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Mastering the Mechanics Part 1: Simple Sentences

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Presented February 2021

 

Grammar 101 (Mastering the Mechanics): Simple Sentences

 

CAPTIONING PROVIDED BY CAPTION ACCESS, LLC 

 

               >> ANNE: Welcome to our Grammar101 webinar today. I am Anne from the Writing Center and we'll get started in just about 10 minutes here. In the meantime, we have a chat open for you to talk a little bit about your favorite place to write. If you'd like to download the files or the slides for the webinar, you can do so from the files for download pod at the right side of your webinar screen. If you have any questions, technical issues, please put those in the Q&A for help box and we'll be happy to troubleshoot with you behind the scenes, and if you'd like captions, there's a link available for closed captioning in the links pod. Everyone who joined us recently, we'll get started in about five minutes. In the meantime, there's a chat going on below the slides about your favorite place to write and also the weather which you'd like to talk about. If you'd like to download the files or the slides for the presentation, they're available in the files pod. There's also a link to captioning in the links pod if you'd like that. We'll get started in about five minutes.

 

            Welcome to today's webinar. Grammar 101 mastering mechanics, simple sentences. I'm Anne from the Writing Center. I'm the resource manager of student and faculty webinars and we are so glad you are here.  Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us whether you are here live or here with us watching the recording. We are really looking forward to the webinar today.

 

            Let's go over a few housekeeping things before I introduce Kacy and Michael. We are recording this webinar. You are welcome to access the recording later there are webinar archive. There's a link here on the slide and in the downloadable slides. The recording should be up by the end of the week and you'll receive an email with  that link. We actually record all of our webinars at the Writing Center so you are welcome to look through the archive to see what other recordings are interesting to you as well. The slides are in PDF format and they along with a certificate of attendance are available to download from the files for download pod in the lower right corner of the webinar room, middle right I guess it is. You can download them now or if you're watching recording, I mentioned the links in the presentation slides should be live but if they are not working for you, they are all active in those downloadable slides.

 

            We have a chat box going. Thanks to everybody chiming in there about your locations and whether and favorite writing places and we encourage you to chat with us throughout the webinar. I'll keep an eye on that checkbox and if you have any technical questions or questions that you'd like Kacy to address after the presentation, please post those to the Q&A for help box. Michael and I will be watching that Q&A box throughout the webinar and will be happy to help you behind-the-scenes with any of those questions or issues. If you have technical trouble also note  that there's a help option at the top right corner of your screen and this is Adobe technical support so that's the best place to go if you need further technical help.

 

            Lastly, this is not on the slide today, but it did want to mention that we do have captioning. It looks a little bit different than it usually does. The captioning pod is undergoing an upgrade so throughout February, we instead have a link to captioning that will open in a new browser window so it won't have captioning within the webinar room itself like usual. But that will be back in future webinars. So with that, I will introduce our presenter today, Kacy Walz, writing instructor in our Writing Center and Michael Dusek from the Writing Center. They are both writing instructors and they both work with students a lot of the time in our paper review service so you might not have had the pleasure of working with them and sharing your writing and getting some of their excellent feedback to that service. So thank you for joining us again and with that, I will hand it over to Kacy.

 

               >> KACY WALZ: I'm really excited about presenting this webinar because honestly going through slides the other day was really helpful refresher for me.. I think sometimes grammar rules and sentence structure rules can be really complicated in a way that it's difficult to explain so I'm excited. I'm glad that you are all here and joining us.

 

            For our session overview -- just before we get started, I want to mention that today's webinar is focusing on grammar in standard academic English specifically. We're not looking at grammar for other dialects and this is specifically for academic English, which is a specific language. It's a specific form of English. So in the session, we're going to discuss what grammar is and what it is not. We'll review simple sentence elements and structures. And we'll identify and practice some revision tips for common errors like fragments, run-on sentences, subject-verb disagreement and unclear sentence subjects. Finally, I'm going to share some proofreading tips, tools and resources that you can use in your own writing to make sure your sentences are effective and in academic voice.

