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Grammar Guide

A guide to general grammar.

Writing Center Coordinator

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General Grammar Rules

Only proper nouns need to be capitalized, such as cities, names, etc. ​

  • E.g. Alexis, Houston, England​

Titles need to capitalize all words except articles (e.g. of, the, etc.). All major words need to be capitalized. ​

  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Capitalize the beginning of every sentence and the word “I”.

A singular noun names one person, place, thing, or idea; a plural noun names more than one person, place, thing, or idea. ​

Most singular nouns form the plural by adding -s.​

  • Examples: penguins, donkeys, cats​

A singular noun ending in s, x, z, ch, sh makes the plural by adding-es. ​

  • Examples: buses, pitches, boxes​

A singular noun ending in a consonant and then y makes the plural by dropping the y and adding-ies.​

  • Examples: pennies, bunnies, daisies​

There are some irregular noun plurals. ​These don't follow specific rules and just need to be memorized.

  • Examples: women, elves, data

A singular nouns takes a singular verb while a plural nouns takes a plural verb.​


  • My dog always growls at the cat.
  • These shoes are too small for me.

Affect vs Effect

Be careful with effect vs affect. Affect is the action while effect is the result. ​


  • That was the effect of evolution. ​
  • That affected me deeply.

A/An vs The

When we are referring to any member of a group we use a/an. In this case, it is not important which one we are talking about.​

  • E.g., I bought a new car.​

If it is a specific member of a group, we need to use the.​

  • E.g., I bought the brown dog.


Their refers to ownership of something.

  • That is their book.

There refers to a place that isn’t here.

  • The book is over there.

They’re is a contraction for "They are".

  • They're going to be late.

Your vs You're 

Your indicates possession (it tells that something belongs to you). 

You’re is a contraction for “You are”. 

A sentence fragment is a group of words that looks like a sentence, but actually isn’t a complete sentence. Sentence fragments are usually missing a subject or verb. A sentence fragment does not form a complete thought and therefore can't stand on its own.

Here are some common issues with sentence fragments:

  1. It is missing a subject
    • Example: Danced all night. (Who danced?)
  2. It is missing a verb or has the wrong verb form
    • Example: My favorite  teacher.  (What did the teacher do?)
  3. It is a leftover phrase
    • Example: For better or worse.  (What is better or worse? What is it modifying?)
  4. It is an abandoned clause
    • Example: When my aunt went to the mall with my uncle.  (What happened when “my aunt went to the mall with my uncle?”)
  5. It is a misuse of “such as, for example, especially,” etc.
    • Example: Such as, my sister was reading.  (It is unclear; did something happen when my sister was reading?)

Here are some ways to fix a sentence fragment:

  1. Attach
    Attach the fragment to a nearby complete sentence
    • Incorrect: Willie Wrangler. Went to the rodeo.
    • Correct: Willie Wrangler went to the rodeo.
  2. Revise
    Revise the fragment by adding whatever is missing, usually a subject or verb
    • Incorrect: Likes to lie around in the sun. (A subject is missing. Who loves to lie around?)
    • Correct: My cat likes to lie around in the sun.
  3. Rewrite
    Rewrite the fragment or the entire passage that contains the fragment.
  • Incorrect: Our new landlord was supposed to update the property. Such as fixing the air conditioning, installing a new oven, and replacing the locks. Has not done any of it yet and months have passed. 
  • Correct: Our new landlord was supposed to update the property, such as fixing the air conditioning, installing a new oven, and replacing the locks. Months have passed, yet he has not done any of it.

A run-on sentence occurs when two or more independent clauses are not joined correctly, which makes the information lose its clarity.  

Example: The bear ate the honey the dog ate the steak. 

Use a period. The easiest way to fix a run-on is to split the sentence into smaller sentences using a period.

Example: The bear ate the honey. The dog ate the steak.

Use a semicolon. Adding a semicolon is a potential option. Just make sure the two sentences are closely related.

Example: The bear ate the honey; the bear did not eat the steak.

Use a comma and coordinating conjunction. A comma, paired with a coordinating conjunction (e.g., "and," "but," or "or"), corrects a run-on sentence. 

Example: The bear ate the honey and the dog ate the steak.

Use a subordinating conjunction. Turn one of the independent clauses into a dependent clause. Then, use a subordinating conjunction (e.g., "because," "unless," and "although"), which connects two clauses.

Example: Because the bear ate the honey, the dog ate the steak.