Writing Mechanics & Grammar
Learning grammar rules and the mechanics of writing are critical components of learning to write. Having strong skills in writing and grammar allows writers to get their message or story to their readers in a clear and understandable way. It is important to know the rules of grammar and how to use them properly.
Time4Writing.com is a useful site to find resources to help students improve their familiarity with writing and grammar. You’ll find free writing resources covering capitalization, parts of speech, and punctuation. The articles on each topic provide additional guidance and students can practice their skills using activities that include video lessons, printable worksheets and quizzes, standardized test prep materials, and interactive games. For a more in-depth look at the mechanics of writing, eight-week courses are available.
Parents and educators can use these resources to motivate students and reinforce skills. Students can gain a better understanding of writing and grammar as well as boost their confidence and expand their skills with online practice.
Parts of Speech
Knowing the parts of speech, using them correctly, and understanding how they relate to one another is an important early step in creating strong writing skills. From nouns and verbs to prepositions and conjunctions, each part of speech plays a key role in sentence structure and clarity of thought. ... Read More »
The question of subject-verb agreement highlights a writer’s need to make sentences clear and understandable. Having plural subjects with singular verbs, or the reverse, results in nobody being quite sure who is doing what. This becomes particularly important when long phrases separate the subject from the verb. Learning about and understanding subject-verb agreement helps writers create clear sentences that the reader will understand. ... Read More »
In a world of lowercase texting, learning proper capitalization takes on a whole new meaning. From learning to distinguish between “capitonyms” (a turkey in Turkey, a march in March) to learning the basic rules of capitalization, students have much to gain from mastering this area of writing mechanics. ... Read More »
Punctuation marks are signposts used by writers to give directions to their readers about which way a sentence is going. Using punctuation properly is one of the most crucial elements in making the meaning of the sentence absolutely clear. Take our favorite example: “Let’s eat Grandma!” becomes considerably less worrisome when a single comma is added … “Let’s eat, Grandma!” ... Read More »
Homophones, Homonyms, Homographs
Some of the most interesting words in English are homophones, homonyms, and homographs. However, intrigue can quickly give way to confusion when dealing with sound-alikes and look-alikes! Learning the distinction between identical spellings with two different pronunciations or two different spellings with identical pronunciation is not just confusing, but potentially frustrating. Still, with the proper approach, students can be brought to appreciate homophones, homonyms, and homographs. ... Read More »
- Taking notes is a key part of the research process because it helps you learn, and allows you to see your information in a useful visual way.
Once you’ve gotten a group of high-class sources, the next thing to do is go through them in detail. When reading through your sources, it’s important to be taking notes. Not only does the note-taking process help you learn the information, the notes themselves are an important visual aid in your paper-writing process.
There are as many ways to take notes as there are people. Everyone has a slightly different method. Some prefer to type notes on a computer, some choose to use notecards, and others like a good ‘ol pen and paper. The specific tool you use to take your notes isn’t as important as the notes themselves. Choose the method that’s the most comfortable for you.
Here are the things that all good notes systems will allow you to have:
- Information about the source so you can find it again – You’ll want to write down the author, title, date published, publisher, and URL (if it’s a website).
- A way to group notes – You’ll want to be able to organize your notes in a visual way so you can arrange them in an order that makes sense.
- Spaces for you to write down quotes (direct text straight from the source), comments (your thoughts and questions), and paraphrasing (information from the text in your own words).
When taking notes, here are some things to keep in mind:
- Skim your entire source before you read it in detail. Skimming will help you understand how the document is laid out and what the main ideas are.
- Search for the subject headings in the material you’re reading and write them in your notes. They’ll help you find relevant information faster, and they’ll provide you with reference points when you review your notes later.
- Write down every fact or note that may be of use to you in your paper. Don’t write down things you already know or would never include in your finished work.
- Break down the text into small groups of paragraphs. Read each group one-by-one, taking notes between groups. Breaking up the text into smaller, bite-sized pieces will help you process the information.
- Don’t write down information from the text word-for-word. This takes too much time and prevents you from using your higher brain functions to filter out and process important information.
- If a source is too dense or has too many dates, don’t feel like you need to write every bit of information down. Make a note of where the dense parts are and move on.
In the following sections, we’ll cover some specific note-taking tools. Remember to choose the one that matches your style the best.
1) Using notecards
- Using notecards is a great way to arrange research information visually.
- Have a “bibliography card” for each source.
- Have notecards for every major idea that the source discusses.
Within the method of using notecards, there are many different formats to take notes. Again, the keys are to have a system that 1. works for you, and 2. includes all of the information you need.
Here’s a note-taking system that we like:
- Create a bibliography notecard for each source you use. It will serve as the “title notecard” for each stack of notecards dedicated to a particular source. On the bibliography notecard, you’ll want to include every piece of information you’ll need to cite your source. Here’s an example of a great title notecard for a book:
- Using the general principles of note-taking outlined in the earlier section, write note cards (one for each main idea) with bullet points. Here’s an example:
2) The Cornell note-taking method
- The Cornell note-taking method is a great way to manage notes for a lecture or any type of source.
- The Cornell system helps you commit information to memory.
The Cornell note-taking method can be applied to taking notes for research. The method helps you retain information.
The Cornell system is done on regular notebook paper that’s divided up into four sections:
Here’s an example of a notebook page:
3) Other note-taking tools
- There are a variety of electronic note-taking tools out there.
- If you like taking notes electronically, check out some of these tools.
|Evernote||Multi-platform (computer, mobile, and web) note taker for to-do lists, image archiving, and more.|
|Springpad||Multi-platform note taker for the busy person to edit, tag, and view notes.|
|Microsoft OneNote||Software with ability to create organized to-do lists, tag notes, bring in images; works well with Windows|
|Springnote||Cloud tool where you can generate text documents and share them with people.|