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Common Writing Terms: Grammar & Punctuation Terms

Grammar & Punctuation Terms

Anthropomorphism: The attribution of human actions or characteristics to nonhuman entities. Avoid this practice in scholarly writing.

Colloquialism: A word or phrase used in informal language only.

Conjunction: A word that connects parts of a sentence or phrase (e.g., and, however, yet).

Clause: A group of words containing a subject (a main noun) and predicate (the verbs and modifiers that accompany that noun). A dependent clause cannot stand alone as a sentence; an independent clause can do so.

First person: A point of view that presents the perspective of the author using pronouns like I or me.

Nonrestrictive information: Material that could be removed from a sentence without altering the structure or essential meaning of the sentence.

Parallel structure: Use of consistent word patterns to present multiple items. (Not parallel: watch movies, a play, and dinner. Parallel: watch movies, see a play, and eat dinner.)

Passive voice: Type of writing in which the author places the object of the action as the subject of the sentence. The initiator of the action is either absent (“The ball was thrown”) or placed after the action (“The ball was thrown by Hector”). For more information on passive voice, see our page on Active & Passive Voice.

Second person: A point of view in which the author speaks to a stated or implied “you.” Avoid using second person point of view in scholarly writing.

Serial comma: A comma appearing before the final conjunction in a list of three or more items.

Syntax: Sentence structure, or the way words are constructed to form a thought.

Tense shift: A change from one verb tense to another, which is sometimes unintentional.

Third person: A point of view in which the author reports actions occurring to someone other than the author, using pronouns such as he, her, or they.

Topic sentence: Typically the first sentence of a paragraph, which transitions from the previous paragraph and introduces the content of the current paragraph.