Getting it Right: Grammar and Punctuation

Worksheet and Handout

Thursday, 15 April, 1999

9 - 10 AM, Peavy 276

Jane Thomas,, 737-4289, FRL 222

Non-Sexist Language

I. Grammar

Tricky "-ing" words

Part of verb (V):

She was running fast.

Participial phrases (P) (modify nouns and verbs):

The man running behind her was slow.

Gerunds (G) (act as nouns):

Running is good exercise.


Exercise I. Underline nouns, double-underline verbs. Identify "-ing" words that act as part of verbs (V), as part of participial phrases (P), or as gerunds (G).

1. A tree with dying needles and hanging branches, standing on the edge of the cliff, was clinging to thin soil.

2. The total amount of chemical and biological additions was approaching the ridiculous; even the professor was beginning to have doubts.

3. Arriving on time was complicated by the stalling of taxis and growing number of waiting parked cars.


Exercise II. Underline subjects, double-underline verbs, and fix agreement problems.

1. The king, along with his subjects, was/were awaiting the feast.

2. The number of ants, cockroaches, and scorpions was/were growing.

3. A number of ants was/were already encroaching on the picnic area.

4. Going down to the docks was/were among their favorite activities.

5. Before data was/were collected, a set of experiments was/were designed.


Subjects, verbs, complements, objects

Linking sentences ("be" verbs): no object--

Complement describes or defines subject:

The sky is blue.

The sky is part of the atmosphere.

Non-linking sentences

Intransitive verbs: no object--

The tree fell down.

Transitive verbs: have an object--

The tree hit the ground.


Prepositional phrases

They start with for, on, with, by, over, to, in spite of, and so on. They take "objects." Pronouns Subject Object

I me

you you

he, she, it him, her, it

we us

they them

Subject: Matilda and I hit a tree.

Object: The jolt injured John and me.

Other kinds of objects

Participle: The man approaching St. Ives had no wife.

The car carrying Matilda and her to the hospital was slow.

Gerund: Running the mile took four minutes.

Bandaging John and me took most of the afternoon.

Infinitive: To take an umbrella is sensible.

To ask Bill and her to the party would be nice.


Exercise III. Underline subject, double-underline verb, and label object (O).

1. Even before anyone had arrived, the list of participants astonished the organizers.

2. Don't hurt the baby!

3. The wind blew hard; it blew the sign down.

Choose correct pronouns. Watch for subjects and objects. 4. John and he/him gave Jill and I/me a present.

5. Dave and I/me couldn't believe Bill and she/her would hurt Susie and he/him.


Adjectives and Adverbs


Adjectives modify nouns.

The red ball under the big, green table rolled slowly along the hard ground.

Adverbs modify verbs (and adjectives).

The slowly rolling ball bounced rapidly over the light green table and immediately dropped quickly to the ground. Participles: Some -ing words and phrases act as adjectives.

The woman running the race was fast.

Running the race, the woman was fast.

Placement of phrases affects meaning.

Going to St. Ives, I met a man with seven wives.

I met a man with seven wives going to St. Ives.

Avoid "dangling modifiers":

Walking through the woods, the path was dark. [The path was walking?]

Placing it in the box, the sample was dried. [The sample did the "placing"?]


Exercise IV. Underline modifying phrases and look for word being modified. Fix problems.

1. Going to town, an apple tree was beginning to fruit.
2. The trip, being prepared for all eventualities, was a lot more fun than anyone expected.

3. The sentence was changed for a third time, wondering whether it made any sense.

4. Startled by the sudden noise, there was not a sound from any of the animals.

5. The nail was pounded into the board using a hammer.


Active vs. passive voice


Active: The President made mistakes.

Passive: Mistakes were made. (By??)

Exercise V. Change to parallel structure.

Going down the canyon was difficult, but it was even harder to come back up. We tried eating it, someone stuffed it down the disposer, we put it in the garbage, it got thrown out the window, and the cat ate some--but still we couldn't get rid of it.

Clearcuts on the south side of the mountain got lots of sun; there was shade in the forests on the north side.

II. Non-sexist language

Sexist: A doctor should bring his bag when he visits his patients.

Standard solution: A doctor should bring his or her bag when her or she visits his or her patients. Other awkward solutions:

A doctor should bring their bag...

A doctor should bring his/her bag...

If one is a doctor, one should bring oneís bag...

Better solutions:

"You." If youíre a doctor, bring your bag...

Plural. Doctors should bring their bags...

Rephrase. A doctor should bring a bag when visiting a patient.

Exercise VI. Edit to avoid sexist and awkward language

1. If the operator reads their manual, they'll find the answers.

2. A nurse earns her cap by fulfilling certain requirements.

3. The perpetrator left his/her fingerprints on the window when he or she went out the door.

4. A ranger asked each visitor how many times he had visited the forest before.

5. A mother should watch her diet carefully before her baby is due to be born.

6. If a workman works hard, he'll get more pay.

7. Every student will have to pass a grammar test before he can graduate.


III. Punctuation (Use this hand-out for problems we canít cover in the workshop)

Commas: Connecting independent clauses An independent clause has at least one subject and one verb.

A sentence must have at least one independent clause.

The seven "coordinating conjunctions" can connect independent clauses:

and, but, for, nor, or, so, yet

A sentence made of two independent clauses needs a comma. _________________________________________________________________

Exercise. Independent clauses. Identify coordinating conjunctions and independent clauses. Which sentences need a comma?

1. The Douglas-firs grew 10 feet and the hemlocks grew 8 feet.

2. The oak trees grew 4 feet and gained 3 inches in diameter.

3. Little green space men and women with pink hats will be coming soon and won't know what to do about us.

4. Small purple people-eaters would like to eat us but their enormous man-eating machines can't get through our atmosphere.


