined as the vocal expression of
feeling, though it is also applied to written forms which are
intended to express emotion. Thus in describing a towering
mountain we can write "Heavens, what a piece of Nature's
handiwork! how majestic! how sublime! how awe-inspiring
in its colossal impressiveness!" This figure rather belongs
to poetry and animated oratory than to the cold prose of
every-day conversation and writing.
Hyperbole (from the Greek hyper, beyond, and ballein,
to throw), is an exaggerated form of statement and simply
consists in representing things to be either greater or less,
better or worse than they really are. Its object is to make
the thought more effective by overstating it. Here are some
examples:-"He was so tall his head touched the clouds."
"He was as thin as a poker." "He was so light that a breath
might have blown him away." Most people are liable to
overwork this figure. We are all more or less given to
Figurative Language rrn
exaggeration and some of us do not stop there, but proceed
onward to falsehood and downright lying. There should be
a limit to hyperbole, and in ordinary speech and writing it
should be well qualified and kept within reasonable bounds.
An Apostrophe (from the Greek apo, from, and
strephein, to turn), is a direct address to the absent as
present, to the inanimate as living, or to the abstract as
personal. Thus: "0, illustrious Washington! Father of our
Country! Could you visit us now!"
"My Country tis of thee-
Sweet land of liberty,
Of thee I sing. "
"O! Grave, where is thy Victory, O! Death where is thy
sting!" This figure is very closely allied to Personification.
Vision (from the Latin videre, to see) consists in treating
the past, the future, or the remote as if present in time or
place. It is appropriate to animated description, as it
produces the effect of an ideal presence. "The old warrior
looks down from the canvas and tells us to be men worthy
of our sires."
This figure is much exemplified in the Bible. The book
of Revelation is a vision of the future. The author who uses
the figure most is Carlyle.
An Antithesis (from the Greek anti, against, and
tithenai, to set) is founded on contrast; it consists in putting
two unlike things in such a position that each will appear
more striking by the contrast.
"Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring out the false, ring in the true."
"Let us be friends in peace, but enemies in war."
Here is a fine antithesis in the description of a steam
enginti-"It can engrave a seal and crush masses of obdurate
metal before it; draw out, without breaking, a thread as fine
as a gossamer,: and lift up a ship of war like a bauble in the
air; it can embroider muslin and forge anchors; cut steel into
ribands, and impel loaded vessels against the fury of winds
and waves."
Climax (from the Greek, klimax, a ladder), is an
arrangement of thoughts and ideas in a series, each part
of which gets stronger and more impressive until the last
one, which emphasizes the force of all the preceding ones.
"He risked truth, he risked honour, he risked fame, he
risked all that men hold dear, - yea, he risked life itself,
and for what?-for a creature who was not worthy to tie
his shoe-latchets when he was his better self."
Epigram (from the Greek epi, upon, and graphein,
to write), originally meant an inscription on a monument,
hence it came to signify any pointed expression. It now
means a statement or any brief saying in prose or poetry
in which there is an apparent contradiction; as,
"Conspicuous for his absence." "Beauty when unadorned
is most adorned." "He was too foolish to commit folly."
"He was so wealthy that he could not spare the money."
Interrogation (from the Latin interrogatio, a question), is
a figure of speech in which an assertion is made by asking a
question; as, "Does God not show justice to all?" "Is he not
doing right in his course?" "What can a man do under the
circumstances?" Irony (from the Greek eironcia, dissimulation)
is a form of expression in which the opposite is substituted for
what is intended, with the end in view, that the falsity or
absurdity may be apparent; as, "Benedict Arnold was an
honorable man." "A Judas Iscariot never betrays a friend."
"You can always depend upon the word of a liar."
Irony is cousin germain to ridicule, derision, mockery,
satire and sarcasm. Ridicule implies laughter mingled with
contempt; derision is ridicule from a personal feeling of
hostility; mockery is insulting derision; satire is witty mockery;
sarcasm is bitter satire and irony is disguised satire.
There are many other figures of speech which give
piquancy to language and play upon words in such a way
as to convey a meaning different from their ordinary
signification in common every-day speech and writing. The
golden rule for all is to keep them in harmony with the
character and purpose of speech and composition.
Chapter 5
Lindley Murray and Goold Brown laid down cast-iron
rules for punctuation, but most of them have been broken
long since and thrown into the junk-heap of disuse. They
were too rigid, too strict, went so much into minutiae, that
they were more or less impractical to apply to ordinary
The manner of language, of style and of expression has
considerably changed since then, the old abstruse complex
sentence with its hidden meanings has been relegated to
the shade, there is little of prolixity or long-drawn':out
phrases, ambiguity of expression is avoided and the aim is
toward terseness, brevity and clearness. Therefore,
punctuation has been greatly simplified, to such an extent
indeed, that it is now as much a matter of good taste and
judgment as adherence to any fixed set of rules.
Nevertheless there are laws governing it which cannot be
abrogated, their principles must be rigidly and inviolably
The chief end of punctuation is to mark the
grammatical connection and the dependence of the parts
of a composition, but not the actual pauses made in
speaking. Very often the points used to denote the
delivery of a passage differ from those used when the
passage is written. Nevertheless, several of the
punctuation marks serve to bring out the rhetorical force
of expression.
The principal marks of punctuation are:
• The Comma [,]
• The Semicolon [;]
• The Colon [:]
• The Period [.]
• The Interrogation [?]
• The Exclamation [!]
• The Dash [-]
• The Parenthesis [OJ
• The Quotation [" "]
There are several other points or marks to indicate vaflOll ,.
relations, but properly speaking such come under the head:'::;;
of Printer's Marks, some of which are treated elsewhere.
Of the above, the first four may be styled the grammatk;:;l
points, and the remaining five, the rhetorical points.
The office of the Comma is to show the slightest
separation which calls for punctuation at all. It should be
omitted whenever possible. It is used to mark the least
divisions of a sentence.
• A series of words or phrases has its parts separated
by commas: - "Lying, trickery, chicanery, perjury,
were natural to him." "The brave, daring, faithful
soldier died facing the foe." If the series is in pairs,
commas separate the pairs: "Rich and poor, learned
and unlearned, black and white, Christian and Jew,
Mohammedan and Buddhist must pass through
the same gate."
• A comma is used before a short quotation: "It was
Patrick Henry who said, 'Give me liberty or give
me death.'"
• When the subject of the sentence is a clause or a
long phrase, a comma is used after such subject:
"That he has no reverence for the God I love,
Punctuation f125"
proves his insincerity." "Simulated piety, with a
black coat and a sanctimonious look, does not
proclaim a Christian."
• An expression used parenthetically should be
inclosed by commas: "The old man, as a general
rule, takes a morning walk."
• Words in apposition are set off by commas:
"McKinley, the President, was assassinated."
• Relative clauses, if not restrictive, require commas:
"The book, which is the simplest, is often the most
• In continued sentences each should be followed by
a comma: "Electricity lights our dwellings and
streets, pulls cars, trains, drives the engines of our
mills and factories."
• When a verb is omitted a comma takes its place:
"Lincoln was a great statesman; Grant, a great
• The subject of address is followed by a comma:
"John, you are a good man."
• In numeration, commas are used to express periods
of three figures: "Mountains 25,000 feet high;
1,000,000 dollars."
Commas: Quick Rules
The comma is a valuable, useful punctuation device
because it separates the structural elements of sentences into
manageable segments. The rules provided here are those
found in traditional handbooks; however, in certain
rhetorical contexts and for specific purposes, these rules
may be broken.
The following is a short guide to get you started using
commas. This resource also includes sections with more
detailed rules and examples.
Quick Guide to Commas
• Use commas to separate independent clauses when
~ ~ ___________________________________ P_U_ll_c_tu_a_t_io __ ll
they are joined by any of these seven coordinating
conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.
• Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b)
phrases, or c) words that come before the main
• Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence
t9 set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not
essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one
comma before to indicate the beginning of the
pause and one at the end to indicate the end of
the pause.
• Do not use commas to set off essential elements of
the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that
(relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are
always essential. That clauses following a verb
expressing mental action are always essential.
• Use commas to separate three or more words,
phrases, or clauses written in a series.
• Use commas to separate two or more coordinate
adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure
never to add an extra comma between the final
adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with
non-coordinate adjectives.
• Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate
contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a
distinct pause or shift.
• Use commas to set off phrases at the end of the
sentence that refer back to the beginning or middle
of the sentence. Such phrases are free modifiers
that can be placed anywhere in the sentence
without causing confusion.
• Use commas to set off all geographical names,
items in dates (except the month and day),
addresses (except the street number and name),
and titles in names.
• Use a comma to shift between the main discourse
and a quotation.
Punctuation I""i27"
• Use commas wherever necessary to prevent
possible confusion or misreading.
Extended Rules for Using Commas
Comma Use
1. Use commas to separate independent clauses when
they are joined by any of these seven coordinating
conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet.
The game was over, but the crowd refused to leave.
The student explained her question, yet the instructor
still didn't seem to understand.
Yesterday was her brother's birthday, so she took him
out to dinner.
2. Use commas after introductory a) clauses, b)
phrases, or c) words that come before the main
- Common starter words for introductory clauses
that should be followed by a comma include
after, although, as, because, if, since, when, while.
While I was eating, the cat scratched at the door.
Because her alarm clock was broken, she was late for
If you are ill, you ought to see a doctor.
When the snow stops falling, we'll shovel the driveway.
However, don't put a comma after the main clause
when a dependent (subordinate) clause follows it (except
for cases of extreme contrast).
Incorrect: She was late for class, because her alarm clock
was broken.
Incorrect: The cat scratched at the door, while I was
Correct: She was still quite upset, although she had won
the Oscar. (this comma use is correct because it is an
example of extreme contrast)
• Common introductory phrases that should be
followed by a comma include participial and
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infinitive phrases, absolute phrases,
nonessential appositive phrases, and long
prepositivnal phrases (over four words).
Having finished the test, he left the room.
To get a seat, you'd better come early.
After the test but before lunch, I went jogging.
The sun radiating intense heat, we sought shelter in the
- Common introductory words that should be
followed by a comma include yes, however, well.
Well, perhaps he meant no harm.
Yes, the package should arrive tomorrow morning.
However, you may not be satisfied with the results.
3. Use a pair of commas in the middle of a sentence
to set off clauses, phrases, and words that are not
essential to the meaning of the sentence. Use one
comma before to indicate the beginning of the
pause and one at the end to indicate the end of
the pause.
Here are some clues to help you decide whether the
sentence element is essential:
• If you leave out the clause, phrase, or word, does
the sentence still make sense?
• Does the clause, phrase, or word interrupt the flow
of words in the original sentence?
• If you move the element to a different position in
the sentence, does the sentence still make sense?
If you answer "yes" to one or more of these questions,
then the element in question is nonessential and should be
set off with commas. Here are some example sentences with
nonessential elements:
Clause: That Tuesday, which happens to be my birthday, is
the only day when I am available to meet.
Phrase: This restaurant has an exciting atmosphere. The
food, on the other hand, is rather bland.
Word: I appreciate your hard work. In this case, however,
you seem to have over-exerted yourself.
PU1lctuation ri29
4. Do not use commas to set off essential elements of
the sentence, such as clauses beginning with that
(relative clauses). That clauses after nouns are
always essential. That clauses following a verb
expressing mental action are always essential.
That clauses after nouns:
The book that I borrowed from you is excellent.
The apples that fell out of the basket are bruised.
That clauses following a verb expressing mental action:
She believes that she will be able to earn an A.
He is dreaming that he can fly.
I contend that it was wrong to mislead her.
They wished that warm weather would finally arrive.
Examples of other essential elements (no commas):
Students who cheat only harm themselves.
The baby wearing a yellow jumpsuit is my niece.
The candidate who had the least money lost the election.
Examples of nonessential elements (set off by commas):
Fred, who often cheats, is just harming himself.
My niece, wearing a yellow jumpsuit, is playing in the
living room.
The Green party candidate, who had the least money, lost
the election.
Apples, which are my favourite fruit, are the main
ingredient in this recipe.
Professor Benson, grinning from ear to ear, announced
that the exam would be tomorrow.
Tom, the captain of the team, was injured in the game.
It is up to you, Jane, to finish.
She was, however, too tired to make the trip.
Two hundred dollars, I think, is sufficient.
5. Use commas to separate three or more words,
phrases, or clauses written in a series.
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The Constitution establishes the legislative, executive,
and judicial branches of government. The candidate
promised to lower taxes, protect the environment, reduce
crime, and end unemployment.
The prosecutor argued that the defendant, who was at the
scene of the crime, who had a strong revenge motive, and who
had access to the murder weapon, was guilty of homicide.
6. Use commas to separate two or more coordinate
adjectives that describe the same noun. Be sure
never to add an extra comma between the final
adjective and the noun itself or to use commas with
non-coordinate adjectives.
Coordinate adjectives are adjectives with equal (" co" -
ordinate) status in describing the noun; neither adjective is
subordinate to the other. You can decide if two adjectives
in a row are coordinate by asking the following questions:
• Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are
written in reverse order?
• Does the sentence make sense if the adjectives are
written with and between them?
If you answer yes to these questions, then the adjectives
are coordinate and should be separated by a comma. Here are
some examples of coordinate and non-coordinate adjectives:
He was a difficult, stubborn child. (coordinate)
They lived in a white frame house. (non-coordinate)
She often wore a gray wool shawl. (non-coordinate)
Your cousin has an easy, happy smile. (coordinate)
The 1) relentless, 2) powerful 3) summer sun beat down
on them. (1-2 are coordinate; 2-3 are non-coordinate.)
The 1) relentless, 2) powerful, 3) oppressive sun beat
down on them. (Both 1-2 and 2-3 are coordinate.)
7. Use a comma near the end of a sentence to separate
contrasted coordinate elements or to indicate a
distinct pause or shift.
He was merely ignorant, not stupid.
The chimpanzee seemed reflective, almost human.
You're one of the senator's close friends, aren't you?
Punctuatioll f131
The speaker seemed innocent, even gullible.
8. Use commas to set off phrases at the end of the
sentence that refer back to the beginning or middle
of the sentence. Such phrases are free modifiers
that can be placed anywhere in the sentence
without causing confusion. (If the placement of the
modifier causes confusion, then it is not "free" and
must remain "bound" to the word it modifies.)
Nancy waved enthusiastically at the docking ship,
laughing joyously. (correct)
Incorrect:Lisa waved at Nancy, laughing joyously.
(Who is laughing, Lisa or Nancy?)
Laughing joyously, Lisa waved at Nancy. (correct)
Lisa waved at Nancy, who was laughing joyously.
9. Use commas to set off all geographical names,
items in dates (except the month and day),
addresses (except the street number and name),
and titles in names.
Birmingham, Alabama, gets its name from Birmingham,
July 22, 1959, was a momentous day in his life.
Who lives at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington,
Rachel B. Lake, MD, will be the principal speaker.
(When you use just the month and the year, no C0mma is
necessary after the month or year: "The average temperatures
for July 1998 are the highest on record for that month.")
10. Use a comma to shift between the main discourse
and a quotation.
John said without emotion, "1'11 see you tomorrow."
"I was able," she answered, lito complete the
In 1848, Marx wrote, "Workers of the world, unite!"
11. Use commas wherever necessary to prevent
possible confusion or misreading.
To George,Harrison had been a sort of idol.
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Comma Abuse
Commas in the wrong places can break a sentence into
illogical segments or confuse readers with unnecessary and
unexpected pauses.
12. Don't use a comma to separate the subject from
the verb.
Incorrect:An eighteen-year old in California, is now
considered an adult.
Incorrect:The most important attribute of a ball player,
is quick reflex actions.
13. Don't put a comma between the two verbs or verb
phrases in a compound predicate.
Incorrect:We laid out our music and snacks, and began
to study.
Incorrect:I turned the corner, and ran smack into a
patrol car.
14. Don't put a comma between the two nouns, noun
phrases, or noun clauses in a compound subject
or compound object.
Incorrect (compound subject):The music teacher from your
high school, and the football coach from mine are married.
Incorrect (compound object):Je££ told me that the job
was still available, and that the manager wanted to
interview me.
15. Don't put a comma after the main clause when a
dependent (subordinate) clause follows it (except
for cases of extreme contrast).
Incorrect (extreme contrast):She was late for class,
because her alarm clock was broken. (incorrect)
Incorrect:The cat scratched at the door, while I was eating.
Incorrect:She was still quite upset, although she had
won the Oscar.
Commas After Introductions
Introductory Clauses
Introductory clauses are dependent clauses that provide
PUllctuatiml f133"
background information or "set the stage" for the main part
of the sentence, the independent clause. For example:
If they want to win, athletes must exercise every day.
(introductory dependent clause, main clause)
Because he kept barking insistently, we threw the ball for
Smokey. (introductory dependent clause, main clause)
Introductory clauses start with adverbs like after,
although, as, because, before, if, since, though, until, when, etc.
Introductory Phrases
Introductory phrases also set the stage for the main
action of the sentence, but they are not complete clauses.
Phrases don't have both a subject and a verb that are
separate from the subject and verb in the main clause of
the sentence. Common introductory phrases include
prepositional phrases, appositive phrases, participial
phrases, infinitive phrases, and absolute phrases.
To stay in shape for competition, athletes must exercise
every day. (introductory infinitive phrase, main clause)
Barking insistently, Smokey got us to throw his ball for
him. (introductory participial phrase, main clause)
A popular and well respected mayor, Bailey was the
clear favourite in the campaign for governor. (introductory
appositive phrase, main clause)
The wind blowing violently, the townspeople began to
seek shelter. (introductory absolute phrase, main clause)
After the adjustment for inflation, real wages have
decreased while corporate profits have grown.
(introductory prepositional phrases, main clause)
Introductory Words
Introductory words like however, still, furthermore, and
meanwhile create continuity from one sentence to the next.
The coaches reviewed the game strategy. Meanwhile, the
athletes trained on the Nautilus equipment.
Most of the evidence seemed convincing. Still, the
credibility of some witnesses was in question.
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When to Use a Comma
Introductory elements often require a comma, but not
always. Use a comma in the following cases:
• After an introductory clause. (Does the
introductory element have a subject and verb of
its own?)
• After a long introductory prepositional phrase or
more than one introductory prepositional phrase.
(Are there more than five words before the main
• After introductory verbal phrases, some appositive
phrases, or absolute phrases.
• If there is a distinct pause. (When you read the
sentence aloud, do you find your voice pausing a
moment after the introductory element?) to avoid
confusion. (Might a reader have to read the
sentence more than once to make sense of it?)
When Not to Use a Comma
Some introductory elements don't require a comma,
and sometimes the subject of a sentence looks like an
introductory element but isn't. Do not use a comma in the
following cases:
• After a brief prepositional phrase. (Is it a single
phrase of less than five words?)
• After a restrictive (essential) appositive phrase.
(See our document on appositives.)
• To separate the subject from the predicate. (See
Each of the following sentences may look like it requires
a comma after the opening segment (marked with an x), but
the opening segment is really the subject. It's sometimes easy
to confuse gerund- or infinitive-phrase subjects like the
following with nonessential introductory phrases, so be careful.
Preparing and submitting his report to the committee
for evaluation and possible publication[x] was one of the
most difficult tasks Bill had ever attempted.
Punctuation ms
To start a new business without doing market research
and long-term planning in advance[x] would be foolish.
Extracting the most profit for the least expenditure on
labour and materials[x] is the primary goal of a capitalist.
Commas with Nonessential Elements
Some modifying elements of a sentence are essential,
restricting the meaning of a modified term, while others are
nonessential and don't restrict the modified term's meaning.
These nonessential elements, which can be words, phrases,
or clauses, are set off with commas.
Rule: Use commas before and after nonessentiill words,
phrases, and clauses, that is, elements embedded in the
sentence that interrupt it without changing the essential
If you leave out the element or put it somewhere else
in the sentence, does the essential meaning of the sentence
change? If so, the element is essential; if not, it is
Nonessential: The average world temperature, however,
has continued to rise significantly. (word)
Essential: The sixth-century philosopher Boethius was
arrested, tortured, and bludgeoned to death. (word)
Nonessential: Company managers, seeking higher profits,
hired temporary workers to replace full-time staff. (phrase)
Essential: The person checking tickets at the counter asked
for a form of identification. (phrase)
Nonessential: My uncle, who is eighty years old, walks
three miles every day. (clause)
Essential: The woman who interviewed you is my sister.
Proofreading for Commas
Compound Sentence Commas
• Skim your paper, looking only for the seven
coordinating conjunctions:
and, nor, but, so, for, or, and yet.
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• Stop at each of these words to see whether there
is an independent clause (a complete sentence), on
both sides of it. (For more help, see our handout
on independent clauses.)
• If so, place a comma before the coordinating
conjunction. Examples:
She wanted to buy a new car, but she didn't have
enough money to do so.
The wind blew fiercely, and the rain poured down.
Alaska was not the last state admitted into the US, nor
does it have the lowest total population.
Comma Splices
• Skim your paper, stopping at every comma.
• See whether you have an independent clause (a
sentence) on both sides of the comma.
• If so, change the sentence in one of the following
- reword the sentence to change one clause into
a subordinate (or dependent) clause (see our
handout on dependent clauses)
- add a coordinating conjunction after the comma
- replace the comma with a semicolon
- replace the comma with a period, question
mark, or exclamation point, and capitalize the
first word of the second clause
Comma Splice: Americans speak too rapidly, this is a
common complaint by foreign visitors.
correct: Americans speak too rapidly; this is a common
complaint by foreign visitors.
correct: Foreign visitors commonly complain that
Americans speak too rapidly.
Introductory Commas
Introductory Commas after Dependent Clauses
• Skim your paper, looking only at the first two or
three words of each sentence.
Punctuation Ii3'7"
• Stop if one of these words is a dependent marker
such as while, because, when, if, after, when, etc. (see
our Commas After Introductions).
• If necessary, place a comma at the end of the
introductory dependent clause. Examples:
While I was writing, the phone rang.
Because the weather was bad, we decided to cancel our
planned picnic.
After the last guests left the party, we had to begin
cleaning the house.
Other Introductory Commas
• Skim your paper, looking only at the first word or
two of each sentence.
• Stop if the word or phrase ...
- ends in -ing
- is an infinitive (to + verb)
- is an introductory word (well, yes, moreover, etc.)
• Place a comma at the end of the introductory
phrase. Examples:
To get a good grade, you must turn in all your
homework problems.
Walking to work, Jim stopped for coffee at the diner.
Yes, I agree that the exam was difficult.
• If the sentence begins with a prepositional phrase
(a phrase beginning with in, at, on, between, with,
etc.), place a comma after the prepositional phrase
if it is longer than three words or suggests a
distinct pause before the main clause. Examples:
On his way to work, Jim stopped for coffee at the diner.
In those days we wrote with a pen and paper.
Across the street from the library, an old man waited
for a bus.
Disruptive Commas
General Guidelines
• Go through the paper, stopping at each comma.
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• If the comma isn't necessary for clarity or called
for by a rule, get rid of it.
For Disruptive Commas Between
Compound Verbs or Objects
• Skim your paper, stopping only at the coordinating
conjunctions: and, or, nor, but, su, for, or, and yet.
• Check to see whether there is an independent
clause (sentence) on both sides of the conjunction.
If so, place a comma before the conjunction. If not,
do not place a comma before the conjunction.
Disruptive comma: They bought two pizzas, but ate only
Correct: They bought two pizzas but ate only one.
For Disruptive Commas Between
Subjects and Verbs
• Find the subject and verb in each of your sentences.
• Make sure that you have not separated the subject
from the verb with one comma. It's often all right
to have a pair of commas between a subject and
verb for nonessential clauses and phrases that
might be added there, but rarely is a single comma
Disruptive comma: That man sitting in the train station,
is the person I'm supposed to meet.
Correct: That man sitting in the train station is the person
I'm supposed to meet.
Series Commas
• Skim your paper, stopping at the conjunctions.
• Check to see if these conjunctions link words,
phrases, or clauses written in a series.
• If so, place commas after each word, phrase, or
clause in the series (except the last one, as
demonstrated in this sentence: no comma after the
word clause). Examples:
Punctuation ~
People who are trying to reduce saturated fat in their
diets should avoid eggs, meat, and tropical oils.
The candidate promised to lower taxes, protect the
environment, reduce crime, and end unemployment.
Commas with Nonessential Elements
• Skim your paper, looking for a phrase or clause in
each sentence that explains or gives more
information about a word or phrase that comes
before it.
• If you can delete the phrase or clause and still keep
the meaning, the phrase or clause is probably
nonessential and needs two commas, one before
and one after (unless the phrase or clause is at the
end of the sentence).
• As an alternate test for a nonessential phrase or
clause, try saying "by the way" before it. If that
seems appropriate to the meaning, the phrase or
clause is probably nonessential. To understand the
essential vs. nonessential distinction, compare the
following sentences.
