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Webinar Transcripts

Grammar for Academic Writers: Identifying Common Errors

Presented August 14, 2018

View the recording

Last updated 9/5/2018

 

Visual: The webinar begins with a PowerPoint title slide in the large central panel. A captioning pod, Q&A pod, and files pod are stacked on the right side.

The title slide says “Common Grammar Errors and How to Address Them” and the speakers name and information: Amy Bakke, Senior Writing Instructor, Multilingual Writing Specialist, Walden University Writing Center

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Housekeeping

  • Recording
    • Will be available online within 24 hours.
  • Interact
    • Polls, files, and links are interactive.
  • Q&A
    • Now: Use the Q&A box.
    • Later: Send to writingsupport@waldenu.edu or visit our  Live Chat Hours.
  • Help
    • Ask in the Q&A box.
    • Choose “Help” in the upper right corner of the webinar room.

Audio:  Claire:  Hello everyone.  Welcome to today's webinar.  Before we get started and I have Amy present this wonderful, informative presentation I'm going to go over a few housekeeping notes to get started. So, first thing to note is, I am recording this meeting so that recording will be available online in our webinar archive within 24 hours.  So, if you need to leave or you missed part of the presentation, don’t worry, you’ll be able to go back and access it at a later time.  You can also interact during this webinar.  We have some polls, files, chats going on in today's presentation to engage more the material and work through some of these grammar issues. 

During the presentation you can use the Q&A box, I will be in there to answer questions that you have to the best of my ability.  If questions come up later, or you’re watching this as a recording you can send us questions at writingsupport@waldenu.edu or visit our live chat hours, that link it live right there. So, if you'd like to come in and ask us questions at another time, go ahead and use those services.  As I noted I will be there in the Q&A box so if you have some technical issues or need help during the presentation.  Let mean a and I will try to problem solve those with you.  However, you can also pick, help, in the upper right-hand corner of the room and that is Adobe support.  So, they will best be able to help you work through that.  Alright, I think I have covered everything for today so for now I will turn it over to our presenter, Amy.

 

Visual: Slide changes back to the following: The title slide says “Common Grammar Errors and How to Address Them” and the speakers name and information: Amy Bakke, Senior Writing Instructor, Multilingual Writing Specialist, Walden University Writing Center

Audio: Amy:  Thanks, Claire, hello, everyone, and welcome to grammar for academic writers identifying common errors.  I’m very happy to be here with you today, and as Claire mentioned I’m Amy Bakke, I’m one of the writing instructors in the writing center.  I'm also a multilingual writing specialist.  Today I’ll be focusing on a short list of some of the most common grammar errors we see when working with Walden students.  And this is across-the-board. 

Walden has students in many different programs, undergraduate, graduate, doctoral.  We do tend to see the errors that I'm going to talk about across-the-board with student writers.  Also identifying and explaining the errors we will have some opportunities to practice and revise a few errors in it will be an opportunity for you to reflect in your own writing, figure out, are these areas were making errors, or maybe not and then make some changes if needed.  So, with that, let's get started.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Learning Objectives

  • Discuss common grammar errors related to
    • Verb Tenses
    • Punctuation Around Essential and Nonessential Clauses
    • Commas After Introductory Words and Phrases
    • Possessive Forms
    • Subject-Verb Agreement With Complex Subjects
    • Practice exercises to identify and fix errors

Audio: As I mentioned, I will focus on some of the most common error and sentence construction errors that we see in academic writing.  These include errors with verb tenses, punctuation around essential and nonessential clauses.  Commas after introductory words and phrases, possessive forms of nouns, and subject verb agreement with complex subjects.  Now, if this vocabulary seems a bit too technical to you, do not worry at all because I will be explaining them throughout the webinar and we will have a chance to practice as well.  So really the technical terms and understanding those are less important than being able to identify what is going on in a sentence and what needs to be fixed.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: What Grammar Is 

A set of rules that enables you tot communicate your ideas clearly

A way to help establish scholarly credibility

Important in all scholarly and professional writing

Learnable!

Audio: As we begin our webinars on grammar we want to outline what grammar is.  Essentially, it’s a set of rules that allows you to express your ideas clearly and following grammar rules can help you establish credibility as you write, maybe as you publish.  It’s important in all forms of writing but especially in academic and professional writing.  And finally, it’s learnable.  For anybody who is accustomed to language and communication that is not so academic, it may take some time to get used to the academic use of English, but it is certainly learnable.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Errors are Not the Enemy!

Errors are:

  • evidence of learning
  • often difficult to 100% eradicate
  • something all writers experience

Audio: It’s important to keep in mind that we all make errors and mistakes.  Errors are rather a normal part of the writing process.  They are evidence of learning, they are often impossible to entirely eradicate, even seasoned professional writers are going to occasionally make mistakes or errors and they are often aware of that.  Ensuring they work with other people and use some strategies throughout the writing process helps them catch the errors.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #1

Audio: With that, Let's look at common error number one which is related to verb tenses. 

