Incorrect grammar

Possessives are an important part of the English language. They are something we hardly think about when we use them; we just use them! We put the extra “s” onto a word hoping that it doesn’t need an apostrophe before or after the s. Possessives show possession, origin, or ownership of something, and are usually directly used along with a noun, pronoun, hyphenated words, and joined nouns. They are used all over the world for store signs and products that we buy. The correct use of possessives is essential to correctly using grammar and fine tuning your writing ability.

Many people assume that words ending with an “s” that has an apostrophe are contractions, but that is not the case. Contractions are a combination of two words with the apostrophe taking the place of a letter or letters omitted when the new word is formed. Possessives on the other hand have no letters omitted.

Some examples of these are:

That bag is so old its handles are falling off.

It’s raining outside.

            That’s the girl who’s going to the party.

            Whose car is that across the street?

            There’s a party tonight at my friends, want to go?

            What is that cake doing over there is it theirs?

            Is that your bike?

            You’re so funny why don’t you try stand-up comedy



Another common mistake lots of people make is when to add the apostrophe and when they do not have to. For a plural noun such as boys and girls you do not need to add an apostrophe after the S. This is because the word is already plural so you you don’t need to make it plural by adding an ‘S. On the flip side a word like lens, cactus, and bus do not need the ‘after the word, however there is no wrong way of doing this. The only formula to go by is to stay consistent however you choose to do it.

Some examples of these are:

            Look at all the dogs.

            Lens, Lens’

Cactus, cactus’


One of the last mistakes people make is how to make a word possessive and when to do so. As we know there are singular words and there are plural words. When it comes to people’s names we must use the right possessives too.

How to use possessives correctly:

Singular-                    brother

Singular possessive-          brother’s car

Plural-                                    brothers

            Plural possessive-   brother’s cars


Miscellaneous Punctuation


Besides your typical periods, commas, and quotation marks, let’s not forget about slashes, parentheses, colons, brackets, and the rest of the forgotten. Yes, we may use periods and commas more than colons and parentheses, but how would we be able to begin our explanations (colons) or clarify our points and cite (parentheses) without these other punctuation marks?


Let’s start with something you should all be familiar with by now: parentheses. All over your research papers and analytical essays are parentheses, used to cite authors of articles and books in your paper. Parentheses aren’t always for in-text citations, but can also be used to give secondary information to clarify the words behind it. For example I can write:

He gave me a small loan.

But how much was that small loan? I can use parentheses to clarify how much I received:

He gave me a small loan ($1,000,000).

All you college students should know how to use parentheses to cite, but if you don’t then you’re in deep trouble. Usually, in the parentheses when citing should be the last name of the author, followed by the year of publication or page the quote was found on. Andrea Lunsford, the writer of the EasyWriter writes, “Parentheses are also used to enclose textual citations and numbers or letters in a list” (129). Also, never forget that the period is on the outside of the parentheses when ending a sentence.

toy story.jpg

Next, we have brackets, the parentheses of parentheses. Brackets are used when you want to include information that is usually included in parentheses in material that is already in parentheses. For example, I can write:

He hit me with his car.

We can use brackets to clarify, a function of parentheses, who “he” is, if we write:

He [my neighbor] hit me. 

Another way brackets can be used is to point out quoted material that may sound or look odd, which tells the reader that the person being quoted made the mistake, and not the writer, when using the word sic in brackets. Wet Seal was selling a shirt that was written grammatically incorrect, that read:

If your [sic] single, so am I.

Here, [sic] was used to identify that it was Wet Seal that made the error, and not myself.

Here’s a list of reasons you would use a colon: introduce a list, explanation, quotation, or a series. There are a few rules when you using colons, and more often than not, people misuse colons. When using colons to list something, never use it between a verb and the objects being listed or between a preposition and the things being listed.

He described me as: nice, quiet, and funny.

This sentence is grammatically incorrect, because the colon is between a preposition (as) and the characteristics being described. In this sentence,

We went to the store to buy: eggs, milk, and bread.

the colon is between a verb (buy) and the groceries, so it is incorrect. A proper way of using colons would be:

I am looking for an employee who could do the following: stock shelves, take inventory, and interact with customers.