In the first, the clause who cheat is essential; in
the second, the clause who often cheats is
nonessen tial.
Students who cheat only harm themselves.
Fred, who often cheats, is just harming himself.
The Semicolon marks a slighter connection than the
comma. It is generally confined to separating the parts of
compound sentences. It is much used in contrasts:
• "Gladstone was great as a statesman; he was
sublime as a man."
• The Semicolon is used between the parts of all
compound sentences in which the grammatical
subject of the second part is different from that of
the first: "The power of England relies upon the
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wisdom of her statesmen; the power of America
upon the strength of her army and navy."
• The Semicolon is used before words and
abbreviations which introduce particulars or
specifications following after, such as, namely, as,
e.g., vid., i.e., etc.: "He had three defects; namely,
carelessness, lack of concentration and obstinacy
in his ideas." "An island is a portion of land
entirely surrounded by water; as Cuba." "The
names of cities should always commence with a
capital letter; e.g., New York, Paris." "The boy was
proficient in ·one branch; viz., Mathematics." "No
man is perfect; i.e., free from all blelllish."
A group of words containing a subject and a verb and
expressing a complete thought is called a sentence or an
independent clause.
Sometimes, an independent clause stands alone as a
sentence, and sometimes two independent clauses are
linked together into what is called a compound sentence.
Depending on the circumstances, one of two different
punctuation marks can be used between the independent
clauses in a compound sentence: a comma or a semicolon.
The choice is yours.
Comma (,)
Use a comma after the first independent clause when you
link two independent clauses with one of the following
coordinating conjunctions: and, but, for, or, nor, so, yet. For
I am going home, and I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon, but we managed
to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before
dark, so they decided to camp for the night.
Punctuation ~
Semicolon (;)
Use a semicolon when you link two independent
clauses with no connecting words. For example:
I am going home; I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon; we managed to
have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before
dark; they decided to camp for the night.
You can also use a semicolon when you join two
independent clauses together with one of the following
conjunctive adverbs (adverbs that join independent clauses):
however, moreover, therefore, consequently, otherwise,
nevertheless, thus, etc. For example:
- I am going home; moreover, I intend to stay there.
It rained heavily during the afternoon; however, we
managed to have our picnic anyway.
They couldn't make it to the summit and back before
dark; therefore, they decided to camp .for the :night.
The Colon except in conventional uses is practically
obsolete. ~
• It is generally put at the end of a' sentence
introducing a long quotation: "The cheers having
subsided, Mr. Bryan spoke as follows:
• It is placed before an explanation or illustration of
the subject under consideration: "This is the
meaning of the term:"
• A direct quotation formally introduced is generally
preceded by a colon: "The great orator made this
funny remark:"
• The colon is often used in the title of books when
the secondary or subtitle is in apposition to the
leading one and when the conjunction or is
omitted: "Acoustics: the Science of Sound."
• It is used after the salutation in the beginning of
letters: "Sir: My dear Sir: Gentlemen: Dear Mr.
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Jones:" etc. In this connection a dash very often
follows the colon.
• It is sometimes used to introduce details of a group
of things already referred to in the mass: "The boy's
excuses for being late were: firstly, he did not know
the time, secondly, he was sent on an errand, thirdly,
he tripped on a rock and fell by the wayside."
1. Before formally introducing a list (* An
independent clause must precede the colon.)
I ordered the following supplies: potatoes, sugar, flour,
eggs, and coffee.
I ordered these supplies: potatoes, sugar, flour, eggs,
and coffee.
Theories which try to explain the secrets of fire walking
fall into three categories: physical, psychological, and
I ordered: potatoes, sugar, flour, eggs, and coffee.
On a long ocean voyage be sure to take along: plenty
of books, a deck of cards, a chess set, and a warm blanket.
2. Between two independent clauses when the second
explains or expands the first
The leaders made the final decision: the (The)
earthquake victims would receive food and medical
The sign was all too clear: "Do not swim in this area."
Here is our honest opinion: we (We) think you are a
3. Before a formal appositive (*An independent clause
, must precede the colon)
The reaction of the audience signified one over-
whelming feeling: anger.
Punctuation rl43
The reaction of the audience signified: anger.
4. Between hour and minute / chapter and verse
At 4:01 p.m. the doors will be opened to the public.
You will find those words in Genesis 1: 14-17.
The Period is the simplest punctuation mark. It is
simply used to mark the end of a complete sentence that is
neither interrogative nor exclamatory.
• After every sentence conveying a complete
meaning: "Birds fly." "Plants grow." "Man is
• In abbreviations: after every abbreviated word: Rt.
Rev. T. C. Alexander, D.D., L.L.D.
• A period is used on the title pages of books after
the name of the book, after the author's name, after
the publisher's imprint: American Trails. By
Theodore Roosevelt. New York. Scribner
The period (known as a full stop in British English) is
probably the simplest of the punctuation marks to use.
You use it like a knife to cut the sentences to the
required length. Generally, you can break up the sentences
using the full stop at the end of a logical and complete
thought that looks and sounds right to you. Use the full stop
1. To mark the end of a sentence which is not a
question or an exclamation.
(a) Rome is the capital of Italy.
(b)1 was born in Australia and now live in
(c) The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of the
Tibetan people.
2. To indicate an abbreviation
(a) I will be in between 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.
Note: Dr and Mr and Mrs and Ms do not take a full stop
nor do most abbreviations taken from the first capital letters
such as MA Phd CNN.
3. Special case - three dots
Often you will see a sentence concluding with three
dots. This indicates that only part of the sentence or text
has been quoted or that it is being left up to the reader to
complete the rest of the sentence.
(a) The Lord's Prayer begins, 'Our Father which
are in Heaven ... '
3. Fullstop after a single word
Sometimes a single word can form the sentence. In this
case you place a fullstop after the word as you would in
any other sentence.
(a "Goodbye."
(b) "Hello."
Note: This is often the case when the subject is
understood as in a greeting or a command such as "Stop."
The Mark of Interrogation is used to ask or suggest a
• Every question admitting of an answer, even when
it is not expected, should be followed by the mark of
interrogation: "Who has not heard of Napoleon?"
• When several questions have a common
dependence they should be followed by one mark
of interrogation at the end of the series: "Where
now are the playthings and friends of my boyhood;
the laughing boys; the winsome girls; the fond
neighbors whom I loved?"
• The mark is often used parenthetically to suggest
doubt: "In 1893 (?) Gladstone became converted
to Home Rule for Ireland."
Use the Question Mark
1. At the end of all direct questions
(a) What is your name?
(b) Do you speak Italian?
(c) You're Spanish, aren't you?
Punctuation 1145
2. Do not use the question mark for reported questions
(a) He asked me what my name was.
(b) She asked if I was Spanish.
(c) Ask them where they are going.
General Notes
1. Don't forget to place a question mark at the end
of long sentences that contain a question
(a) Isn't it true that global warming is responsible
for more and more problems which are having
a disastrous effect on the world's climate and
leading to many millions of people in countries
that can least afford it having to contend with
more and more hardship?
2. Sometimes a question mark can be placed within
a sentence
(a) There is cause for concern - isn't there? - that the
current world economic balance is so fragile that
it may lead to a global economic downturn.
The Exclamation point should be sparingly used,
particularly in prose. Its chief use is to denote emotion of
some kind.
• It is generally employed with interjections 'or
clauses used as interjections: II Alas! I am forsaken."
"What a lovely landscape!"
• Expressions of strong emotion call for the
exclamation: "Charge, Chester, charge! On, Stanley,
• When the emotion is very strong double
exclamation points may be used: II Assist him!! I
would rather assist Satan!!"
The exclamation mark is used to express exasperation,
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astonishment or surprise or to emphasise a comment or
short, sharp phrase.
For example:
• Help! Help!
• That's unbelievable!
• Get out!
• Look out!
You can also use it to mark a phrase as humourous,
ironic or sarcastic.
• What a lovely day! (when it obviously is not a
lovely day)
• That was clever! (when someone has done
something stupid) Some general remarks:
- Don't overuse the exclamation mark
- Don't incltlde a series of exclamation marks.
e.g. I'll never get it right!!!!
A hyphen joins two or more words together (e.g. x-ray,
door-to-door) while a dash separates words into parenthetical
statements (e.g. She was trapped - no escape was possible.
Generally, hyphens are used to avoid confusion or
ambiguity but today most words that have been hyphenated
quite quickly drop the hyphen and become a single word
(e.g. e-mail and email, now-a-days and nowadays). In many
cases though a hyphen does make the sense clear:
• I am thinking of re-covering my sofa (to put a new
cover on it)
• I would like to recover my sofa. (perhaps from
someone who has borrowed it as this means I to
get it back')
Hyphens and Numbers
1. Use a hyphen with compound numbers from
twenty-one to ninety-nine.
Punctuation rw-
• fifty-one
• eighty-nine
• thirty-two
• sixty-five
• eighty-one
2. In written fractions place a hyphen between the
numerator and denominator.
• two-fifths
• one-third
• three-tenth
• nine-hundredth
[Exception] if there is already a hyphen in e i t h e r ~ t h e
numerator or the denominator, you omit the hyphen
between the numerator and denominator.
• sixty-nine eighty-ninths (not 'sixty-nine-eighty-
• twenty-two thirty-thirds
3. Use a hyphen when the number forms part of an
adjectival compund:
• France has a 35-hour working week.
• He won the IOO-metre sprint.
• Charles Dickens was a great nineteenth-century
Consult your dictionary if you are not sure but
remember that current usage may be more up-to-date (not
uptodate ... yet!) than your dictionary.
There are some cases where hyphens prese.rve written
clarity such as where there are letter collisions (co-operate,
bell-like) or where a prefix is added (anti-nuclear, post-
colonial), or in family relations (great-grandmother, son-in-
Hyphen Use
Two words brought together as a compound may be
written separately, written as one word, or connected by
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hyphens. For example, three modem dictionaries all have
the same listings for the following compounds:
hair stylist
hairsp litter
Another "modem dictionary, however, lists hairstylist,
not hair stylist.
Compounding is obviously in a state of flux, and
authorities do not always agree in all cases, but the uses of
the hyphen offered here are generally agreed upon.
1. Use a hyphen to join two or more words serving
as a single adjective before a noun:
a one-way street
chocolate-covered peanuts
well-known author
However, when compound modifiers come after a
noun, they are not hyphenated:
The peanuts were chocolate covered.
The author was well known.
2. Use a hyphen with compound numbers:
Our much-loved teacher was sixty-three years old.
3. Use a hyphen to avoid confusion or an awkward
combination of letters:
re-sign a petition (vs. resign from a job)
semi-independent (but semiconscious)
shell-like (but childlike)
4. Use a hyphen with the prefixes ex- (meaning
former), self-, a11-; with the suffix -elect; between
a prefix and a capitalized word; and with figures
or letters:
pre-Civil War
Punctuation ~
5. Use a hyphen to divide words at the end of a line
if necessary, and make the break only between
6. For line breaks, divide already hyphenated words
only at the hyphen:
7. For line breaks in words ending in -ing, if a single
final consonant in the root word is doubled before
the suffix, hyphenate between the consonants;
otherwise, hyphenate at the suffix itself:
8. Never put the first or last letter of a word at the
end or beginning of a line, and don't put two-letter
suffixes at the beginning of a new line: lovely (Do
not separate to leave ly beginning a new
line.)evaluate (Separate only on either side of the
u; do not leave the initial e- at the end of a line.)
Dashes can be used to add parenthetical statements in
much the same way as you would use brackets. In formal
writing you should use the bracket rather than the dash as
a dash is considered less formal !n most cases.
However, they should not be overused nor used to
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. replace commas although they can be used to create
emphasis in a sentence.
For Example
You may think she is a liar - she isn't.
The Dash is generally confined to cases where there is
a sudden break from the general run of the passage. Of all
the punctuation marks it is the most misused.
• It is employed to denote sudden change in the
construction or sentiment: "The Heroes of the Civil
War,-how we cherish them." "He was a fine
fellow - in his own opinion."
• When a word or expression is repeated for
oratorical effect, a dash is used to introduce the
repetition: "Shakespeare was the greatest of all
poets-Shakespeare, the intellectual ocean whose
waves washed the continents of all thought."
• The Dash is used to indicate a conclusion without
expressing it: "He is an excellent man but-"
• It is used to indicate what is not expected or what
is not the natural outcome of what has gone before:
"He delved deep into the bowels of the earth and
found instead of the hidden treasure-a button."
• It is used to denote the omission of letters or figures:
"J-n J-s for John Jones; 1908-9 for 1908 and 1909;
Matthew VII:5-8 for Matthew VII:5, 6, 7, and 8.
• When an ellipsis of the words, namely, that is, to
wit, etc., takes place, the dash is used to supply
them: "He excelled in three branches-arithmetic,
algebra, and geometry."
• A dash is used to denote the omission of part of a
word when it is undesirable to write the full word:
He is somewhat of a r- -1 (rass:al). This is
especially the case in profane words.
• Between a citation and the authority for it there is
generally a dash: "All the world's a stage."-
Punctuation Ii51"
• When questions and answers are put in the same
paragraph they should be separated by dashes:
II Are you a good boy? Yes, Sir. - Do you love
study? I do."
Marks of Parenthesis are used to separate expressions
inserted in the body of a sentence, which are illustrative of
the meaning, but have no essential connection with the
sentence, and could be done without. They should be used
as little as possible for they show that something is being
brought into a sentence that does not belong to it.
• When the unity of a sentence is broken the words
causing the break should be enclosed in
parenthesis: "We cannot believe a liar (and Jones
is one), even when he speaks the truth."
• In reports of speeches marks of parenthesis are
used to denote interpolations of approval or
disapproval by the audience: "The masses must not
submit to the tyranny of the classes (hear, hear),
we must show the trust magnates (groans), that
they cannot ride rough-shod over our dearest
rights (cheers);" "If the gentleman from Ohio (Mr.
Brown), will not be our spokesman, we must select
another. (A voice,-Get Robinson)."
When a parenthesis is inserted in the sentence whe (e
no comma is required, no point should be used before either
parenthesis. When inserted at a place requiring a comma,
if the parenthetical matter relates to the whole sentence, a
comma should be used before each parenthesis; if it relates
to a single word, or short clause, no stop should come before
it, but a comma should be put after the closing parenthesis.
The difference between a 'bracket' and a 'parentheses'
can be a bit confusing.
Generally, parentheses refers to round brackets 0 and
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brackets to square brackets []. However, we are more and
more used to hearing these refered to simply as 'round
brackets' or 'square brackets'.
Usually we use square brackets - [ ] - for special
purposes such as in technical manuals. Round brackets - ( )
-, or 'parentheses' are used in a similar way to commas
when we want to add further explanation, an afterthought,
or comment that is to do with our main line of thought but
distinct from it. Many grammarians feehhat the parentheses
can, in fact, be replaced by commas in nearly all cases.
For example:
• further explanation - The government's education
report (April 2005) shows that the level of literacy
is rising in nearly an areas.
• comment - I visited Kathmandu (which was full of
tourists) on my way to the Himalayas for a
trekking expedition.
• afterthought - You can eat almost anything while
travelling in Asia if you are careful to observe
simple rules (avoiding unboiled or unbottled water
is one of the main rules to be aware of.)
The Quotation marks are used to show that the words
enclosed by them are borrowed.
• A direct quotation should be enclosed within the
quotation marks: Abraham Lincoln said,-"I shall
make this land too hot for the feet of slaves."
• When a quotation is embraced within another, the
contained quotation has only single marks:
Franklin said, "Most men come to believe 'honesty
is the best policy.'"
• When a quotation consists of several paragraphs
the quotation marks should precede each
• Titles of books, pictures and newspapers when
formally given are quoted.
Punctuation rts3
• Often the names of ships are quoted though there
is no occasion for it.
Using Quotation Marks
The primary function of quotation marks is to set off
and represent exact language (either spoken or written) that
has come from somebody else. The quotation mark is also
used to designate speech acts in fiction and sometimes
poetry. Since you will most often use them when working
with outside sources, successful use of quotation marks is
a practical defence against accidental plagiarism and an
excellent practice in academic honesty. The following rules
of quotation mark use are the standard in the United States,
although it may be of interest that usage rules for this
punctuation do vary in other countries.
The following covers the basic use of quotation marks.
For details and exceptions consult the separate sections of
this guide.
Direct Quotations
Direct quotations involve incorporating another
person's exact words into your own writing.
• Quotation marks always come in pairs. Do not
open a quotation and fail to close it at the end of
the quoted material
• Capitalize the first letter of a direct quote when
the quoted material is a complete sentence.
Mr. Johnson, who was working in his field that
morning, said, "The alien spaceship appeared right
before my own two eyes."
• Do not use a capital letter when the quoted
material is a fragment or only a piece of the.
original material's complete sentence.
Although Mr. Johnson has seen odd happenings
on the farm, he stated that the spaceship "certainly
takes the cake" when it comes to unexplainable
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• If a direct quotation is interrupted mid-sentence,
do not capitalize the second part of the quotation.
"I didn't see an actual alien being," Mr. Johnson
said, "but I sure wish I had."
• In all the examples, note how the period or comma
punctuation always comes before the' final
quotation mark. It is important to also realise that
when you are using MLA or some other form of
documentation, this punctuation rule may change.
When quoting text with a spelling or grammar error,
you should transcribe the error exactly in your own text.
However, also insert the term sic in italics directly after the
mistake, and enclose it in brackets. Sic is from the Latin,
and translates to "thus," "so," or "just as that." The word
tells the reader that your quote is an exact reproduction of
what you found, and the error is not your own.
Mr. Johnson says of the experience, "it's made me
reconsider the existence of extraterestials [sic]."
• Quotations are most effective if you use them
sparingly and keep them relatively short. Too
many quotations in a research paper will get you
.accused of not producing original thought or
material (they may also bore a reader who wants
to know primarily what YOU have to say on the
Indirect Quotations
Indirect quotations are not exact wordings but rather
rephrasings or summaries of another person's words. In this
case, it is not necessary to use quotation marks. However,
indirect quotations still require proper citations, and you
will be commiting plagiarism if you fail to do so.
Mr. Johnson, a local farmer, reported last night that he
saw an alien spaceship on his own property.
Many writers struggle with when to use direct
quotations versus indirect quotations. Use the following tips
to guide you in your choice.
Punctuation Ii55
Use direct quotations when the source material uses
language that is particularly striking or notable. Do not rob
such language of its power by altering it.
Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the end of slavery
was important and of great hope to millions of slaves done
horribly wrong.
The above should never stand in for:
'Martin Luther King Jr. said of the Emancipation
Proclamation, "This momentous decree came as a great
beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had
been seared in the flames of withering injustice."
Use an indirect quotation (or paraphrase) when you
merely need to summarize key incidents or details of the text.
Use direct quotations when the author you are quoting
has coined a term unique to their research and relevant
within your own paper.
When to use direct quotes versus indirect quotes is
ultimately a choice you'll learn a feeling for with experience.
However, always try to have a sense for why you've chosen
your quote. In other words, never put quotes in your paper
simply because your teacher says, "You must use quotes."
Extended Rules for Using Quotation Marks
Altering the Source Material in a Quotation
The responsibility of representing other people's words
accurately lies firmly on the shoulders of the author.
Inaccurate quotes not only defeat the purpose of using a
quote, they may also constitute plagiarism. However, there
are approved methods for altering quotes for either clarity
or succinctness.
Quote Length
If the original quote is too long and you feel not all the
words are necessary in your own paper, you may omit part
of the quote. Replace the missing words with an ellipsis.
Original Quote: The quarterback told the reporter, II It' s
~ ~ __________________________________ P_u_nc_t_ua_t_io __ n
quite simple. They played a better game, scored more
points, and that's why we lost."
Omitted Material: The quarterback told the reporter,
"It's quite simple. They ... scored more points, and that's
why we lost."
Make sure that the words you remove do not alter the
basic meaning of the original quote in any way. Also ensure
that the quote's integration and missing material still leave
a grammatically correct sentence.
Quote Context
If the context of your quote might be unclear, you may
add a few words to provide clarity. Enclose the added
material in brackets.
Added Material: The quarterback told the reporter, "It's
quite simple. They [the other team] played a better game,
scored more points, and that's why we lost."
Quotations within a Quotation
Use single quotation marks to enclose quotes witHin
another quotation.
The reporter told me, "When I interviewed the
quarterback, he said they simply 'played a better game.'"
Quotation Marks Beyond Quoting
Quotation marks may additionally be used to indicate
words used ironically or with some reservation.
The great march of "progress" has left millions
impoverished and hungry.
Do not use quotation marks for words used as words
themselves. In this case, you should use italics.
The English word nuance comes from a Middle French
word meaning "shades of colour."
Additional Punctuation Rules
when Using Quotation Marks
Use a comma to introduce a quotation after a standard
Punctuation 1157
dialogue tag, a brief introductory phrase, or a dependant
The detective said, "I am sure who performed the
As D.H. Nachas explains, "The gestures used for
greeting others differ greatly from one culture to another."
Put commas and periods within quotation marks,
except when a parenthetical reference follows.
He said, "I may forget your name, but I never forget a
History is stained with blood spilled in the name of
" civilization."
Mullen, criticizing the apparent inaction, writes,
"Donahue's policy was to do nothing" (24).
Place colons and semicolons outside closed quotation
Williams described the experiment as "a definitive step
forward"; other scientists disagreed.
Benedetto emphasizes three elements of what she calls
her "Olympic journey": family support, personal
commitment, and great coaching.
Place a question mark or exclamation point within
closing quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the
quotation itself. Place the punctuation outside the closing
quotation marks if the punctuation applies to the whole
Phillip asked, "Do you need this book?"
Does Dr. Lim always say to her students, "You must
work harder"?
Quotation Marks with Fiction, Poetry, and Titles
Block Quotations
You should use a block quotation when the quotation
extends more than four typed lines on the page. Although
they are allowed in any type of writing, you will likely most
often use them when quoting from fiction or literature. A
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block quotation is removed from the main body of your text.
Indent one inch from the main margin (the equivalent of
two half-inch paragraph indentations) and begin your
quote. Maintain double spacing throughout, but you do not
need to use quotation marks.
Gatsby experiences a moment of clarity while standing
with Daisy on his dock. Fitzgerald writes:
Possibly it had occurred to him that the colossal
significance .of that light had now to him vanished forever.
Compared to the great distance that had separated him from
Daisy it had seemed very near to her, almost touching her.
It had seemed as close as a star to the moon. Now it was
again a green light on a dock. His count of enchanted objects
had diminished by one (98).
Quoting Poetry
When you quote a single line of poetry, write it like
any other short quotation. If the piece of poetry you are
quoting crosses multiple lines of the poem itself, you may
still type them in your text run together. Show the reader
where the poem's line breaks fall by using slash marks.
In his poem, "Mending Wall," Robert Frost writes:
"Something there is that doesn't love a wall,! that send the
frozen-ground-swell under it."
If the quotation is three lines or longer, set it off like a
block quotation. Some writers prefer to set off two-line verse
quotations for emphasis. Quote the poem line by line as it
appears on the original page. Do not use quotation marks,
and indent one inch from the left margin.
In his poem "Mending Wall," Robert Frost questions
the building of barriers and walls:
Before I built a wall 1'd ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
Writing Dialogue
Write each person's spoken words, however brief, as a
Punctuation 1159
separate paragraph. Use commas to set off dialogue tags
such as "she said" or "he explained." If one person's speech
goes on for more than one paragraph, use quotation marks
to open the dialogue at the beginning of each paragraph.
However, do not use closing quotation marks until the end
of the final paragraph where that character is speaking.
Quotation Marks with Titles
Use quotations marks for:
• Titles of short or minor works
• Songs
• Short Stories
• Essays
• Short Poems
• One Act Plays
• Other literary works shorter than a three act play
or complete book
• T ~ l e s of sections from longer works
• Chapters in books
• Articles in newspapers, magazines, or journals
• Episodes of television and radio series
Underlining or italics are used for the titles of long
pieces or works that contain smaller sections.
The Apostrophe should come under the comma rather
than under the quotation marks or double comma. The
word is Greek and signifies a turning away from. The letter
elided or turned away is generally an e. In poetry and
familiar dialogue the apostrophe marks the elision of a
syllable, as "I've for I have"; "Thou'rt for thou art"; "you'll
for you will," etc. Sometimes it is necessary to abbreviate a
word by leaving out several letters. In such case the
apostrophe takes the place of the omitted letters as "cont' d
for continued."
