Assessment of Student Learning


Top Five Grammar Problems from Jour 002 (Grammar & Usage) Final Exam


1.  Dates and states rule

Please punctuate the following sentence (if it needs punctuation):

The tornado on June 24 1876 destroyed Carton City Texas and several small towns in Oklahoma.


RULE (DATES): Set the number designating a year off with commas when the number follows a month and a date. When a date follows a day of the week, set the date off with commas.

EXAMPLE:  Jan. 1, 2008, was a memorable day.

EXAMPLE:  Wednesday, Jan. 1, was a memorable day.

EXAMPLE: I remember Jan. 1, 2008.

EXAMPLE: I remember Wednesday, Jan. 1.


TIP: Most stylebooks agree that when only the month and year are specified, commas are unnecessary:

EXAMPLE: January 2008 was a profitable month for our company.


RULE (STATES): Set off state and country names with commas when they follow city names.

EXAMPLE: Weslaco, Texas, is near Mexico.

EXAMPLE: She works in Asolo, Italy.



2. Restrictive apposition with a personal title

Please punctuate the following sentence (if it needs punctuation):

Women's basketball coach Bonnie Henrickson spoke at the luncheon.


RULE: Do not put a comma between a title and a name when you can substitute Mr. or Ms. for the title.

EXAMPLE: President Julie Smith will address the stockholders. (Ms. Julie Smith will address the stockholders.)


RULE: Do not set off a noun (or noun phrase) with commas when it narrows down the meaning of a preceding noun.

EXAMPLE: My associate Arnold Jones will address the stockholders. (The noun Arnold Jones narrows down   the noun associate; it tells which associate.)

EXAMPLE:  Our newsletter Employees Today just won a national award. (This is accurate only if the company has more than one newsletter. In that case, Employees Today narrows down the noun newsletter; it tells which of your organization's newsletters won the award.)


3.  Pronoun case

In the following sentence, please

a.     underline the possessive pronoun

b.     put an "x" through the objective pronoun           

c.     circle the nominative pronoun

After some confusion, they mailed their certificates to her last Wednesday.


RULE: A nominative pronoun is the subject of a verb (She is a good grammarian) or is a so-called predicate nominative (It is I.) Objective pronouns are objects: direct objects (They like her), indirect objects (They gave her the letter), objects of prepositions (The debate is between her and me), etc. Possessive pronouns are easier – but remember that possessive personal pronouns don't take apostrophes: yours, hers, its, ours, theirs (and also whose).


4. Dangling modifier

Which of the following sentences has a dangling modifier?

a.     The House voted in favor of the measure, however it died in the Senate.

b.     Holding the flag high, he charged the enemy lines.

c.     After the gold rush ended, the new settlers found other occupations.

d.     Rushing into the burning building, his courage was amazing.


RULE: Most dangling modifiers are dangling participles. There are present participles (add –ing to a verb): jumping. And there are past participles (fill in the blank: I have verb form): jumped, sung, ridden, walked. Here's the rule: Opening participial phrases modify the subject of the sentence. So this would be a dangling modifier: Flying over the North Pole, an iceberg was seen. The iceberg wasn't flying. This also would be a dangling modifier: Screamed into the wind, he knew his words were lost. He wasn't screamed into the wind.


5. Nonrestrictive relative clause

Please punctuate the following sentence (if it needs punctuation):

Kathleen Sebelius who was just named secretary of Health and Human Services loves the movie "Animal House"


RULE: A clause is a group of related words with a subject and a verb that shows tense. A relative clause is a clause introduced by a relative pronoun (generally, who/whom, whose, that, which, where). The relative pronoun "relates" the clause back to an immediately previous noun. If the clause narrows down that noun – if the clause is essential to the meaning of the noun – do not set the relative clause off with commas. If the clause doesn't narrow down the previous noun – if it's nonessential – set it off with commas.