 

            First of all, grammar is a system of a language. It's specifically the rules behind the language that are used to establish credibility and it demonstrates that you are participating in a specific professional or written discourse. There are basically a set of rules that help you to communicate your ideas effectively and efficiently. We do want to note that language does evolve and rules can change over time. Again, I think that just goes back to the previous point about today we're looking at a very specific kind of grammar. And most importantly, grammar is learnable. I'm so glad you are all joining me and that we're talking through this because I was really -- I think I really needed to brush up on my sentence grammar when I was reviewing this slide deck.

 

            Grammar is not a right or proper way to speak. It's not the way to speak and write in English. It's not an indication of the quality or importance of your ideas. Often times when we are reviewing papers, we're looking to help in terms of grammar so that sorry able to more clearly express the really amazing and smart points that they are making in their writing. It's not a reflection on your intelligence or your potential as a scholar and it should not be the sole consideration or goal of writing. Then again, going back to that grammar is learnable and it is not innate knowledge that some people are born with and other people will never have.

 

            I also really like this idea that errors are not the enemy. Instead, they are evidence of learning. Most writers if not all are going to experience errors and they are usually difficult to eradicate completely. They are just one way to assess writing and so again not something that you should consider as the complete indication of quality or scholarly levels of thinking. It's just a part of the writing process. In the chat box, I would love to see some comments about your experience in terms of learning English grammar. I can think of myself personally as you will enter your answers.

 

            I feel like I learned English grammar best when I was actually teaching it as an additional language at a language academy in Boston. I feel like I did not know necessarily why things were the way they were, why I was supposed to order sentences the way I was supposed to. That's definitely been my experience learning English grammar. I'd love to hear from all of you about your experiences if you're willing to share that in the chat box. To go on mute for a second and grab a drink of water while you do that.

 

 

            It looks like a lot of people are mentioning their educational experience and also some others of you with things like maybe gotten some extra practice through teaching it definitely. Preparation to a comment someone made about texting and I think that just goes as another example that the specific grammar that we're talking about today is very particular and it's for a very specific kind of writing, very specific audience. You're probably not going to necessarily need to use all of these rules when you're in a text message conversation with your friends, but I think that's a great point to make so thank you and thank you all for sharing your experiences with me. I really enjoyed reading about all of them.

 

            We're going to move on to sentence elements. Basically, sentences are made up of three main parts and this is just super, super signified. You have the subject, the thing, the person, concept or entity that is doing an action. So you can identify the subject by finding the verb of the sentence and then asking who or what is doing this action?  The verb itself is what is happening. You can identify that  by trying to figure out what the sentences explaining that happened or what is going on. And then the object is the thing and again it's a person, concept or entity, that is receiving the action. To figure out where the object is, we want to consider for whom or to whom was the action directed towards. Very, very simple example. He reads books. We have our subject, which is he. He is doing the action. The action itself is reads. Then the object, what is being acted upon, are books. Books.

 

            In APA style and particularly at Walden you want to try to avoid passive voice in favor of active voice. When we say active voice if you've ever seen that in feedback or anything you receive back with a grade, and active voice sentence is where the subject is in front of the verb and then you have the object afterwards. Example, the previous sentence he reads books. It's active voice because the subject he is in front of that verb. If I was doing a passive voice, I would say something like the books  were read by him. The books are the object that's being acted on his at the front of the sentence. That's an example of passive voice and with that kind of simple sentence, it's pretty easy to follow along. But you get into more complex sentence structures, that passive voice can make it difficult for your reader to understand exactly what that sentence is trying to say.

 

            A sentence must have a complete idea that stands alone and this is also called an independent clause. She finished her assignment. He reads books. Those are complete ideas and they can stand on their own that are clear. It's a clear statement of what's happening. If I just said finished her assignment -- sorry, the subject and verb can work as a standalone idea. But finished her assignment is not a complete thought. We don't know who is actually doing the action so that would not in independent clause or a complete sentence.

 

            You have what's called a subject and a predicate, and the subject is the who or what is responsible for the action and is what the sentence is really focused on. The predicate is what the subject is doing or what it is. It's going to tell us something about that subject and it should contain the verb. Here are some simple sentence structures. I write in my journal every day. Here I is the subject and the predicate, what is happening, is write in my journal every day. One word is the subject and the rest of the sentences the predicate. For this next sentence, all of the fifth-grade students are the subject. We're talking about all of them so that whole first part of the sentence is the subject. Then took a test last week is the predicate.