One way or another, you are going to find yourself using brackets or colons, so you should know how to use them properly before you get points deducted from your professor for stupid grammatical errors.



What is parallelism?

Parallelism is a rhetorical device used in writing for the purpose of creating balance or equality in the construction of a sentence. Parallel refers to something being identical or similar in key aspects, and is at the heart of what parallelism tries to achieve.

Parallelism used in ancient times

Parallelism has been used throughout history and is attributed to many famous sayings that are universally recognized. The phrase veni, vidi, vici is attributed to the Roman emperor Julius Caesar after winning his battle against Pharnaces II of Pontus.


Translated, veni, vidi, vici means “I saw, I came, I conquered” – a sentence that rests heavily upon it’s symmetric and balanced form. Parallelism is not limited to sentences that are grammatically the same throughout; sentences that are sound, meter, and meaning can be parallel as well. Such use of parallelism has been extensively used in politics.

Examples of Parallelism

Three examples are:

  • The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessing; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.” (Churchill)

Here, Winston Churchill illuminates to the hypocrisies of both capitalism and socialism, highlighting how the successes of one economic system leads to downturn of another system. Ultimately, neither capitalism nor socialism is perfect.

  • “…and that government of the peopleby the peoplefor the people, shall not perish from the earth.” (Abraham Lincoln)

Abraham Lincoln uses parallelism effectively in his Gettysburg address to emphasizing that the federal government is a product birthed from democracy and is a right that cannot be taken away.

  • Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.

In his inaugural address, Kennedy uses parallelism in order to inspire every American, and instill the importance of civic duty and public service, challenging them in some way to contribute towards the public good during the shadow of the Cold War.


Common mistakes associated with parallelism

Often, people fail to make sentences parallel due to verb tenses not making chronological sense. For instance:

1.) I was thinking of to run.

The verbs in the above sentence are mismatched and create a jarring effect in the sentence. This is often called “faulty parallelism.”

Coordinating conjunctions are especially useful in making parallel sentences. Conjunctions such as and, but, and or are commonly used:

1.) She likes to look but not to listen.

2.) We wondered who he was and what he was doing here.

Lists or series use parallel structure:

1.) The frustrated customer wanted to exchange the article, to obtain a refund, or to speak to the manager.

2.) There was no opportunity to do homework, to request an extension, or to explain my situation.

3.) The salesman expected that he would present his product at the meeting, that there would be time for him to show his slide presentation, and that prospective buyers would ask him questions.

Parallel structure is also commonly associated with comparisons:

1.) How much money you make is not as important as how you live your life.

2.) I like swimming better than running.

Parallelism is an important tool for writers allowing them to create phrases or paragraphs that create the right rhythm and balance to present ideas in a concise and smooth manner. In addition, it can be used as an effective means of proving a point or as a means of persuasion.

Overall, it can make your writing less clunky and laborious, and for a final example:

“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” (Abraham Lincoln)



MODIFIER: Adjective, adverb, phrase, or clause that describes another word.

NOUN PHRASE MODIFIER:  The first type of modifier in the English language is the noun phrase modifier. A noun phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes a noun or noun phrase.

ADJECTIVE PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The second type of modifier in the English language is the adjective phrase modifier. An adjective phrase modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes an adjective or adjective phrase

VERB PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The third type of modifier in the English language is the verb phrase modifier. A verb phrase modifier is a word or phrase that describes a verb or verb phrase.

ADVERB PHRASE MODIFIERS:  The fourth type of modifier in the English language is the adverb phrase modifier. An adverb phrase modifier is a word that describes an adverb or adverb phrase.

MISPLACED MODIFIER:  A phrase, clause or word placed too far away from the noun or pronoun it modifies. Examples:pj dog

  • The boy walked the dog in his pajamas.
    • This sounds like the dog was wearing pajamas!
  • Fix: The boy, in his pajamas, walked the dog. 
  • Only Einstein wrote two books.
  • Fix: Einstein only wrote two books.

