Archive for category Grammar

Write Complete Sentences

See the comments “Active Voice/Passive Voice,” “Incomplete,” “Makes No Sense,” “Must be a Sentence,” and “Sentence Sense.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Syntax

The word “syntax” means the careful arrangement, order, and assembling together of words. A sentence represents an example of syntax in the same way that a sentence also represents a complete sentence. When your professor writes “Syntax” on your paper, the professor is calling attention to the fact that the arrangement of the elements of the sentence causes confusion.

Even though you are working with just one sentence, you must adopt the same methodology you use when creating more than one sentence. In other words, throughout your analysis, you will create multiple sentences to illustrate the sequence of the author’s work. You may construct up to five total sentences. However, when it comes to one sentence with a syntax problem, you still have to understand the chronology of the story. If one thing comes before another, then you have to convey this within the sentence.

As you construct the one sentence, think about what has happened first, then second, and last. Create the sentence with chronology in mind, without using these words, but by placing the elements within their respective places. In other words, don’t place something that happens last in the first position within a sentence.

For example, if Jane walks the dog, goes to the store, and later goes home, don’t place Jane goes home as the first element. By implication we know that Jane has left the house to walk the dog; and we also know by implication that Jane comes back or returns home. We don’t need the words first, second, and third. By using these words, you may have to construct three sentences, but it is unnecessary to do so when the sentence is simple. In essence, always think about each element in a sentence, its relationship to other elements, and its place in the sentence.

For an extended explanation, see the comment “Sequence.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Sequence

Of all the comments of this glossary, the explanation for “Sequence” is probably the least threatening from your professor.

This is what I did this morning: I woke up. I took a shower. I cooked and ate oatmeal. I watched television. I wrote more explanations for the glossary. I ate again at around noon. I watched television to rest my eyes from the computer. I wrote about two more explanations. At midnight tonight, I will go to bed.

What did this person do “first?” At “noon” what did this person do? What will this person do at “midnight?”

In the above example of a typical day, there isn’t any time marker signifying when something happens. However, by reading the sentences, noticing that the first action that takes place is the waking up and the fact that it is the first sentence in first place, we assume that this sentence represents the first action of the day. We also know by giving attention to the use of the future verb tense “will go” that this action hasn’t taken place yet.

The above example is a clear illustration of sequence without using “first,” “next,” and “then.” Sometimes these words are not necessary, but when you write your papers, do give attention to what happens first, second, and last. If you don’t know what event takes place first in the story, then you will, without thinking, place a “first event” in the middle of other events within your analysis.

If you don’t want to use specific words to tell the reader what happens in sequence, be sure you understand each action, its type, its connection to a character, its connection to other events, and its place (sequence) within the context of the story. Be certain you convey this in your writing. Your reader should leave understanding the chronology and sequence of events of the story.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Sentence Unfocused

In taking an essay exam, within the allotted time you must be able not only to take the exam but also drown out the surrounding noise, the coughs, the people knocking their pens against the desk, and other distracting elements. You have to focus. You have to see the object, the test before you, understand each question, and be able to construct a focused response without rambling.

Your response must consist of a solid thesis, strong supporting paragraphs with relevant evidence and examples, and a conclusion that demonstrates to your professor an observer’s point of view about the subject matter, which often represents the contemplation of the larger implications.

Sometimes the allotted time is a mere 50 minutes; and sometimes it is one hour and fifty minutes. If a student doesn’t answer each question or fails to construct a solid response, then he or she can expect to receive a lower grade. In some cases, the professor is more lenient with in-class essay exams. However, a professor tends not to be forgiving with a student who has had the whole weekend to write and revise a paper.

To the professor, the whole weekend represents three 24-hour days, which is more than enough time to allow for the space of revision in order to bring more focus to a part or many parts of an essay. This is not the main point of this comment. It is just a simple, but necessary digression.

When you are writing a paper, concentrate particularly on the object before you, and focus all of your energies by drowning out the surrounding noise. In the following sample excerpt, the student hasn’t allowed enough time to revise. During the revision process, certain errors of a paper will become clear.