 

            I want to take another second to hear from all of you and you can answer in the poll or in the chat. I'm just interested if these terms are familiar or if they are new to you. It looks like we have a pretty widespread of comfort level and familiarity with these grammar terms. While the majority of you are reviewing these and are working to just make sure that we're confident in those grammar rules, I'm so glad to see that we're all just coming from it, to me it sounds like, we're all coming from this place out of maybe curiosity or just developing those skills. Again, I don't mean to sound like a broken record, but just pointing out that these skills are learnable and I'm so glad  all of you are here new matter what level of comfort or level of knowledge you feel like you're already at.

 

            We're going to move on to four common errors kind we'll go over what the errors are and then there's going to be some time for practice. We will actually get to work through some problems on your own. Common error number one is fragments and that's when the sentence is missing one or more components. and it's not expressing a complete idea. Who signed the consent form? This is technically a fragment and it looks like it could be a full idea, right? Because we have a verb, signed, and we have the subject, the consent form as well as a subject. But actually, this whole sentence is the subject needing a predicate. We're specifying the participants who signed the consent form, but we haven't said what exactly it is that they did or what we are trying to say about those participants who signed the consent form.

 

            As opposed to the participants who did not sign the consent form. So that whole sentences describing the subject. We could correct this by saying -- adding something like participated in an interview. Now we know what that subject did. We have the verb participated and we know that that is your predicate. For one hour from start to finish that's another example of a fragment. Here it's not clear what happened or is going to happen for one hour so we have the predicate, but we're missing a subject and a verb. Correct it by writing something like the interview lasted for one hour from start to finish. Lasted is the verb and the interview is that subject.

 

            Here is our first practice. I've got two sentence fragments below. If you are willing to share, you can put your responses in the chat box. You can write them out for yourself. But I'm going to give you about a minute or two to post a complete sentence if you'd like to in the chat. These are going to be different. You get to use your imagination and some creativity. I will mute for a few minutes so you can others into the chat box.

 

            These are awesome responses. Something that I hadn't even thought of when I was reviewing these slides yesterday. I see some of you are using one of the examples as a subject but others are also using that same example as a predicate so that's super cool to see. Something I never even pictured so I really appreciate all of your responses. I saw things like turning a plan on paper into a reality is very important. So we have that first example being the subject. Then I also saw examples like she is turning the plans on paper into a reality. In that example, she is the subject and then is turning the plans on paper into reality is the predicate. Similarly, I saw things like someone is using tools to make sure the specific goals are met. That one takes a little bit more revision. Or specific goals met were important or something like that. Again, using that either as the subject or the predicate, which is really creative and smart and it seems like you all have a pretty strong grasp of those rules so thank you again for sharing those responses. I'm going to move on to our second common error is very similar or at least related to fragments.

 

            Run-on sentences are when you have more than one simple sentence joint together incorrectly. So you have multiple subject-predicate pieces and they are in a single sentence and not correctly punctuated or formatted. An example is participants needed to indicate their preference they could leave the study at any time. If you can kind of hear that been reading it out loud and a little bit of trouble getting through it all. It kind of gets a little bit chunky or awkward. That's one of the reasons I actually really strongly recommend that writers read their work out loud when they're revising their work. At the get makes it much easier to pick up on these kinds of things. If you feel like you're gasping for breath by the time you finish a sentence, it's probably a sign you've got a run on.

 

            One way we could revise the sentence is we could just break it up into two simple sentences. Participants needed to indicate their preference. They could leave the study at any time. Another example. Writing is an iterative process. It often requires multiple revisions. This one, the writer has decided to break it up with a, and the word and so that transition word or that connecting word and then using punctuation to help the reader see there are two individual ideas. There are two separate parts, complete parts of the sentence. Writing is an iterative process, and it often requires multiple revisions. Here's another chance to practice. I have this run-on sentence, and you can choose how you want to correct it. I want to thank my instructors she has supported me throughout the course. So take a few minutes and put your responses in the chat box.