DANGLING MODIFIERS:  A word or phrase that modifies a word that is not stated in the sentence. Example:

  •  After playing with her toys, the room was a mess.
    • We do not know who was playing with the toys!
  • Fix: After playing with her toys, the girl left the room a mess

slow childrenThis sign currently implies that children are moving slowly and crossing. Really, the message is for cars to proceed with caution, as children may be crossing. To fix this, the sign could read: “Go Slow, Children Crossing” or “Slow, Children Crossing.”




The goal of concise writing is to use the most effective words. Now, don’t be mistaken. Conciseness doesn’t mean using big fancy words. In order to write with conciseness, an important thing to remember is to keep it simple. One common characteristic that most under-developed writers have is to draw out sentences with unnecessary words. Conciseness helps you to write clearly by eliminating words and rearranging your phrases. To be more concise a general rule when writing is using fewer, but more specific, words. For example:

Wordy sentences:

“Sarah believed, but could not confirm, that Tom had feelings for her.”

“Working as a pupil under a coach who coaches in the NFL was a fantastic experience simplebecause it helped me learn a lot.”

Concise sentence:

“Sarah assumed that Tom adored her.”

“Working as an NFL coach’s apprentice was an educational experience.”

The Concise writing uses about half the words, but gets the point across more clearly than the wordy examples.

How do you check for conciseness? Easy! Make sure every word you are using is providing something important to a sentence. If the word is not providing anything, and it’s just dead weight, delete it. In your writing, you should be looking for words known as unnecessary qualifiers: Actually, really, basically, probably, very, definitely, and somewhat. Theses words generally add dead weight to your writing, so it would be best to avoid them. Overuse of prepositional phrases chunks up your writing, and can make it unclear. Prepositions are words like: In, for, at, on, through and over. Circle these words in your draft and see if you can eliminate some of them without losing your meaning. For example:

Wordy sentences:

“My teacher showed me many different ways of writing out our work for our math problems, so it was easier for us to complete our homework later that day.”

“The reason for the failure of the football team of the University of Oregon in the championship game against the Ohio State Buckeyes, was that on that day and in that angry cattime, some players were unable to successfully tackle the offensive players.”

Concise Sentences:

“My teacher showed me convenient ways to complete my homework for tonight.”

“Oregon’s Football team lost in the championship game against Ohio State due to it’s inability to play good defense.”

By eliminating prepositional phrases, unnecessary qualifiers, and other words with dead weight, you shorten your sentences providing a more effective sentence. Another tool for your revision process is to eliminate redundant pairs. This is when the first and second words have similar meanings. Some examples include: Full and complete, each and every, always and forever. To show this in a sentence:

Redundant example: “For each and every sandwich you purchase, you will receive a free hipsterbag of chips.”

Revision: “For every sandwich you purchase, you will receive a free bag of chips.”

It’s critical to be concise in your writing, and it’s something every writer should work on. It allows your reader to understand your thoughts clearly. Students get carried away with the amount they have to write, and drawing out there sentences to reach a quota of words is only destroying their papers. Being concise in my writing is something I never thought about. It’s definitely a strong tool to use if you are having trouble with getting your point across in a clear and understandable way.

Word Choice

-Sheldon Rowland-

Word choice is something we generally don’t put much thought into. We seem take our vocabulary for granted. Each word we use in a sentence can have a very specific connotation to another person. For example, the difference between calling some one ‘cat woman’ is drastically different from calling someone ‘cat lady. ’To most people ‘Cat Cats.jpgWoman’ is a character from Batman, while a cat lady is a stereotype of an older woman who surrounds herself with cats. The simple choice between the word ‘woman’ and the word ‘lady’ gives the audience completely different connotations, despite these two words having the same definition.