For example, if there are disjointed statements, abrupt transitions, and undefined phrases, then all of these issues will need to undergo correction during the revision process. The following excerpt reflects a student who doesn’t remember her thesis and who hasn’t dedicated enough time to determine if a topic sentence matches her thesis. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

In a chapter entitled “Odysseus’ Scar,” Auerbach explores the visible nature of identity, whereas the modern conception is often internal.

Figure 63: Essay Excerpt on Auerbach’s “Odysseus’ Scar”

Questions

1) How does Auerbach explore the visible nature of identity?

2) What is the visible nature of identity?

3) What is the modern conception?

4) Does the “modern conception” of this sentence refer to the modern conception of the nature of identity?

5) Does Auerbach explore the modern conception?

Explanation

In the sample excerpt, the student wants to focus on “identity,” because this is the center of the entire paper and the thesis; a focus on “visible nature” as a description of “identity” is on the right track. However, a sidetrack into “modern conception” has nothing to do with the overall theme of the paper, which is to focus on identity and the visible qualities that determine such things as race, how these visible elements contribute to the discrimination of certain people(s), and how they incite discrimination.

The simplest solution for solving a problem where a particular sentence lacks focus is to tell you to remember your purpose for writing the paper. For anything in the forms of examples and support that doesn’t match your thesis, your purpose, categorize it as irrelevant and throw it out.

For an extended explanation, see also the comment “Sentence Sense.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Sentence Sense

Have you ever heard this statement: “What sense does that make?” This question has the same relationship to other types of questions and statements such as “Why in the world would you do that?” and “It doesn’t make much sense to do that?” and lastly, “You did that because . . . why?”

What makes sense to you doesn’t always make sense to everyone else. Just because a person doesn’t understand where you are coming from, what you are talking about, doesn’t mean you are wrong.

However, if you don’t have a firm understanding of what you know, and you haven’t determined the simplest method of expressing what you know, then whatever you say or write will not be as clear to the other person as you think it is to yourself.

Examine the following sample excerpt where the student attempts to use elevated language to describe the ideas the author expresses within the work.

Sample Excerpt

The inequality of nature, whether racial, gender-based, certain beliefs or religious, has held up to personal opinions as well as professional.

Figure 62: Essay Excerpt on Ortega Y. Gasset

Questions

1) What is the “inequality of nature?”

2) What is nature?

3) What are nature’s inequalities?

4) Is “race” or “racial” considered to be an inequality?

5) How is “gender-based” an inequality?

6) What do the personal opinions and professional opinions have to do with the inequality of nature?

Explanation

You have undoubtedly said to a person, “It’s all in my head. I know what I am trying to say. It’s just hard to tell you.” As you speak, you are hoping that whatever is in your head, jumbled up or not, the other person will know you enough to understand. This happens a great deal in writing.  Students have the ideas in their heads. They know what they want to write. They say it aloud to a friend in conversation, but when they begin the task of writing, what’s in their heads doesn’t transition effectively to written form.

Immediately, when confronted with expressing a certain idea in your papers, say it aloud. After this first activity, begin to write. Don’t worry about formality, or if the comma is in the right place. Just write as if you are channeling your thoughts into a journal. After you finish writing that one sentence or paragraph, then reconstruct what you have written into a formal sentence.

Always remember that a grammatical sentence must represent a complete unit. No sentence that has an adverb but is missing a verb to modify it is grammatically correct. The same idea applies to adjectives and nouns.  Before you can add an adjective to a sentence, you must have a noun. When a crucial element is missing from a sentence, one needed to make the sentence function properly, meanings become jumbled together. Such an error causes a reader not to understand the connection between the elements within a sentence.

The sentence of the sample excerpt is not grammatically incorrect.  However, the ideas are so jumbled together that the reader doesn’t know how the elements after the first comma relate to the “inequality of nature.” Make all sentences grammatical by following the basic principles of grammar, which include references to subject-verb agreement and the functions of both nouns and adjectives. In addition, always define terms and demonstrate their connection.

Revision Considerations

Don’t assume that just because you have an understanding in your head about what is going on in the sentence that the reader and your professor will understand also. Take the time to be thorough so your reader doesn’t begin to feel as though he or she is in a maze trying to find the light!

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Question Mark (?)

A question mark in the margins reflects borderline confusion to your professor. Confused about the ideas you express within your analysis, the professor uses the mark to highlight those areas where you need to provide a specific explanation. A question mark has the same meaning as “I don’t understand what you are trying to say here. What exactly do you mean? How does one thing relate to another? Explain.”