The apostrophe is used to denote the elision of the
century in dates, where the century is understood or to save
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the repetition of a series of figures, as "The Spirit of '763 ;
"I served in the army during the years 1895, '96, '97, '98
and '99." The principal use of the apostrophe is to denote
the possessive case. All nouns in the singular number
whether proper names or not, and all nouns in the plural
ending with any other letter than s, form the possessive by
the addition of the apostrophe and the letter s. The only
exceptions to this rule are, that, by poetical license the
additional s may be elided in poetry for sake of the metre,
and in the scriptural phrases "For goodness' sake." "For
conscience' sake," "For Jesus' sake," etc. Custom has done
away with the s and these phrases are now idioms of the
language. All plural nouns ending in s form the possessive
by the addition of the apostrophe only as boys', horses'. The
possessive case of the personal pronouns never take the
apostrophe, as ours, yours, hers, theirs.
The apostrophe has three uses:
• To form possessives of nouns
• To show the omission of letters
• To indicate certain plurals of lowercase letters
Forming Possessives of Nouns
To see if you need to make a possessive, turn the phrase
around and make it an "of the ... " phrase. For example:
the boy's hat = the hat of the boy
three days' journey = journey of three days
If the noun after "of" is a building, an object, or a piece
of furniture, then no apostrophe is needed!
room of the hotel = hotel room
door of the car = car door
leg of the table = table leg
Once you've determined whether you need to make a
possessive, follow these rules to create one.
• add's to the singular form of the word (even if it
ends in -s):
the owner's car
James's hat (James' hat is also acceptable)
Punctuation [161
• add's to the plural forms that do not end in -s:
the children's game
the geese's honking
• add' to the end of plural nouns that end in -s:
houses' roofs
three friends' letters
• add's to the end of compound words:
my brother-in-Iaw's money
• add's to the last noun to show joint possession of
an object:
Todd and Anne's apartment
Showing Omission of letters
Apostrophes are used in contractions. A contraction is
a word (or set of numbers) in which one or more letters (or
numbers) have been omitted. The apostrophe shows this
omission. Contractions are common in speaking and in
informal writing. To use an apostrophe to create a
contraction, place an apostrophe where the omitted letter(s)
would go. Here are some examples:
don't = do not
I'm=! am
he'll = he will
who's = who is
shouldn't = should not
didn't = did not
could've= could have (NOT "could of"!)
'60 = 1960
Forming Plurals of lowercase letters
Apostrophes are used to form plurals of letters that
appear in lowercase; here the rule appears to be more
typographical than grammatical, e.g. "three ps" versus
"three p's."
To form the plural of a lowercase letter, place's after
the letter. There is no need for apostrophes indicating a
plural on capitalized letters, numbers, and symbols (though
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keep in mind that some editors, teachers, and professors
still prefer them). Here are some examples:
P's and q's = a phrase taken from the early days of
the printing press when letters were set in presses
backwards so they would appear on the printed page
The expression was used commonly to mean, "Be
careful, don't make a mistake." Today, the term also
indicates maintaining politeness, possibly from "mind your
pleases and thankyous."
Nita's mother constantly stressed minding one's p's and
three Macintosh G4s = three of the Macintosh model
There are two G4s currently used in the writing
many & s = many ampersands
That printed page has too many & s on it.
the 1960s = the years in decade from 1960 to 1969
The 1960s were a time of great social unrest.
Don't use apostrophes for possessive pronouns or for
noun plurals.
Apostrophes should not be used with possessive
pronouns because possessive pronouns already show
possession - they don't need an apostrophe. His, her,
its, my, yours, ours are all possessive pronouns. Here are
some examples:
• Wrong: his' book
• Correct: his book
• Wrong: The group made it's decision.
• Correct: The group made its decision.
(Note: Its and it's are not the same thing. It's is a
contraction for "it is" and its is a possessive pronoun
meaning "belonging to it."
It's raining out = it is raining out.
A simple way to remember this rule is the fact that
Punctuation f163
you don't use an apostrophe for the possessive his or
hers, so don't do it with its!)
• Wrong: a friend of yours'
• Correct: a friend of yours
• Wrong: She waited for three hours' to get her ticket.
• Correct: She waited for three hours to get her ticket.
Proofreading for Apostrophes
A good time to proofread is when you have finished
writing the paper. Try the following strategies to proofread
for apostrophes:
• If you tend to leave out apostrophes, check every
word that ends in -s or-es to see if it needs an
• If you put in too many apostrophes, check every
apostrophe to see if you can justify it with a rule
for using apostrophes.
Punctuation marks are signals to your readers. In
speaking, we can pause, stop, or change our tone of voice.
In writing, we use the following marks of punctuation to
emphasize and clarify what we mean.
In addition to using a semicolon to join related
independent clauses in compound sentences, you can use
a semicolon to separate items in a series if the elements of
the series already include commas.
Members of the band include Harold Rostein,
clarinetist; Tony Aluppo, tuba player; and Lee Jefferson,
Use a colon ...
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in the following situations: for example:
after a complete statement The daily newspaper contains
in order to introduce one or four sections: news, sports,
more directly related ideas, entertainment, and classified ads.
such as a series of
directions, a list, or a
The strategies of corporatist
quotation or other
industrial unionism have proven
comment illustrating or
ineffective: compromises and
explaining the statement.
concessions have left labor in a
weakened position in the new
"flexible" economy.
in a business letter greeting. Dear Ms. Winstead:
between the hour and 5:30p.m.
minutes in time notation.
between chapter and verse Genesis 1:18
in biblical references.
Parentheses 0
Parentheses are occasionally and sparingly used for
extra, nonessential material included in a sentence. For
example, dates, sources, or ideas that are subordinate or
tangential to the re!'t of the sentence are set apart in
parentheses. Parentheses always appear in pairs.
Before arriving at the station, the old train (someone
said it was a relic of frontier days) caught fire.
Dash --
In the F o l l o w i n ~ Situations: FOT Example:
To emphasize a point or to set To some of you, my proposals may
off an explanatory comment; seem radical--even revolutionary.
but don't overuse dashes, or
they will lose their impact.
In terms of public legitimation--that is,
in terms of garnering support from
state legislators, parents, donors, and
departments are primarily places where
advanced literacy is taught.
For an appositive phrase that The boys--Jim, John, and Jeff--Ieft the
already includes commas. party early.
Punctuation ~
As you can see, dashes function in some ways like
parentheses (used in pairs to set off a comment within a
larger sentence) and in some ways like colons (used to
introduce material illustrating or emphasizing the
immediately preceding statement). But comments set off
with a pair of dashes appear less subordinate to the main
sentence than do comments in parentheses. And material
introduced after a single dash may be more emphatic and
may serve a greater variety of rhetorical purposes than
material introduced with a colon.
Quotation Marks" "
Use Quotation Marks . ..
In the following situations: For Example:
To enclose direct quotations. Note that He asked, "Will you be there?"
commas and periods go inside the closing "Yes," I answered, "I'll look for
quotation mark in conventional American you in the foyer."
usage; colons and semicolons go outside;
and placement of question and exclamation
marks depends on the situation (see our
quotation marks document).
To indicate words used ironically, with History is stained with blood
reservations, or in some unusual way; but spilled in the name of
don't overuse quotation marks in this sense, "civilization."
or they will lose their impact.
Underlining and Italics
Underlining and italics are not really punctuation, but
they are significant textual effects used conventionally in a
variety of situations. Before computerized word-processing
was widely available, writers would underline certain terms
in handwritten or manually typed pages, and the
underlining would be replaced by italics in the published
Since word processing today allows many options for
font faces and textual effects, it is generally recommended
that you choose either underlining or italics and use it
~ _________________________________ P __ un_c_t_u_a_ti_on_
consistently throughout a given document as needed.
Because academic papers are manuscripts and not final
publications and because italics are not always easily
recognized with some fonts, many instructors prefer
underlining over italics for course papers. Whichever you
choose, italics or underlining should be used ...
III the following situatiolls' For Example:
To indIcate tItles of complete or major Faulkner's last novel was The Reivers.
works such as magazines, books,
newspapers, academIc Journals, hlms,
The Simpsons offers hilarious parodies of
television programs, long poems, plays of
American culture and family life.
three or more acts
Foreign words that are not commonly used Wearing blue jeans is de rigueur for most
In EnglIsh college students.
words used as words themselves The English word nuance comes from a
Middle French word meaning "shades of
Words or phrases that you wish to The very founding principles of our nation are
eml'hasize at stake!
Capital letters are used to give emphasis to or call
attention to certain words to distinguish them from the
context. In manuscripts they may be written small or large
and are indicated by lines drawn underneath, two lines for
SMALL CAPITALS and three lines for CAPITALS.
Some authors, notably Carlyle, make such use of
Capitals that it degenerates into an abuse. They should only
be used in their proper places as given in the table below.
• The first word of every sentence, in fact the first
word in writing of any kind should begin with a
capital; as, "Time flies." "My dear friend."
• Every direct quotation should begin with a capital;
"Dewey said,-'Fire, when you're ready, Gridley!'"
• Every direct question commences with a capital;
"Let me ask you; 'How old are you?'"
• Every line of poetry begins with a capital;
"Breathes there a man with soul so dead?"
• Every numbered clause calls for a capital: "The
witness asserts: (1) That he saw the man attacked;
Punctuation rw
(2) That he saw him fall; (3) That he saw his
assailant flee."
• The headings of essays and chapters should be
wholly in capitals; as, CHAPTER VIII - RULES
• In the titles of books, nouns, pronouns, adjectives
and adverbs should begin with a capital; as,
"Johnson'S Lives of the Poets."
• In the Roman notation number" are denoted by
capitals; as, I II III V X LCD M -I, 2, 3, 5, 10, 50,
100, 500, 1000.
• Proper names begin with a capital; as, "Jones,
Johnson, Caesar, Mark Antony, England, Pacific,
Such words as river, sea, mountain, etc., when used
generally are common, not proper nouns, and require no
capital. But when such are used with an adjective or adjunct
to specify a particular object they become proper names,
and therefore require a capital; as, "Mississippi River, North
Sea, Alleghany Mountains," etc. In like manner the cardinal
points north, south, east and west, when they are used to
distinguish regions of a country are capitals; as, "The North
fought against the South."
When a proper name is compounded with another
word, the part which is not a proper name begins with a
capital if it precedes, but with a small letter if it follows, the
hyphen; as "Post-homeric," "Sunday-school."
• Words derived from proper names require a
Capital; as, "American, Irish, Christian,
Americanize, Christianize."
• This connection the names of political parties,
religious sects and schools of thought begin with
capitals; as, "Republican, Democrat, Whig,
Catholic, Presbyterian, Rationalists, Free Thinkers."
• The titles of honorable, state and political offices
begin with a capital; as, "President, Chairman,
Governor, Alderman."
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• The abbreviations of learned titles and college
degrees call for capitals; as, "LL.D., M.A., B.s.," etc.
Also the seats of learning conferring such degrees
as, "Harvard University, Manhattan College," etc.
• When such relative words as father, mother,
brother, sister, uncle, aunt, etc., precede a proper
name, they are written and printed with capitals;
as, Father Abraham, Mother Eddy, Brother John,
Sister Jane, Uncle Jacob, Aunt Eliza. Father, when
used to denote the early Christian writer, is begun
with a capital; "Augustine was one of the learned
Fathers of the Church."
• The names applied to the Supreme Being begin
with capitals: "God, Lord, Creator, Providence,
Almighty, The Deity, Heavenly Father, Holy One."
In this respect the names applied to the Saviour
also require capitals: "Jesus Christ, Son of God,
Man of Gplilee, Tpe Crucified, The Anointed One."
Also the designations of Biblical characters as "Lily
of Israel, Rose of Sharon, Comfortress of the
Afflicted, Help of Christians, Prince of the
Apostles, Star of the Sea," etc. Pronouns referring
to God and Christ take capitals; as, "His work, The
work of Him, etc."
• Expressions ;used to designate the Bible or any
particular division of it begin with a capital; as,
"Holy Writ, The Sacred Book, Holy Book, God's
Word, Old Testament, New Testament, Gospel of
St. Matthew, Seven Penitential Psalms."
• Expressions based upon the Bible or in reference
to Biblical characters begin with a capital: "Water
of Life, Hope of Men, Help of Christians, Scourge
of Nations."
• The names applied to the Evil One require capitals:
"Beelzebub, Prince of Darkness, Satan, King of
Hell, Devil, Incarnate Fiend, Tempter of Men,
Father of Lies, Hater of Good."
Punctuation f169"
• Words of very special importance, especially those
which stand out as the names of leading events in
history, have capitals; as, "The Revolution, The
Civil War, The Middle Ages, The Age of Iron," etc.
• Terms which refer to great events in the history of
the race require capitals; "The Flood, Magna
Charta, Declaration of Independence."
• The names of the days of the week and the months
of the year and the seasons are commenced with
capitals: "Monday, March, Autumn."
• The Pronoun I and the interjection 0 always require
the use of capitals. In fact all the interjections when
uttered as exclamations commence with capitals:
"Alas! he is gone." "Ah! I pitied him."
• All noms-de-guerre, assumed names, as well as
names given for distinction, call for capitals, as, "The
Wizard of the North," "Paul Pry," "The Northern
Gael," "Sandy Sanderson," "Poor Robin," etc.
• In personification, that is, when inanimate things
are represented as endowed with life and action,
the noun or object personified begins with a
capital; as, "The starry Night shook the dews from
her wings." "Mild-eyed Day appeared," "The Oak
said to the Beech - 'I am stronger than you."'
Use capital letters in the following ways:
The First Words of a Sentence
When he tells a joke, he sometimes forgets the punch line.
The pronoun "1"
The last time I visited Atlanta was several years ago.
Proper Nouns (the Names of Specific People, Places,
Organizations, and Sometimes Thinas)
Worrill Fabrication Company
17InL-_______________________________ P_u_n_c_tu_a_tl_o_n
Golden Gate Bridge
Supreme Court
Livingston, Missouri
Atlantic Ocean
Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Family Relationships (when used as proper names)
I sent a thank-you note to Aunt Abigail, but not to my
other aunts.
Here is a present I bought for Mother.
Did you buy a present for your mother?
The Names of God, Specific Deities, Religious
Figures, and Holy Books
God the Father the Virgin Mary
the Bible the Greek gods
Moses Shiva
Buddha Zeus
Exception: Do not capitalize the
non-specific use of the word "god"
The word "polytheistic" means the worship of more
than one god.
Titles preceding names, but not titles
that follow names
She worked as the assistant to Mayor Hanolovi.
I was able to interview Miriam Moss, mayor of
Directions that are names (North, South, East, and
West when used as sections of the country, but not
as compass directions)
The Patels have moved to the Southwest.
Jim's house is two miles north of Otterbein.
Punctuation rm-
The days of the week, the months of the year, and
holidays (but not the seasons used generally)
Exception: Seasons are capitalized
when used in a title
The Fall 1999 semester
The names of countries, nationalities,
and specific languages
Costa Rica
The first word in a sentence that is a direct quote
Emerson once said, /I A foolish consistency is the
hobgoblln of little minds."
The major words in the titles of books, articles, and
songs (but not short prepositions or the articles
"the," "a," or "an," if they are not the first word of
the title)
One of Jerry's favourite books is The Catcher in the Rye.
Members of national, political, racial,
social, civic, and athletic groups
Green Bay Packers
Friends of the Wilderness
Periods and Events (but not century numbers)
Victorian Era
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Great Depression
Constitutional Convention
sixteenth century
Microsoft Word
Words and abbreviations of specific names (but not
names of things that came from specific things but
are now general types)
french fries
Many words sound alike but mean different things
when put into writing. This list will help you distinguish
between some of the more common words that sound alike.
Click on any of the blue underlined links to open a longer
and more complete definition of the word in a new window.
Accept, Except
• accept = verb meaning to receive or to agree: He
accepted their praise graciously.
• except = preposition meaning all but, other than:
Everyone went to the game except Alyson.
Affect, Effect
• affect = verb meaning to influence: Will lack of
sleep affect ydur game?
• effect = noun meaning result or consequence: Will
lack of sleep have an effect on your game?
• effect = verb meaning to bnng about, to
accomplish: Our efforts have effected a major
change in university policy.
Punctuation ri73
A memory-help for affect and effect is is RAVEN:
Remember, Affect is a Verb and Effect is a Noun.
Advise, Advice
• advise = verb that means to recommend, suggest,
or counsel: I advise you to be cautious.
• advice = noun that means an opinion or
recommendation about what could or should be
done: I'd like to ask for your advice on this matter.
Conscious, Conscience
• conscious = adjective meaning awake, perceiving:
Despite a head injury, the patient remained
• conscience = noun meaning the sense of obligation
to be good: Chris wouldn't cheat because his
conscience wouldn't let him.
Idea, Ideal
• idea = noun meaning a thought, belief, or
conception held in the mind, or a general notion
or conception formed by generalization: Jennifer
had a brilliant idea - she'd go to the Writing Lab
for help with her papers!
• ideal = noun meaning something or someone that
embodies perfection, or an ultimate object or
endeavor: Mickey was the ideal for tutors
• ideal = adjective meaning embodying an ultimate
standard of excellence or perfection, or the best;
Jennifer was an ideal student.
Its, It's
• its = possessive adjective (possesive form of ~
pronoun it): The crab had an unusual growth ')r I.
its shell. "
• it's = contraction for it is or it has (in a verb phrase):
~ ~ ___________________________________ P __ U_1l_ct_u_a_ti_o1_1
It's still rammg; it's been raining for three days.
(Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words
are being shortened into one.)
lead, led
• lead = noun referring to a dense metallic element:
The X-ray technician wore a vest lined with lead.
• led = past-tense and past-participle form of the
verb to lead, meaning to guide or direct: The
evidence led the jury to reach a unanimous
Than, Then
Than Used in comparison statements: He is richer than l.
Used in statements of preference: I would rather dance than eat.
Used to suggest quantities beyond a specified amount: Read more
than the first paragrapJl.
Then A time other than now: He was younger then. She will start her
new job then.
Next in time, space, or order: First we must study; then we can
Suggesting a logical conclusion: If you've studied hard, then the
exam should be no problem.
Their, There, They're
• Their: possessive pronoun: They got their books.
• There: that place: My house is over there. (This is a
place word, and so it contains the word here.)
• They're: contraction for they are: They're making
dinner. (Pronouns have apostrophes only when
two words are being shortened into one.)
To, Too, Two
• To: preposition, or first part of the infinitive form
of a verb: They went to the lake to swim.
• Too: very, also: I was too tired to continue. I was
I hungry, too.
• Two: the number 2: Two students scored below
passing on the exam.
Punctuation ~
Two, twelve, and between are all words related to the
rmmber 2, and all contain the letters two
Too can mean also or can be an intensifier, and you
might say that it contains an extra 0 ("one too many")
We're, Where, Were
• We're: contraction for we are: We're glad to help.
(Pronouns have apostrophes only when two words
are being shortened into one.)
• Where: location: Where are you going? (This is a
place word, and so it contains the word here.)
• Were: a past tense form of the verb be: They were
walking side by side.
Your, You're
• Your: possessive pronoun: Your shoes are untied.
• You're: contraction for you are: You're walking
around with your shoes untied. (Pronouns have
apostrophes only when two words are being
shortened into one.)
All Ready/Already
• all ready: used as an adjective to express complete
• already: an adverb expressing time
At last I was all ready to go, but everyone had already
All Right/Alright
• all right: used as an adjective or adverb; older and
more formal spelling, more common in scientific
& academic writing: Will you be all right on your
• alright: Alternate spelling of all right; less frequent
but used often in journalistic and business
__________________________________ P_u_nc_t_u_at_io __ 1l
publications, and especially common in fictional
dialogue: He does alright in school.
• all together: an adverb meaning considered as a
whole, summed up: All together, there were thirty-
two students at the museum.
• altogether: an intensifying adverb meaning wholly,
completely, entirely: His comment raises an
altogether different problem.
• anyone: a pronoun meaning any person at all: Anyone
who can solve this problem deserves an award.
• anyone: a paired adjective and noun meaning a
specific item in a group; usually used with of: Any
one of those papers could serve as an example.
Note: There are similar distinctions in meaning for
everyone and everyone
Anyway/any way
• anyway: an adverb meaning in any case or
nonetheless: He objected, but she went anyway.
• any way: a paired adjective and noun meaning any
particular course, direction, or manner: Any way
we chose would lead to danger.
Awhile/a While
• awhile: an adverb meaning for a short time; some
readers consider it nonstandard; usually needs no
preposition: Won't you stay awhile?
• a while: a paired article and noun meaning a period
of time; usually used with for: We talked for a
while, and then we said good night.
Maybe/may be
• maybe: an adverb meaning perhaps: Maybe we
should wait until the rain stops.
Pllnctuation 1177
• may be: a form of the verb be: This may be our
only chance to win the championship.
Errors in writing that involve sound-alike words
(homophones) are known as "wrong word" errors. Such
errors are more significant than simple spelling mistakes,
since they involve word-level confusion, not merely
incorrect spelling of the correct word: Two common sources
of wrong word errors are the homophone pairs accept/except
and affect/effect. For more information on sound-alike words,
see our handout on this topic.
Accept and Except
Meanings For The Most Common Uses
accept (transitive verb) [Middle English, from Middle
French accepter, from Latin acceptare, frequentative of accipere
to receive, from ad- toward + capere to take]
la. to receive willingly <accept a gift> b. to be able or
designed to take or hold (something applied or
added) <a surface that will not accept ink>
2. to give admittance or approval <to accept her as
one of the group>
3a. to endure without protest or reaction <accept poor
living conditions> b: to regard as proper, normal,
or inevitable <the idea is widely accepted> c: to
recognize as true; believe <refused to accept the
4a. to make a favorable response to <accept an offer>
b: to agree to undertake (a responsibility) <accept a
5. to assume an obligation to pay; also: to take in
payment <we don't accept personal checks>
1. except (preposition) [Originally past participle; see
meaning 3, below] with the exclusion or exception
of <open daily except Sundays>
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2. (conjunction)
1. on any other condition than that; unless <you'
face punishment except if you repent>
2. with the following exception <was inaccessible
except by boat>
3. only (often followed by that) <I would go except
that it's too far>
Meanings For Less Common Uses
3. except (transitive verb) [Latin exceptus, past
participle of excipere to take or draw out, to except;
ex- out + capere to take]
To take or leave out (anything) from a number or a
whole; to exclude; to omit <if we only except the unfitness
of the judge, the trial was a perfect enactment of justice>
<Adam and were forbidden to touch the excepted tree
Affect and Effect
Meanings For The Most Common Uses
1. affect (transitive verb) [Middle English, from
affectus, past participle of afficere] to produce an
effect upon, as a: to produce a material influence
upon or alteration in <paralysis affected his limbs>
b: to act upon (as a person or a person's mind or
feelings) so as to bring about a response; influence.
1. effect (noun) [Middle English, from Middle French
& Latin; Middle French, from Latin effectus, from
efficere to bring about, from ex- out (of) + facere to
make, do]
la. purport; intent <the effect of their statement was to
incite anger> b: basic meaning; essence <her
argument had the effect of a plea for justice>
Punctuation fl'7'9"
2. something that inevitably follows an antecedent (as
a cause or agent) <environmental devastation is
one effect of unchecked industrial expansion>
3. an outward sign; appearance <the makeup created
the effect of old age on their faces>
4. accomplishment; fulfillment <the effect of years of
hard work>
5. power to bring about a result; influence <the
content itself of television is therefore less
important than its effect>
6. plural: movable property; goods <personal effects>
7a. a distinctive impression <the colour gives the effect
of being warm> b: the creation of a desired
impression <her tears were purely for effect> c (1):
something designed to produce a distinctive or
desired impression, usually used in plural (2)
plural: special effects
8. the quality or state of being operative; operation
<the law goes into effect next week>
in effect: in substance; virtually <the committee agreed
to what was in effect a reduction in the hourly wage>
to the effect: with the meaning <issued a statement to
the effect that he would resign>
Meanings for less Common Uses
2. affect (transitive verb)
1. to make a display of liking or using; cultivate
<affect a worldly manner> .
2. to put on a pretense of; feign <affect
indifference, though deeply hurt>
3. affect (noun) [pronunciation: stress on first
syllable, unlike verb forms of this word] the
conscious subjective aspect of an emotion
considered apart from bodily changes <he
displayed a distressing lack of affect>
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2. Effect (transitive verb)
1. to cause to come into being <the citizens were
able to effect a change in government policy>
2a. to bring about often by surmounting obstacies;
accomplish <effect a settlement of a dispute> b:
to put into operation <the duty of the
legislature to effect the will of the citizens>
Usage: The confusion of the verbs affect and effect not
only is quite common but has a long history. The verb effect
was used in place of affect (I, above) as early as 1494 and in
place of affect (2, above) as early as 1652.