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Verb Tenses

  • English has more than a dozen verb tenses
  • Tenses show the time of the action or state, or general truths

She writes every day.

She is writing right now.

She wrote last night.

She was writing when he called.

She has written Chapter 1.

She has been writing for 2 hours.

Audio: Now if you have studied English as a second language, or if you have studied another or learned another language, you likely know what I mean by verb tense but just in case I will try and cover the basics.  English has more than a dozen verb tenses, or some experts might call them a mix of tenses and aspects.  The tenses show the time of the action.  Whether took place in the past or future.  The state or general truth. 

So, here are some examples.  She writes every day, she is writing right now, she wrote last night, she was writing when he called.  She has written chapter 1.  She has been writing for two hours. So, all of the verbs here talk about the same topic or the same action, writing, but they show us more information about when the action happened or when it happens when it will happen, that kind of thing.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Most Common Tenses in Academic Writing

  • Simple Present
    • The hospital admits patients whether or not they have proof of insurance.
  • Simple Past
    • Zimbardo (1998) researched many aspects of social psychology.
  • Present Perfect
    • Numerous researchers in the field have used this method.
  • Future
    • I will conduct semistructured interviews.

Audio: Keeping that in mind I do want to point out in academic writing, there are four tenses that make up the majority of sentences.  They are the simple present.  The simple past.  The present perfect.  And the future tenses.  The simple present is often used for general truths.  Things that are true in the past, now and likely future.  For example, the hospital admits patients whether they have proof of insurance.  This is something that is generally true.  In the past, now, and likely in the future.  The simple present is often used to explain the findings in a study.  What the authors have found to be generally true.  Maybe if they are saying, if they mention their findings or say more research is needed on a topic. 

And then the simple past is used to talk about something happening at a specific point in time in the past.  And/or that was completed entirely in the past.  For example, Zimbardo (1998) researched many aspects of psychology. One thing to note is that the simple past should be used when discussing what the authors and researchers said and did in their published works because this is something they said or did in the past when they published.  Often in writing we will see things like the researcher claimed or the authors explained -- all using the past tense.

The present perfect is used to explain action that happened over period of time in the past.  So, numerous researchers in the field have used this method.  And finally, the future tense.  In academic writing at Walden, we often see the future tense used when writing about a study you that will conduct such as a capstone study maybe for masters or doctoral students.  So, I will conduct semi structured interviews.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error: Tense Consistency

Bakke (2015) conducted the interviews and then transcribed them. (Both past tense)

Herrington (2014) found that the survey participants drink an average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day. (Past and present tenses)

The researchers explained that identifying a cause will be difficult. (Past and future tenses)

Audio: Regarding verb tense one place we sometimes see errors is in consistency throughout a sentence.  There are sometimes when the verb tense needs to be the same throughout the sentence and there are other times when it should or can change throughout the sentence.

So, let’s take a look at a couple of examples. So, in the first sentence, Bakke conducted the interviews and then transcribed them. Both of these actions are in the past tense and both of these actions belong to Bakke. So, it makes sense for them to be consistent both in the simple past tense. 

In the next two examples we see a shift in the verb tense.  Harrington found, past tense, that the survey participants drink, present tense, and average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day. Past and present tenses.  The researchers explained, past tense that identifying a cause will be, future tense, difficult.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error: Tense Consistency

            Bakke (2014) conducted the interviews and then transcribed them.

Herrington (2014) found that the survey participants drink an average of 2.2 cups of coffee per day.

The researchers explained that identifying a cause will be difficult.

Audio: One other characteristic of these last two sentences is the word, that.  In the sentence structure the word, that, introduces a noun clause and that’s not a term that you need to remember but this’s what it’s called.  These noun clauses are used to report what other people think, or have said such as when introducing a paraphrase or summary or a quote.  When introducing what a researcher said or did, in this sentence structure, you may need to shift the verb tense to explain a general truth or a future action. 

Note sometimes in English the word, that, is left out.  Especially in spoken language.  A person might say, the researcher said identifying a cause will be difficult.  It’s sometimes okay to drop the, that.  So just looking for the word, that, might not be an effective strategy.  But in deciding about whether to change the verb tense you may think about whether the sentence includes a report about what a researcher or a person said or did.

 

Visual: Common Error: Progressive Tenses

Progressive tenses:

  • I am writing my paper.
  • She is earning her doctorate in business.
  • The researcher is finding that the new staff need more professional development.
  • The researcher found that the new staff need more professional development.

While grammatically correct, this tense is rarely used in academic writing:

  • Focus on what has already been completed
  • Focus on explaining general truths

Audio: One of the tenses I'm mentioned a couple slides ago was the progressive tense.  Which shows what is happening, it’s the-ING form.  I am writing my paper. She is earning her doctorate in business. The researcher is finding the new staff need more professional development.  However, this tense is not really used in academic writing so rather than saying is finding, in that sentence, it’d be much more common to talk about published research and what researchers found.  It’s a common tense in English it’s just not typically used in academic writing because of the focus on what has already been completed, as I mentioned published research, the focus on explaining general truths.  So, as your writing, you might be on the lookout for the progressive tense in your writing and just think about whether a different tense might be more appropriate.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error: Appropriate Tense

            Verbs that do not make sense in the context of the sentence

  • I would complete my master’s program in 2019.

