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Vague Pronoun References

Revising Vague Pronoun References

Vague Pronoun References

“They didn’t take the donuts,” Rhett told his teacher.

“To whom are you referring? the teacher asked.

“Those kids who make us get into trouble with their friends like they do all the time. You should punish them.”

“That’s horrible,” the teacher responded. “But it’s hard to punish vague pronoun references.”

Definition and Examples

A vague pronoun does not clearly identify its antecedent. An antecedent is the noun or pronoun that the pronoun refers to or re-names. Vague pronouns usually consist of four types:

  1. More than one antecedent could match the pronoun. Revise by repeating the noun. Example: Dishes were on the tables, but we didn’t need them. Dishes were on the tables, but we didn’t need the dishes.
  2. Demonstrative pronouns (this, that, these, or those) are used on their own. Revise by adding a noun following the pronoun. Example: That is beautiful. That painting is beautiful.
  3. The antecedent is an adjective. Revise by changing the pronoun reference from an adjective to a noun. Example: I called Jesse’s work Jesse at his work, but he never answered.
  4. The pronoun has no antecedent. Revise by adding the antecedent. Example: Although he was extremely rich, he didn’t spend it. Although he had money, he didn’t spend it.

Read the rule.

Pronouns must clearly identify their antecedents. Keep pronoun references close to their antecedents to avoid confusion.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the vague pronouns and antecedents.

  1. I love art galleries, especially paintings. These seems to be from the Italian artists.
  2. The books were already on the students’ desks, but we didn’t need them.
  3. I asked to speak to Maribel’s father, but she would not talk to me.
  4. Please get your paper out of your backpack and pass it forward.
  5. His math teachers taught him, but he didn’t use it in his job.

Revise the vague pronoun to clearly identify its antecedent.

Keep pronoun references close to subjects in long sentences to make them clear.

Answers

  1. I love art [galleries], especially paintings. [These] seems to be from the Italian artists.
  2. The [books] were already on the students’ [desks], but we didn’t need [them].
  3. I asked to speak to [Maribel’s father], but [she] would not talk to me.
  4. Please get your [paper] out of your [backpack] and pass [it] forward.
  5. His [math teachers] taught him, but he didn’t use [it] in his job.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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Double Negatives

Using Double Negatives

Double Negatives

“I’ve never been no snitch!” Wallace said.

“So you’re saying that you have been a snitch. You used a double negative. Didn’t you learn in math that a double negative is a positive?” asked Tess.

“Math don’t teach us nothing about English, Tess.”

“I’d have to agree with you, Wallace.”

Definition and Examples

Non-standard English often differs from Standard English because of regional or cultural dialects. One form of Non-standard English is the double negative. In Non-standard English the double negative is used to emphasize the negative; however, in Standard English the double negatives can cancel each other out and form a positive. Example: I do not have no excuses. Standard English Revision: I do not have any excuses.

Read the rule.

Don’t use double negatives in essays or reports.

Re-write the sentence and [bracket] the double negatives.

  1. Don’t tell me nothing about that situation. I don’t want to know anything.
  2. Never tell nobody about your plans, so you won’t disappoint anyone.
  3. Well, I don’t want not to come visit you.
  4. I misplaced my phone. I can’t find it nowhere.
  5. She is not unhelpful, but she doesn’t have a choice not to help when asked.

Revise the double negatives.

Never write no double negatives.

Answers

  1. [Don’t] tell me [nothing] about that situation. I don’t want to know anything.
  2. [Never] tell [nobody] about your plans, so you won’t disappoint anyone.
  3. Well, I [don’t] want [not] to come visit you.
  4. I misplaced my phone. I [can’t] find it [nowhere].
  5. She is [not] [unhelpful], but she [doesn’t] have a choice [not] to help when asked.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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Formulaic Phrases

Formulaic Expressions

Formulaic Phrases

“That was quite the party last night!” Bebe said.

“Yes, a good time was had by all,” Sergio said. “But it was over before it really began.”

“You love your formulaic phrases, Sergio.”

“Once I find something that works, it’s all good.”