If you think you want to use the verb effect but are not
certain, check the definitions here. The noun affect is
sometimes mistakenly used for the noun effect. Except when
your topic is psychology, you will seldom need the noun
Write I before E
Except after C
Or when it sounds like an A
As in "neighbour" and "weigh"
i before e: relief, believe, niece, chief, sieve, frieze, field,
yield e before i: receive, deceive, ceiling, conceit, vein, sleigh,
freight, eight
seize, either, weird, height, foreign, leisure, conscience,
counterfeit, forfeit, leisure, neither, science, species,
Spelling: Noun Plurals
Plurals of nouns can be created in the following ways:
Punctuation rt81"
1. Add an -s to form the plural of most words.
• elephant-elephants
• stereo - stereos
2. For words that end in a "hissing" sound (-s, -z, -x,
-ch, -sh), add an -es to form the plural.
• box-boxes
• church-churches
3. If the word ends in a vowel plus -y (-ay, -ey, -iy, -
oy, -uy), add an -s to the word.
• tray-trays
• key-keys
4. If the word ends in a consonant plus -y, change
the -y into -ie and add an -s to form the plural.
• enemy -enemies
• baby - babies
5. For words that end in -is, change the -is to -es to
make the plural form.
• synopsis-synopses
• thesis - theses
6. Some words that end in -f or -fe have plurals that
end in -ves.
• knife-knives
• self-selves
7. The plurals of words ending in -0 are formed by
either adding -s or by adding -es. The plurals of
many words can be formed either way. To
determine whether a particular word ends in -s or
-es (or if the word can be spelled either way), check
your dictionary or the list below. There are two
helpful rules:
a. All words that end in a vowel plus -0 (-ao, -eo, -
io, -00, -uo) have plurals that end in just -s:
• stereo-stereos
• studio-studios
• duo-duos
b. All musical terms ending in -0 have plurals ending
in just -so
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• piano - pianos
• cello-cellos
• solo-solos
c. Plural forms of words ending in -0:
-os -oes -os or -oes
albinos echoes avocados/oes
armadillos embargoes buffaloes/os
autos heroes cargoes/os
bravos potatoes desperadoes/os
broncos tomatoes dodoes/os
cantos torpedoes dominoes/os
casinos vetoes ghettos/oes
combos grottoes/os
gazebos hoboes/os
infernos innuendoes/os
kimonos lassos/oes
logos mangoes/os
maraschinos mosquitoes/os
ponchos mottoes/os
sombreros mulattos/oes
tacos noes/os
torsos palmettos/oes
tobaccos peccadilloes/os
typos tornadoes/os
8. The plurals of single capital letters, acronyms, and
Arabic numerals (1, 2, 3, ... ) take an -s WITHOUT
an apostrophe:
• Z (the capital letter Z)-Zs
• UPC (Universal Product Code)-UPCs
• ATM (Automatic Teller Machine)-ATMs
Punctuation rt83
• GUI (Graphical User Interface)-GUIs
• 3 (the Arabic numeraI3)-3s
If you are unsure of how to make a noun plural, you
can look up the singular form of the noun in a dictionary to
get the plural form.
-ible -able
If the root is not a complete If the root is a complete word, add -able.
word, add -ible. accept + able = acceptable
aud + ible = audible Examples:










edible If the root is a complete word ending in -

eligible e, drop the final -e and add -able.

excuse - e+ able = excusable





Some exceptions:
• Contemptible
• Digestible
• Flexible
• Responsible
• Irritable
• Inevitable
Writing Numbers
Although usage varies, most people spell out numbers
~ L _________________________________ Pu_n_c_tu_a_tl_'o_n
that can be expressed in one or two words and use figures
for other numbers:
over two pounds six million dollars
after thirty-one years eighty-three people
after 126 days only $31.50
6,381 bushels 4.78 liters
Here are some examples of specific situations.
Days and Years
December 12, 1965 or 12 December 1965
A.D. 1066
in 1900
in 1971-72 or in 1971-1972
the eighties, the twentieth century
the 1980's or the 1980s
Time of Day
8:00 A.M. (or) a.m. (or) eight o'clock in the morning
4:30 P.M. (or) p.m. (or) half-past four in the afternoon
16 Tenth Street
350 West 114 Street
Identification Numbers
Room 8 Channel18
Interstate 65 Henry VIII
Page and Division of Books and Plays
page 30
chapter 6
in act 3, scene 2 (or) in Act III, Scene ii
Decimals and Percentages
a 2.7 average 13 1/4 per cent
.037 metric ton
Large Round Numbers
four billion dollars (or) $4 billion
16,500,000 (or) 16.5 million
Punctuation ~
Repeat Numbers in Legal or Commercial Writing
The bill will not exceed one hundred (100) dollars.
Numbers in Series and Statistics
should be Consistent
two apples, six oranges, and three bananas
NOT: two apples, 6 oranges, and 3 bananas
115 feet by 90 feet (or) 115' x 90'
scores of 25-6 (or) scores of 25 to 6
The vote was 9 in favour and 5 opposed
Write Out Numbers Beginning Sentences
Six per cent of the group failed.
NOT: 6% of the group failed.
Use a combination of figures and words for
numbers when such a combination will keep your
writing clear
Unclear: The club celebrated the birthdays of 6 90-year-
olds who were born in the city. (may cause the reader to
read ' 690' as one number.)
Clearer: The club celebrated the birthdays of six 90-year-
olds who were born in the city.
To punctuate a sentence, you can use and combine some
of these patterns. For more information on independent and
~ ~ _______________________________ P_u_'_lc_tu_a_ti_ol_1
dependent clauses plus independent and dependent
markers, see our handouts on those subjects.
Pattern One: Simple Sentence
This pattern is an example of a simple sentence:
Independent Clause [ . J
Example: Doctors are concerned about the rising death
rate from asthma.
Pattern Two: Compound Sentence
This pattern is an example of a compound sentence with
a coordinating conjunction:
Independent Clause [ , J Coordinating Conjunction
Independent Clause [ . J
There are seven coordinating conjunctions: and, but,
for, or, nor, so, yet.
Example: Doctors are concerned about the rising death
rate from asthma, but they don't know the reasons for it.
Pattern Three: Compound Sentence
This pattern is an example of a compound sentence with
a semicolon.
Independent Clause [ ; J Independent Clause [ . J
Example: Doctors are concerned about the rising death
rate from asthma; they are unsure of its cause.
Pattern Four: Compound Sentence
This pattern is an example of a compound sentence with
an independent marker.
Independent Clause [ ; J Independent Marker [ , J
Independent Clause [ . J
Examples of independent markers are the following:
therefore, moreover, thus, consequently, however, also.
PUllctuatioll rt87
Example: Doctors are concerned about the rising death
rate from asthma; therefore, they have called for more
research into its causes.
Pattern Five: Complex Sentence
This pattern is an example of a complex sentence with
a dependent marker.
Dependent Marker Dependent Clause[ , J
Independent Clause[ . J
Examples of dependent markers are as follows: because,
before, since, while, although, if, until, when, after, as, as
Example: Because doctors are concerned about the rising
death rate from asthma, they have called for more research
into its causes.
Pattern Six: Complex Sentence
This pattern is an example of a complex sentence with
a dependent marker.
Independent Clause Dependent
Marker Dependent Clause [ . J
Examples of dependent markers are as follows: because,
before, since, while, although, if, until, when, after, as, as
Example: Doctors are concerned about the rising death
rate from asthma because it is a common, treatable illness.
Pattern Seven
This pattern includes an independent clause with an
embedded non-essential clause or phrase
First Part of an Independent Clause [ , J Non-
Essential Clause or Phrase, Rest of the Independent
Clause [. J
A non-essential clause or phrase is one that can be
~ ~ __________________________________ P_u_nc_t_u_at_w __ n
removed without changing the meaning of the sentence or
making it ungrammatical. In other words, the non-essential
clause or phrase gives additional information, but the
sentence can stand alone without it.
Example: Many doctors, including both pediatricians
and family practice physicians, are concerned about the
rising death rate from asthma.
Pattern Eight
This pattern includes an independent clause with an
embedded essential clause or phrase
First Part of an Independent Clause Essential Clause
or Phrase Rest of the Independent Clause [ . J
An essential clause or phrase is one that cannot be
removed without changing the overall meaning of the
Example: Many doctors who are concerned about the
rising death rate from asthma have called for more research
into its causes.
Chapter 6
letter Writing
Many people seem to regard letter-writing as a very
simple and easily acquired branch, but on the contrary it is
one of the most difficult forms of composition and requires
much patience and labour to master its details. In fact there
are very few perfect letter-writers in the language. It
.. constitutes the direct form of speech and may be called
conversation at a distance. Its forms are so varied by every
conceivable topiC written at all times by all kinds of persons
in all kinds of moods and tempers and addressed to all kinds
of persons of varying degrees in society and of different
pursuits in life, that no fixed rules can be laid down to
regulate its length, style or subject matter. Only general
suggestions can be made in regard "to scope and purpose,
and the forms of indicting set forth which custom and
precedent have sanctioned.
\ The principles of letter-writing should be understood
by everybody who has any knowledge of written language,
for almost everybody at some time or other has necessity
to address some friend or acquaintance at a dista1;l.ce,
whereas comparatively few are called upon to direcftheir
efforts towards any other kind of composition.,i
Formerly the illiterate countryman, bad
occasion to communicate with friends or telaflails; called
in the peripatetic schoolmaster as his but this
____ _________________________
had one dnlw-back,-secrets had to be poured into an ear
other than that for which they were intended, and often the
confidence was betrayed.
Now, that education is abroad in the land, there is
seldom any occasion for any person to call upon the service
of another to compose and write a personal letter . Very few
now-a-days are so grossly illiterate as not to be able to read
and write. No matter how crude his effort may be it is better
<·for anyone to write his own letters than trust to another.
Even if he should commence,-" deer fren, i lift up my pen
to let ye no that i hove been sik for the past 3 weeks, hopping
this will findye the same," his spelling and construction can
be excused in view of the fact that his intention is good,
and that he is doing his best to serve his own turn without
depending upon others.
The nature, substance and tone of any letter depend
upon the occasion that calls it forth, upon the person writing
it and upon the person for whom it is intended. Whether it
should be easy or formal in style, plain or ornate, light or
serious, gay or grave, sentimental or matter-of-fact depend
upon these three circumstances.
In letter writing the first and most important requisites
are to be natural and simple; there should be no straining
after effect, but simply a spontaneous out-pouring of
thoughts and ideas as they naturally occur to the writer.
We are repelled by a person who is stiff and labored in his
conversation and in the same way the stiff and labored letter
bores the reader. Whereas if it is light and in a
conversational vein it immediately engages his attention.
The letter which is written with the greatest facility is
the best kind of letter because it naturally expresses what
is in the writer, he has not to search for his words, they flow
in a perfect unison with the ideas he desires to
communicate. When you write to your friend John Browne
to tell him how you spent Sunday you have not to look
around for the words, or study set phrases with a view to
please or impress Browne, you just tell him the same as if
Letter Writing f"'i91
he were present before you, how you spent the day, where
you were, with whom you associated and the chief incidents
that occurred during the time. Thus, you write natural and
it is such writing that is adapted to epistolary
There are different kinds of letters, each calling for a
different style of address and composition, nevertheless the
natural key should be maintained in all, that is to say, the
writer should never attempt to convey an impression that
he is other than what he is. It would be silly as well as vain
for the common street laborer of a limited education to try
to put on literary airs and emulate a college professor; he
may have as good a brain, but it is not as well developed
by education, and he lacks the polish which society confers.
When writing a letter the street laborer should bear in mind
that only the letter of a street-laborer is expected from him,
no matter to whom his communication may be addressed
and that neither the grammar nor the diction of a
Chesterfield or Gladstone is looked for in his language. Still
the writer should keep in mind the person to whom he is
writing. If it is to an Archbishop or some other great
dignitary of Church or state it certainly should be couched
in terms different from those he uses to John Browne, his
intimate friend. Just as he cannot say "Dear John" to an
Archbishop, no more can he address him in the familiar
words he uses to his friend of everyday acquaintance and
companionship. Yet there is no great learning required to
write to an Archbishop, no more than to an ordinary
individual. All the laborer needs to know is the form of
address and how to properly utilize his limited vocabulary
to the best advantage. Here is the form for such a letter:
17 Second Avenue,
New York City.
January 1st, 1910.
Most Rev. P. A. Jordan,
Archbishop of New York.
Most Rev. and dear Sir:-
While sweeping the crossing at Fifth
Avenue and 50th street on last Wednesday
morning, I found the enclosed Fifty Dollar
Bill, which I am sending to you in the hope
that it may be i cstored to the rightful
I beg you will acknowledge receipt and
should the c,wner be found I trust you will
notify me, so that I may claim some reward
for my honesty.
I am, Most Rev. and dear Sir,
Very respectfully yours,
Thomas Jones.
Observ: the brevity of the letter. Jones makes no
suggestions to the Archbishop how to find the owner, for
he knows the course the Archbishop will adopt, of having
the finding of the bill announced from the Church pulpits.
Could Jones himself find the owner there would be no
occasion to apply to the Archbishop.
This letter, it is true, is different from that which he
would send to Browne. Nevertheless it is simple without
being familiar, is just a plain statement, and is as much to
the point for its purpose as if it were garnished with rhetoric
and "words of learned length and thundering sound."
Letters may be divided into those of friendship,
acquaintanceship, those of business relations, those written
in an official capacity by public servants, those designed to
teach, and those which give accounts of the daily
happenings on the stage of life, in other words, news letters.
Letters of friendship are the most common and their
style and form depend upon the degree of relationship and
intimacy existing between the writers and those addressed.
Between relatives and intimate friends the beginning and
end may be in the most familiar form of conversation, either
affectionate or playful. They should, however, never
overstep the boundaries of decency and propriety, for iUs
well to remember that, unlike conversation, which only is
Letter Writing rt93
heard by the ears for which it is intended, written words
may come under eyes other than those for whom they were
designed. Therefore, it is well never to write anything which
the world may not read without detriment to your character
or your instincts. You can be joyful, playful, jocose, give vent
to your feelings, but never stoop to low language and,' above
all, to language savoring in the slightest degree of moral
impropriety .
Business letters are of the utmost importance on
account of the interests involved. The business characJer of
a man or of a firm is often judged by the correspondence.
On many occasions letters instead of developing trade and
business interests and gaining clientele, predispose people
.unfavorably towards those whom they are designed to
benefit. Ambiguous, slip-shod language is a detriment to
success. Business letters should be clear, concise, to the point
and, above all, honest, giving no wrong impressions or
holding out any inducements that cannot be fulfilled. In
business letters, just as in business conduct, honesty is
always the best policy.
Official letters are mostly always formal. They should
possess clearness, brevity and dignity of tone to impress
the receivers with the proper respect for the national laws
and institutions.
Letters designed to teach or didactic letters are in a class
all by themselves. They are simply literature in the form of
letters and are employed by some of the best writers to give
their thoughts and ideas a greater emphasis. The most
conspicuous example of this kind of composition is the book
on Etiquette by Lord Chesterfield, which took the form of a
series of letters to his son.
News letters are accounts of world happenings and
descriptions of ceremonies and events sent into the
newspapers. Some of the best authors of our time are
newspaper men who write in an easy flowing style which
is most readable, full of humour and fancy and which carries
one along with breathless interest from beginning to end.
The principal parts of a letter are (1) the heading or
introduction; (2) the body or substance of the letter; (3) the
subscription or closing expression and signature; (4) the
address or direction on the envelope. For the body of a letter
no forms or rules can be laid down as it altogether depends
on the nature of the letter and the relationship between the
writer and the person addressed.
There are certain rules which govern the other three
features and which custom has sanctioned. Everyone
should be acquainted with these rules. '
The Heading has three parts, viz., the name of the place,
the date of writing and the designation of the person or
persons addressed; thus:
73 New Street,
Newark, N. J.,
February 1st, 1910.
Messr. Ginn and Co.,
New York
The name of the place should never be omitted; in cities,
street and number should always be given, and except when
the city is large and very conspicuous, so that there can be
no question as to its identity with another of the same or
similar name, the abbreviation of the State should be
appended, as in the above, Newark, N. J. There is another
Newark in the State of Ohio. Owing to failure to comply
with this rule many letters go astray. The date should be
on every letter, especially business letters. The date should
never be put at bottom in a business letter, but in.
friendly letters this may be done. The designation of the
person or persons addressed differs according to the
relations of the correspondents. Letters of friendship may
begin in many ways according to the degrees of friendship
or intimacy. Thus:
My dear Wife:
Letter Writing f195
My dear Husband:
My dear Friend:
My darling Mother:
My dearest Love:
Dear Aunt:
Dear Uncle:
Dear George: etc.
To mark a lesser degree of intimacy such formal
designations as the following may be employed:
Dear Sir:
My dear Sir:
Dear Mr. Smith:
Dear Madam: etc.
For clergymen who have the degree of Doctor of
Divinity, the designation is as follows:
Rev. Alban Johnson, D. D.
My dear Sir: or Rev. and dear Sir: or more familiarly
Dear Dr. Johnson:
Bishops of the Roman and Anglican Communions are
addressed as Right Reverend. .
The Rt. Rev., the Bishop of Long Island."or
The Rt. Rev. Frederick Burgess, Bishop of Long Island.
Rt. Rev. and dear Sir:
Archbishops of the Roman Church are addressed as
Most Reverend and Cardinals as Eminence. Thus:
The Most Rev. Archbishop Katzer.
Most Rev. and dear Sir:
His Eminence, James Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop of
May it please your Eminence:
The title of the Governor of a State or territory and of
the President of the United States is Excellency. However,
Honorable is more commonly applied to Governors:-
His Excellency, William Howard Taft,
President of the United States.
His Excellency, Charles Evans Hughes,
_______________________________ L_e_tt_er_VV __
Governor of the State of New York.
Honorable Franklin Fort,
Governor of New Jersey.
The general salutation for Officers of the Army and
Navy is Sir. The rank and station should be indicated in
full at the head of the letter, thus:
General Joseph Thompson,
Commanding the Seventh Infantry.
Rear Admiral Robert Atkinson,
Commanding the Atlantic Squadron.
The title of officers of the Civil Government is
Honorable and they are addressed as Sir.
Hon. Nelson Duncan,
Senator from Ohio.
Hon. Norman Wingfield,
Secretary of the Treasury.
Hon. Rupert Gresham,
Mayor of New York.
Presidents and Professors of Colleges and Universities
are generally addressed as Sir or Dear Sir.
Professor Ferguson Jenks,
President of .......... University.
Sir: or Dear Sir:
Presidents of Societies and Associations are treated as
business men and addressed as Sir or Dear Sir.
Mr. Joseph Banks,
President of the Night Owls.
Dear Sir: or Sir:
Doctors of Medicine are addressed as Sir: My dear Sir:
Dear Sir: and more familiarly My dear Dr: or Dear Dr: as
Ryerson Pitkin, M. D.
Dear Sir:
My dear Dr:
Letter Writing rm
Ordinary people with no degrees or titles are addressed
as Mr. and Mrs. and are designed Dear Sir: Dear Madam:
and an unmarried woman of any age is addressed on the
envelope as Miss So-and-so, but always designed in the
letter as
Dear Madam:
The plural of Mr. as in addressing a firm is Messrs, and
the corresponding salutation is Dear Sirs: or Gentlemen:
In England Esq. is used for Mr. as a mark of slight
superiority and in this country it is sometimes used, but it
is practically obsolete. Custom is against it and American
sentiment as well. If it is used it should be only applied to
lawyers and justices of the peace.
The Subscription or ending of a letter consists of the
, term of respect or affection and the signature. The term
depends upon the relation of the person addressed. Letters
of friendship can close with such expressions as:
Yours lovingly,
Yours affectionately,
Devotedly yours,
Ever yours, etc.
as between husbands and wives or between lovers.
Such gushing terminations as Your Own Darling, Your own
Dovey and other pet and silly endings should be avoided,
as they denote shallowness. Love can be strongly expressed
without dipping into the nonsensical and the farcical.
Formal expressions of Subscription are:
Yours Sincerely,
Yours truly,
Respectfully yours,
and the like, and these may be varied to denote the
exact bearing or attitude the writer wishes to assume to the
person addressed: as,
Very sincerely yours,
Very respectfully yours,
With deep respect yours,
Yours very truly, etc.
Such elaborate elldings as
"In the meantime with the highest respect, I am yours
to command,"
"I have the honour to be, Sir, Your humble Servant,"
"With great expression of esteem, I am Sincerely
"Believe me, my dear Sir, Ever faithfully yours,"
are condemned as savoring too much of affectation.
It is better to finish formal letters without any such
qualifying remarks. If you are writing to Mr. Ryan to tell
him that you have a house for sale, after describing the
house and stating the terms simply sign yourself
Your obedient Servant
Yours very truly,
Yours with respect,
James Wilson.
Don't say you have the honour to be anything or ask
him to believe anything, all you want to tell him is that you
have a house for sale and that you are sincere, or hold him
in respect as a prospective customer.
Don't abbreviate the signature as: Y'rs Resp'fly and
always make your sex obvious. Write plainly
Yours truly,
John Field
and not J. Field, so that the person to whom you send
it may not take you for Jane Field.
It is always best to write the first name in full. Married
women should prefix Mrs. to their names, as
Very sincerely yours,
Mrs. Theodore Watson.
If you are sending a letter acknowledging a compliment
Letter Writing f199
or some kindness done you may say, Yours gratefully, or
Yours very gratefully, in proportion to the act of kindness
It is not customary to sign letters of degrees or titles
after your name, except you are a lord, earl or duke and
only known by the title, but as we have no such titles in
America it is unnecessary to bring this matter into
consideration. Don't sign yourself,
Sincelely yours,
Obadiah Jackson, M.A. or L.L. D.
If you're an M. A. or an L.L. D. people generally know
it without your sounding your own trumpet. Many people,
and especially clergymen, are fond of flaunting after their
names degrees they have received honoris causa, that is,
degrees as a mark of honour, without examination. Such
degrees should be kept in the background. Many a
deadhead has these degrees which he could never have
earned by brain work.
Married women whose husbands are alive may sign
the husband's name with the prefix Mrs: thus,
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. William Southey. ,
but when the husband is dead the signature should be-
Yours sincerely,
Mrs. Sarah Southey.
So when we receive a letter from a woman we are
enabled to tell whether she has a husband living or is a
widow. A woman separated from her husband but not a
divorcee should not sign his name.
The address of a letter consists of the name, the title
and the residence.
Mr. Hugh Black,
112 Southgate Street,
Intimate friends have often familiar names for each
other, such as pet names, nicknames, etc., which they use
in the freedom of conversation, but such names should
never, under any circumstances, appear on the envelope.
The subscription on the envelope should be always written
with propriety and correctness and as if penned by an entire
stranger. The only difficulty in the envelope inscription is
the title. Every man is entitled to Mr. and every lady to Mrs.
and every unmarried lady to Miss. Even a boy is entitled to
Master. When more than one is addressed the title is Messrs.
Mesdames is sometimes written of women. If the person
addressed has a title it is courteous to use it, but titles never
must be duplicated. Thus, we can write
Robert Stitt, M. D., but never
Dr. Robert Stitt, M. D, or
Mr. Robert Stitt, M. D.
In writing to a medical doctor it is well to indicate his
profession by the letters M. D. so as to differentiate him from
aD. D. It is better to write Robert Stitt, M. D., than Dr. Robert
In the case of clergymen the prefix Rev. is retained even
when they have other titles; as
Rev. Tracy Tooke, LL. D.
When a person has more titles than one it is customary
to only give him the leading one. Thus instead of writing
Rev. Samuel MacComb, B. A., M. A., B. Sc., Ph. D., LL. D.,
D. D. the form employed is Rev. Samuel MacComb, LL. D.
LL. D. is appended in preference to D. D. because in most
cases the "Rev," implies a "D. D." while comparatively few
with the prefix tlRev." are entitled to "LL. D."
In the case of Honorables such as Governors, Judges,
Members of Congress, and others of the Civil Government
the prefix "Hon." does away with Mr. and Esq. Thus we'
write Hon. Josiah Snifkins, not Hon. Mr. Josiah Snifkins or
Hon. Josiah Snifkins, Esq. Though this prefix Hon. is also
often applied to Governors they should be addressed as
Excellency. For instance:
His Excellency,
Charles E. Hughes,
Letter Writing 1201
In writing to the President the superscription on the
envelope should be
To the President,
Executive Mansion,
Washington, D. C.
Professional men such as doctors and lawyers as well
as those having legitimately earned College Degrees may
be addressed on the envelopes by their titles, as
Jonathan Janeway, M. D.
Hubert Houston, B. L.
Matthew Marks, M. A., etc.
The residence of the person addressed should be
plainly written out in full. The street and numbers should
be given and the city or town written very legibly. If the
abbreviation of the State is liable to be confounded or
confused with that of another then the full name of the State
should be written. In writing the residence on the envelope,
instead of putting it all in one line as is done at the head of
a letter, each item of the residence forms a separate line.