Revision: I will complete my master’s program in 2019.

  • Most children experienced some form of rebellion against their parents.

Revision: Most children experience some form of rebellion against their parents.

  • I am working on homework every night.

Revision: I work on homework every night.

Audio: Some other issues we see with verb tense are included on this slide.  And it’s mostly about them not being appropriate in the context of the sentence.  The first example, I would complete my Master's program in 2019, is written in the hypothetical tense, it is something that might happen.  However, it is more likely the person writing the sentences talking about what they will do, and we use will to talk about future plans. 

In the second example, most children experienced some form of rebellion against their parents.  The verb, experienced, is in the past tense and I guess, maybe the assumption here is this is referring to a finding or a general truth.  Because it refers to most children and seems to explain a general truth it should be in the present tense.

And finally, I am working on homework every night, here’s another instance where the sentence discusses a general truth, something that happens on a regular basis and also because we mentioned the-ING form is not used in academic writing, we would probably say instead, I work on homework every day.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise the sentence to fix the error in verb tense/use.

I was contacting all of the possible participants.

Prince (2017) stated that more research on the topic was needed.

Audio: There's a lot of information about verb tenses.  I thought we would try to do practice with a couple of example sentences I have here.  Based on what I've talked about so far, read through these two example sentences.  And then choose one of the sentences to correct and to type in the chat box.  I will take a minute to mute and take a short break while you are doing that.

[Participants working on exercise]

Great, so I’m seeing some great options in the chat area.  I just pulled out a couple of them on the left-hand side, you can see the answers I pulled from your contributions.  In the first example, we would want to avoid using the-ING form, but it looks like we're talking about the past, so something like I contacted all of the possible participants, would be just much more probably appropriate for an academic writing context. 

And then also, in the second example, I included that one but it also might depend a little bit on the context of how it’s used.  Say this was published in 2017.  Prince stated that more research on the topic, we’d probably say is needed, because that was the assertion that Prince made.  Of course, if this were something that happened, it might depend a little bit on the context, if this were something that was written a long time ago, in 1990, and depending on how we are using the idea we might say for example, Prince stated that more research on the topic was needed.  And these other authors followed up with more research. You know, so I have given some general practices of what we we’ll do in academic writing, but again, a little bit depends on context.  Great.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #2

Audio: Alright, we will move on to our second topic.  And this is, oops, my slide should say essential and nonessential clauses.  And I will say this is probably the most complex topic we will cover today.  So, do stick with me and I’ll start by explaining briefly what I mean by essential and nonessential clauses and I will provide some examples and explanations.  If you do not get it right away, do not worry, we’ll keep going and providing more info.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential Clauses Phrases

Essential

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause      Main clause: Part 2

The students who had completed their projects early did not have homework over the weekend.

Essential

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article that was assigned for Week 3

Audio: So, I’ll start with essential clauses.  And show what they look like in sentences.  When I say, clause, first of all, in this case I mean a clause or phrase are basically a group of words.  These are clauses that are to  -- sorry, that are added to sentences to provide extra information for clarifying information.  So, I have two basic models here on this slide and we’ll take a look at what they look like in sentences.

The students who had completed their projects early did not have homework over the. So this extra information, who had completed their projects early, explains which students did not have homework over the weekend. It adds extra clarifying information.  Another model for the sentence could be that the essential comes at the end.  I read the article that was assigned for week three.  Again, this clause that was assigned for week three, ads extra information about which article I read.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential Clauses/Phrases

Essential (Restrictive) Clause:

  • Restricts or defines meaning of the noun
  • Essential to the intended meaning of the sentence
  • Not separated by commas

Audio: Essential clauses may also be called restrictive clauses.  That’s because they restrict or define the meaning of a noun, they basically explain more about the noun.  They become essential information to the sentence.  It would not have the same meaning without this extra information.  And you might have noticed they are not separated from the sentence by comments. 

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: repeat prior slide

Essential

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause      Main clause: Part 2

The students who had completed their projects early did not have homework over the weekend.

Essential

Main clause: Part 1     Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article that was assigned for Week 3

Audio: So, I’m just going back to that same slide, one thing to notice is the examples here, in the examples, the clauses start with words like, that and, who.  Just something to note before we move on.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Nonessential Clauses/Phrases     

Interrupting/Nonessential

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause,     Main clause: Part 2

The students, who are in their third week of the program, did not have homework over the weekend.

Essential

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article, which only took me 15 minutes.

Audio: So, the other focus in this section is nonessential clauses or phrases.  Sentences with nonessential clauses or phrases follow the same structure as we saw in the previous slide but with a slight difference.  You can see in the model that we added commas here. And in my example, the students who are in their third week of program did not have homework over the weekend.  This is what we call an interrupting or nonessential clause.  We are adding extra information, like oh, by the way they are in their third week of the program.  But the main focus of the sentence is that they did not have homework.