Phrases and clauses


Prepositional phrase:

The tree by the stream fell with a thud.

Participial phrase:

The tree approaching me came flying through the air.


If we knew grammar, we'd always be right.

The student who understands grammar has an advantage.

I've finally learned what I need to know.



Dependent clauses

Each has a subject and verb

Subordinate clause:

Because he was running, he fell.

Relative clause:

The girl who was running fell down. Noun clause: The problem was that they were running. A dependent clause needs an independent clause to form a sentence. _________________________________________________________________

Subordinate clauses

Remember: a clause has a subject and a verb

Subordinate clauses start with "subordinating conjunctions" such as these (there are many others):

after, although, assuming that, because, before, if, since, unless, until, when, wherever The comma rule: If the dependent clause comes first, the sentence needs a comma.

The sentence doesn't need a comma if the dependent clause comes last.


Exercise. Subordinate clauses. Identify conjunctions and clauses. Which sentences need a comma?

1. Although Mary was short Jessica was shorter and the baby was the smallest of all.

2. The conifers grew taller than the herbs but the pines overtopped the brush.

3. Because the sky was green and pink we couldn't see the spaceships.

4. We couldn't see the Martians because the trees were green.

5. The Martians could hide well because of the green trees.


Prepositional phrases


Subordinate phrases have a subject and a verb.

Prepositional phrases have an object.

The comma rule is the same:

With initial prepositional phrases, use a comma.

Don't use a comma with final phrases.


Restrictive and non-restrictive

clauses and phrases

Restrictive: clarifies meaning.

Use no commas.

The dog that was smallest won the race. A boy with pink hair fainted.

Non-restrictive: adds information.

Use two commas.

The winner, who likes Cheerios, ran fast. His oldest sister, Eloise, came to dinner. _________________________________________________________________

Exercise. Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses and phrases. Underline the noun that's being modified. Decide whether the clause or phrase is restrictive or non-restrictive. Add commas if necessary. Don't forget--these commas come in pairs!

1. The tree near the stream grows fast.

2. Conifers trees with needles are often evergreens. 3. Conifers with needles aren't dead. 4. Conifers that lose their needles might be larches.

5. A scientist who received two Nobel prizes went to OSU.

6. Linus Pauling who received two Nobel prizes went to OSU.

7. Her sister Mary was born in 1899, but her sister Mabel wasn't born until 1915.

8. She married her husband Oscar in 1906. After he died, she married her husband Arnold in 1918. She married her third husband Ole in 1931.

9. Dave Jones who plays the fiddle lives in Wales.

10. Dave who plays the fiddle lives in Wales, but Dave who plays the drums lives in Corvallis.


Commas that separate adjectives

Use commas to separate adjectives if you could put an "and" there. (Don't use one before the noun.)

The big, old, red barn burned.

Don't use a comma when the first adjective modifies the next (it's called an adverb in that case).

The light red barn burned.

Use hyphens when two or more words work together to modify the noun.

The old-looking, red-colored barn burned. The ten-foot-tall barn burned.


Watch out for ambiguity

There were ten foot long snakes in the grass.

There were ten foot-long snakes in the grass.

There were ten-foot-long snakes in the grass.


Elements in a series: commas

Don't use a comma after the last object (i.e., before a verb).

The ants, elephants, pangolins, and okapis ran into the forest. Using a comma before the "and" is optional, but be consistent--and sometimes it's necessary for clarification. We planted hemlock and spruce in plot A, cedars in plot B with a few pines and alders, and Douglas-fir and pines in plot C. _________________________________________________________________

Exercise. Commas with adjectives and in series. Add commas as appropriate.

1. Space people with dark green space suits are hard to see.

2. Space people with heavy white aluminum lined space suits are more obvious.

3. We planted trees in plots A B and C.

4. The arrival of seven centaurs five fauns a large group of naiads and dryads and one lion was a problem for the caterer.


Clarifying commas

Most vegetarians eat cheese. Those who don't eat tofu.

Most vegetarians eat cheese. Those who don't, eat tofu. People who can run every day.

People who can, run every day.


When not to use commas


Just for "taking a breath"

When you need a period or semicolon instead (run-ons)

When dashes or parentheses work better

After last term in series

After the subject

Between an independent clause and a dependent clause In other "wrong" places

Problem comma decisions

Between coordinate adjectives--not always necessary

After short introductory phrases

The last serial comma question--just try to be consistent


Semicolons: connecting

related independent clauses

The sky is blue, and the clouds have disappeared.

The sky is blue; the clouds have disappeared. When the sky is blue, there isn't a cloud in sight. (not two independent clauses--can't use semicolon) The sky was blue. The building was large and brown. (ideas not connected--don't use semicolon) _________________________________________________________________


connecting independent clauses

joined by "conjunctive adverbs"

Conjunctive adverbs:

however, nevertheless, moreover, therefore, in fact, for example I asked questions; however, we would never know the truth.

It was finished; nevertheless, we would try again.

She enjoyed the race; in fact, she planned to run again next year.



Use a colon after an independent clause to introduce a list, or quotation. There were three sites: MacDonald Forest, at an elevation of 100 m; Mary's Peak, elevation 800 m; and Iron Mountain, 1200 m. Don't use a colon if the first part of the sentence isn't an independent clause. The sites were MacDonald Forest, Mary's Peak, and Iron Mountain. _________________________________________________________________


Use dashes to set off parenthetical material to be emphasized.

Use two hyphens--with no spaces--to mean a dash. Use dashes to set off explanatory material that has commas. The three treatments--clearcut, partial cut, and control--were installed during the first season. Use dashes to divide two parts of a sentence--like this.