Sullivan County,
New York.
215 Minna St.,
San Francisco,
There should be left a space for the postage stamp in
the upper right hand comer. The name and title should
occupy a line that is about central between the top of the
envelope and the bottom. The name should neither be too
much to right or left but located in the centre, the beginning
and end at equal distances from either end.
In writing to large business concerns which are well
_______________________________ __
known or to public or city officials it is sometimes customary
to leave out number and street. Thus,
Messrs. Seigel, Cooper Co.,
New York City,
Hon. William J. Gaynor,
New York City.
Notes may be regarded as letters in miniature confined
chiefly to invitations, acceptances, regrets and introductions,
and modern etiquette tends towards informality in their
composition. Card etiquette, in fact, has taken the place of
ceremonious correspondence and informal notes are now
the rule. Invitations to dinner and receptions are now mostly
written on cards. "Regrets" are sent back on visiting cards
with just the one word "Regrets" plainly written thereon.
Often on cards and notes of invitation we find the letters R.
S. v. P. at the bottom. These letters stand for the French
repondez s'il vous plait, which means "Reply, if you please,"
but there is no necessity to put this on an invitation card as
every well-bred person knows that a reply is expected. In
writing notes to young ladies of the same-family it should
be noted that the eldest daughter of the house is entitled to
the designation Miss without any Christian name, only the
surname appended. Thus if there are three daughters in the
Thompson family Martha, the eldest,- Susan and Jemina,
Martha is addressed as Miss Thompson and the other two
as Miss Susan Thompson and Miss Jemina Thompson
Don't write the word addressed on the envelope of a
Don't seal a note delivered by a friend.
Don't write a note on a postal card.
Here are a few common forms:-
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff request the
Letter Writing 1203
honour of Mr. McAdoo's presence on Friday
evening, June 15th, at 8 o'clock to meet the
Governor of the Fort.
19 Woodbine Terrace
June 8th, 1910.
This is an invitation to a formal reception calling for
evening dress. Here is Mr. McAdoo's reply in the third
Mr. McAdoo presents his compliments to
Mr. and Mrs. Henry Wagstaff and accepts with
great pleasure their invitation to meet the
Governor of the Fort on the evening of June
215 Beacon Street,
June 10th, 1910.
Here is how Mr. McAdoo might decline the
invitation: -
Mr. McAdoo regrets that owing to a prior
engagement he must forego the honour of paying
his respects to Mr. and Mrs. Wagstaff and the
Governor of the Fort on the evening of June
215 Beacon St.,
June 10th, 1910.
Here is a note addressed, say to Mr. Jeremiah Reynolds.
Mr. and Mrs. Oldham at home on Wednesday
evening October ninth from seven to eleven.
21 Ashland A venue,
October 5th.
Mr. Reynolds makes reply:-
Mr. Reynolds accepts with high appreciation
the honour of Mr. and Mrs. Oldham's invitation
for Wednesday evening October ninth.
Windsor Hotel
October 7th
Mr. Reynolds regrets that his duties render
_ ___________________________
it impossible for him to accept Mr. and Mrs.
Oldham's kind invitation for the evening of
October ninth.
Windsor Hotel,
October 7th,
Sometimes less informal invitations are sent on small
specially designed note paper in which the first person takes
the place of the third. Thus
360 Pine St.,
Dec. 11th, 1910.
Dear Mr. Saintsbury:
Mr. Johnson and I should be much pleased to
have you dine with us and a few friends next
Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past seven.
Yours sincerely,
Emma Burnside.
Mr. Saintsbury's reply:
57 Carlyle Strand
Dec. 13th, 1910.
Dear Mrs. Burnside:
Let me accept very appreciatively your
invitation to dine with Mr. Burnside and you
on next Thursday, the fifteenth, at half past
Yours sincerely,
Henry Saintsbury.
Mrs. Alexander Burnside.
Notes of introduction should be very circumspect as
the writers are in reality vouching for those whom they
introduce. Here is a specimen of such a note.
603 Lexington Ave.,
New York City,
June 15th, 1910.
Rev. Cyrus C. Wiley, D. D.,
Newark, N. J.
Letter Writing f205
My dear Dr. Wiley:
I take the liberty of
presenting to you my friend, Stacy Redfern,
M. D., a young practitioner, who is anxious
to locate in Newark. I have known him many
years and can vouch for his integrity and
professional standing. Any courtesy and
kindness which you may show him will be very
much appreciated by me.
Very sincerely yours,
Franklin Jewett.
Chapter 7
In the following examples the word or words in
parentheses are uncalled for and should be omitted:
• Fill the glass (full).
• They appeared to be talking (together) on private
• I saw the boy and his sister (both) in the garden.
• He went into the country last week and returned
(back) yesterday.
• The subject (matter) of his discourse was excellent.
• You need not wonder that the (subject) matter of
his discourse was excellent; it was taken from the
• They followed (after) him, but could not overtake
• The same sentiments may be found throughout
(the whole of) the book.
• I was very ill every day (of my life) last week.
• That was the (sum and) substance of his discourse.
• He took wine and water and mixed them (both)
• He descended (down) the steps to the cellar.
• He fell (down) from the top of the house.
• I hope you will return (again) soon.
Errors fTo7
• The things he took away he restored (again).
• The thief who stole my watch was compelled to
restore it (back again).
• It is equally (the same) to me whether I have it
today or tomorrow.
• She said, (says she) the report is false; and he
replied, (says he) if it be not correct I have been
• I took my place in the cars (for) to go to New York.
• They need not (to) call upon him.
• Nothing (else) but that would satisfy him.
• Whenever I ride in the cars I (always) find it
prejudicial to my health.
• He was the first (of all) at the meeting.
• He was the tallest of (all) the brothers.
• You are the tallest of (all) your family.
• Whenever I pass the house he is (always) at the
• The rain has penetrated (through) the roof.
• Besides my uncle and aunt there was (also) my
grandfather at the church.
• It should (ever) be your constant endeavor to
please your family.
• If it is true as you have heard (then) his situation
is indeed pitiful.
• Either this (here) man or that (there) woman has
(got) it.
• Where is the fire (at)?
• Did you sleep in church? Not that I know (of).
• I never before (in my life) met (with) such a stupid
• (For) why did he postpone it?
• Because (why) he could not attend.
• What age is he? (Why) I don't know.
• He called on me (for) to ask my opinion.
• I don't know where I am (at).
• I looked in (at) the window.
2Osl,-___ _
• I passed (by) the house.
• He (always) came every Sunday.
• Moreover, (also) we wish to say he was in error.
• It is not long (ago) since he was here.
• Two men w ~ n t into the wood (in order) to cut
(down) trees.
Further examples of redundancy might be multiplied.
It is very common in newspaper writing where not alone
single words but entire phrases are sometimes brought in,
which are unnecessary to the sense or explanation of what
is written.
Even the best speakers and writers are sometimes
caught napping. Many of our standard authors to whom
we have been accustomed to look up as infallible have
sinned more or less against the fundamental prinCiples of
grammar by breaking the rules regarding one or more of
the nine parts of speech. In fact some of them have recklessly
trespassed against all nine, and still they sit on their
pedestals of fame for the admiration of the crowd. Macaulay
mistreated the article. He wrote, - "That a historian should
not record trifles is perfectly true." He should have used
Dickens also used the article incorrectly. He refers to
"Robinson Crusoe" as "an universally popular book,"
instead of a universally popular book.
The relation between nouns and pronouns has always
been a stumbling block to speakers and writers. Hallam in
his Literature of Europe writes, "No one as yet had exhibited
the structure of the human kidneys, Vesalius having only
examined them in dogs." This means that Vesalius
examined human kidneys in dogs. The sentence should
have been, "No one had as yet 1xhibited the kidneys in
human beings, Vesalius having examined such organs in
dogs only."
Sir Arthur Helps in writing of Dickens, states-"I knew
a hrother author of his who received such critIcisms from
hIm (Dickens) very lately and profited by It." Instead of it
the word should be them to agree with criticisms.
Here are a few other pronominal errors from leading
"Sir Thomas Moore in general so writes it, although not
many others so late as him." Should be he.- Trench's
English Past and Present.
"What should we gain by it but that we should speedily
become as poor as them." Should be they.-Alison's Essay
on Macaulay.
"If the king gives us leave you or I may as lawfully
preach, as them that do." Should be they or those, the latter
having persons understood.-Hobbes's History of Civil
"The drift of all his sermons was, to prepare the Jews
for the reception of a prophet, mightier than him, and whose
shoes he was not worthy to bear." Should be than he.-
Atterbury's Sermons.
"Phalaris, who was so much older than her." Should
be she.-Bentley's Dissertation on Phalaris.
"King Charles, and more than him, the duke and the
Popish faction were at liberty to form new schemes." Should
be than he. - Bolingbroke's Dissertations on Parties.
"We contributed a third more than the Dutch, who were
obliged to the same proportion more than us." Should be
than we.-Swift's Conduct of the Allies.
In all the above examples the objective cases of the
pronouns have been used while the construction calls for
nominative cases.
"Let thou and I the battle try" - Anon.
Here let is the governing verb and requires an objective
case after it; therefore instead of thou and I, the words
should be you (sing.) and me.
"Forever in this humble cell, Let thee and I, my fair one,
dwell" -Prior.
Here thee and I should be the objectives you and me.
~ L ____________________________________ E_rr_o_r_s
The use of the relative pronoun trips the greatest
number of authors.
Even in the Bible we find the relative wrongly
Whom do men say that I am?-St. Matthew.
Whom think ye that I am?-Acts of the Apostles.
Who should be written in both cases because the word
is not in the objective governed by say or think, but in the
nominative dependent on the verb am.
"Who should I meet at the coffee house t' other night,
but myoId friend?" -Steele.
"It is another pattern of this answerer's fair dealing, to
give us hints that the author is dead, and yet lay the
suspicion upon somebody, I know not who, in the
country." -Swift's Tale of a Tub.
"My son is going to be married to I don't know who."
-Goldsmith's Good-natured Man.
The nominative who in the above examples should be
the objective whom.
The plural nominative ye of the pronoun thou is very
often used for the objective you, as in the following:
"His wrath which will one day destroy ye both." -
"The more shame for ye; holy men I thought ye." -
"1 feel the gales that from ye blow." -Gray.
"Tyrants dread ye, lest your just decree Transfer the
power and set the people free." -Prior.
Many of the great writers have played havoc with the
adjective in the indiscriminate use of the degrees of
"Of two forms of the same word, use the fittest."-
The author here in trying to give good advice sets a
bad example. He should have used the comparative degree,
"Fitter ."
Adjectives which have a comparative or superlative
Errors rnt
signification do not admit the addition of the words more,
most, or the terminations, er, est, hence the following
examples break this rule:
"Money is the most universal incitement of human
misery." -Gibbon's Decline and Fall.
"The chiefest of which was known by the name of
Archon among the Grecians." -Dryden's Life of Plutarch.
"The chiefest and largest are removed to certain
magazines they call libraries." -Swift's Battle of the
• Books.
The two chiefest properties of air, its gravity and elastic
force, have been discovered by mechanical experiments.-
"From these various causes, which in greater or lesser
degree, affected every individual in the colony, the
indignation of the people became general." - Robertson's
History of America.
"The extremest parts of the earth were meditating a
submission." -Atterbury's Sermons.
"The last are indeed more preferable because they are
founded on some new knowledge or improvement in the
mind of man." -Addison, Spectator.
"This was in reality the easiest manner of the two." -
Shaftesbury's Advice to an Author.
"In every well formed mind this second desire seems
to be the strongest of the two." -Smith's Theory of Moral
In these examples the superlative is wrongly used for
the comparative. When only two objects are compared the
comparative form must be used.
Of impossibility there are no degrees of comparison,
yet we find the following:
"As it was impossible they should know the words,
thoughts and secret actions of all men, so it was more
impossible they should pass judgment on them according
to these things." -Whitby's Necessity of the
~ ~ - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
A great number of authors employ adjectives for
adverbs. Thus we find:
"I shall endeavor to live hereafter suitable to a man in
my station." - Addison.
"I can never think so very mean of him." -Bentley's
Dissertation on Phalaris.
"His expectations run high and the fund to supply
them is extreme scanty,-Lancaster's Essay on Delicacy.
The commonest error in the use of the verb is the
disregard of the concord between the verb and its
This occurs most frequently when the subject and the
verb are widely separated, especially if some other noun of
a different number immediately precedes the verb. False
concords occur very often after either, or, neither, nor, and
much, more, many, everyone, each.
Here are a few authors' slips:-
"The terms in which the sale of a patent were
communicated to the public." - Junius's Letters.
"The richness of her arms and apparel were
conspicuous." -Gibbon's Decline and Fall.
"Everyone of this grotesque family were the creatures
of national genius." - D'Israeli.
"He knows not what spleen, languor or listlessness
are." - Blair's Sermons.
"Each of these words imply, some pursuit or object
relinquished." - Ibid.
"Magnus, with four thousand of his supposed
accomplices were put to death." -Gibbon.
"No nation gives greater encouragements to learning
than we do; yet at the same time none are so injudicious in
the application." -Goldsmith.
"There's two or three of us have seen strange sights." -
The past participle should not be used for the past tense,
yet the learned Byron overlooked this fact. He thus writes
in the Lament of Tasso:-
____________ e ••• ___ " ___ J2i3
"And with my years my soul begun to pant With
feelings of strange tumult and soft pain."
Here is another example from Savage's Wanderer in
which there is double sinning:
"From liberty each nobler science sprung, A Bacon
brighten'd and a Spenser sung."
Other breaches in regard to the participles occur in the
following: -
"Every book ought to be read with the same spirit and
in the same manner as it is writ" -Fielding's Tom Jones.
"The Court of Augustus had not wore off the manners
of the republic "-Hume's Essays.
"Moses tells us that the fountains of the earth were
broke open or clove asunder." - Burnet.
"A free constitution when it has been shook by the
iniquity of former administrations." - Bolingbroke.
"In this respect the seeds of future divisions were
sowed abundantly." -Ibid.
In the following example the present participle is used
for the infinitive mood:
"It is easy distinguishing the rude fragment of a rock
from the splinter of a statue." -Gilfillan's Literary Portraits.
Distinguishing here should be replaced by to
The rules regarding shall and will are violated in the
"If we look within the rough and awkward outside, we
will be richly rewarded by its perusal." -Gilfillan's Literary
"If I should declare them and speak of them, they
should be more than I am able to express." - Prayer Book
Revision of Psalms XI.
"If I would declare them and speak of them, they are
more than can be numbered." - Ibid.
"Without having attended to this, we will be at a loss,
in understanding several passages in the classics." -Blair's
~ L ______________________________________ E_"_o __ ~
"We know to what cause our past reverses have been
owing and we will have ourselves to b1ame, if they are again
incurred." - Alison's History of Europe.
Adverbial mistakes often occur in the best writers. The
adverb rather is a word very frequently misplaced.
Archbishop Trench in his "English Past and Present" writes,
"It rather modified the structure of our sentences than the
elements of our vocabulary."
This should have been wri.tten, -"It modified the
structure of our sentences rather than the elements of our
vocabulary ."
"So far as his mode of teaching goes he is rather a
disciple of Socrates than of St. Paul or Wesley." Thus writes
Leslie Stephens of Dr. Johnson. He should have written,-
" So far as his mode of teaching goes he is a disciple of
Socrates rather than of St. Paul or Wesley."
The preposition is a part of speech which is often
wrongly used by some of the best writers. Certain nouns,
adjectives and verbs require particular prepositions after
them, for instance, the word different always takes the
preposition from after it; prevail takes upon; averse takes
to; accord takes with, and so on.
In the following examples the prepositions in
parentheses are the ones that should have been used:
"He found the greatest difficulty of (in) writing."-
Hume's History of England.
"If policy can prevail upon (over) force." -Addison.
"He made the discovery and communicated to (with)
his friends." -Swift's Tale of a Tub.
"Every office of command should be intrusted to
persons on (in) whom the parliament shall confide."-
Several of the most celebrated writers infringe the
canons of style by placing prepositions at the end of
sentences. For instance Carlyle, in referring to the Study of
Burns, writes:-"Our own contributions to it, we are aware,
can be but scanty and feeble; but we offer them with good
Errors rns
will, and trust they may meet with acceptance from those
they are intended for."
-" for whom they are intended," he should have
"Most writers have some one vein which they
peculiarly and obviously excel in." - William Minto.
This sentence should read, - Most writers have some
one vein in which they peculiarly and obviously excel.
Many authors use redundant words which repeat the
same thought and idea. This is called tautology.
"Notwithstanding which (however) poor Polly
embraced them all around." -Dickens.
"I judged that they would (mutually) find each
other." -Crockett.
" .... as having created a (joint) partnership between the
two Powers in the Morocco question." - The Times.
"The only sensible position (there seems to be) is to
frankly acknowledge our ignorance of what lies beyond." -
Daily Telegraph.
"Lord Rosebery has not budged from his position-
splendid, no doubt, -of (lonely) isolation." - The Times.
"Miss Fox was (often) in the habit of assuring Mrs.
Chick." -Dickens.
"The deck (it) was their field of fame." -Campbell.
"He had come up one morning, as was now
(frequently) his wont," - Trollope.
The counsellors of the Sultan (continue to) remain
sceptical-The Times.
Seriously, (and apart from jesting), this is no light
matter. - Bagehot.
To go back to your own country with (the consciousness
that you go back with) the sense of duty well done.-Lord
The Peresviet lost both her fighting-tops and (in
appearance) looked the most damaged of all the ships-The
Counsel admitted that, that was a fair suggestion to
~ ~ ___________________________________ E _ " _ o _ ~ _ S
make, but he submitted that it was borne out by the
(surrounding) circumstances. - Ibid.
Another unnecessary use of words and phrases is that
which is termed circumlocution, a going around the bush
when there is no occasion for it,-save to fill space.
It may be likened to a person walking the distance of
two sides of a triangle to reach the objective point. For
instance in the quotation: "Pope professed to have learned
his poetry from Dryden, whom, whenever an opportunity
was presented, he praised through the whole petiod of his
existence with unvaried liberality; and perhaps his character
may receive some illustration, of a comparison he instituted
between him and the man whose pupil he was" much of
the verbiage may be eliminated and the sentence thus
"Pope professed himself the pupil of Dryden, whom
he lost no opportunity of praising; and his character may
be illustrated by a comparison with his master."
"His life was brought to a close in 1910 at an age not
far from the one fixed by the sacred writer as the term of
human existence."
This in brevity can be put, "His life was brought to a
close at the age of seventy;" or, better yet, "He died at the
age of seventy."
"The day was intensely cold, so cold in fact that the
thermometer crept down to the zero mark," can be
expressed: "The day was so cold the thermometer registered
Many authors resort to circumlocution for the purpose
of "padding," that is, filling space, or when they strike a
snag in writing upon subjects of which they know little or
nothing. The young writer should steer clear of it and learn
to express his thoughts and ideas as briefly as possible
commensurate with lucidity of expression.
Volumes of errors in fact, in grammar, diction and
general style, could be selected from the works of the great
writers, a fact which eloquently testifies that no one is
Errors rw
infallible and that the very best is liable to err at times.
However, most of the erring in the case of these writers
arises from carelessness or hurry, not from a lack of
As a general rule it is in writing that the scholar is liable
to slip; in oral speech he seldom makes a blunder. In fact,
there are many people who are perfect masters of speech,-
who never make a blunder in conversation, yet who are
ignorant of the very principles of grammar and would not
know how to write a sentence correctly on paper. Such
persons have been accustomed from infancy to hear the
language spoken correctly and so the use of the proper
words and forms becomes a second nature to them. A child
can learn what is right as easy as what is wrong and
whatever impressions are made on the mind when it is
plastic will remain there. Even a parrot can be taught the
proper use of language. Repeat to a parrot. - " Two and two
make four" and it never will say "two and two makes four."
In writing, however, it is different. Without a
knowledge of the fundamentals of grammar we may be able
to speak correctly from association with good speakers, but
without such a knowledge we cannot hope to write the
language correctly. To write even a common letter we must
know the principles of construction, the relationship of one
word to another. Therefore, it is necessary for everybody
to understand at least the essentials of the grammar of his
own language.
Chapter 8
Pitfalls to Avoid
Very often the verb is separated from its real
nominative or subject by several intervening words and in
such cases one is liable to make the verb agree with the
subject nearest to it. Here are a few examples showing that
the leading writers now and then take a tumble into this
• "The partition which the two ministers made of
the powers of government were singularly
happy." -Macaulay.
(Should be was to agree with its subject, partition.)
• "One at least of the qualiti'es which fit it for
training ordinary men unfit it for training an
extraordinary man./I - Bagehot.
(Should be unfits to agree with subject one.)
• "The Tibetans have engaged to exclude from their
country those dangerous influences whose
appearance were the chief cause of our action." -
The Times.
(Should be was to agree with appearance.)
• "An immense amount of confusion and
indifference prevail in these days." - Telegraph.
(Should be prevails to agree with amount.)
Pitfalls to Avoid r2i9
Errors in ellipsis occur chiefly with prepositions.
His objection and condoning of the boy's course,
seemed to say the least, paradoxical.
(The preposition to should come after objection.)
Many men of brilliant parts are crushed by force of
circumstances and their genius forever lost to the world.
(Some maintain that the missing verb after genius is
are, but such is ungrammatical. In such cases the right verb
should be always expressed: as-their genius is forever lost
to the world. .
Even the best speakers and writers are in the habit of
placing a modifying word or words between the to and the
remaining part of the infinitive. It is possible that such will
come to be looked upon in time as the proper form but at
present the splitting of the infinitive is decidedly wrong.
"He was scarcely able to even talk" "She commenced to
rapidly walk around the room." "To have really loved is-
better than not to have at all loved." In these constructions
it is much better not to split the infinitive. In every-day
speech the best speakers sin against this observance.
In New York City there is a certain magistrate, a
member of "the 400," who prides himself on his diction in
language. He tells this story: A prisoner, a faded, battered
specimen of mankind, on whose haggard face, deeply lined
with the marks of dissipation, there still lingered faint
reminders of better days long past, stood dejected before
the judge. "Where are you from?" asked the magistrate.
"From Boston," answered the accused. "Indeed," said the
judge, "indeed, yours is a sad case, and yet you don't seem
to thoroughly realise how low you have sunk." The man
stared as if struck. "Your honour does me an injustice," he
said bitterly. "The disgrace of arrest for drunkenness, the
mortification of being thrust into a noisome dungeon, the
publicity and humiliation of trial in a crowded, and dingy
_____________________________ __ m
courtroom I can bear, but to be sentenced by a Police
Magistrate who splits his infinitives-that-is indeed the last
blow. II
The indefinite adjective pronoun one when put in place
of a personal substantive is liable to raise confusion. When
a sentence or expression is begun with the impersonal one
the word must be used throughout in all references to the
Thus, "One must mind one's own business if one
wishes to succeed" may seem prolix and awkward,
nevertheless it is the proper form. You must not say - II One
must mind his business if he wishes to succeed," for the
subject is impersonal and therefore cannot exclusively take
the masculine pronoun. With anyone it is different. You
may say - II If anyone sins he should acknowledge it; let
him not try to hide it by another sin."
This is a word that is a pitfall to the most of us whether
learned or unlearned. Probably it is the most
indiscriminately used word in the language. From the
different positions it is made to occupy in a sentence it can
relatively change the meaning.
For instance in the sentence-"I only struck him that
time, II the meaning to be inferred is, that the only thing I
did to him was to strike him, not kick or otherwise abuse
if the only is shifted, so as to make the sentence
read-"I struck him only that time" the meaning conveyed
is, that only on that occasion and at no other time did I strike
him. If another shift is made to-"1 struck only him that time, II
the meaning is again altered so that it signifies he was the
only person I struck.
In speaking we can by emphasis impress our meaning
on our hearers, but in writing we have nothing to depend
Pitfalls to Avoid f221
upon but the position of the word in the sentence. The best
rule in regard to only is to,place it immediately before the
word or phrase it modifies or limits.
Is another word which creates ambiguity and alters
meaning. If we substitute it for only in the preceding
example the meaning of the sentence will depend upon the
Thus "I alone struck him at that time" signifies that I
and no other struck him. When the sentence reads "I struck
him alone at that time" it must be interpreted that he was
the only person that received a blow. Again if it is made to
read "I struck him at that time alone" the sense conveyed
is that that was the only occasion on which I struck him.
The rule which governs the correct use of only is also
applicable to alone.
These are words which often give to expressions a
meaning far from that intended. Thus, "I have nothing to
do with that other rascal across the street, II certainly means
that I am a rascal myself.
"I sent the despatch to my friend, but another
villain intercepted it," clearly signifies that my friend
is a villain.