Definition and Examples

A formulaic phrase is a commonly used expression. Example: In this day and age, most people know that you can’t be too careful. The formulaic phrase is closely related to an idiom (or idiomatic expression). Example: She walked through the door. Both are considered to be figures of speech.

In both formulaic phrases and idioms, the individual words may not mean exactly what they say. Both types of expressions often suggest, but do not state, certain attitudes. The differences are that the formulaic phrase is considered over-used, but an idiom is not, and the formulaic phrase may shift its wording to suit its purposes, but an idiom does not change.

Read the rule.

Don’t use idiomatic expressions or idioms in essays or reports.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the formulaic phrases.

  1. No one would support that idea. You know what I mean?
  2. I know what he meant, but these days, you just can’t say that.
  3. I’ll reconsider what you say, but at the end of the day I’ll have to make my decision.
  4. We all know what that sort of thing can lead to, don’t we?
  5. It’s this, that, or the other, don’t you think?

Revise the sentence to eliminate the formulaic phrase.

It goes without saying to avoid using formulaic phrases.

Answers

  1. No one would support that idea. [You know what I mean]?
  2. I know what he meant, but [these days], you just can’t say that.
  3. I’ll reconsider what you say, [but at the end of the day] I’ll have to make my decision.
  4. We all know [what that sort of thing] can lead to, don’t we?
  5. [It’s this, that, or the other], don’t you think?

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

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Meaningless Sentence Starters

Avoid There and Here

There and Here

“Why do we have to avoid using too many There and Here words at the beginning of sentences?” Peja asked.

There are reasons for that. Here they are,” Chiang said.

“I’m waiting. What’s the problem with using those sentence starters?”

“Avoid using meaningless words as sentence starters.”

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“I did. I told you why and showed you how.”

Definition and Examples

Using There or Here + a “helping verb” (has been, had been, will be, shall be, should be, would be, can be, could be, may be, might be, must be) or a “linking verb” (is, are, was, were) is rarely necessary and provides no additional meaning to a sentence. Example: There are the three students waiting over there. This sentence can be changed to… The three students wait over there. Example: Here is the blue pen to use to write your grandmother. This sentence can be changed to… Use the blue pen to write your grandmother.

Read the rule.

Avoid beginning sentences with There or Here + a “helping verb” or a “linking verb.” Revise to eliminate these words. To delete the unnecessary There or Here word, place the subject of the sentence at the beginning with or without its article (a, an, or the) and change the verb form as needed.

Re-write these sentences and [bracket] the meaningless words used as sentence starters.

  1. Here are plenty of samples to try.
  2. There is evidence to suggest that the owner knew that the painting was worthless.
  3. There were reasons for his actions, but we were never told what they were.
  4. Here is the envelope you were looking for in my desk.
  5. There will be consequences to your failures to act on his advice.

Eliminate the meaningless sentence starter in this sentence.

There are good reasons to avoid starting sentences with There and Here.

Answers

  1. [Here are] plenty of samples to try.
  2. [There is] evidence to suggest that the owner knew that the painting was worthless.
  3. [There were] reasons for his actions, but we were never told what they were.
  4. [Here is] the envelope you were looking for in my desk.
  5. [There will be] consequences to your failures to act on his advice.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule.

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Wordiness

Revising Wordiness

Wordiness

“Mr. Parkins, I don’t understand your comment on my essay. It says, ‘Wordy.’”

Wordiness means using too many words to say too little, Elton.”

“Mr. Parkins, you said our essay had to be 700 words. I’ve got 702. How can it be ‘wordy’ when it only has two extra?”

“Elton, this essay has more padding than my overstuffed pillows. You turned a 500-word essay into 702 words. Better to be too short than too long.”

Definition and Examples

Learning how to write concisely (briefly) and efficiently is important. When wording is added which does not contribute meaning, teachers call this padding. Padding includes needless or repetitive information included in order to fill up a page. When too many words are used to communicate that which could be said more concisely, teachers call this wordiness. Often, a wordy writer uses noun constructions, rather than simple verbs. Examples: Instead of for the production of, the writer might say produce.

Read the rule.