Now a more serious example is the difference between calling a fleeing Syrian a migrant or a refugee. Both of these words have been tossed around and used to categorize this group, but each word has drastically different connotations. For example, a migrant is one who is in migration, or looking for a new home to permanently stay. Migrants are also generally economic, traveling from place to place for work and generally in the agriculture industry. The term refugee implies a completely different connotation than migrant. Refugees are fleeing a place for their safety, whether for political reasons or warfare. To call someone a refugee implies that they are leaving their home due to a conflict that is out of their control, while to call someone a migrant implies that they have little reason to flee, ignoring the issues of their nation, while implying that they are arriving with purely economic reasons in mind. It’s a stark difference between the two words and this is why word choice is so crucial.

One final example is how we define an enemy through our words. Tim O’Brien wrote a fantastic book titled The Things They Carried. In this book, O’Brien describes the Vietnam war and attempts to give the reader extremely personal moments from the war. To make it authentic, O’Brien includes the other soldiers reciting slurs towards the North Vietnamese, their enemy. His choice to call the enemy combatants these slurs dehumanizes them. It removes the guilt from O’Brien and his friends for what they are doing. The connotations in these slurs paint a very different picture than the words we may use to describe a North Vietnamese person. All of this is to show how, no matter the context, word choice always plays a crucial role.

Language is our tool and we should use it properly by being selective with our words, only implying what we mean and supplying the connotations we desire. It is something we should be conscious of in our everyday lives because your word choice holds power and power can drastically alter someone’s opinions, beliefs, and views.

Active & Passive Voice

-Kate Brodsky-

So, you’re here to learn about passive and active voice. Or, maybe the difference between active and passive voice is going to be learned by you?

What is the difference between active and passive voice?

In the active voice, the performer of the action comes first, and the receiver of the action comes second. In the passive voice, this is swapped, so the receiver is first and the performer is second. For example:

The dog ate my homework.

My homework was eaten by the dog.

In the first sentence we have the dog, or the performer of the action, first. The receiver is second, and the sentence lets us know the dog has a purpose and the sentence is direct. In the second sentence, we have the passive voice. Here, the receiver is first, making the sentence sound more passive.

Here is an easy way to remember how the sentence structure changes,

Active: X Verbs Y

Passive: Y Is Verbed by X

Where X is the performer, and Y is the receiver.


Why choose one over the other?

Active voice is often more concise and the meaning is often easier to understand. This is the reason you hear it more in casual speech and writing. “I filled out the resume” is much more logical than “the resume was filled out by me.” Because of the concise and easy to understand nature of the active voice sentence, it sounds stronger and is generally considered better writing.

Passive voice is often avoided in writing because it sounds less reliable. Passive voice can often lend a tone of “Oh, we couldn’t avoid it, it just sort of happened” to the sentence.

Passive voice does have its advantages, however. It is useful when the performer of the action is not known, or when you are intentionally trying to keep it ambiguous. For example:

“We didn’t know if the throne had been overthrown by the younger prince,”

because if you say

“We didn’t know if the younger prince overthrew the throne,”

it could sound more accusatory. It can also be good if you want to emphasize the thing that is being acted upon. For example, if you wanted to emphasize the sadness you felt at the downfall of your beloved blueberries, you might say: “My blueberries were eaten by the rabbits!”It can also be good for just varying your sentence structure. It could be better to have your story read,

The blueberries had been attacked by the cold weather already. I couldn’t believe that the rabbits would eat my berries!

than have it read,

The cold weather had already attacked my blueberries. I couldn’t believe that the rabbits would eat my blueberries!

because it sounds repetitive, and no writer likes that.

So what should you look out for when writing?

Try not to only use the same sentence structure when writing. There are many ways to vary your sentence structure when writing, so I would not recommend only having active and passive voices used in your work. In general, pay attention to passive voice, only use it when it makes sense, and especially make sure to not overuse it.


-Eleanora Vosburg-

This is a fundamental, and often overlooked, aspect of writing that can make the difference between a great piece of literature, and a snooze-fest of lengthy sentences and unnecessary words. There are simple steps all writers can take to avoid this common mistake, therefore creating strong pieces of writing that can grasp hold of the reader’s attention. Follow the simple concepts of elimination, replacing, and simplifying in order to understand the purpose of conciseness in writing.