A good plan is to omit these words when they can be
readily done without, as in the above examples, but when
it is necessary to use them make your meaning clear. You
can do this by making each sentence or phrase in which
they occur independent of contextual aid.
Never use and with the relative in this manner: "That
is the dog I meant and which I know is of pure breed." This
is an error quite common. The use of and is permissible
when there is a parallel relative in the preceding sentence
~ ~ ______________________________ P_itLta_l_ls_ro_A __ vo_w_
or clause. Thus: "There is the dog which I meant and. which
I know is of pure breed" is quite correct.
A participle or participial phrase is naturally referred
to the nearest nominative. If only one nominative is
expressed it claims all the participles that are not by tl;te
construction of the sentence otherwise fixed.
"John, working in the field all day and getting thirsty,
drank from the running stream." Here the participles
working and getting clearly refer to John. But in the
sentence, -"Swept along by the mob I could not save
him," the participle as it were is lying around loose and
may be taken to refer to either the person speaking or to
the-person spoken about. It may mean that I was swept
along by the mob or the individual whom I tried to save
was swept along.
"Going into the store the roof fell" can be taken that it
was the roof which was going into the store when it fell. Of
course the meaning intended is that some person or persons
were going into the store just as the roof fell.
In all sentence construction with participles there
should be such clearness as to preclude all possibility of
ambiguity. The participle should be so placed that there can
be no doubt as to the noun to which it refers. Often it is
advisable to supply such words as will make the meaning
Sometimes the beginning of a sentence presents quite
a different grammatical construction from its end. This
arises from the fact probably, that the beginning is lost sight
of before the end is reached. This occurs frequently in long
sentences. Thus: "Honesty, integrity and square-dealing will
bring anybody much better through life than the absence
of either." Here the construction is broken at than. The use
of either, only used in referring to one of two, shows that
Pitfalls to Avoid f223
the fact is forgotten that three qualities and not two are
under consideration. Anyone of the three meanings might
be intended in the sentence, viz., absence of anyone quality,
absence of any two of the qualities or absence of the whole
three qualities. Either denotes one or the other of two and
should never be applied to anyone of more than two. When
we fall into the error of constructing such sentences as
above, we should take them apart and reconstruct them in
a different grammatical form. Thus,- " Honesty, integrity
and square-dealing will lxing a man much better through
life than a lack of these qualities which are almost essential
to success."
It must be remembered that two negatives in the
English language destroy each other and are equivalent to
an affirmative. Thus "I don't know nothing about it" is
intended to convey, that I am ignorant of the matter under
consideration, but it defeats its own purpose, inasmuch as
the use of nothing implies that I know something about it.
The sentence should read-"I don't know anything about
Often we hear such expressions as "He was not asked
to give no opinion," expressing the very opposite of what
is intended. This sentence implies that he was asked to give
his opinion. The double negative, therefore, should be
carefully avoided, for it is insidious and is liable to slip in
and the writer remain unconscious of its presence until the
eye of the critic detects it.
The use of the first personal pronoun should be avoided
as much as possible in composition. Don't introduce it by
way of apology and never use such expressions as "In my
opinion," "As far as I can see," "It appears to me," "I
believe," etc. In what you write, the whole composition is
expressive of your views, since you are the author,
therefore, there is no necessity for you to accentuate or
emphasize yourself at certain portions of it.
Moreover, the big 1's savor of egotism! Steer clear of
them as far as you The only place where the first person
is permissible is in passages where you are stating a view
that is not generally held and which is likely to meet with
When two verbs depend on each other their tenses must
have a definite relation to each other. "I shall have much
pleasure in accepting your kind invitation" is wrong, unless
you really mean that just now you decline though by-and-by
you intend to accept; or unless you mean that you do accept
now, though you have no pleasure in doing so, but look
forward to be more pleased by-and-by. In fact the sequence of
the compound tenses puzzle experienced writers.
The best plan is to go back in thought to the time in
question and use the tense you would then naturally use.
Now in the sentence "I should have liked to have gone to
see the circus" the way to find out the proper sequence is
to ask yourself the question-what is it I "should have
liked" to do? and the plain answer is "to go to see the
circus." I cannot answer-"To have gone to see the circus"
for that would imply that at a certain moment I would have
liked to be in the position of having gone to the circus. But
I do not mean this; I mean that at the moment at which I
am speaking I wish I had gone to see the circus. The verbal
phrase I should have liked carries me back to the time when
there was a chance of seeing the circus and once back at
the time, the going to the circus is a thing of the present.
This whole explanation resolves itself into the simple
question,-what should I have liked at that time, and the
answer is "to go to see the circus," therefore this is the
proper sequence, and the expression should be "I should
have liked to go to see the circus."
If we wish to speak of something relating to a time prior
Pitfalls to Avoid 1225
to that indicated in the past tense we must use the perfect
tense of the infinitive; as, "He appeared to have seen better
days." We should say "I expected to meet him," not "I
expected to have met him." "We intended to visit you," hot
"to have visited you." "I hoped they would arrive," not "I
hoped they would have arrived." "I thought I should catch
the bird," not "I thought I sh?uld have caught the bird." "I
had intended to go to the meeting," not "I had intended to
have gone to the meeting."
These prepositions are often carelessly interchanged.
Between has reference to two objects only, among to more than
two. "The money was equally divided between them" is right
when there are only two, but if there are more than two it
should be "the money was equally divided among them."
Less refers is quantity, fewer to number. "No man has
less virtues" should be "No man has fewer virtues." "The
farmer had some oats and a fewer quantity of wheat" should
be "the farmer had some oats and a less quantity of wheat."
Further is commonly used to denote quantity, farther
to denote distance. "I have walked farther than you," "I
need no further supply" are correct.
Each other refers to two, one another to more than two.
"Jones and Smith quarreled; they struck each other" is
correct. "Jones, Smith and Brown quarreled; they struck one
another" is also correct. Don't say, liThe two boys teach one
another" nor "The three girls love each other."
These words are continually misapplied. Each can be
______________________________ __ A_vo_i_d
applied to two or any higher number of objects to every
one of the number independently. Every requires more than
two to be spoken of and denotes all the persons or things taken
separately. Either denotes one or the other of two, and should
not be used to include both. Neither is the negative of either,
denoting not the other, and not the one, and relating to two
persons or things considered separately.
The following examples illustrate the correct usage of
these words:
Each man of the crew received a reward.
Every man in the regiment displayed bravery.
We can walk on either side of the street.
Neither of the two is to blame.
When two singular subjects are connected by neither,
nor use a singular verb; as, Neither John nor James was
there," not were there.
Custom Has sanctioned the use of this word both with
a singular and plural; as-"None is so blind as he who will
not see" and "None are so blind as they who will not see."
However, as it is a contraction of no one it is better to use
the singular verb.
These verbs are very often confounded. Rise is to move
or pass upward in any manner; as to "rise from bed;" to
increase in value, to improve in position or rank, as "stocks
rise;" "politicians rise;" "they have risen to honour."
Raise is to lift up, to exalt, to enhance, as "I raise the
table;" "He raised his servant;" liThe baker raised the price
of bread."
The transitive verb lay, and lay, the past tense of the
P i ~ f a l l s to Avoid 1227
neuter verb lie, are often confounded, though quite different
in meaning. The neuter verb to lie, meaning to lie down or
rest, cannot take the objective after it except with a
preposition. We can say "He lies on the ground," but we
cannot say "He lies the ground," since the verb is neuter
and intransitive and, as such, cannot have a direct object.
With lay it is different. Lay is a transitive verb, therefore it
takes a direct object after it; as "I lay a wager," "I laid the
carpet," etc.
Of a carpet or any inanimate subject we should say, "It
lies on the floor," "A knife lies on the table," not lays. But
of a person we say-"He lays the knife on the table," not
"He lies- -." Lay being the past tense of the neuter to lie
(down) we should say, "He lay on the bed," and lain being
its past participle we must also say "He has lain on the bed."
We can say "I lay myself down." "He laid himself
down" and such expressions.
It is imperative to remember in using these verbs that
to lay means to do something, and to lie means to be in a
state of rest.
"Says I" is a vulgarism; don't use it. "I said" is correct
Be careful to distinguish the meaning of these two little
prepositions and don't interchange them. Don't say "He
went in the room" nor liMy brother is into the navy." In
denotes the place where a person or thing, whether at rest
or in motion, is present; and into denotes entrance. "He
went into the room;" "My brother is in the navy" are correct.
Don't confound the two. Eat is present, ate is past. "I
eat the bread" means that I am continuing the eating; "I ate
the bread" means that the act of eating is past. Eaten is the
_____________________________ __ m
perfect participle, but often eat is used instead, and as it
has the same pronunciation (et) of ate, care should be taken
to distinguish the past tense, I ate from the perfect I have
eaten (eat).
Remember that the first person takes precedence of the
second and the second takes precedence of the third. When
Cardinal Wolsey said Ego et Rex (I and the King), he showed
he was a gootl grammarian, but a bad courtier.
"I am come" points to my being here, while "I have
come" intimates that I have just arrived. When the subject
is not a person, the verb to be should be used in preference
to the verb to have; as, "The box is come" instead of "The
box has come."
The interchange of these two parts of the irregular or
so-called strong verbs is, perhaps, the breach oftenest
committed by careless speakers and writers. To avoid
mistakes it is requisite to know the principal parts of these
verbs, and this knowledge is very easy of acquirement, as
there are not more than a couple of hundred of such verbs,
and of this number but a small part is in daily use. Here are
some of the most common blunders: "I seen" for "I saw;"
"I done it" for "I did it;" "I drunk" for "I drank;" "I begun"
for "I began;" "I rung" for "I rang;" "I run" for "I ran;" "I
sung" for "I sang;" "I have chose" for "I have chosen;" "I
have drove" for "I have driven;" "I have wore" for "I have
worn;" "I have trod" for "I have trodden;" "I have shook" -
for "I have shaken;" "I have fell" for "I have fallen;" "I have
drank" for "I have drunk;" "I have began" for "I have
begun;" "I have rang" for "I have rung;" "I have rose" for
"I have risen;" "I have spoke" for "I have spoken;" "I have
broke" for "I have broken." "It has froze" for "It has frozen."
Pitfalls to Avoid f229
"It has blowed" for "It has blown." "It has flowed" (of a
bird) for "It has flown."
N. B.-The past tense and past participle of To Hang is
hanged or hung. When you are talking about a man meeting
death on the gallows, say "He was hanged"; when you are
talking about the carcass of an animal say, "It was hung,"
as "The beef was hung dry." Also say your coat "was hung
on a hook."
Don't forget that prepositions always take the objective
case. Don't say "Between you and I" ; say "Between you and
Two prepositions should not govern one objective
unless there is an immediate connection between them. "He
was refused admission to and forcibly ejected from the
school" should be "He was refused admission to the school
and forcibly ejected from it."
Don't say "I shall summons him," but "I shall summon
him." Summon is a verb, summons, a noun.
It is correct to say "I shall get a summons for him," not
a summon.
"My brother has an undeniable character" is wrong if I
wish to convey the idea that he has a good character. The
expression should be in that case "My brother has an
unexceptionable character." An undeniable character is a
character that cannot be denied, whether bad or good. An
unexceptionable character is one to which no one can take
Very many mistakes occur in the use of the pronouns.
"Let you and I go" should be "Let you and me go." "Let
______________________________ __ vo_m_
them and we go" should be "Let them and us go." The verb
let is transitive and therefore takes the objective case.
"Give me them flowers" should be "Give me those
flowers"; "I mean them three" should be "I mean those
three." Them is the objective case of the personal pronoun
and cannot be used adjectively like the demonstrative
adjective pronoun.
"I am as strong as him" should be "I am as strong as
he"; "I am younger than her" should be "I am younger than
she;" "He can write better than me" should be "He can write
better than I," for in these examples the objective cases him,
her and me are used wrongfully for the nominatives. After
each of the misapplied pronouns a verb is understood of
which each pronoun is the subject. Thus, "I am as strong as
he (is)." "I am younger than she "He can write better
than I (can)."
Don't say ''It is me;" say ''It is I" The verb To Be of which
is is a part takes the same case after it that it has before it.
This holds good in all situations as well as with pronouns.
The verb To Be also requires the pronouns joined to it
to be in the same case as a pronoun asking a question; The
nominative I requires the nominative who and the
objectives me, him, her, its, you, them, require the objective
"Whom do you think I am?" should be "Who do you
think I am?" and "Who do they suppose me to be?" should
"Whom do they suppose me to be?" The objective form
of the Relative should be always used, in connection with a
preposition. "Who do you take me for?" should be "Whom
do, etc." "Who did you give the apple to?" should be
"Whom did you give the apple to," but as pointed out
elsewhere the preposition should never end a sentence,
therefore, it is better to say, "To whom did you give the
After transitive verbs always use the objective cases of
the pronouns. For "He and they we have seen," say "Him
and them we have seen."
Pitfalls to Avoid f231
"The hurt it was that painful it made him cry," say "so
Don't say, These kind; those sort. Kind and sort are each
singular and require the singular pronouns this and that.
In connection with these demonstrative adjective pronouns
remember that this and these refer to what is near at hand,
that and those to what is more distant; as, this book (near
me), that book (over there), these boys (near), those boys
(at a distance).
"This much is certain" should be "Thus much or so
much is certain."
These are two separate verbs and must not be
interchanged. The principal parts of flee are flee, fled, fled;
those of fly are fly, flew, flown. To flee is generally used in
the meaning of getting out of danger. To fly means to soar
as a bird. To say of a man "He has flown from the place" is
wrong; it should be "He has fled from the place." We can
say with propriety that" A bird has flown from the place."
Don't say "He is well known through the land," but
"He is well known throughout the land."
Don't mistake these two words so nearly alike. Vocation
is the employment, business or profession one follows for
a living; avocation is some pursuit or occupation which
diverts the person from such employment, business or
profession. Thus
"His vocation was the law, his avocation, farming."
_____________________________ __ w
In the subjunctive mood the plural form were should
be used with a singular subject; as, "If I were," not was.
Remember the plural form of the personal pronoun you
always takes were, though it may denote but one. Thus,
"You were," never "you was." "If I was him" is a very
common expression. Note the two mistakes in it,-that of
the verb implying a condition, and that of the objective case
of the pronoun. It should read If I were he. This is another
illustration of the rule regarding the verb To Be, taking the
same case after it as before it; were is part of the verb To
Be, therefore as the nominative (I) goes before it, the
nominative (he) should come after it.
A becomes an before a vowel or before h mute for the
sake of euphony or agreeable sound to the ear. An apple,
an orange, an heir, an honour, etc.
Chapter 9
It is the object of every writer to put his thoughts into
as effective form as possible so as to make a good impression
on the reader. A person may have noble thoughts and ideas
but be unable to express them in such a way as to appeal to
others, consequently he cannot exert the full force of his
intellectuality nor leave the imprint of his character upon
his time, whereas many a man but indifferently gifted may
wield such a facile pen as to attract attention and win for
himself an envious place among his contemporaries.
In everyday life one sees illustrations of men of
excellent mentality being cast aside and ones of mediocre
or in some cases, little, if any, ability chosen to fill important
places. The former are unable to impress their personality;
they have great thoughts, great ideas, but these thoughts
and ideas are locked up in their brains and are like prisoners
behind the bars struggling to get free. The key of language
which would open the door is wanting, hence they have to
remain locked up.
Many a man has to pass through the world unheard of-'
and of little benefit to it or himself, simply because he cannot
bring out what is in him and make it subservient to his wili.
It is the duty of every one to develop his best, not only for
the benefit of himself but for the good of his fellow men. It
is not at all necessary to have great learning or
acquirements, the laborer is as useful in his own place as
the philosopher in his; nor is it necessary to have many
talents. One talent rightly used is much better than ten
wrongly used. Often a man can do more with one than his
contemporary can do with ten, often a man can make one
dollar go farther than twenty in the hands of his neighbour,
often the poor man lives more comfortably than the
millionaire. All depends upon the individual himself. If he
make right use of what the Creator has given him and live
according to the laws of God and nature he is fulfilling his
allotted place in the universal scheme of creation, in other
words, when he does his best, he is living up to the standard
of a useful manhood.
Now in order to do his best a man of ordinary
intelligence and education should be able to express himself
correctly both in speaking and writing, that is, he should
be able to convey his thoughts in an intelligent manner
which the Simplest can understand. The manner in which
a speaker or writer conveys his thoughts is known as his
In other words Style may be defined as the peculiar
manner in which a man expresses his conceptions through
the medium of language. It depends upon the choice of
words and their arrangement to convey a meaning. Scarcely
any two writers have exactly the same style, that is to say,
express their ideas after the same peculiar form, just as no
two mortals are fashioned by nature in the same mould, so
that one is an exact counterpart of the other.
Just as men differ in the accent and tones of their voices,
so do they differ in the construction of their language.
Two reporters sent out on the same mission, say to
report a fire, will verbally differ in their accounts though
materially both descriptions will be the same as far as the
leading facts are concerned. One will express himself in a
style different from the other.
If you are asked to describe the dancing of a red-haired
lady at the last charity ball you can either say-"The ruby
Circe, with the Titian locks glowing like the oriflamme
Style r235
which surrounds the golden god of day as he sinks to rest
amid the crimson glory of the burnished West, gave a divine
exhibition of the Terpsichorean art which thrilled the souls
of the multitude" or, you can simply say-"The red-haired
lady danced very well and pleased the audience."
The former is a specimen of the ultra florid or bombastic
style which may be said to depend upon the pomposity of
verbosity for its effect, the latter is a specimen of simple
natural Style. Needless to say it is to be preferred. The other
should be avoided. It stamps the writer as a person of
shallowness, ignorance and inexperience. It has been
eliminated from the newspapers. Even the most flatulent
of yellow sheets no longer tolerate it in their columns.
Affectation and pedantry in style are now universally
It is the duty of every speaker and writer to labour after
a pleasing style. It gains him an entrance where he would
otherwise be debarred. Often the interest of a subject
depends as much on the way it is presented as on the subject
itself. One writer will make it attractive, another repulsive.
For instance take a passage in history. Treated by one
historian it is like a desiccated mummy, dry, dull,
disgusting, while under the spell of another it is, as it were,
galvanized into a virile living thing which not only pleases
but captivates the reader.
The first requisite of style is choice of words, and this
comes under the head of Diction, the property of style which
has reference to the words and phrases used in speaking
and writing. The secret of literary skill from any standpoint
consists in putting the right word in the right_place. In order
to do this it is imperative to know the meaning of the words
we use, their exact literal meaning. Many synonymous
words are seemingly interchangeable and appear as if the
same meaning were applicable to three or four of them at
the same time, but when all such words are reduced to a
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final analysis it is clearly seen that there is a marked
difference in their meaning.
For instance grief and sorrow seem to be identical, but
they are not. Grief is active, sorrow is more or less passive;
grief is caused by troubles and misfortunes which come to
us from the outside, while sorrow is often the consequence
of our own acts. Grief is frequently loud and violent, sorrow
is always quiet and retiring. Grief shouts, Sorrow remains
If you are not sure of the exact meaning of a word look it
up immediately in the dictionary. Sometimes some of our great
scholars are puzzled over simple words in regard to meaning,
spelling or pronunciation. Whenever you meet a strange word
note it down until you discover its meaning and use. Read the
best books you can get, books written by men and women who
are acknowledged masters of language, and study how they
use their words, where they place them in the sentences, and
the meanings they convey to the readers. Mix in good society.
Listen attentively to good talkers and try to imitate their
manner of expression. If a word is used you do not understand,
don't be ashamed to ask its meaning.
True, a small vocabulary will carry you through, but it
is an advantage to have a large one. When you live alone a
little pot serves just as well as a large one to cook your
victuals and it is handy and convenient, but when your
friends or neighbors come to dine with you, you will need
a much larger pot and it is better to have it in store, so that
you will not be put to shame for your scantiness of
furnishings. Get as many words as you possibly can - if you
don't need them now, pack them away in the garrets of your
brain so that you can call upon them if you require them.
Keep a note book, jot down the words you don't
understand or clearly understand and consult the dictionary
when you get time.
Purity of style consists in using words which are
Style 1237
reputable, national and present, which means that the
words are in current use by the best authorities, that they
are used throughout the nation and not confined to one
particular part, and that they are words in constant use at
the present time.
There are two guiding principles in the choice of
words,- good use and good taste. Good use tells us whether
a word is right or wrong; good taste, whether it is adapted
to our purpose or not.
A word that is obsolete or too new to have gained a
place in the language, or that is a provincialism, should not
be used.
Here are the Ten Commandments of English style:
• Do not use foreign words.
• Do not use a long word when a short one will
serve your purpose. Fire is much better than
• Do not use technical words, or those understood
only by specialists in their respective lines, except
when you are writing especially for such people.
• Do not use slang.
• Do not use provincialisms, as "I guess" for "I
think"; "I reckon" for "I know," etc.
• Do not in writing prose, use poetical or antiquated
words: as "lore, e'er, morn, yea, nay, verily,
• Do not use trite and hackneyed words and
expressions; as, lion the job," "Up and in"; "down
and out."
• Do not use newspaper words which have not
established a place in the language as lito bugle";
lito suicide," etc.
• Do not use ungrammatical words and forms; as,
"I ain't;" "he don't."
• Do not use ambiguous words or phrases; as - "He
showed me all about the house."
Trite words, similes and metaphors which have become
~ ~ _________________________________ S ~ t L y l ~ e
hackneyed and worn out should be allowed to rest in the
oblivion of past usage. Such expressions and phrases as
"Sweet sixteen" "the Almighty dollar," "Uncle Sam," "On
the fence," "The Glorious Fourth," "Young America," "The
lords of creation," "The rising generation," "The weaker
sex," "The weaker vessel," "Sweetness long drawn out" and
"chief cook and bottle washer," should be put on the shelf
as they are utterly worn out from too much usage.
Some of the old similes which have outlived their
usefulness and should be pensioned off, are "Sweet as
sugar," "Bold as a lion," "Strong as an ox," "Quick as a
flash," "Cold as ice," "Stiff as a poker," "White as snow,"
"Busy as a bee," "Pale as a ghost," "Rich as Croesus," "Cross
as a bear" and a great many more far too numerous to
Be as original as possible in the use of expression. Don't
follow in the old rut but try and strike out for yourself. This
does not mean that you should try to set the style, or do
anything outlandish or out of the way, or be an innovator
on the prevailing custom. In order to be original there is no
necessity for you to introduce something novel or establish
a precedent.
The probability is you are not fit to do either, by
education or talent. While following the style of those who
are acknowledged leaders you can be original in your
language. Try and clothe an idea different from what it has
been clothed and better. If you are speaking or writing of
dancing don't talk or write about "tripping the light fantastic
toe." It is over two hundred years since Milton expressed it
that w:]y in "L' Allegro." You're not a Milton and besides
over a million have stolen it from Milton until it is now no
longer worth stealing.
Don't resurrect obsolete words such as whilom, yclept,
wis, etc., and be careful in regard to obsolescent words, that
is, words that are at the present time gradually passing from
use such as quoth, trow, betwixt, amongst, froward, etc.
And beware of new words. Be original in the
Style r239
construction and arrangement of your language, but don't
try to originate words. Leave that to the Masters of
language, and don't be the first to try such words, wait until
the chemists of speech have tested them and passed upon
their merits.
Quintilian said - "Prefer the oldest of the new and the
newest of the old." Pope put this in rhyme and it still holds
In words, as fashions, the same rule will hold, Alike
fantastic, if too new or old: Be not the first by whom the
new are tried, Nor yet the last to lay the old aside.
Propriety of style consists in using words in their
proper sense and as in the case of purity, good usage is the
principal test. Many words have acquired in actual use a
meaning very different from what they once possessed.
"Prevent" formerly meant to go before, and that meaning
is implied in its Latin derivation. Now it means to put a
stop to, to hinder. To attain propriety of style it is necessary
to avoid confounding words derived from the same root;
as respectfully and respectively; it is necessary to use words
in their accepted sense or the sense which everyday use
Simplicity of style has reference to the choice of simple
words and their unaffected presentation. Simple words
should always be used in preference to compound, and
complicated ones when they express the same or almost the
same meaning. The Anglo-Saxon element in our language
comprises the simple words which express the relations of
everyday life, strong, terse, vigorous, the language of the
fireside, street, market and farm. It is this style which
characterizes the Bible and many of the great English
classics such as the "Pilgrim's Progress," "Robinson
Crusoe," and "Gulliver's Travels."
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Clearness of style should be one of the leading
considerations with the beginner in composition. He must
avoid all obscurity and ambiguous phrases. If he write a
sentence or phrase and see that a meaning might be inferred
from it otherwise than intended, he should re-write it in
such a way that there can be no possible doubt. Words,
phrases or clauses that are closely related should be placed
as near to each other as possible that their mutual relation
may clearly appear, and no word should be omitted that is
necessary to the complete expression of thought.
