Grammar & usage

Many of the grad students I work with struggle with grammar and usage issues. In some cases it’s because the students are English learners, and in others it’s simply that the students’ undergrad education didn’t prepare them well enough for the rigors and high standards of graduate level writing. In other cases still, the students may have simply become “rusty” or forgotten important grammar knowledge, often as a result of being out of school for years.

Whatever the reasons, students need help. That’s why I put together the “Grammar for Grad Students” workshop series.

NOTE: To see upcoming “live” workshops being offered at the CSULB Graduate Studies Resource Center, visit this page.

Video: Crash course in grammar, usage, & style (49 min)

As a supplement to my workshop materials (that are posted further down on this page), I recorded the video below as a brief overview of some of the most common problems I encounter in student writing. If you’re short on time, or just need a simple starting point, watch the video here or by clicking on the image below:

You can also view/download the PowerPoint slides here:

Video: Addendum on Apostrophes (11 min)

A helpful student pointed out an error, or overstatement, that I made in the previous “Crash Course on Grammar” video–specifically, an error regarding apostrophes. So, in the following video, I remedy the error and set the record straight.

You can also view/download the PowerPoint slides here:

Grammar for Grad Students

Grammar for Grad Students (or, affectionately, “G4GS”) is a series of workshops that, with a nod to Thomas A. Garrity, offer a rapid review of “all the grammar you forgot, but need to know for graduate school.” The PowerPoint slides, available below, were designed to work as self-teaching tools, so they should be pretty self-explanatory. Below each presentation I include a link to some sample exercises and, if applicable, other good sites that offer further exercises and/or instruction.

G4GS Session 1: “In the beginning was the word… and later there were some problems with agreement.”

Topics covered: The 8 parts of speech; subject-verb agreement; pronoun-antecedent agreement; gender neutral pronoun use.


Other useful sites:

Purdue Owl: Making Subjects and Verbs Agree.

APA: Welcome Singular “They”.

Khan Academy: Subject-verb agreement and Pronoun Antecedent Agreement

G4GS Session 2: “The verb’s the thing: Everything you ever wanted to know about verbs but were afraid to ask”

Topics covered: Verb tense (past, present, past perfect); voice (passive vs. active); perfective aspect; mood (e.g. subjunctive, imperative).

Exercises: No file for download – all exercises for Session 2 are included in the PowerPoint.

Other useful sites:

USC: Tightening Passive Sentences

USC: Verb Tenses

The Duke Graduate School Scientific Writing Resource does a great job summarizing some of the GOOD uses of the passive voice for maintaining cohesion. (scroll down or use CTRL+F and search for “passive”)

Finally, here’s an introductory handout I designed on the passive voice:

G4GS Session 3: “Punctuation and its Discontents”

Topics covered: Who cares about punctuation?; comma rules; the semi-colon; forming possessives (apostrophes).


Other useful sites:

Business Insider: 17 rules for using commas correctly without looking like a fool

Kristen Stieffel: Taming those pesky commas

The Oatmeal: How to use an apostrophe

And here’s an introductory handout I made on forming possessives:

G4GS SESSION 4: “Finishing Your Sentences: If You Can’t Do the Time, Don’t Do the (Word) Crime”

Topics covered: sentence completeness; sentence fragments; run-on sentences.


Other useful sites:

Grammarly: Comma Splice

USC: Writing and punctuating complete sentences

Purdue OWL: Sentence Fragments

G4GS Session 5: “Game of Sentence Elements: A Song of Parallelism and Modifiers”

Topics covered: faulty parallelism; misplaced modifiers


Other useful sites:

USC Writing Center: Parallel Structure

Hamilton: The Fifth Deadly Sin: Misplaced and Dangling Modifiers

Purdue OWL: Dangling Modifiers and Parallel Structure

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