Don’t be afraid to get rid of words! Getting rid of words can be just as powerful as adding them in. Take out the words or phrases that do not add any significance or meaning to the passage, also known as redundant words Here are examples of how elimination can strengthen your writing:

  • Before Editing: I do declare that your attendance to this meeting proves, with the utmost highest compliment intended, that you are most willing to sacrifice time out of your busy, hectic day to discuss these important, crucial matters at hand.
  •  During Editing: I do declare that your attendance at this meeting proves, with the  utmost highest compliment intended, that you are most willing to sacrifice time out of your busy, hectic day to discuss these important, crucial matters at hand
  • After Editing: Your attendance at this meeting proves that you are willing to sacrifice time out of your day to discuss these important matters.

Often it comes down to eliminating just one word:

  • Before Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and eating Oreos.
  • During Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and eating Oreos.
  • After Editing: I am very good at eating ice cream and Oreos.



There are many phrases that can be summed up in one word without losing any meaning. For example:

Due to the fact that ———————always

In order to——————————-too

In the event that—————————if

At that point in time———————then

In spite of the fact that—————-although

In regards to—————————about



As you edit your work, always look for ways to simplify what you are saying. Having a simpler way of writing can grasp the attention of the audience and make your central theme/argument/purpose more accessible.

There are three main aspects to simplifying that you should know.

  • Strong Verbs
  • Expletives
  • Active Voice

Strong Verbs are words such as: is, was, are, been, were. These verbs can cause unnecessary wordiness in your writing. Try to avoid using these whenever possible.For example:

  • Before Editing: Reading the newspaper is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
  • During Editing: Reading the newspaper is a great way to improve your vocabulary.
  • After Editing: Reading the newspaper improves your vocabulary.

Expletives attempt to introduce new topics in your writing such as: there are, it is, and there is. However, these also add unnecessary words to a piece of writing. For example:

  • Before Editing: There are so many people that assume we are alone in the universe.
  • During Editing: There are so many people that assume [that] we are alone in the universe.
  • After Editing: Many people assume that we are alone in the universe.

Active Voice should be used more than passive voice, since the latter often comes off as too wordy.

  • Before Editing: In research done by Thomas Edison, it was discovered that getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.
  • During Editing: In research done by Thomas Edison, it was discovered that [discovered that] getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.
  • After Editing: Thomas Edison discovered that getting shocked by an electric socket really hurts.

south park.jpg

Overall, the key to great writing is the ability to take out words as well as put them in. Learning how to recognize concise writing will benefit your own development as a writer. The goal of conciseness is to maintain the reader’s attention, and a wordy piece of writing will not achieve this. Having clear statements with no “fluff” will allow the reader to zero-in on the purpose of the piece as well as any other meanings and messages you intended to express.

bad luck.jpg

The Importance of Word Choice



The term word choice refers to the decision of a writer to use a certain word to get the point across to a specific audience, specificity, tone, and diction.


As seen is this picture, these two examples describe totally different things even if in one’s mind they may mean the same thing.  Word choice is something that may not be noticed while writing and often times takes reading over your writing multiple times.

Selecting a word in your writing should start by finding a word and making absolutely sure that is an accurate choice to get your exact meaning across.  The next step is to make sure that this word will mean what you want it to in the minds of your intended audience.

Word choice is such an important aspect of writing that you can completely lose your reader if you do not select the appropriate word.  The whole effort you put into writing and revising could be lost with a simple choice of words.

Six Principles of Word Choice

  1. Choose understandable words.
  2. Use specific, precise words.
  3. Choose strong words.
  4. Emphasize positive words.
  5. Avoid overused words.
  6. Avoid obsolete words.

(Adapted from Business Communication, 8th ed., by A.C. Krizan, Patricia Merrier, Joyce P. Logan, and Karen Williams. South-Western Cengage, 2011)


If words are too difficult for your reader, you may be unable to express your argument effectively.  However, if words are too simple for your intended audience, the reader may become insulted or bored of your writing.

Michael Scott: [reading from the suggestion box] “You need to do something about your B.O.”

Dwight Schrute: [repeating to staff] “You need to do something about your B.O.”