Unity is that property of style which keeps all parts of
a sentence in connection with the principal thought and
logically subordinate to it. A sentence may be constructed
as to suggest the idea of oneness to the mind, or it may be
so loosely put together as to produce a confused and
indefinite impression. Ideas that have but little connection
should be expressed in separate sentences, and not crowded
into one.
Keep long parentheses out of the middle of your
sentences and when you have apparently brought your
sentences to a close don't try to continue the thought or idea
by adding supplementary clauses.
Strength is that property of style which gives animation,
energy and vivacity to language and sustains the interest
of the reader. It is as necessary to language as good food is
to the body. Without it the words are weak and feeble and
create little or no impression on the mind. In order to have
strength the language must be concise, that is, much
expressed in little compass, you must hit the nail fairly on
the head and drive it in straight. Go critically over what
you write and strike out every word, phrase and clause the
omission of which impairs neither the clearness nor force
Style 1241
of the sentence and so avoid redundancy, tautology and
circumlocution. Give the most important words the most
prominent places, which, as has been pointed out elsewhere,
are the beginning and end of the sentence.
Harmony is that property of style which gives a
smoothness to the sentence, so that when the words are
sounded their connection becomes pleasing to the ear. It
adapts sound to sense. Most people construct their
sentences without giving thought to the way they will
sound and as a consequence we have many jarring and
discordant combinations such as "Thou strengthenedst thy
position and actedst arbitrarily and derogatorily to my
Harsh, disagreeable verbs are liable to occur with the
Quaker form Thou of the personal pronoun. This form is
now nearly obsolete, the plural you being almost universally
used. To obtain harmony in the sentence long words that
are hard to pronounce and combinations of letters of one
kind sh':mld be avoided.
Style is expressive of the writer, as to who he is and
what he is. As a matter of structure in composition it is the
indication of what a man can do; as a matter of quality it is
an indication of what he is.
Style has been classified in different ways, but it admits
of so many designations that it is very hard to enumerate a
table. In fact there are as many styles as there are writers,
for no two authors write exactly after the same form.
However, we may classify the styles of the various authors
in broad divisions as (1) dry, (2) plain, (3) neat, (4) elegant,
(5) florid, (6) bombastic.
The dry style excludes all ornament and makes no effort
~ ~ ____________________________________ S ~ ~ ~ l e
to appeal to any sense of beauty. Its object is simply to
express the thoughts In a correct manner. This style is
exemplified by Berkeley.
The plain style does not seek ornamentation either, but
aims to make clear and concise statements without any
elaboration or embellishment. Locke and Whately illustrate
the plain style.
The neat style only aspires after ornament sparingly.
Its object is to have correct figures, pure diction and clear
and harmonious sentences. Goldsmith and Gray are the
acknowledged leaders in this kind of style.
The elegant style uses every ornament that can beautify
and avoids every excess which would degrade. Macaulay
and Addison have been enthroned as the kings of this style.
To them all writers bend the knee in homage.
The florid style goes to excess in superfluous and
superficial ornamentation and strains after a highly colored
imagery. The poems of Ossian typify this style.
The bombastic is characterized by such an excess of
words, figures and ornaments as to be ridiculous and
disgusting. It is like a circus clown dressed up in gold tinsel
Dickens gives a fine example of it in Sergeant Buzfuz'
speech in the "Pickwick Papers." Among other varieties of
style may be mentioned the colloquial, the laconic, the
concise, the diffuse, the abrupt the flowing, the quaint, the
epigrammatic, the flowery, the feeble, the nervous, the
vehement, and the affected. The manner of these is
sufficiently indicated by the adjective used to describe them.
In fact style is as various as character and expresses the
individuality of the writer, or in other words, as the French
writer Buffon very aptly remarks, "the style is the man
Chapter 10
Rules of grammar and rhetoric are good in their own
place; their laws must be observed in order to express
thoughts and ideas in the right way so that they shall convey
a determinate sense and meaning in a pleasing and
acceptable manner. Hard and fast rules, however, can never
make a writer or author. That is the business of old Mother
Nature and nothing can take her place. If nature has not
endowed a man with faculties to put his ideas into proper
composition he cannot do so. He may have no ideas worthy
the recording.
If a person has not a thought to express, it cannot be
expressed. Something cannot be manufactured out of
nothing. The author must have thoughts and ideas before
he can express them on paper. These come to him by nature
and environment and are developed and strengthened by
study. There is an old Latin quotation in regard to the poet
which says "Poeta nascitur non fit" the translation of which
is-the poet is born, not made. To a great degree the same
applies to the author. Some men are great scholars as far as
book learning is concerned, yet they cannot express
themselves in passable composition. Their knowledge is like
gold locked up in a chest where it is of no value to
themselves or the rest of the world.
________________________________ __ 1S
The best way to learn to write is to sit down and write,
just as the best way how to learn to r.ide a bicycle is to mount
the wheel and pedal away. Write first about common things,
subjects that are familiar to you.
Try for instance an essay on a cat. Say something
original about her. Don't say "she is very playful when
young but becomes grave as she grows old." That has been
said more than fifty thousand times before.
Tell what you have seen the family cat doing, how
she caught a mouse in the garret and what she did after
catching it. Familiar themes are always the best for the
beginner. Don't attempt to describe a scene in Australia
if you have never been there and know nothing of the
Never hunt for subjects, there are thousands around
you. Describe what you saw yesterday - a fire, a runaway
horse, a dog-fight on the street and be original in your
description. Imitate the best writers in their style, but not
in their exact words. Get out of the beaten path, make a
pathway of your own.
Know what you write about, write about what you
know; this is a golden rule to which you must adhere. To
know you must study.
The world is an open book in which all who run may
read. Nature is one great volume the pages of which are
open to the peasant as well as to the peer. Study Nature's
moods and tenses, for they are vastly more important than
those of the grammar.
Book learning is most desirable, but, after all, it is only
theory and not practice. The grandest allegory in the
English, in fact, in any language, was written by an ignorant,
so-called ignorant, tinker named John Bunyan. Shakespeare
was not a scholar in the sense we regard the term to-day,
yet no man ever lived or probably ever will live that
equalled or will equal him in the expression of thought. He
simply read the book of nature and interpreted it from the
standpoint of his own magnificent genius.
Suggestions f245
Don't imagine that a college education is necessary to
success as a writer. Far from it.
Some of our college men are dead-heads, drones,
parasites on the body social, not alone useless to the world
but to themselves. A person may be so ornamental that he
is valueless from any other standpoint. As a ge!leral rule
ornamental things serve but little purpose. A man may
know so much of everything that he knows little of
anything. This may sound paradoxical, but, nevertheless,
experience proves its truth.
If you are poor that is not a detriment but an advantage.
Poverty is an incentive to endeavor, not a drawback. Better
to be born with a good, working brain in your head than
with a gold spoon in your mouth. If the world had been
depending on the so-called pets of fortune it would have
deteriorated long ago.
From the pits of poverty, from the arenas of suffering,
from the hovels of neglect, from the backwood cabins of
obscurity, from the lanes and by-ways of oppression, from
the dingy garrets and basements of unending toil and
drudgery have come men and women who have made
history, made the world brighter, better, higher, holier for
their existence in it, made of it a place good to live in and
worthy to die in, - men and women who have hallowed it
by their footsteps and sanctified it with their presence and
in many cases consecrated it with their blood. Poverty is a
blessing, not an evil, a benison from the Father's hand if
accepted in the right spirit.
Instead of retarding, it has elevated literature in all ages.
Homer was a blind beggarman singing his snatches of song
for the dole of charity; grand old Socrates, oracle of wisdom,
many a day went without his dinner because he had not
the wherewithal to get it, while teaching the youth of
Athens. The divine Dante was nothing better than a beggar,
houseless, homeless, friendless, wandering through Italy
while he composed his immortal cantos. Milton, who in his
blindness "looked where angels fear to tread," was steeped
__________________________________ __ IS
in poverty while writing his sublime conception, "Paradise
Lost." Shakespeare was glad to hold and water the horses
of patrons outside the White Horse Theatre for a few
pennies in order to buy bread. Burns burst forth in never-
dying song while guiding the ploughshare. Poor Heinrich
Heine, neglected and in poverty, from his "mattress grave"
of suffering in Paris added literary laurels to the wreath of
his German Fatherland. In America Elihu Burritt, while
attending the anvil, made himself a master of a score of
languages and became the literary lion of his age and
In other fields of endeavor poverty has been the spur
to action. Napoleon was born in obscurity, the son of a hand-
to-mouth scrivener in the backward island of Corsica.
Abraham Lincoln, the boast and pride of America, the man
who made this land too hot for the feet of slaves, came from
a log cabin in the Ohio backwoods. So did James A. Garfield.
Ulysses Grant came from a tanyard to become the world's
greatest general. Thomas A. Edison commenced as a
newsboy on a railway train.
The examples of these men are incentives to action.
Poverty thrust them forward instead of keeping them back.
Therefore, if you are poor make your circumstances a means
to an end. Have ambition, keep a "goal in sight and bend
every energy to reach that goal. A story is told of Thomas
Carlyle the day he attained the highest honour the literary
world could confer upon him when he was elected Lord
Rector of Edinburgh University.
After his installation speech, in going through the haHs,
he met a student seemingly deep in study. In his own
peculiar, abrupt, crusty way the Sage of Chelsea
interrogated the young man: "For what profession are you
studying?" "I don't know," returned the youth. "You don't
know," thundered Carlyle, "young man, you are a fool."
Then he went on to qualify his vehement remark, "My boy
when I was your age, I was stooped in grinding, gripping
poverty in the little village of Ecclefechan, in the wilds of
Suggestions r247
[Transcriber's note: First part of word illegible ]-frieshire,
where in all the place only the minister and myself could
read the Bible, yet poor and obscure as I was, in my mind's
eye I saw a chair awaiting for me in the Temple of Fame
and day and night and night and day I studied until I sat in
that chair to-day as Lord Rector of Edinburgh University."
Another Scotchman, Robert Buchanan, tne famous
novelist, set out for London from Glasgow with but half-a-
crown in his pocket. "Here goes," said·he, "for a grave in
Westminster Abbey." He was not much of a scholar, but
his ambition carried him on and he became one of the great
literary lions of the world's metropolis.
Henry M. Stanley was a poorhouse waif whose real
name was John Rowlands. He was brought up in a Welsh
workhouse, but he had ambition, so he rose to be a great
explorer, a great writer, became a member of Parliament
and was knighted by the British Sovereign.
Have ambition to succeed and you will succeed. Cut
the word "failure" out of your lexicon. Don't acknowledge
it. Remember
"In life's earnest battle they only prevail
Who daily march onward and never say fail."
Let every obstacle you encounter be but a stepping
stone in the path of onward progress to the goal of success.
If untoward circumstances surround you, resolve to
overcome them. Bunyan wrote the "Pilgrim's Progress" in
Bedford jail on scraps of wrapping paper while he was half
starved on a diet of bread and water. That unfortunate
American genius, Edgar Allan Poe, wrote "The Raven," the
most wonderful conception as well as the most highly
artistic poem in all English literature, in a little cottage in
the Fordham section of New York while he was in the direst
straits of want. Throughout all his short and wonderfully
brilliant career, poor Poe never had a dollar he could call
his own. Such, however, was both his fault and his
misfortune and he is a bad exemplar.
Don't think that the knowledge of a library of books is
__________________________________ __ s
essential to success as a writer. Often a multiplicity of books
is confusing. Master a few good books and master them well
and you will have all that is necessary.
A great authority has said: "Beware of the man of one
book," which means that a man of one book is a master of
the craft. It is claimed that a thorough knowledge of the
Bible alone will make any person a master of literature.
Certain it is that the Bible and Shakespeare constitute
an epitome of the essentials of knowledge. Shakespeare
gathered the fruitage of all who went before him, he has
sown the seeds for all who shall ever come after him. He
was the great intellectual ocean whose waves touch the
continents of all thought.
Books are cheap now-a-days, the greatest works, thanks
to the printing press, are within the reach of all, and the
more you read, the better, provided they are worth reading.
Sometimes a man takes poison into his system unconscious
of the fact that it is poison, as in the case of certain foods,
and it is very hard to throw off its effects.
Therefore, be careful in your choice of reading matter.
If you cannot afford a full library, and as has been said, such
is not necessary, select a few of the great works of the master
minds, assimilate and digest them, so that they will be of
advantage to your literary system. Elsewhere in this volume
is given a list of some of the world's masterpieces from
which you can make a selection.
Your brain is a storehouse, don't put useless furniture
into it to crowd it to the exclusion of what is useful. Lay up
only the valuable and serviceable kind which you can call
into requisition at any moment.
As it is necessary to study the best authors in order to
be a writer, so it is necessary to study the best speakers in
order to talk with correctness and in good style.
To talk rightly you must imitate the masters of oral
speech. Listen to the best conversationalists and how they
express themselves. Go to hear the leading lectures,
speechec:: and sermons. No need to imitate the gestures of
Suggestions 1249
elocution, it is nature, not art, that makes the elocutionist
and the orator. It is not how a speaker expresses himself
but the language which he uses and the manner of its use
which should interest you.
Have you heard the present day masters of speech?
There have been past time masters but their tongues are
stilled in the dust of the grave, and you can only read their
eloquence now. You can, however, the charm of
the living. To many of us voices still speak from the grave,
voices to which we have listened when fired with the divine
essence of speech. Perhaps you have hung with rapture on
the words of Beecher and Talmage.
Both thrilled the souls of men and won countless
thousands over to a living gospel. Both were masters of
words, they scattered the flowers of rhetoric on the shrine
of eloquence and hurled veritable bouquets at their
audiences which were eagerly seized by the latter and
treasured in the storehouse of memory. Both were scholars
and philosophers, yet they were far surpassed by Spurgeon,
a plain man of the people with little or no claim to education
in the modern sense of the word. Spurgeon by his speech
attracted thousands to his Tabernacle.
The Protestant and Catholic, Turk, Jew and
Mohammedan rushed to hear him and listened, entranced,
to his language. Such another was Dwight L. Moody, the
greatest Evangelist the world has ever known. Moody was
not a man of learning; he commenced life as a shoe salesman
in Chicago, yet no man ever lived who drew such audiences
and so fascinated them with the spell of his speech.
"0h, that was personal magnetism," you will say, but
it was nothing of the kind. It was the burning words that'
fell from the lips of these men, and the way, the manner,
the force with which they used those words that counted
and attracted the crowds to listen unto them. Personal
magnetism or personal appearance entered not as factors
into their success. Indeed as far as physique were concerned,
some of them were handicapped.
__________________________________ __ 1S
Spurgeon was a short, podgy, fat little man, Moody was
like a country farmer, Talmage in r-is big cloak was one of
the most slovenly of men and only Beecher was passable in
the way of refinement and gentlemanly bearing. Physical
appearance, as so many think, is not the sesame to the
interest of an audience.
Daniel O'Connell, the Irish tribune, was a homely, ugly,
awkward, ungainly man, yet his words attracted millions
to his side and gained for him the hostile ear of the British
Parliament, he was a master of verbiage and knew just what
to say to captivate his audiences.
It is words and their placing that count on almost all
occasions. No matter how refined in other respects the
person may be, if he use words wrongly and express himself
in language not in accordance with a proper construction,
he will repel you, whereas the man who places his words
correctly and employs language in harmony with the laws
of good speech, let him be ever so humble, will attract and
have an influence over you.
The good speaker, the correct speaker, is always able
to command attention and doors are thrown open to him
which remain closed to others not equipped with a like
facility of expression. The man who can talk well and to
the point need never fear to go idle.
He is required in nearly every walk of life and field of
human endeavor, the world wants him at every turn.
Employers are constantly on the lookout for good talkers,
those who are able to attract the public and convince others
by the force of their language. man may be able, educated,
refined, of unblemished character, nevertheless if he lack
the power to express himself, put forth his views in good
and appropriate speech he has to take a back seat, while
some one with much less ability gets the opportunity to
come to the front because he can clothe his ideas in ready
words and talk effectively.
You may again say that nature, not art, makes a man a
fluent speaker; to a great degree this is true, but it is art
Suggestions f2s1
that makes him a correct speaker, and correctness leads to
fluency. It is possible for everyone to become a correct
speaker if he will but persevere and take a little pains and
At the risk of repetition good advice may be here
emphasized: Listen to the best speakers and note carefully
the words which impress you most. Keep a notebook and
jot down words, phrases, sentences that are in any way
striking or out of the ordinary run.
If you do not understand the exact meaning of a word
you have heard, look it up in the dictionary. There are many
words, called synonyms, \"lhich have almost a like
signification, nevertheless, when examined they express
different shades of meaning and in some cases, instead of
being close related, are widely divergent. Beware of such
words, find their exact meaning and learn to use them in
their right places.
Be open to criticism, don't resent it but rather invite it
and look upon those as friends who point out your defects
in order that you may remedy them.
Chapter 11
Slang is more or less common in nearly all ranks of
society and in every walk of life at the present day. Slang
words and expressions have crept into our everyday
language, and so insiduously, that they have not been
detected by the great majority of speakers, and so have
become part and parcel of their vocabulary on an equal
footing with the legitimate words of speech.
They are called upon to do similar service as the
ordinary words used in everyday conversation -to express
thoughts and desires and convey meaning from one to
another. In fact, in some cases, slang has become so useful
that it has far outstripped classic speech and made for itself
such a position in the vernacular that it would be very hard
in some cases to get along without it. Slang words have
usurped the place of regular words of language in very
many instances and reign supreme in their own strength
and influence.
Cant and slang are often confused in the popular mind,
yet they are not synonymous, though very closely allied,
and proceeding from a common Gypsy origin. Cant is the
language of a certain class-the peculiar phraseology or
dialect of a certain craft, trade or profession, and is not
readily understood save by the initiated of such craft, trade
or profession. It may be correct, according to the rules of
Slang I2s3
grammar, but it is not universal; it is confined to certain
parts and localities and is only intelligible to those for whom
it is intended. In short, it is an esoteric language which only
the initiated can understand. The jargon, or patter, of thieves
is cant and it is only understood by thieves who have been
let into its significance; the initiated language of professional
gamblers is cant, and is only intelligible to gamblers.
On the other hand, slang, as it is nowadays, belongs to
no particular class but is scattered all over and gets entre
into every kind of society and is 'mderstood by all where it
passes current in everyday expression. Of course, the nature
of the slang, to a great extent, depends upon the locality, as
it chiefly is concerned with colloquialisms or words and
phrases common to a particular section. For instance, the
slang of London is slightly different from that of New York,
and some words in the one city may be unintelligible in
the other, though well understood in that in which they are
current. Nevertheless, slang may be said to be universally
understood. liTo kick the bucket," lito cross the Jordan," lito
hop the twig" are just as expressive of the departing from
life in the backwoods of America or the wilds of Australia
as they are in London or Dublin.
Slang simply consists of words and phrases which pass
current but are not refined, nor elegant enough, to be
admitted into polite speech or literature whenever they are
recognized as such. But, as has been said, a great many use
slang without their !mowing it as slang and incorporate it
into their everyday speech and conversation.
Some authors purposely use slang tp give emphasis and
spice in familiar and humorous writirtg, but they should
not be imitated by the tyro. A master, such as Dickens, is
forgivable, but in the novice it is unpardonable.
There are several kinds of slang attached to different
professions and classes of society. For instance, there is
college slang, political slang, sporting slang, etc. It is the
nature of slang to circulate freely among all classes, yet there
are several kinds of this current form of language
~ ~ ____________________________ ~ ____ S _ l a _ n ~ g
corresponding to the several classes of society. The two
great divisions of slang are the vulgar of the uneducated
and coarse-minded, and the high-toned slang of the so-
called upper classes-the educated and the wealthy.
The hoyden of the gutter does not use the same slang
as my lady in her boudoir, but both use it, and so expressive
is it that the one might readily understand the other if
brought in contact. Therefore, there are what may be styled
an ignorant slang and an educated slang-the one common
to the purlieus and the alleys, the other to the parlor and
the drawing-room.
In all cases the object of slang is to express an idea in a
more vigorous, piquant and terse manner than standard
usage ordinarily admits. A school girl, when she wants to
praise a baby, exclaims: "Oh, isn't he awfully cute!" To say
that he is very nice would be too weak a way to express
her admiration. When a handsome girl appears on the street
an enthusiastic masculine admirer, to express his
appreciation of her beauty, tells you: "She is a peach, a bird,
a cuckoo," any of which accentuates his estimation of the
young lady and is much more emphatic than saying: "She
is a beautiful girl," "a handsome maiden," or "lovely young
When a politician defeats his rival he will tell you "it
was a cinch," he had a "walk-over," to impress you how
easy it was to gain the victory.
Some slang expressions are of the nature of metaphors
and are highly figurative. Such are "to pass in your checks,"
"to hold up," "to pull the wool over your eyes," "to talk
through your hat," "to fire out," "to go back on," "to make
yourself solid with," "to have a jag on," "to be loaded," "to
freeze on to," "to bark up the wrong tree," "don't monkey
with the buzz-saw," and "in the soup." Most slang had a
bad origin. The greater part originated in the cant of thieves'
Latin, but it broke away from this cant of malefactors in time
and gradually evolved itself from its unsavory past until it
developed into a current form of expressive speech. Some
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
slang, however, can trace its origin back to very respectable
"Stolen fruits are sweet" may be traced to the Bible in
sentiment. Proverbs, ix:17 has it: "Stolen waters are sweet."
"What are you giving me," supposed to be a thorough
Americanism, is based upon Genesis, xxxviii:16. The
common slang, "a bad man," in referring to Western
desperadoes, in almost the identical sense now used, is
found in Spenser's Faerie Queen, Massinger's play "A New
Way to Pay Old Debts," and in Shakespeare's "King Henry
VIII." The expression "to blow on," meaning to inform, is
in Shakespeare's" As You Like it." "It's all Greek to me" is
traceable to the play of "Julius Caesar." "All cry and no
wool" is in Butler's "Hudibras." "Pious frauds," meaning
hypocrites, is from the same source. "Too thin," referring
to an excuse, is from Smollett's "Peregrine Pickle."
Shakespeare also used it.
America has had a large share in contributing to
modern slang. "The heathen Chinee," and "Ways that are
dark, and tricks that are vain," are from Bret Harte's
Truthful James. "Not for Joe," arose during the Civil War
when one soldier refused to give a drink to another. "Not
if I know myself" had its origin in Chicago. "What's the
matter with - - ?
He's all right," had its beginning in Chicago also and
first was "What's the matter with Hannah." referring to a
lazy domestic servant. "There's millions in it," and "By a
large majority" come from Mark Twain's Gilded Age. "Pull
down your vest," "jim-jams," "got 'em bad," "that's what's
the matter," "go hire a hall," "take in your sign," "dry up,"
"hump yourself," "it's the man around the comer," "putting
up a job," "put a head on him," "no back talk," "bottom
dollar," "went off on his ear," "chalk it down," "staving him
off," "making it warm," "dropping him gently," "dead
gone," "busted," "counter jumper," "put up or shut up,"
"bang up," "smart Aleck," "too much jaw," "chin-music,"
"top heavy," "barefooted on the top of the head," "a little
~ ~ __________________________________ S _ l a _ n ~ g
too fresh," "champion liar," "chief cook and bottle washer,"
"bag and baggage," "as fine as silk," "name your poison,"
"died with his boots on," "old hoss," "hunkey dorey," "hold
your horses," "galout" and many others in use at present
are all Americanisms in slang.
California especially has been most fecund in this class
of figurative language. To this State we owe "go off and
die," "don't you forget it," "rough deal," "square deaL"
"flush times," "pool your issues," "go bury yourself," "go
drown yourself," "give your tongue a vacation," "a bad
egg," "go climb a tree," "plug hats," "Dolly Vardens," "well
fixed," "down to bed rock," "hard pan," "pay dirt," "petered
out," "it won't wash," "slug of whiskey," "it pans out well,"
and "I should smile."
"Small potatoes, and few in the hill," "soft snap," "all
fired," "gol durn it," "an up-hill job," "slick," "short cut,"
"guess not," "correct thing" are Bostonisms. The terms
"innocent," "acknowledge the corn," "bark up the wrong
tree," "great snakes," "I reckon," "playing 'possum," "dead
shot," had their origin in the Southern States. "Doggone it,"
"that beats the Dutch," "you bet," "you bet your boots,"
sprang from New York. "Step down and out" originated in
the Beecher trial, just as "brain-storm" originated in the
Thaw trial.
Among the slang phrases that have come directly to us
from England may be mentioned "throw up the sponge,"
"draw it mild," "give us a rest," "dead beat," "on the shelf,"
"up the spout," "stunning," "gift of the gab," etc.