Another model is for the nonessential clause to come at the end of the sentence.  I read the article, which only took me 15 minutes.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Nonessential Clauses/Phrases

Nonessential (Nonrestrictive) Clauses:

  • Add extra information
  • Not essential to intended meaning of the sentence
  • Separated by commas

Audio: So, the characteristics of these nonessential clauses, sometimes called nonrestrictive phrases, are that they add extra information to the sentence but this information, like I said is additional or interrupting and not essential to the core meaning of the sentence.  It is always separated from the rest of the sentence by commas.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Nonessential Clauses/Phrases

Interrupting/Nonessential

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause,     Main clause: Part 2

The students, who are in their third week of the program, did not have homework over the weekend.

Essential

Main clause: Part 1,    Dependent phrase/clause

I read the article, which only took me 15 minutes.

Audio: And you might notice that these clauses, I just clicked back to the same slide, you might notice, that these clauses often start with words like, who or, which.  I know this can be a bit confusing so if it is not quite clear yet, no worries we’ll be continuing to look at examples in the next slides.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Essential

The extra information is essential because it describes a noun/pronoun.

  • The employees who work remotely requested further training.
  • She received the article that she requested from the library.
  • The printers that malfunctioned are now working again.

*That is only used in essential clauses/phrases(without commas).

Audio: Alright, so, here are some additional examples of sentences with essential clauses.  The extra information is essential because it describes a noun as in a "person, place or thing" or a pronoun something that stands in for a noun.  The employees who work remotely requested further training.  In this case, who work remotely explains more about the employees, which employees are we talking about?  She received the article that she requested from the library.  Which article?  The one she requested from the library.  The printers that malfunctioned are now working again.  Again, the essential phrase, that malfunctioned, describes which printers I mean.

Something to note is that the word, that, is only used in essential clauses and phrases.  The ones that don’t need commas.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Interrupting/Nonessential

The extra information is not essential to the meaning of the sentence, so it is between commas.

  • The students despite being warned about the test’s difficulty did not adequately prepare.

Revision: The students, despite being warned about the test’s difficulty, did not adequately prepare.

  • Some students however still earned passing grades.

Revision: Some students, however, still earned passing grades.

Audio: Here are a couple more examples of interrupting or nonessential clauses.  The students despite being warned about the tests difficulty did not adequately prepare.  Some students however still earned a passing grade. So, notice that these phrases, despite being warned about the test difficulty and in the last sentence the word, however, add extra information and also kind of interrupt the sentence.  They are not essential to the sentence having a complete meaning, we could say the students did not adequately prepare, and that would communicate the main message without that interrupting phrase.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Essential vs. Nonessential Clauses

The book that she read was important for her literature review.

Essential (Restrictive) Clause:

  • Restricts or defines meaning of noun
  • Not separated by commas

The book, which she read while sitting by the pool, was important for her literature review.

Nonessential (Nonrestrictive) Clause:

  • Adds extra information
  • Separated by commas

Audio: And then, let's take a look at the couple of sentences side-by-side.  The book that she read was important for her literature review.  And the book which she read while sitting by the pool, was important for her literature review.

So, the first one is an essential or restrictive clause, one clue is that it begins with, that.  Remember that the word, that, can only begin essential clauses, the ones without, commas. Also, that she read, explains which book she read and is not separated by commas.

In the second example with the nonessential clause, the clause adds extra information.  Specifically, the clause does not explain which book she read, rather it adds extra information about the context.  And it is separated by commas.  If we took it out it wouldn’t really change the overall meaning of the sentence or the main meaning of the sentence that the book was important for her literature review.

So, while these sentence structures might still look really similar, one thing to notice that as a writer you can make some decisions about whether the information is essential or not based on the context of the sentence.  And provide better clarity for your reader by indicating that something is essential or not.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Consider the following:

  • My sister Alice is a nurse.

I have more than one sister, but only Alice is a nurse.

  • My sister, Alice, is a nurse.

I have one sister named Alice, and she is a nurse.

  • The employees who work remotely requested further training. 

Some employees work remotely, and they requested training.

  • The employees, who work remotely, requested further training.

All of the employees work remotely, and they requested training.

Audio: So, we’ll take another look at what that means here in the next slide where we have a couple of similar sentences.  Let's focus first on the first two sentences on the side.  These are almost identical.  One just has commas around Alice and then the other does not.  And you might notice to, how there is a slight difference, as I read them. My sister Alice is a nurse.  My sister, Alice, is a nurse.  In the first example, there are no commas.  The word Alice is essential because it is explaining which sister I am referring to as in, I have more than one sister but only my sister Alice is a nurse.

In the second example, the nonessential version, the name, Alice, is extra information.  My sister, her name is Alice, is a nurse.  So, I’m saying that I have only one sister, her name is Alice and she’s a nurse. 