Avoid using useless noun phrases, especially ones which begin with prepositions. Instead, use specific nouns and verbs to write concisely (briefly).

Read the following sentences and [bracket] the wordiness.

  1. For the purposes of this writing, I will share these very interesting documents.
  2. The majority of most of my friends urged me not to speak at this point in time.
  3. I told them of each and every circumstance with the exception of five instances.
  4. During the course of the investigation, in an effort to tell the truth, he did an interview.
  5. The audience could not hear at all what the speaker said.

Revise the sentence to eliminate wordiness.

Cease, desist, and stop wordiness.

Answers

  1. For [the purposes of] this writing, I will share these [very interesting] documents.
  2. [The majority of] most of my friends urged me not to speak at this point [in time].
  3. I told them of [each and] every circumstance [with the] excep[tion of] five instances.
  4. During [the course of] the investigation, [in an effort to] tell the truth, he did an interview.
  5. The audience could not hear [at all] what the speaker said.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Reading, Spelling/Vocabulary, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Hyperbole

“My teacher wrote, ‘Hyperbole’ in the margin of my essay. I’m not sure what she meant,” said Marci.

Tom asked, “Are you referring to your one-of-a-kind, magnificent essay, which was vastly superior to that of every other student in this class?”

“That’s the hardest question anyone has ever had to answer!” exclaimed Marci. “Hmm… Maybe I do tend to make things bigger than they need to be.”

Tom smiled and said, “That is not an overstatement.”

Avoid Hyperbole

Hyperbole

Definition and Examples

Hyperbole is an intended or unintended exaggeration used to make a point. It is not a literal statement, nor a slight exaggeration; it is an over-exaggeration. In fact, hyper is a Greek root, meaning over. Example: In sunny California, it rains only once in a million years.

Read the rule.

While hyperbole is used often in everyday speech, in literary dialogue and description, and in poems and songs, it may not be used in formal essays or reports.

Formal essays and reports depend upon objectivity and evidence. If a writer stretches some facts or makes unwarranted generalizations with hyperbole, the reader may question other facts or analysis which are presented as is, without exaggeration. Additionally, when a writer uses hyperbole, the reader may doubt whether the author is being fair and even-handed. Or the reader may assume that the writer is being manipulative.

Write the following sentences and [bracket] the hyperbole.

  1. That Mr. Hodgkins thinks his is the only class at this school. He gives a ton of homework.
  2. I’m dying to get into that university. There’s no place I’d rather be.
  3. That complete snob expects everyone to worship at his feet!
  4. I’d walk a thousand miles to see that once-in-a-lifetime lunar eclipse.
  5. The world champion Golden State Warriors seemed to have unlimited talent.

Re-write the following sentence, eliminating the hyperbole.

Avoid exaggeration; it only works once in a million years.

Answers

  1. That Mr. Hodgkins thinks his is [the only class] at this school. He gives [a ton] of homework.
  2. [I’m dying] to get into that university. There’s [no place] I’d rather be.
  3. That [complete] snob expects [everyone] [to worship] at his feet!
  4. I’d walk [a thousand miles] to see that [once-in-a-lifetime] lunar eclipse.
  5. The [world champion] Golden State Warriors seemed to have [unlimited] talent.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Reading, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Rhetorical Questions in Essays

Essay Rhetorical Questions

Rhetorical Questions

“Mr. Smith says that I shouldn’t use thought-provoking questions in my thesis statements,” said Issa. “May I read you my thesis?”

“Sure. Let’s hear it,” responds Mandy.

“My thesis is ‘Do people really want to be successful and happy?’”

“Well, it is called a thesis statement, not a thesis question, ” Mandy replied. “Plus, doesn’t the  answer appear in the question itself?”

“Oh, I get it. It’s one of those rhetorical questions,” says Issa.

“But, do you really get it?” asks Mandy.

“Ah… A rhetorical question. Very funny.”

“Apparently not so funny to Mr. Smith,” says Mandy.

Definition and Examples

A rhetorical question is a statement formed as a question. Rhetorical questions can be manipulative because they are designed to appear objective and open-ended, but may actually lead the reader to a foregone conclusion.