The newspapers are responsible for a large part of the
slang. Reporters, staff writers, and even editors, put words
and phrases into the mouths of individuals which they
never utter. New York is supposed to be the headquarters
of slang, particularly that portion of it known as the Bowery.
All transgressions and corruptions of language are
supposed to originate in that unclassic section, while the
truth is that the laws of polite English are as much violated
on Fifth Avenue. Of course, the foreign element mincing
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - ~
their "pidgin" English have given the Bowery an unenviable
reputation, but there are just as good speakers of the
vernacular on the Bowery as elsewhere in the greater city.
Yet every inexperienced newspaper reporter thinks that
it is incumbent on him to hold the Bowery,up to ridicule
and laughter, so he sits down, and out of his circumscribed
brain, mutilates the English tongue (he can rarely coin a
word), and blames the mutilation on the Bowery.
'Tis the same with newspapers and authors, too,
detracting the Irish race. Men and women who have never
seen the green h!11s of Ireland, paint Irish characters as boors
and blunderers and make them say ludicrous things and
use such language as is never heard within the four walls
of Ireland. 'Tis very well known that Ireland is the most
learned country on the face of the earth - is, and has been.
The schoolmaster has been abroad there for hundreds,
almost thousands, of years, and nowhere else in the world
to-day is the king's English spoken so purely as in the cities
and towns of the little Western Isle.
Current events, happenings of everyday life, often give
rise to slang words, and these, after a time, come into such
general use that they take their places in everyday speech
like ordinary words and, as has been said, their users forget
that they once were slang.
For instance, the days of the Land League in Ireland
originated the word boycott, which was the name of a very
unpopular landlord, Captain Boycott. The people refused
to work for him, and his crops rotted on the ground. From
this time anyone who came into disfavor and whom his
neighbors refused to assist in any way was said to be
boycotted. Therefore to boycott means to punish by
abandoning or depriving a person of the assistance of
others. At first it was a notoriously slang word, but now it
is standard in the English dictionaries.
Politics add to our slang words and phrases. From this
source we get "dark horse," "the gray mare is the better
horse," "barrel of money," "buncombe," "gerrymander,"
~ _________________________________ S l _ a ~ l l g ~
"scalawag," "henchman," "logrolling," "pulling the wires,"
"taking the stump," "machine," "slate," etc.
The money market furnishes us with "corner," "bull,"
"bear," "lamb," "slump," and several others.
The custom of the times and the requirements of
current expression require the best of us to use slang words
and phrases on occasions. Often we do not know they are
slang, just as a child often uses profane words without
consciousness of their being so.
We should avoid the use of slang as much as possible,
even when it serves to convey our ideas in a forceful
manner. And when it has not gained a firm foothold in
current speech it should be used not at all. Remember that
most all slang is of vulgar origin and bears upon its face
the bend sinister of vulgarity.
Of the slang that is of good birth, pass it by if you can,
for it is like a broken-down gentleman, of little good to any
one. Imitate the great masters as much as you will in
classical literature, but when it comes to their slang, draw
the line. Dean Swift, the great Irish satirist, coined the word
"phiz" for face.
Don't imitate him. If you are speaking or writing of the
beauty of a lady's face don't call it her "phiz." The Dean, as
an intellectual giant, had a license to do so-you haven't.
Shakespeare used the word "flush" to indicate plenty of
Well, just remember there was only one Shakespeare,
and he was the only one that had a right to use that word
in that sense. You'll never be a Shakespeare, there will never
be such another-Nature exhausted herself in producing
him. Bulwer used the word "stretch" for hang, as to stretch
his neck.
Don't follow his example in such use of the word.
Above all, avoid the low, coarse, vulgar slang, which is
made to pass for wit among the riff-raff of the street. If you
are speaking or writing of a person having died last night
don't say or w'rite: "He hopped the twig," or "he kicked
Slang [259'
the bucket." If you are compelled to listen to a person
discoursing on a subject of which he knows little or nothing,
don't say "He is talking through his hat." If you are telling
of having shaken hands with Mr. Roosevelt don't say "He
tipped me his flipper." If you are speaking of a wealthy man
don't say "He has plenty of spondulix," or "the long green."
All such slang is low, coarse and vulgar and is to be frowned
upon on any and every occasion.
If you use slang use the refined kind and use it like a
gentleman, that it will not hurt or give offense to anyone.
Cardinal Newman defined a gentleman as he who never
inflicts pain. Be a gentleman in your slang-never inflict
Chapter 12
Writing for Newspapers
The newspaper nowadays goes into every home in the
land; what was formerly regarded as a luxury is now looked
upon as a necessity. No matter how poor the individual, he
is not too poor to afford a penny to learn, not alone what is
taking place around him in his own immediate vicinity, but
also. what is happening in every quarter of the globe.
The laborer on the street can be as well posted on the
news of the day as the banker in his office. Through the
newspaper he can feel the pulse of the country and find
whether its vitality is increasing or diminishing; he can read
the signs of the times and scan the political horizon for what
concerns his own interests.
The doings of foreign countries are spread before him
and he can see at a glance the occurrences in the remotest
corners of earth. If a fire occurred in London last night he
can read about it at his breakfast table in New York this
morning, and probably get a better account than the
Londoners themselves: If a duel takes place in Paris he can
read all about it even before the contestants have left the
There are upwards of 3,000 daily newspapers in the
U ! l ~ t e d States, more than 2,000 of which are published in
t@wns containing less than 100,000 inhabitants. In fact, many
Writing for Newspapers I26l
places of less than 10,000 population can boast the
publishing of a daily newspaper. There are more than 15,000
weeklies published. Some of the so-called country papers
wield quite an influence in their localities, and even outside,
and are money-making agencies for their owners and those
connected with them, both by way of circulation and
It is surprising the number of people in this country
who make a living in the newspaper field. Apart from the
regular toilers there are thousands of men and women who
make newspaper work a side issue, who add tidy sums of
"pin money" to their incomes by occasional contributions
to the daily, weekly and monthly press. Most of these people
are only persons of ordinary, everyday ability, having just
enough education to express themselves intelligently in
It is a mistake to imagine, as so many do, that an
extended education is necessary for newspaper work. Not
at all! On the contrary, in some cases, a high-class education
is a hindrance, not a help in this direction.
The general newspaper does not want learned
disquisitions nor philosophical theses; as its name implies,
it wants news, current news, interesting news, something
to appeal to its readers, to arouse them and rivet their
attention. In this respect very often a boy can write a better
article than a college professor. The professor would be apt
to use words beyond the capacity of most of the readers,
while the boy, not knowing such words, would probably
simply tell what he saw, how great the damage was, who
were killed or injured, etc., and use language which all
would understand.
Of course, there are some brilliant scholars, deeply-read
men and women in the newspaper realm, but, on the whole,
those who have made the greatest names commenced
ignorant enough and most of them graduated by way of
the country paper. Some of the leading writers of England
and America at the present time started their literary careers
~ _____________ W_ri_ti_ll,",-g,-fo_r._N_e"l_(_'s,-pa-,-p_e_rs
by contributing to the rural press. They perfected and
polished themselves as they went along until they were able
to make names for themselves in universal literature.
If you want to contribute to newspapers or enter the
newspaper field as a means of livelihood, don't let lack of a
college or university education stand in your way. As has
been said elsewhere in this book, some of the greatest
masters of English literature were men who had but little
advantage in the way of book learning. Shakespeare,
Bunyan, Burns, and scores of others, who have left their
names indelibly inscribed on the tablets of fame, had little
to boast of in the way of book education, but they had what
is popularly known as "horse" sense and a good working
knowledge of the world; in other words, they understood
human nature, and were natural themselves.
Shakespeare understood mankind because he was
himself a man; hence he has portrayed the feelings, the
emotions, the passions with a master's touch, delineating
the king in his palace as true to nature as he has done the
peasant in his hut.
The monitor within his own breast gave him warning
as to what was right and what was wrong, just as the
daemon ever by the side of old Socrates whispered in his
ear the course to pursue under any and all circumstances.
Burns guiding the plough conceived thoughts and clothed
them in a language which has never, nor probably never
will be, surpassed by all the learning which art can confer.
These men were naturat and it was the perfection of this
naturality that wreathed their brows with the never-fading
laurels of undying fame.
If you would essay to write for the newspaper you must
be natural and express yourself in your accustomed way
without putting on airs or frills; you must not ape ornaments
and indulge in bombast or rhodomontade which stamp a
writer as not only superficial but silly.
There is no room for such in the everyday newspaper.
It wants facts stated in plain, unvarnished, unadorned
Writingfor Newspapers r263
language. True, you should read the best authors and, as
far as possible, imitate their style, but don't try to literally
copy them. Be yourself on every occasion-no one else.
Not like Homer would I write,
Not like Dante if I might,
Not like Shakespeare at his best,
Not like Goethe or the rest,
Like myself, however small,
Like myself, or not at all.
Put yourself in place of the reader and write what will
interest yourself and in such a way that your language will
appeal to your own ideas of the fitness of things. You belong
to the great commonplace majority, therefore don't forget
that in writing for the newspapers you are writing for that
majority and not for the learned and aesthetic minority.
Remember you are writing for the man on the street
and in the street car, you want to interest him, to compel
him to read what you have to say. He does not want a
display of learning; he wants news about something which
concerns himself, and you must tell it to him in a plain,
simple manner just as you would do if you were face to
face with him.
What can you write about? Why about anything that
will constitute current news, some leading event of the day,
anything 'that will appeal to the readers of the paper to
which you wish to submit it. No matter in what locality you
may live, however backward it may be, you can always find
something of genuine human interest to others.
If there is no news happening, write of something that
appeals to yourself. We are all constituted alike, and the
chances are that what will interest you will interest others.
Descriptions of adventure are generally acceptable. Tell of
a fox hunt, or a badger hunt, or a bear chase.
If there is any important manufacturing plant in your
neighborhood describe it and, if possible, get photographs,
for photography plays a very important part in the news
items of to-day. If a "great" man lives near you, one whose
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name is on the tip of every tongue, go and get an interview
with him, obtain his views on the public questions of the
day, describe his home life and his surroundings and how-
he spends his time.
Try and strike something germane to the moment,
something that stands out prominently in the ljmelight of
the passing show. If a noted personage, some famous man
or woman, is visiting the country, it is a good time to write
up the place from which he or she comes and the record he
or she has made there.
For instance, it was opportune to write of Sulu and the
little Pacific archipelago during the Sultan's trip through
the country. If an attempt is made to blow up an American
battleship, say, in the harbor of Appia, in Samoa, it affords
a chance to write about Samoa and Robert Louis
When Manuel was hurled from the throne of Portugal
it was a ripe time to write of Portugal and Portuguese affairs.
If any great occurrence is taking place in a foreign country
such as the crowning of a king or the dethronement of a
monarch, it is a good time to write up the history of the
country and describe the events leading up to the main
issue. When a particularly savage outbreak occurs amongst
wild tribes in the dependencies, such as a rising of the
MaI\obos in the Philippines, it is opportune to write of such
tribes and their surroundings, and the causes leading up to
the revolt.
Be constantly on the lookout for something that will
suit the passing hour, read the daily papers and probably
in some obscure corner you may find something that will
serve you as a foundation for a good article-something, at
least, that will give you a clue.
Be circumspect in your selection of a paper to which to
submit your copy. Know the tone and general import of the
paper, its social leanings and political affiliations, also its.
religious sentiments, and, in fact, all the particulars you can
regardi,:,g it. It would be injudicious for you to send an
Writing/or Newspapers f265
article on a prize fight to a religious paper or, vice versa, an
account of a church meeting to the editor of a sporting sheet.
If you get your copy back don't be disappointed nor
yet disheartened. Perseverance counts more in the
newspaper field than anywhere else, and only perseverance
wins in the long run. You must become resilient; if you are
pressed down, spring up again. No matter how many
rebuffs you may receive, be not discouraged but call fresh
energy to your assistance and make another stand. If the
right stuff is in you it is sure to be discovered; your light
will not remain long hidden under a bushel in the
newspaper domain. If you can deliver the goods editors will
soon be begging you instead of your begging them. Those
men are constantly on the lookout for persons who can
make good.
Once you get into print the battle is won, for it will be
an incentive to you to persevere and improve yourself at
every turn. Go over everything you write, cut and slash and
prune until you get it into as perfect form as possible.
Eliminate every superfluous word and be careful to strike
out all ambiguous expressions and references.
If you are writing for a weekly paper remember it
differs from a daily one. Weeklies want what will not alone
interest the man on the street, but the woman at the fireside;
they want out-of-the-way facts, curious scraps of lore,
personal notes of famous or eccentric people, reminiscences
of exciting experiences, interesting gleanings in life's
numberless by-ways, in short, anything that will entertain,
amuse, instruct the home circle.
There is always something occurring in your immediate
surroundings, some curious event or thrilling episode that
will furnish you with data for an article. You must know
the nature of the weekly to which you submit your copy
the same as you must know the daily. For instance, the
Christian Herald, while avowedly a religious weekly, treats
such secular matter as makes the paper appeal to all. On its
religious side it is non-sectarian, covering the broad field
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of Christianity throughout the world; on its secular side it
deals with human events in such an impartial way that
everyone, no matter to what class they may belong or to
what creed they may subscribe, can take a living, personal
The monthlies offer another attractive field for the
literary aspirant. Here, again, don't think you must be an
university professor to write for a monthly magazine. Many,
indeed most, of the foremost magazine contributors are men
and women who have never passed through a college
except by going in at the front door and emerging from the
back one. However, for the most part, they are individuals
of wide experience who know the practical side of life as
distinguished from the theoretical.
The ordinary monthly magazine treats of the leading
questions and issues which are engaging the attention of
the world for the moment, great inventions, great
discoveries, whatever is engrossing the popular mind for
the time being, such as flying machines, battleships, sky-
scrapers, the opening of mines, the development of new
lands, the political issues, views of party leaders, character
sketches of distinguished personages, etc. However, before
trying your skill for a monthly magazine it would be well
for you to have a good apprenticeship in writing for the
daily press.
Above all things, remember that perseverance is the key
that opens the door of success. Persevere! If you are turned
down don't get disheartened; on the contrary, let the rebuff
act as a stimulant to further effort. Many of the most
successful writers of our time have been turned down again
and again. For days and months, and even years, some of
them have hawked their wares from one literary door to
another until they found a purchaser. You may be a great
writer in embryo, but you will never develop into a fetus,
not to speak of full maturity, unless you bring out what is
in you. Give yourself a chance to grow and seize upon
everything that will enlarge the scope of your horizon. Keep
Writingfor Newspapers [267"
your eyes wide open and there is not a moment of the day
in which you will not see something to interest you and in
which you may be able to interest others.
Learn, too, how to read Nature's book. There's a lesson
in everything - in the stones, the grass, the trees, the
babbling brooks and the singing birds. Interpret the lesson
for yourself, then teach it to others. Always be in earnest in
your writing; go about it in a determined kind of way, don't
be faint-hearted or backward, be brave, be brave, and
evermore be brave.
On the wide, tented field in the battle of life,
With an army of millions before you;
Like a hero of old gird your soul for the strife
And let not the foeman tramp o'er you;
Act, act like a soldier and proudly rush on
The most valiant in Bravery's van,
With keen, flashing sword cut your way to the front
And show to the world you're a Man.
If you are of the masculine gender be a man in all things
in the highest and best acceptation of the word. That is the
noblest title you can boast, higher far than that of earl or
duke, emperor or king. In the same way womanhood is the
grandest crown the feminine head can wear. When the
world frowns on you and everything seems to go wrong,
possess your soul in patience and hope for the dawn of a
brighter day.
It will come. The sun is always shining behind the
darkest clouds. When you get your manuscripts back again
and again) don't despair, nor think the editor cruel and
unkind. He, too, has troubles of his own. Keep up your
spirits until you have made the final test and put your
talents to a last analysis, then if you find you cannot get
into print be sure that newspaper writing or literary work
is not your forte, and turn to something else.
If nothing better presents itself, try shoem3.king or
digging ditches. Remember honest labour, no matter how
humble, is ever dignified. If you are a woman throw aside
__________________________ VV; __ __
the pen, sit down and darn your brother's, your father's, or
your husband's socks, or put on a calico apron, take soap
and water and scrub the floor.
No matter who you are do something useful. That old
sophistry about the world owing you a living has been
exploded long ago.
The world does not owe you a living, but you owe it
servitude, and if you do not pay the debt you are not serving
the purpose of an all-wise Providence and filling the place
for which you were created.
It is for you to serve the world, to make it better,
brighter, higher, holier, grander, nobler, richer, for your
having lived in it. This you can do in no matter what
position fortune has cast you, whether it be that of street
laborer or president. Fight the good fight and gain the
"Above all, to thine own self be true,
And 'twill follow as the night the
day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. "
Chapter 13
Choice of Words
In another place in this book advice has been given to
never use a long word when a short one will serve the same
purpose. This advice is to be emphasized. Words of "learned
length and thundering sound" should be avoided on all
possible occasions.
They proclaim shallowness of intellect and vanity of
mind. The great purists, the masters of diction, the
exemplars of style, used short, simple words that all could
understand; words about which there could be no
ambiguity as to meaning. It must be remembered that by
our words we teach others; therefore, a very great
responsibility rests upon us in regard to the use of a right
We must take care that we think and speak in a way so
clear that there may be no misapprehension or danger of
conveying wrong impressions by vague and misty ideas
enunciated in terms which are liable to be misunderstood
by those whom we address. Words give a body or form to
our ideas, without which they are apt to be so foggy that
we do not see where they are weak or false.
We must make the endeavor to employ such words as
will put the idea we have in our own mind into the mind
of another. This is the greatest art in the world-to clothe
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our ideas in words clear and comprehensive to the
intelligence of others. It is the art which the teacher, the
minister, the the orator, the business man, must
master if they would command success in their various
fields of endeavor.
It is very hard to convey an idea to, and impress it on,
another when he has but a faint conception of the language
in which the idea is expressed; but it is impossible to convey
it at all when the words in which it is clothed are
unintelligible to the listener.
If we address an audience of ordinary men and women
in the English language, but use such words as they cannot
comprehend, we might as well speak to them in Coptic or
Chinese, for they will derive no benefit from our address,
inasmuch as the ideas we wish to convey are expressed in
words which communicate no intelligent meaning to their
Long words, learned words, words directly derived
from other languages are only understood by those who
have had the advantages of an extended education. All have
not had such advantages.
The great majority in this grand and glorious country
of ours have to hustle for a living from an early age. Though
education is free, and compulsory also, very many never
get further than the "Three R's." These are the men with
whom we have to deal most in the arena of life, the men
with the horny palms and the iron muscles, the men who
build our houses, construct our railroads, drive our street
cars and trains, till our fields, harvest our crops - in a word,
the men who form the foundation of all society, the men
on whom the world depends to make its wheels go round.
The language of the colleges and universities is not fol'
them and they can get along very well without it; they have
no need for it at all in their respective callings. The plain,
simple words of everyday life, to which the common people
have been used around their own firesides from childhood,
are the words we must use in our dealings with them.
Choice of Words f271
Such words are understood by them and understood
by the learned as well; why then not use them universally
and all the time? Why make a one-sided affair of language
by using words which only one class of the people, the so-
called learned class, can understand? Would it not be better
to use, on all occasions, language which the both classes
can understand?
If we take the trouble to investigate we shall find that
the men who exerted the greatest sway over the masses and
the multitude as orators, lawyers, preachers and in other
public capacities, were men who used very simple language.
Daniel Webster was among the greatest orators this country
has produced. He touched the hearts of senates and
assemblages, of men and women with the burning
eloquence of his words.
He never used a long word when he could convey the
same, or nearly the same, meaning with a short one. When
he made a speech he always told those who put it in form
for the press to strike out every long word. Study his
speeches, go over all he ever said or wrote, and you will
find that his language was always made up of short, clear,
strong terms, although at times, for the sake of sound and
oratorical effect, he was compelled to use a rather long
word, but it was always against his inclination to do so, and
where was the man who could paint, with words, as
Webster painted!
He could picture things in a way so clear that those who
heard him felt that they had seen that of which he spoke.
Abraham Lincoln was another who stirred the souls of
men, yet he was not an orator, not a scholar; he did not write
M.A. or Ph.D. after his name, or any other college degree,
for he had none. He graduated from the University of Hard
Knocks, and he never forgot this severe Alma Mater when
he became President of the United States.
He was just as plain, I just as humble, as in the days
when he split rails or plied a boat on the Sangamon. He
ciid not use big words, but he used the words of the people,
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and in such a way as to make them beautiful. His Gettysburg
address is an English classic, one of the great masterpieces
of the language.
From the mere fact that a word is short it does not
follow that it is always clear, but it is true that nearly all
clear words are short, and that most of the long words,
especially those which we get from other languages, are
misunderstood to a great extent by the ordinary rank and
file of the people. Indeed, it is to be doubted if some of the
"scholars" using them, fully understand their import on
A great many such words admit of several
interpretations. A word has to be in use a great deal before
people get thoroughly familiar with its meaning. Long
words, not alone obscure thought and make the ideas hazy,
but at times they tend to mix up things in such a way that
positively harmful results follow from their use.For
instance, crime can be so covered with the folds of long
words as to give it a different appearance.
Even the hideousness of sin can be cloaked with such
words until its outlines look like a thing of beauty. When a
bank cashier makes off with a hundred thousand dollars
we politely term his crime defalcation instead of plain theft,
and instead of calling himself a thief we grandiosely allude
to him as a defaulter. When we see a wealthy man
staggering along a fashionable thoroughfare ,under the
influence of alcohol, waving his arms in the air and shouting
boisterously, we smile and say, poor gentleman, he is
somewhat exhilarated; or at worst we say, he is slightly
inebriated; but when we see a poor man who has fallen from
grace by putting an "enemy into his mouth to steal away
his brain" we express our indignation in the simple
language of the words: "Look at the wretch; he is dead
When we find a person in downright lying we cover
the falsehood with the finely-spun cloak of the word
prevarication. Shakespeare says, "a rose by any other name
Choice of Words rm
would smell as sweet," and by a similar sequence, a lie, no
matter by what name you may call it, is always a lie and
should be condemned; then why not simply call it a lie?
Mean what you say and say what you mean; call a spade a
spade, it is the best term you can apply to the implement.
When you try to use short words and shun long ones
. in a little while you will find that you can do so with ease.
A farmer was showing a horse to a city-bred gentleman.
The animal was led into a paddock in which an old sow-
pig was rooting. "What a fine quadruped!" exclaimed the
city man.
"Which of the two do you mean, the pig or the horse?"
queried the farmer, "for, in my opinion, both of them are
fine quadrupeds."
Of course the visitor meant the horse, so it wpuld have
been much better had he called the animal by its simple;
ordinary name-, there would have been no room for
ambiguity in his remark. He profited, however, by the
incident, and never called a horse a quadruped again.
Most of the small words, the simple words, the
beautiful words which express so much within small
bounds belong to the pure Anglo-Saxon element of our
language. This element has given names to the heavenly
bodies, the sun, moon and stars; to three out of the four
elements, e a r t h ~ fire and water; three out of the four seasons,
spring, summer and winter.
Its simple words are applied to all the natural divisions
of time, except one, as day, night, morning, evening,
twilight, noon, mid-day, midnight, sunrise and sunset. The
names of light, heat, cold, frost, rain, snow, hail, sleet,
thunder, lightning, as well as almost all those objects which
form the component parts of the beautiful, as expressed in
external scenery, such as sea and land, hill and dale, wood
and stream, etc., are Anglo-Saxon. To this same language
we are indebted for those words which express the earliest
and dearest connections, and the strongest and most
powerful feelings of Nature, and which, as a consequence, .
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are interwoven with the fondest and most hallowed
associations. Of such words are father, mother, husband,
wife, brother, sister, son, daughter, child, home, kindred,
friend, hearth( roof and fireside.
The chief emotions of which we are susceptible are
expressed in the same language-love, hope, fear, sorrow,
shame, and also the outward signs by which these emotions
are indicated, as tear, smile, laugh, blush, weep, sigh, groan.
Nearly all our national proverbs are Anglo-Saxon. Almost
all the terms and phrases by which we most energetically
express anger, contempt and indignation are of the same
What are known as the Smart Set and so-called polite
society, are relegating a great many of our old Anglo-Saxon
words into the shade, faithful friends who served their
ancestors well. These self-appointed arbiters of diction
regard some of the Anglo-Saxon words as too coarse, too
plebeian for their aesthetic tastes and refined ears, so they
are eliminating them from their vocabulary and replacing
them with mongrels of foreign birth and hybrids of
unknown origin.
For the ordinary people, however, the man in the street
or in the' field, the woman in the kitchen or in the factory,
they are still tried and true and, like old friends, should be
cherished and preferred to all strangers, no matter from
what source the latter may spring.

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