Grammar Dos and Don’ts

  
1. Do not begin sentences with pronouns.
 
Reasons: Pronouns are not as clear as referencing the noun. Consistency is also and issue.
 
Examples of the mistake: This is the rule.  At three, he went home.
 
2. Spell out contractions
 
Reasons: Contractions are informal, and some teachers do not like them. Making contractions everywhere you can is often difficult—spelling them out is easier to do consistently.
 
Example of the mistake: It’s a rule that you cannot break pool sticks.
Fix: It is a rule that you cannot break pool sticks.
 
3. Do not overuse words like “however”
 
Reasons: Students tend to use word such as “however” often in papers, and the redundancy is hard to miss. Shorter words such as “but” can sneak by a little more often. You should vary your sentence structure, so you are not forced to use conjunctions and/or interjections.
 
4. Avoid using the word “get” in all of its conjugations
 
Reason: You need to be using better verbs.
 
Example of mistake: I got a book from my teacher.
Fix: I received a book from my teacher.
 
5. Stay away from using phrases such as “I think” and “I believe”
 
Reasons: Generally, these phrases are unnecessary the opinions in the paper should be your own and when they are not you must clearly attribute the quotes and paraphrase.
 
Example of mistake: I think that you are wrong.
Fix: You are wrong.
 
6. Make your verbs active, not passive
 
Reasons: Passive voice lacks efficiency and immediacy.
 
Examples of the mistake: The dog was walked by me.
Fixes: I walked the dog.
 
7. Also, keep from using phrases such as “there are” and “it is”
 
Reason: These statements lack efficiency.
 
Example of mistake: It is Chris who runs the office.
Fix: Chris runs the office.
 
8. Limit the amount of questions that you ask in a paper to one, if that.
 
Reasons: Students tend to ask questions when writing the paper. The reader does not have to know about the process of writing the paper; they need to know your answers.
 
9. Eliminate words such as “very,” “just,” “really,” etc. from your writing.
 
Reason: These words do not add meaning.
 
10. Do not use absolutes such as “all,” “everyone,” “always,” “never,” etc.
 
Reason: Absolutes can cause your argument to be flawed.
 
11. Employ gender-neutral terms and be politically correct.
 
Reasons: You want to neither offend nor belittle a group of people.
 
Examples of mistake: The fireman slide down the pole and grabbed his hat. Thanksgiving celebrates the Indians and Pilgrims’ harvest.
Fixes: The firefighter slid down the pole and grabbed his or her hat.  Thanksgiving celebrates the Native Americans and Pilgrims’ harvest.
 
12. If you put a dash in your paper, use the symbol for a dash (--) instead of a hyphen (-)
 
Reasons: A hyphen is a different type of punctuation and they are not interchangeable.
 
Example of mistake: The student-teacher’s assignment makes no sense-I will ask her about it.
Fix: The student-teacher’s assignment makes no sense—I will ask her about it.
 
13. An ellipsis is three spaced dots.
 
Reasons: MLA formats the ellipsis as three spaced dots, and we apply MLA style in this class.
 
Good Example: I was going down the road . . . going where the water tasted like wine.
 
14. Limit your usage of the verb “is” and its varied conjugations.
 
Reason: You can avail yourself of better verbs and limit unnecessary repetition.
 
15. Ensure that you are using the words “that” and “who” correctly.
 
Reasons: “That” qualifies ideas and things while “who” restricts people.
 
Example of mistake: The doctor that put my arm in a cast has broken his arm.
Fix: The doctor who put my arm in a cast has broken his arm.
 
16. Keep from using words such as “possibly,” “probably,” “seems,” “appears,” etc.
 
Reasons: These words make you sound less than sure about your argument, thereby weakening your argument.
 
Example of Mistake: The stereotype is possibly due to the elephant being Republican party’s symbol.
Fix: The stereotype is due to the elephant being the Republican party’s symbol.
 
17. Exclamation points have no place in academic writing.
 
Reason: Your MLA Handbook reads “[e]xcept in direct quotation, avoid exclamation points in research writing."
 
18. You do not need to use the word “obviously.”
 
Reasons: You need to be explaining why you think it is obvious.
 
 
 T
he views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of Michele Reese.  The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by the University of South Carolina.