Let's take a look at a couple more.  Again, these two sentences are quite similar, so we have the employees who work remotely requested further training.  And, the employees, who work remotely, requested further training.  In the first example who work remotely is not in commas, so it’s an essential clause, this means that only the employees who work remotely requested further training, but the local ones did not. As in, some employees work remotely, and those employees, requested further training.

In the second example, who work remotely, is set off in commas so that means it’s extra, nonessential information.  This sentence shows that all of the employees work remotely, and that they have requested further training.

Again, as a writer you get to make decisions about where you place commas and what you want to indicate to the reader.  So, indicating that something is essential or nonessential helps just, as you decide how to communicate the ideas, it will help you use strategies to do that.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice

Read the sentences below.  In the chat box, explain the difference in meaning.

The students, who turned in their assignments early, did not have homework over the weekend.

The students who turned in their assignments early did not have homework over the weekend.

Audio: So, we’ll have another practice to check and see maybe how well I’m explaining and check your understanding.  Let's take a minute to think about these two sentences.  I included the same sentence here twice.  One with comments and one without.  Based on what we talked about, consider what the difference in meaning between the two sentences.  And type your response in the chat box.  Again, I will mute myself for moment, so you will have a chance to read and think about it and type in.

[Participants working on exercise]

Great, thank you for your contributions in the chat area.  And I typed out the basic difference that I pulled from some of your answers in the bottom left hand corner.  So, the first sentence with commas, that is what we call the nonessential clause.  The meaning there is that the students -- so we could say -- one thing to keep in mind is when you have a nonessential clause you could pull it out, and the sentence would have the same meaning.  So, if we pulled out what is between the commas, we could say, the students did not have homework over the weekend.  We are saying all the students turned in their assignments early and all of the students did not have homework over the weekend.

The second option, the second sentence is that essential clause, so who turned in their assignments early is describing which students we are talking about.  So only the students who turned in their assignments early did not have homework over the weekend.  Essentially, some students had homework, some did not, it depends on if they already turned in their homework.  Or their assignment.  It looks like there are a lot of people who are on board with that as well.  If it’s something that still seems a little bit confusing you can always check out our webpage on essential and nonessential clauses.  I think we actually call it relative, restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses.  So, we just use that other terminology for it on the webpage but that something you can check out at another time, as well.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #3

Audio: Alright, so now that we got past the trickiest one, we’ll keep going with a few other areas of common grammar errors.  The next area of focus is commas after introductory words or phrases.  So, let's take a look.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Introductory words/phrases

Introductory word/phrase ,  Sentence

Introductory word/phrase: Not necessary for grammatically correctness of sentence

Sentence: Subject + predicate (complete sentence)

Between September and December, the student completed 40 hours of observation.

Audio: The structure that we’ll be looking at in this section is when there is a word or phrase that comes basically before the sentence.  This introductory word or phrase is not necessary for the grammatical correctness of the sentence.  So, it’s really an add on to the beginning of the sentence.  Sometimes introductory information or a transition word, that kind of thing. 

You can see this example, between September and December, the student completed 40 hours of observation.  Notice the second part of the sentence, the student completed 40 hours of observation that could function as its own complete sentence.  In this case we are just adding extra information at the beginning about the timeframe.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples: Introductory Words/Phrases

            Words                                     Phrases

            However                                 According to Bakke (2015)

            Furthermore                          Typing quickly

            Therefore                               Between September and December

            Often adverbs

Audio: As I mentioned, introductory information could be a word or a phrase.  So here are some examples, some words that might come before a sentence, words like, however, furthermore, therefore, these words are often adverbs. You might also see a sentence that starts with similarly and then follow, with the idea that’s similar to maybe a previous sentence. 

There are also a number of phrases that are often used. Like according to Bakke (2015). Typing quickly. Between September and December. So, this is the kind of introductory information or kind of the word or phrase that I’m referring to.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Examples sentences

According to Bakke (2015), allergies in dogs are on the rise.

However, new medications can help reduce the scratching behavior caused by allergens.

Typing quickly, he accidently deleted a sentence he wanted to keep.

Audio: And here are some examples in sentences. We have, according to Bakke, allergies in in dogs are on the rise.  However, new medications can help reduce the scratching behavior caused by allergens.  Typing quickly, he accidentally deleted a sentence he wanted to keep.  One thing to notice, is that there are commas after each introductory phrase or word. Often any phrase or information that comes before the subject of the sentence will be separated by a comma. So the subject is often a person place or thing, and in this case allergies, new medications, he, so the information that comes before the subject is typically what needs to be separated by the comma.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Exception to the rule

Short introductory phrases with four words or fewer that begin with prepositions (e.g. for, by, from, in) may not need to be followed by a comma:

For many weeks I have been searching for relevant articles.

However, it is typically also correct to include a comma:

However, it is typically also correct to include a comma:

Audio: One relevant exception to this rule is that short introductory phrases with four words or fewer that begin with prepositions such as for, by, from, in, these may not need to be followed by a comma. So, for many weeks I've been searching for relevant articles.  This is correct.  However, it is typically also correct to include the comma, so we can say for many weeks comma I have been searching for relevant articles.  So, if you are ever unsure, it is usually just safe to add the comma, and then you do not have to count how many words, you don't have to figure out is this first word a preposition -- so when in doubt it is not a bad idea to add the comma after an introductory phrase.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice:

Choose one of the sentences below. Decide if there is an error.  If so, revise the sentence to fix the error in comma use.

