Alison

Recent Posts

What is the subjunctive tense in English?

Posted by Alison on 12/24/16 9:52 AM

One grammar category that seems to be widely untaught is the names and functions of various verb tenses. For those who have studied a foreign language, the existence of these constructions is not so foreign, but native English speakers rarely learn what the subjunctive – in English – even is, let alone how to use it correctly. The same goes for past perfect and conditional or hypothetical phrases. If you knew what these tenses were called, maybe you would better understand the rules for combining them. If you had known these rules earlier, perhaps you could have used them more often. 

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Tags: English

What is the Difference Between Then and Than? Allusion and Illusion? To, too, and two? A List of Common Homophones and their Differences

Posted by Alison on 12/12/16 6:03 PM

What is a Homophone?

There are many more words in the English language than one might expect, given how similar their pronunciation and spelling can be. They're usually nouns and adjectives, except for those that function as conjunctions or contractions. Once you accept that English contains many pairs or groups of deceptively similar words with different meanings, then you will have a better understanding in sight of how to speak and cite and write the right ones.

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Tags: English, expository writing

One for All and All for None? Grammatical Rules for One, Neither, and Each!

Posted by Alison on 11/7/16 6:07 PM

In this blog post, our resident grammar girl reviews the impossibly confusing rules for singular subjects that refer to plural groups; subject-verb agreements involving"each", "all", and "none"; and last (but not least!) "neither", "neither", and "nor" and how they relate to your verb choice. Read More

Tags: English, expository writing

The Most Common Prefixes and Their Meanings

Posted by Alison on 10/17/16 6:00 PM

The English language comprises a plethora of words that can change meanings with the addition of a prefix or a suffix. For example, the prefix re signifies that the base word to which it attaches is happening again, as in "do" and "redo". In theory, one could add re an infinite number of times to the front of a word, and the effect would continue to do the same thing; the word's function would be repeated however many times the prefix re appears. The fact that such a pattern exists in English recalls an aspect of the language (there it is again, re in recall to call to mind again) that dates back to its origins. As much as English is a language full of exceptions to the rules, it also presents patterns that, when understood, can shed light on how and why we use the words that form the English language.

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Tags: study skills, English, SAT

Possessive Plurals and Plurals' Possessives

Posted by Alison on 9/23/16 9:30 PM

Within the realm of punctuation, apostrophes on plurals and possessives can also lead to questions. There are patterns for forming plurals, though, and so that you do not have to wonder about when and where to put an apostrophe.

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Tags: English

Semi-colons, Colons, and Commas: How and When To Use Them

Posted by Alison on 9/9/16 6:00 PM

One advisory that students hear a lot, especially in earlier years of English class, is "avoid a comma splice." A comma splice is an excessive use of commas without the proper elements of a complete sentence to justify the commas. When to use a comma versus a semi-colon depends on the type of sentence you have. Below are the sentence types that call for commas.

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Tags: English, expository writing

Three Essential Things to Remember When Citing Parenthetically

Posted by Alison on 8/24/16 6:30 PM

For a lot of students, parenthetical citations may seem like the bane of existence. You've just written a ten-page essay, you're happy with your argument and the conclusion you thought of in the middle of the night before it was due to submit, but you still have to check all the quotes. Especially in today's digital age, in which reading and copying text from countless sources is as easy as the touch of a button, the importance of correctly citing sources has grown, along with the potential consequences of neglecting to do so. 

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Tags: expository writing

Punctuate Your Point, Correctly: How to Punctuate Dialogue

Posted by Alison on 7/27/16 9:30 AM

They may seem small, but punctuation marks can make all the difference in how we read and understand the English language. The title of what has become an iconic little book, Eats, Shoots & Leaves, exemplifies the level of ambiguity that can result from the presence or absence of a comma. This chapter focuses on several oft-mistaken categories of punctuation marks – the comma, the semi-colon, the apostrophe, quotation marks – and how, when, and where to use them properly.

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Tags: English, expository writing