The rhetorical question takes several forms:

  • It may answer itself and require no response. Example: Do people want to be successful?
  • It may be used to provoke thought. Example: What if this generation could solve hunger?
  • It may be used to state the obvious. Example: Can students try a bit harder next time?
  • It may have no possible answer. Example: What if there is no answer to this problem?

Read the rules.

Don’t use rhetorical questions as thesis statements. Conclusion paragraphs may include rhetorical questions to provide questions for further study beyond the essay itself.

In the following sentences, [bracket] the rhetorical questions.

  1. How could they know? Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  2. Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. Why bother? Does this project have a purpose?
  3. What is the message within that painting? What if all works of art meant something?
  4. If love is the answer, what is the question? Why do people fall in love? Does everyone do so?
  5. What happens when dreams are delayed? Can dreams be real? Or are dreams simply dreams?

Revise the rhetorical question into a statement.

Of what use are rhetorical questions?

Answers

  1. [How could they know?] Why are the couples traveling to Europe for business?
  2. Without the tools the project was impossible to complete. [Why bother?] [Does this project have a purpose?]
  3. What is the message within that painting? [What if all works of art meant something?]
  4. [If love is the answer, what is the question?] [Why do people fall in love?] [Does everyone do so?]
  5. [What happens when dreams are delayed?] [Can dreams be real?] [Or are dreams simply dreams?]

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

How to Eliminate Passive Voice

How to Eliminate Passive Voice

Eliminate Passive Voice

“What does Ms. Stark’s comment mean here on my essay?” asked Bella. “It says, ‘Make  your subjects do something.’”

“She’s telling you to use the active voice in your essays,” I explained.

“Can’t my subjects take a rest and let the verbs do something for them once in a while?”

“Very funny, but I’d take her advice.”

Definition and Examples

Verbs have two voices: active and passive:

  • In the active voice the subject of the sentence acts upon the verb. For example, in “The students noticed her mistake,” the “students” (the subject) acts upon the verb, “noticed.”
  • In the passive voice the subject of the sentence is acted upon by the verb. For example, in “Her mistake was noticed by the students,” the “students” (the subject) receive the action of the verb.

Read the rule and revision strategies.

Use verbs in the active voice to emphasize the importance of the action, rather than that of the subject, or when the passive voice is required to show scientific objectivity. To change the passive voice into active voice, try these 3 strategies:

  • Place the subject of the sentence before its predicate (unless the sentence is a question).
  • Eliminate the helping verbs and change the verb form if necessary.
  • Eliminate the prepositional phrase beginning with the by

Write these sentences and [bracket] the passive voice verbs.

  1. I’m afraid that your phone has been damaged by that spilled drink.
  2. Ms. Slavin’s test was failed by the majority of the students who failed to study.
  3. The purpose of the assembly is still being evaluated by Student Council, but most students support anything that will get them out of class.
  4. By the time they arrive, the choices will already have been made.
  5. If the decision is left to her, she will choose what has been done countless times before.

Change the passive voice verb to active voice.

The passive voice is to be avoided by you if it can be helped.

*****

For more essay rules and practice, check out the author’s Teaching Essay Strategies. This curriculum includes 42 essay strategy worksheets corresponding to teach the Common Core State Writing Standards, 8 on-demand writing fluencies, 8 writing process essays (4 argumentative and 4 informative/explanatory), 64  sentence revision and 64 rhetorical stance “openers,” writing posters, and helpful editing resources. 

Differentiate your essay instruction in this comprehensive writing curriculum with remedial writing worksheets, including sentence structure, grammar, thesis statements, errors in reasoning, and transitions.

Plus, get an e-comment bank of 438 prescriptive writing responses with an link to insert into Microsoft Word® for easy e-grading (works great with Google Docs),

Download the following 24 FREE Writing Style Posters to help your students learn the essay rules. Each has a funny or ironic statement (akin to “Let’s eat Grandma) to teach the memorable rule. 

Get the Writing Style Posters FREE Resource:

Grammar/Mechanics, Literacy Centers, Study Skills, Writing , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,