Grammar & Mechanics

Grammar is the structure of written or spoken language. It refers to the parts of speech and how they combine together to form sentences. Mechanics refers to the rules of the written language, such as capitalization, punctuation and spelling. An understanding of both grammar and mechanics is required to clearly communicate your ideas in a paper. Here are some strategies to help you improve your grammar and mechanics:

  • Keep a list of your most common errors. For example, if you often get feedback from your instructors that you are using commas incorrectly and writing many run-on sentences, make note of these errors.
  • When you are proofreading your work, refer to your list of frequent errors and carefully read for correctness in these areas.
  • Read your paper out loud (or listen to someone else read your writing). If you have access to reading software such as Kurzweil, make use of its audio function.
  • As you listen to your paper, you will likely be able to pick out sections that "sound right" and sections that don't. Then, go back to the rules of grammar and mechanics to fix any problem areas.
  • Use the spelling and grammar checking tool in your word processor. However, be careful! These tools simply make suggestions but may not always provide the correct solution. You need to decide if these suggestions are going to make your writing better or worse.
  • Read more about your problem areas, view examples and practice your skills.

Check out Quick and Dirty Tips from the Grammar Girl for pointers and suggests on how to become a better writer. Grammar Girl offers a great deal of information on both her website and podcast.

To practice your grammar skills, check out the interactive Exercises at Grammar Bytes on chompchomp.com or The Basic Elements of English Grammar from the University of Calgary.