When attending a conference it is a good idea to dress professionally.

In addition it is important to have a notebook and a pen to take notes or write down contact information of potential future employers.

Audio: Alright, so that was kind of a quick one.  Let's take another minute to practice what I just discussed about commas after introductory clauses.  Read through the sentences, choose one or both and write a revised version in the chat box.

[Participants working on exercise]

Amy:  Great.  I see a number of correct revisions there.  In both sentences, we added commas, so when attending a conference comma in addition comma again to come back to that final rule that I mentioned if it is a short phrase and begins with a preposition like, in, for example, it would not so much be a requirement to have the comma, but it does help with the readability.  So, it is often a good idea to add that comma even if the prepositional phrase that begins the sentence is short.  Great.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #4

Audio: Alright, onto my favorite topic next.  The fourth common error that we’ll look at is possessive forms and I think I say this is my favorite topic because it’s maybe more of, not so much pet peeve but something that stands out to me.  I really noticed this one and as a writing instructor I think we have things that we really notice.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Possessive Form

The possessive form, typically created with an apostrophe (’) and an s shows that something belongs to a person, people, or thing(s).

Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning

Audio: So, we will get started here, the possessive form is created with an apostrophe and an s. I know this is something you've seen before but I will go through it anyway.  It shows that something belongs to a person or people or a thing or things.  One example is Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning.  In this case we are explaining that the theory basically belongs to Pavlov.  That it was created by Pavlov.  And so, we show that by using the possessive form, that apostrophe and s.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Singular Possessive

Pavlov’s theory of classical conditioning is based on his experiments with dogs.

The company’s code of conduct is included in the employee manual.

Jones’s (2015) research revolved around online academic writing feedback.

Audio: The possessive form can be singular or plural, so it depends on whether we’re talking about something that belongs to just one person or thing or if we’re saying that it belongs to a group.  Again, we have, these are all the singular possessive forms here.  Again, we have Pavlov's theory of classical conditioning is based on his experiments with dogs.  We are using the singular possessive form here because Pavlov is just one person.  We might also say; the company's code of conduct is included in the employee manual.  So, the code of conduct that belongs to the company.  Jones’s research revolved around online writing feedback.  So, we're talking about things that belong to, or were created by a person or company in these examples.

The final example is unique because even though that name ends in an S, we add another S after the apostrophe.  And this just follows APA guidelines, some writing style say you do not need to include the additional S after Joneses.  But just note, according to APA you do need to do this.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Plural Possessive

The Nurses’ Association has a code of conduct.

The researchers’ methods were sound.

Irregular plurals:

The Children’s Museum has a dinosaur exhibit this month.

Audio: Next will take a look at the plural form.  So, this is when we’re making the possessive form of a group.  Because these words are already in the plural and they end in ‘s’, we just add the apostrophe.   So, in this first sentence, the nurses' association has a code of conduct we're talking about the association of the nurses, the association that belongs to the nurses. So, we add the apostrophe to nurses to make it possessive, the plural possessive form.

Also, the researchers’ methods were sound, we’re referring to the methods of the researchers, as in more than one researcher. So, we add the apostrophe at the end of the plural word. One kind of fun thing about English, is that some nouns are irregular in the plural form.  As you can see in the example at the bottom of the page, Child becomes children rather than child's so when a noun is irregular in the plural form or when it does not end in S.  You can just add the apostrophe and S, as in this example. The Children’s Museum has a dinosaur exhibit this month.

So, as I mentioned, this is a common error and I see it quite a bit and it can be a bit confusing if you have not reviewed the rules recently and just a little reminder in practice can set you off on the right track.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: When to Not Use the Possessive Form

  • Years
    • Incorrect: Cell phones became commonly used in the 1990’s.
    • Correct: Cell phones became commonly used in the 1990s.
  • Making acronyms plural
    • Incorrect: The CEO’s met at the technology summit.
    • Correct: The CEOs met at the technology summit.
  • Making a noun plural
    • Incorrect: The teacher’s attended the conference.
    • Correct: The teachers attended the conference.

Audio: Before we finished the section, I wanted to note some specific instances when not to use the possessive form when we don’t need to use the apostrophe.  I explained that we use possessive form when something belongs to a person or a group, so we don’t need it in these instances.  The first is when referring to periods of years, such as decades, when we say cell phones became commonly used in the 1990s, no apostrophe is needed.  Similarly, when making acronyms plural we do not need an apostrophe.  We can add the S.  The CEOs met at the technology Summit.  And finally, remember the difference between making something plural meaning more than one, versus showing possession, that something belongs to a person.  In the final example we don’t need an apostrophe because we are talking about teachers as in more than one teacher.  Not something that belongs to the teacher.  The teachers attended the conference.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise it to fix any errors related to apostrophes or the possessive form.