Michael Scott: Okay. Now, I don’t know who this suggestion is meant for, but it’s more of a personal suggestion. And not an office suggestion. Far be it from me to use this as a platform to embarrass anybody.

Toby: Aren’t the suggestions meant for you?

Michael Scott: Well, Toby, if by me, you are inferring that I have B.O., then I would say that that is a very poor choice of words.

Creed: Michael, he wasn’t inferring, he was implying. You were inferring.

(Steve Carell, Rainn Wilson, Paul Lieberstein, and Creed Bratton in “Performance Review.” The Office, 2005)

old lady

Often times, the second time going through your writing you will find awkward and generic words that you may be able to simply replace, enhancing the power of your writing.  The key to perfecting word choice is being patient, respecting the power of words, and knowing the audience’s intellectual level.

Then you should say what you mean,” the March Hare went on.

I do,” Alice hastily replied; “at least–at least I mean what I say–that’s the same thing, you know.

Not the same thing a bit!” said the Hatter. “You might just as well say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see!’”

-Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

He said it twice because he had never said it before, and it sounded funny.”

-Winnie The Pooh


-Matt Schasel-

Prepositions are some of the most commonly misused forms of grammar in the English language. While not technically a rule of the English language, and more a rule of the dead language of Latin, prepositions are intended to be used directly before nouns, pronouns, or other substantives, to form phrases that serve as verb modifiers, nouns, or adjectives to represent other relationships. While not widely used, the rule is/was an attempt to conform to the rules of Latin in the earlier centuries of English language. However it is not popularly adopted. Often times in everyday conversations, we commonly end sentences with prepositions. We have done this enough to a point where it is seemingly commonplace to see and hear a sentence concluded with a preposition. However, this is technically incorrect. But why? I understand that rules are rules but, for the love of God, sometimes ending phrases with prepositions has to be better than their “grammatically correct” counterpart.

This is no better illustrated through one of my favorite TV shows, The Last Man on Earth, on Fox. The clip displayed by the tweet from the show’s Twitter account occurs when one Twitter.jpgof the characters, Carol, pulls a gun on the other one, Phil. He frantically exclaims, “Carol! What do you need that gun out for?”And while holding him at gunpoint, she “corrects” his grammar to “Out for what do you need that gun?!” as seen by the tweet. This is preposterous. How in the misconstrued world of language and grammar is that sentence more grammatically correct than ending one with a preposition?

While I might validate the reasoning behind the proper grammatical use of a preposition in a sentence, I by no means agree with it. Prepositions are designed to be a precursor to an ensuing noun or pronoun or similar functional. Using them as a conclusion of a sentence is, by definition, incorrect. The “dangling preposition,” as it is known by, is a widely used phenomena. As a society, it is more adopted than its proper counterpart. While it might be wrong, it sounds so right.

Preceding this scene, Phil and Carol first meet and she initially pulls the gun on him. It was their first experience with each other, and Phil’s first experience with a grammatical headache. He pleads with Carol that there is nothing to be afraid of, hoping he can soothe Carol’s fears. An extremely common phrase exclaimed by Phil, it found no common ground between him and Carol, only further expanding their differences. Carol replies, correcting Phil, and the interaction is shown through the gifs:

Further exemplified throughout the remainder of the episode of The Last Man on Earth, there is a following scene in which Phil and Carol attempt to hash out their differences and begin to form a connection. Disgruntled, Phil says to “just get this over with.” If you are quick at identifying dangling prepositions by now, you will realize that this is another example of one. Carol immediately corrects him as if it was a sixth sense of hers, replying “Over with which to get this.” Really? Over with which to get this? That is grammatically correct?

While I do not necessarily understand what is considered proper according to the Latin rules of language, as the English complement conformed to, it is clear that while technically incorrect, the use of a dangling preposition is widespread in the English language and society. We will find that others understand us increasingly more, the less proper we speak, to a certain extent of course. And one of those laws that should be willingly sacrificed to gain understanding, is not ending sentences in prepositions. For all those that have not seen The Last Man on Earth, I highly recommend it; you can find several examples of dangling prepositions and their corrected equivalents, whether they sound right or not.