(Fun) Grammar Resources by RC Wonderly

posted Dec 4, 2017, 1:37 PM by Writing Center   [ updated Dec 4, 2017, 8:19 PM ]
The Writing Center’s Mission Statements declare, “We do not edit or proofread for writers,” which is understandable because “our emphasis is on writing processes rather than on written products of writing.” During a consultation, we will point out reoccurring, common usage errors, and provide handouts on topics ranging from articles to run-on sentences, with additional resources forthcoming. In the meantime, where does one go to improve their grammar? For starters, writers and English professors will tell you if you want to improve your skills as a writer you need to read more. As you read, you pick up on the different ways in which an author uses punctuation and sentence structure to add variety, clarity and style to their texts. UNLV offers another option, Principles of Modern Grammar, a 400-level course focused on “the patterns of English grammar and their influence on sentence structure, punctuation, and style.” 

As an instructor, I like to give English 101 students multimodal models to explain simple or complex grammatical concepts. It’s not enough to simply mark up their papers without giving them a thorough explanation, along with resources for making improvements. As an example, this semester I had several students who were having trouble with punctuation—specifically knowing when to use semi-colons versus colons correctly. I encouraged them to view Howcast’s video, “How to Use Semi-colons” and “How to Use Colons,” along with Mary Norris’s video, “The Semicolon; or, Mastering the Giant Comma.” I also gave them The Writing Center handout on the subject. I found that the students reacted positively to the short videos and made improvements after watching them and applying the concepts in their own writing. 

Another grammar learning tool I suggest to student-writers is cellphone apps—there are several options depending on your cellphone manufacturer. Raymond Murphy developed English Grammar in Use through the Cambridge University Press, which offers 6 free units on Past and Present verb tenses with additional content available for purchase. The developers us a split screen with explanations on the left and practice exercises on right. Another fun and informative cellphone app is Sentence Master by Masterkey Games. Players race against the clock to arrange groups of words into a sentence and earn points to open new levels. Finally, Johnny Grammar’s Word Challenge, produced by the British Council, allows users to take timed quizzes on topics ranging from prepositions to gerund and adverbial clauses to conjunctions. The British Council offers a wide range of grammar related apps and learning tools for adults—keep in mind the spelling might be a little different from American English.        

The next time you schedule a consultation at The Writing Center, please take the time to understand the grammar concepts you struggle with in your own writing. Use the resources listed above or others you find online, at the library, or in your textbook before asking the consultant to help you “fix your paper.”  If you are still having trouble, you can always ask for additional explanation and resources—until then, read more and keep practicing. 

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