The companies policy is to report violations within 48 hours.

The local Teacher’s Association has meeting’s on the first Wednesday of the month.

Audio: Once again, let us try it out.  I included two sentences here that have errors related to the possessive form. You can read them through, pick one or both and write a correction in the chat box.

[Participants working on exercise]

Great, it looks like many people caught a couple of the errors going on in these sentences.  And I saw a couple of versions of the first one.  There are two different options of how to fix it, depending on the intended meaning of the sentence of course.  So, we could say, the company, as in the singular company, apostrophe s, policy, so the first example that I have in my revision box.  That is assuming that it’s the policy of one company.  That might be the most more common use.  If we are discussing a specific policy it’s probably one that belongs to an individual company.  Of course, it could be the companies' plural possessive policy, so that second option I have in the box. That would be assuming more than one company but that they have the same policy.  Because policy is singular. Of course, we might also say the company's policies.  So, there would be different ways to revise depending on the intended meaning of the sentence.

It looks like many of you caught the couple of errors in the second example.  We’d want to move that apostrophe over so we are using plural teachers' association.  Probably, because, well because an association would belong to more than one teacher.  The association of the teachers rather than the association of the teacher.  And then has meetings on the first Wednesday of the month meetings of course just needs to be plural and not in the possessive form, so we do not need the apostrophe for meetings.  Great work, everyone.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Common Error #5 

Audio: The final common error that I’ll discuss today is subject verb agreement.  Specifically, I will focus on subject/verb agreement with complex subjects.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Review: Simple Sentences

Subject + Predicate.

Examples:

  • I am a master’s student.
    • Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.
  • All of the employees will attend the retreat.

Audio: In some of our other grammar webinars, in the mastering mechanics series, hopefully you checked those out. If not, it’s a great series about the basics and fundamentals of sentence construction and combining sentences. So, in those webinars we have focused quite a bit on some of the more basic sentence construction including things like subjects and predicates.  I just want to give a brief overview before we talk about subject-verb agreement just to make sure everybody is on the same page.

The main sections of a simple sentence are the subject, which is usually a person, place or thing.  And the predicate, which shows the action or the state of being.  And any extra information about the sentence.  Here are a few examples.  I am a master's student. Tom retired after 30 years of teaching.  All of the employees will attend the retreat.   The firsts part of the predicate in blue, kind of the italics there, is the verb, and you can see the verbs underlined here on this slide. Throughout this last section we’ll focus there on just this subject and the verb which is underlined there.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject -Verb Agreement

Subject + Verb.

Need to agree in number:

  • I write.
  • You write.
  • Deborah writes.
  • We write.
  • They write.

A regular present tense verb for the singular third person (she, he, it)

includes an “s”.

However, irregular verbs will function differently.

Audio: So, the subject and verb need to agree in number.  In English, this follows a rather regular pattern, I write, you write, Deborah or he or she writes.  Notice that this one ends in an S. We write. They write. In the present tense, the only form that is different, is when we’re talking about what we linguist and grammar nerds, call the single or third person. Meaning, when we are talking about one person or thing that is not me and it is not you.  Normally it might make sense to add and S to something when we make it plural, but this rule is different for verbs. We add an S when the verb is singular.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

2+ Subjects + 1 Verb.

  • The committee members and the student write every day.

When the subject of the sentence is composed of two or more nouns or pronouns connected by and, use a plural verb.

Audio: So now that we have that pattern in mind. Let’s look at some common errors and subject verb agreement, and when it gets a little tricky in when we have those rather complex subjects. 

The first type is when we have two or more subjects in one sentence.  The committee members and the student write every day.  So, we have those two or more subjects, we have the committee members and the student.  So even though the subject closest to the verb is singular, because as a whole we are talking about more than one, we use the plural form of the verb, write. So, for example if the sentence were just about the one student, we would use writes with an ‘s’, the student writes every day but because we’re talking about a group the committee members and the student, we use a plural form of the word, write.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject-Verb Agreement

Complex Subject + Verb.

  • The nurse who normally works with pediatric patients volunteers at the blood drive every year.

When a phrase comes between the subject and the verb, the verb still agrees with the subject, not the noun or pronoun in the phrase following the subject of the sentence.

Audio: When a sentence is a complex subject it can be a bit tricky to decide which form of the verb to use and what to match it with.  Let us take a look at the sentence, the nurse who normally works with the pediatric patients -- so what we need to do is, we need to look for the main subject because there are two different people or groups here.  There’s the nurse at the beginning of the sentence, and there’s also the pediatric patients.  In this case, the main subject, the main person or thing we are talking about is the nurse.  The rest of the subject is a phrase describes which nurse it is.  The one who works with pediatric patients.  So, we need to match our verb to nurse and not to the noun right next to the verb, in this case is, patients.

So, it’s, the nurse volunteers at the blood drive each year.  So, when a phrase comes between the main subject to end the verb, the verb still needs to agree with or match with the number of the main subject.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Subject – Verb Agreement

Noncount Subject + Verb.