Any comment where the professor instructs you to go into more detail is a comment you can use to better help you understand what the question mark represents. Just know that by writing a question mark in the margins of your paper, your professor is communicating the idea that she doesn’t know what your are trying to convey within your essay. In other words, you haven’t been effective in proving your topic sentence for a particular paragraph or for all places where your professor has placed a question mark.

The best solution is to think about what you want to say as if you are speaking to someone in a conversation. Say it out loud. Now write it the same way you say it. Just remember: Don’t forget to allow time to revise in written form what you have said, because you don’t want to write formally the same way you talk informally.

To help you best understand the importance of outlining your ideas in detail, here is a sample excerpt. Examine how the student within the excerpt fails to define the concept of “pastness.”

Sample Excerpt

In addition to Quentin Compson, in exploring the perspectives of Miss Rosa Codfield, Mr. Compson, and Shreve McCannon, Faulkner illustrates the process and study of genealogy and within each perspective resonates some speck of truth, regardless of validity or credibility.  But before distinguishing among the narratives, it is vitally important to acknowledge and understand that although each character adds or subtracts from versions of the story, Thomas Sutpen knows the events of his drama better than anyone else.  But it is arguable if we say that he understands his drama, the pastness of his past.

Figure 42: Essay Excerpt on Light in August Characters, William Faulkner

Problem

The student doesn’t define how she uses a particular word within the analysis.

Response

In response to this, the teacher uses a question mark to indicate confusion about how the student uses the word.

Questions

1) What is “pastness?”

2) What is Thomas Sutpen’s past?

3) What is the pastness of the past?

4) How does Thomas Sutpen’s past relate to the whole story?

5) What connection does it have?

Revision Considerations

Always define how you will use a word within your analysis. When using the word, ask yourself what it means. Develop a definition for it. Then include the definition as part of your analysis. Inform the reader of its significance to your analysis and then connect the word to the ideas you express about the author’s work. In other words, don’t forget to make connections between your use of the word and how you believe it relates to the author’s ideas and work.

For an extended explanation, see also the comments “Not Sure What You Mean Here,” “Discuss/Discuss This,” “Clarify,” and “Could Be Better Worded.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Punctuation

“Punctuation” is a comment professors write in the margins to highlight the nature of a specific sentence. Typically, the comment only points to the end of the sentence, the place where you have forgotten to either add, for example, a period or question mark.

Determine the nature of the type of sentence you are writing and add the appropriate punctuation at the end. For more tips on how to correct punctuation errors, see the explanation for “Proofreading.”

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Proofreading

This comment refers to grammar. A professor will write this comment on your paper when he or she feels you haven’t allowed enough time to proofread for errors. Figure 41: The FAVORS  Quick Self-Proofreading Checklist table is a tool to use at the end of the writing process. Use the checklist before submitting the final draft of your paper.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

Figure 40: Essay Excerpt from The Nature and Purpose of War

Below is an excerpt that falls under the comment “No Caps.”

You may access the comment by clicking on the “N” category or by typing the title into the search box.

You may print the excerpt for class discussions.

Sample Excerpt

War also deals with strategy and tactics; Ideologists, Theorists, and Historians embrace the concept of peace through a decisive war.

Figure 40: Essay Excerpt from The Nature and Purpose of War

The words in bold do not represent proper nouns. Only begin the names of specific people, places, and things with a capital letter. Refer to your grammar handbook for more information on capitalization techniques and rules.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment

No Caps

Oftentimes your teacher will write “no caps” in the margins to instruct you that the words you have capitalized do not fall under the rules of grammar. Below is a sample excerpt where the student capitalizes a certain group of nouns. Let’s read.

Sample Excerpt

War also deals with strategy and tactics; Ideologists, Theorists, and Historians embrace the concept of peace through a decisive war.

Figure 40: Essay Excerpt from The Nature and Purpose of War

The words in bold do not represent proper nouns. Only begin the names of specific people, places, and things with a capital letter. Refer to your grammar handbook for more information on capitalization techniques and rules.

Copyright 2011 Regina Y. Favors. All Rights Reserved.

Leave a comment