 

            Awesome. This one is a little bit different and I'm seeing some great examples. I want to thank my instructor. She has supported me throughout the course. Making that into two sentences. I wanted to thank my instructor because she has supported me throughout the course. Again, using that connecting word because will help you avoid a run-on sentence. A comma actually doesn't work in this situation. We can use a semicolon, which is the dot above the comma. Without adding a connecting word, we can't just use that comma. I want to thank my instructor comma because she has supported me throughout the course. Or I want to thank my instructor comma while she supported me throughout the course. What you need that extra connecting word in order to use the comma and avoid a run-on sentence. So if you didn't want to add a connecting word, you can use a semicolon, but that's another form of punctuation. It just let your reader know something else about that sentence.

 

            Thank you again for participating. Common error number three is subject verb disagreement. This is what happens when your subject and your verb disagree in terms of the number. For example, a singular subject with a verb in the plural form or a plural subject with a verb and a singular form. Some examples are the students was learning grammar. Or she exercise in the mornings. In order to avoid this error, you want to identify the subject and the verb and make sure they match in terms of numbers. We have the articles is interesting. We've got multiple articles is the subject but is is the singular form of to be, so that's not going to match up. Instead, we could say the articles are interesting or the article singular is interesting. Both of these examples we have a matching subject and verb.

 

            Here is another practice for all of you. Identify the subject and the verb in the sentence below. And then let us know if they are agreeing  or disagreeing. So the student write every day. You can say they agree or disagree. Nice. It looks like some of you are even taking it a step further and just correcting the sentence. But overall what I'm seeing is that you are noticing the subject and verb do not agree. We have student singular and write which is the plural form of to write so nice job on that. Instead, and I've seen a couple of different examples, we have the student writes every day if I want to talk about a singular student. Or the students write every day if I'm talking about multiple. Because I know you all are loving these practices so much, here is another option. Or another practice. To identify the subject and verb that are in disagreement in the following sentence. We have -- we've told you that they disagree and in the chat box, provide a sentence where you revised to correct that issue.

 

            I wanted to give you a little extra time because this one is tricky and I really appreciate everybody participating in the chat. Thank you for being willing to share your responses. Here we have two verbs that are disagreeing with our subject. Our subject actually in its entirety, the subject portion reads strategies that the teacher you encourage classroom participation. All of that extra stuff that the teacher uses to encourage classroom participation, that's specifying the specific strategies that we're going to be talking about in the rest of the sentence so that's the subject. Here we have another noun, teacher and verb doing some action. Teacher uses. But that subject and verb agree. Singular teacher and uses the singular form.

 

            The verbs -- sorry. The verb that's disagreeing is includes. We have strategies. We have strategies is plural and includes is the singular form so we could say strategies that the teacher uses to encourage classroom participation include using small groups and clarifying expectations. Sorry. I don't know why I thought there were two verbs that were disagreeing. I think I got confused about the teacher. You could say the strategy the teacher uses to encourage classroom participation includes, although we have two different strategies so maybe that wouldn't work out. But yeah, so all of that extra part, the teacher uses to encourage classroom participation, is all just modifying the subject of strategies. That's the key. That's the piece where we're looking to match up the number of the subject with the verb. Again, here's just the clarification of one way that this could be revised.

 

            I did see it looked like some of you tried some alternate forms of revision, creating simpler sentences that you don't have to worry about this whole long subject to go with the predicate and adding different connecting words. Awesome job. For our fourth common error, we have unclear subjects.  And I really appreciated going over this common error because it's something that I see a lot actually in paper reviews, but I often have a hard time explaining exactly why the sentence is incorrect so it's helpful for me to go over the specific grammar rule.  Basically, what happens is you have a sentence that's including or redundant subjects. You repeated the subject in a way where your reader might get confused about what the actual subject of the sentence is.

 

            An example is asking for help this can be difficult for many students. This seems like it should be pointing to another subject, but really all that this writer is doing is referring back to asking. Asking the subject. So having this in there is confusing because now you might actually be looking for some additional part of the subject. Instead, we can just say asking for help can be difficult for many students. Another example. By using a calendar, it has enabled me to create a time management plan. It is just standing in for the act a calendar, which we already have as the subject of the sentence. So again, just redundant and it can be a little confusing. Using a calendar has enabled me to create a time management plan. Now my subject is very clear. Using a calendar. But I'm not looking for an additional piece that would be replaced by it.