  • Information about Walden’s Master’s degree programs in education is available on the website.

Noncount nouns take a singular verb.

Audio: The final point, that I have, about subject-verb agreement is related non-count noun. In English, some nouns or things are categorized as non-count nouns meaning they are a type that cannot be counted.  So, some examples are information or furniture, for example we do not say one information are three furniture.  It sounds a bit odd in English and is not grammatically correct.  Rather, we might say something like three pieces of furniture or one bit of information.  These special kinds of nouns, non-count nouns, always take the singular form of the verb.  For example, in this sentence, we use is with information rather than are.  So, information about Walden's master's degree programs in education IS available on the website. Because our main noun is information, information is available. We need to match the subject and the verb.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Practice

Choose one of the sentences below. Revise the sentence to fix the error in subject-verb agreement.

The interns and the coordinator attends lunch meetings every Wednesday.

The lesson plans for Chapter 3 is available in the shared folder.

Audio: Alright, final practice.  Let’s take a minute to just take a look at those examples.  You can choose a sentence or both, revise for subject-verb agreement and put your answer in the chat box.  I will take a short break.

[Participants working on exercise]

Great.  I see some corrections continuing to come in.  Lots of correct corrections here in the chat area.  Yes, so I think everyone identified that we just need to adjust the verbs in these two sentences.  The entrance on the coordinator attend lunch meetings.  We have multiple people and so we need to use a plural form of the verb.  And in the second example, again, the lesson plans for chapter 3 are available in the shared folder.  Again, we need to match the verb with, plans, which is plural.  And change it from is to are. Awesome!

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Proofreading Tools & Tips

Audio: Great. So, just to wrap this up here, and thinking about everything we have discussed so far, I just wanted to finish off with some tips, to try out as you continue to try writing and revising your work.

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Tips

            Identify the most common patterns in your writing.

  1. Analyze a paragraph or two of your work.
  2. Pay attention to feedback you receive from faculty or writing Center staff.
  3. Keep a grammar journal to keep track of common issues.
  4. Use Grammarly.
  5. Ask for help!

Audio: And really the main tip is to identify patterns in your writing.  Now that we have gone through five main areas of focus that may or may not be common errors for you, it might be a great idea to go back to some of your recent work, maybe your last couple of course papers or other things that you’re working on and be on the lookout for those specific errors that we talked about.  Kind of figure out, do I have any of them in my writing?  And which ones.  And keep those in mind as things to look out for in the future.

Some strategies to do that are -- like I just mentioned, to go back to your finished work, see if you identify anything after viewing this webinar.  Of course, if you have received feedback from faculty or from the writing center staff through our paper review service, taking note of what types of errors are often being pointed out, how can I focus my attention when I’m proofreading or revising to look out for those, for any additional errors that may happen.

We, as humans, as writers, we tend to make similar mistakes over and over again especially if we don’t realize that they are mistakes.  So, if you can identify patterns, that is a great strategy.  You might even keep a grammar Journal to keep track of the common issues, if you are noticing some of them and you can find that grammar Journal in the files pod on the bottom right-hand part of the slide now.  Something you can download, and keep and fill out. 

You can also try to use Grammarly, Grammarly is a software system that can help identify grammar errors. It can be really helpful but one thing to note is it’s not human, so it does not have the intuition of how language works.  So, while it may give some helpful tips, it is not perfect so use any advice from Grammarly along with your own judgment of the English language and how you think it works.  And of course, also ask for help.  We have a number of ways to reach out to us directly and of course we have many resources you can view on your own and I will probably let Claire give an overview of those here just as she wraps us up.  Because that is everything I have for you today.  Claire, did you want to take it away?

 

Visual: Slide changes to the following: Questions: Ask Now or Later

writingsupport@waldenu.edu •  Live Chat Hours

Learn More:

Check out the other webinars related to grammar and sentence construction in our Mastering the Mechanics Series.

Audio: Claire:  Sure thing.  Thank you so much, Amy, for that wonderful presentation.  I am not seeing any lingering questions.  But if you do have questions that come up as your thinking about this webinar or if you have watched this webinar as a recording, you can go ahead and let us know by writing into writing support at writingsupport@waldenu.edu . And that is a 24-hour turnaround inbox.  So, if you have a pressing question, somebody will get back to you. 

We also have live chat hours also, I know I work on the live chat, so if you ever have a question about grammar or anything else writing related, you can come in and talk to a live writing instructor such as myself and we will help you find the right resources and answer to your question.

You can also learn more about grammar as well as other topics through our webinar archive, and you could watch the mastering the mechanics series, which is also led by Amy and all about really breaking down sentence structures and those sort of grammar basics.

So, if you think that is something that sounds helpful after reviewing this webinar, that would be another great place to start, especially if you are a non-native speaker.  Again, that’s available in our webinar archive.  We will have a recording of this webinar posted within 24 hours of this presentation.  So, if you missed any or want to come back to it later you can find it there as well.

Thank you all for coming in today and I will go ahead and end our presentation.