 

            The chat that some of you were correcting it even before I went over the answer so that's really awesome to see. For our fourth practice, choose one of the sentences below and then revise it to clarify the subject. So we have two different options. You can do there one or you can challenge yourself and try to do both. But I will go on mute again so you can enter those into the chat box. Great. The first practice, the majority of the new hires are recent college graduates. You don't need that they because all that does is repeat the majority of the new hires. In the second one, this one's a little bit trickier and I think it's a little bit confusing, but it looks like a lot of you got it anyways. Managing my time enables me to complete my assignments by the deadline. Having that in is going to signal your reader again that there's something else. There's something missing. If we just remove that, it avoids that confusion and avoids your reader looking for some part or some other subject, something else that's happening to fill in or to follow that in. So there are the revisions.

 

            Now we're going to move into proofreading tips, tools and resources. I want to check the time because I want to make sure we have some time for questions at the end. Here are some next steps for practicing simple sentences. You could check out our grammar modules. We have grammar modules specifically for sentence structure and then we have other self-paced modules that are specifically focused on grammar. We have a number of interactive modules in general and they are probably my favorite resource. I am definitely someone who learns fast by actually putting things into practice like we did in those practice sections or those practice slides. In the grammar modules and the modules in general allow you to get immediate feedback to make sure that you are following those rules correctly or that you've got those rules down. I just find them really helpful and actually a little bit fun. That sounds a little nerdy to say, but it is like a game.

 

            For live webinar attendees, you can watch your email for a follow-up that's going to include some work practice opportunities as well as links to resources and different types for practicing simple sentences. You can identify patterns in your writing. We're going to talk a little bit more in the next slide. And you can use our simple sentences checklist which is a slide of its own. Identifying patterns in your writing is really, really helpful because it's going to allow you to see where you are maybe having questions about grammar rules and it'll allow you to watch out for those issues in future writing. We recommend that you analyze a paragraph or two of your work or a draft of a paper and see if you can note any common grammatical errors yourself. You can also be sure to pay attention to the feedback you receive from your faculty or from us at the Writing Center and see. Are there common comments that you're getting again and again? You can use Grammarly. It's a great tool to just kind of get a basic, general overview of how your grammar is working.

 

            And you can use a grammar journal to keep track of all of this. So when you're paying attention to the feedback and using Grammarly and revising on your own, we created this little grammar journal that can help you so you are able to keep track of those patterns that you are noting. We have a number of proofreading tips and you can always email us at writingsupport@Waldenu.edu and we can give you some additional guidance or maybe direct you to some more resources. And I'm curious to read if any of you have already noticed any grammar patterns in your writing or maybe you're already working to correct some common issues. Maybe you're going over those common errors that we just practiced and it's allowed you to recognize some of those patterns.

 

            I think it's really helpful to be aware of the common issues that we have in writing. I know for myself; I tend to over use adjectives and lists in my writing. Like I want to have 30 different elements for every argument I want to make and it can get kind of redundant. I see some of you were referring to the redundant subject slide or the verb and subject disagreement. Being aware of those is really, really helpful. We go back to that much earlier slide about talking about common errors or errors in general as evidence of learning and as really positive elements. I think we can see that in this conversation that you all are participating in and I really appreciate all the participation that you guys have included in this session.

 

            But just voicing them or being aware of them I think is really, really helpful. So this is our simple sentences checklist. If you go through this checklist, you can make sure that your simple sentences are correct. Does my sentence contain both a subject and a verb? Do the subject and verb combined to form a complete idea? Is the sentence a run-on? Do I have too many complete ideas, too many complete subject and verb combinations? Do the subject and verb agree? And do I have a clear subject in each sentence? So going through this checklist will help you make sure that you are constructing those sentences effectively.

 

            We have a couple of additional webinars. You can check out the recordings of mastering the mechanics part two. That's the second part of this webinar series. And mastering the mechanics part three. You don't have to watch them in order, but if you found this helpful, if you want to get a little bit deeper into sentence structures, you can check out both of those recordings. And we do have a little bit of time left. Anne, were there any questions it would be helpful to go through is a larger group?

 

               >> ANNE: We have a couple questions it would be good to touch on. We have a few folks in the chat box talking about Grammarly and their use of Grammarly. Some people find it really helpful. Some people noting some less than helpful aspects. You want to touch on Grammarly briefly and some tips for using it?

 

               >> KACY WALZ: Yeah, definitely. I have to be honest. I don't have a ton of experience using Grammarly. From my own experience with word and it automated grammar, spellcheck situation, that's kind of how I imagine Grammarly to be as a more advanced version of that. And I think things like Grammarly, things like citation generators, all of those tools that are set up to help can be really, really great aid and can help you practice or learn to notice different errors and issues. But it's always really important to remember that those algorithms, and they are not perfect. They are not -- it's not the same as having specific individual read through and pick up on nuances or pick up on different disciplinary rules. So I have heard really positive things and I know that students I've worked with have had positive experiences with Grammarly. But I think they have the best experiences when they really are using it as may be a first or second step and then going through t on their own end up checking to make sure that it's catching everything and that it's catching things correctly and that can also be really great practice for mastering these skills. Do you have anything to add to that, Anne?

 

               >> ANNE: I don't. I think you've covered it well. I want to address a question we had about attendance. We do not take attendance or record attendance at the webinars. But if you would like to download our certificate of attendance, that's available in the files for download pod on the right side of the room. Kacy we also have a few minutes where we had a couple good questions or notes about run-on sentences. A lot of folks saying that that's a pattern they've noticed in their own writing. Do you have tips for avoiding, identifying and correcting run-on sentences?

 

               >> KACY WALZ: Sure. I mentioned earlier my own issue is using too many lists, using too many adjectives and sometimes that can make a sentence seem really, really long. I think maybe this is a run-on. That's not necessarily the case. You can have a grammatically correct sentence that's very long. But if you're looking at your papers and seeing overly long sentences in general, that can be your first check. I also mentioned reading your writing out loud. That is actually where -- how I first noticed that I was using lists too often because I just kept getting into this pattern of three different items over and over again. I didn't notice it until I actually took the time to really go through my writing and slowly read out loud. It takes you longer to read things out loud.

 

            I don't know if I necessarily have other tips. Having another person read through because it can be easier to catch those kinds of things when someone else's writing -- in someone else's writing. You might even offer to trade papers with a colleague, a classmate, and see if you're noticing similar issues because I really do think it's easier to spot them in another person's writing than in your own fairly often. So looking for those in someone else's writing might help you build those skills to catch them in your own. Any other thoughts or tips to add?

 

               >> ANNE: I don't think so. I was responding to some other questions in the chat, but we do have another question that could be good to briefly talk about regarding scholarly voice. And how to stop writing like you talk, to achieve that scholarly tone or scholarly voice.

 

               >> KACY WALZ: That's a great question and I think it's also going towards that comment that this is a very specific form. These are very specific rules for a specific type of writing. I would actually encourage on may be a first draft or a brainstorming draft to allow yourself to write the way that you talk and get those ideas out on paper and then the best advice I can give is to really read good writing in your discipline. Ask your faculty members for their suggestions, some of their favorite scholarly writers and then emulate that style. I think the more you read in your discipline I don't want to say easier because I don't think it’s ever easy, but the more quickly you'll be able to read -- reformat those ideas into a more scholarly tone.

 

            We do have a number of resources on our website including an interactive module on scholarly voice so that could be helpful. That's really my suggestions are to read a lot and find examples of strong writers and also avoid the temptation to make your writing overly complicated or to use large words that maybe aren't as familiar to you because I've actually found in my own experience the best scholarly writing that I've read tends to be succinct, tends to be very direct and clear sentences. The sentence structures are not overly complicated. I may read through and not have to question what's going on. Yeah, that's my advice. And find scholarly writers that you enjoy reading where you feel like you're able to clearly obtain the ideas they're trying to express and emulate that writing style.

 

               >> ANNE: Great advice. I really particularly love the last point about finding other writers you want to read. I think that such a good tip. I really emphasize that one as well. We are just about at the top of the iron so I think we will wrap it up here. Thanks so much for joining us today. This was so much fun. If you have any additional questions or you think of things later, please get in touch with folks at the Writing Center staff at writingcenter@Waldenu.edu. Maybe Michael if you wouldn't mind dropping that email into the chat?

 

            A new window will open in a moment and I want to thank you for attending. A survey will come up after the session, and we’d appreciate your feedback. If you're watching the recording, the survey is available for you to access from that links pod, so again, thank you so much and keep an eye on our webinar calendar for our March webinars. It should be up soon.

 

(End of Session)