[Reference] English Grammar Guide

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[Reference] English Grammar Guide

Post#1 » Jan 06 2009 07:52

An abridged guide to the English language

[3] Member Guidelines and Expectations wrote:2a) "Substance" includes proper spelling, punctuation and grammar. Obviously we all make occasional mistakes, and allowances will be made for non-English speaking members who make a reasonable effort to post well. However, unreadable or very poorly-written posts will not be accepted from anyone.

Advanced Tau Tactica is not an English classroom, but we do hold our standards higher than most, if not every, online forum. As such, we included the quoted section within our Membership Primers to further describe that claim. Of course, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what exactly is "proper spelling, punctuation and grammar," especially for non-native speakers. The moderation and administration team has thus compiled this brief summary of what we expect, along with a few grammar annoyances that always seem to pop up.

Quite possibly the easiest way to improve your posts and avoid a slap-on-the-wrist, using capital letters where appropriate is both easy and takes almost no time at all. All it requires is one extra keystroke for every sentence, basically. Capital letters should be used wherever necessary, as described in the following list:
  • First Word of a Sentence - The first word of a sentence should always be capitalized. It should almost become second nature to hold down SHIFT whenever you start a new sentence.
  • Proper Names - When naming a person, place, thing, or object with something other than a general noun, the name must be capitalized. Examples include Warhammer 40,000, Codex: Tau Empire, Commander Farsight, and Sa'cea. As a general rule, specific units from the codex should be capitalized; specific weapons may or may not be, based on your preference.
  • The Word 'I' - Whenever you use the word 'I,' it should always be capitalized. This might be the easiest error to fix, and it's one of the easiest for other members to spot.

Yes, those little dots, lines, and dashes actually mean something! Punctuation marks are the clues to how a sentence should be read, and changing or omitting one mark may change the meaning of the sentence as well.
  • Periods, Question Marks, and Exclamation Points - One of these three marks must be used at the end of a sentence, depending on what meaning you need to convey. They separate distinct ideas from each other and give the reader knowledge as to where the writer is beginning a new thought.
      I ate the ice cream. - a simple declaration of an action
      I ate the ice cream? - the speaker may be wondering about a past action or its implications
      I ate the ice cream! - and I don't care who hears me!
  • Commas - These little dashes provide short breaks within a sentence and are used to separate things in a list, clauses, and sentences. Look, I'm even using commas for all of its uses, even the trivial ones, in these two sentences.
      Lists: Inside of a list of three or more things, a comma should follow every item aside from the last and (sometimes) second-to-last. I say sometimes only because both of the following examples are correct; it is more of a personal choice or habit to use one of the other. I use the former while many people prefer the latter.
        battlesuits, skimmers, and spacecraft
        battlesuits, skimmers and spacecraft
      Combining Sentences and Clauses: Usually you will need to use a conjunction (and, or, but, or yet) along with the comma when combining sentences, but for combining clauses, it may or may not be necessary. It all depends on the actual sentence.
        Example: The Crisis battlesuit, armed with a plasma rifle and fusion blaster, targeted the enemy tank, but the machine survived the attack.
      Pauses: Most of the time, this will also fall under one of the other two categories, but not always.
  • Semicolons and Colons - These two are trickier to use, but thankfully you never need to use them if you don't want to; you can write an entire novel without using a single one, if you wanted.
      Semicolons combine two related sentences into one without a conjunction (see above sentence).
      Colons separate a list or statement from the rest of a sentence due to the nature of the list or statement.

No, I will not be listing every commonly misspelled word here (a quick Google search can help you there). This section is more about how you can avoid making errors in the first place, as this is definitely the easiest area to fix in posts. Most web browsers have a built-in spell-checking component that highlights misspelled words for you to fix. If yours does not, a Word document (or most word processors) can do this for you as well; the only way this differs is that it requires a copy-paste at the end. Failing these two options, you can always search on Google or an online dictionary for words that you are unsure about.
    NOTICE: Due to spelling differences between British and American English, some words can be spelled correctly in multiple ways, such as spelt/spelled and colour/color, among others.

Apostrophes are used in both contractions (combining two words into one) and to show possession by someone or something, in most cases, by ending a noun with 's, as in ATT's website. There are three groups of words that sound identical when spoken but mean vastly different thing, and it is here that many errors in this area occur.
  • They're, Their, and There - They're is a contraction of 'they are,' and if you replace the contraction with the two words and the sentence doesn't make sense, you used the wrong word. Their describes possession, while there describes a location.
      Example: They're placing their armies over there.
  • It's and Its - It's is a contraction of 'it is,' and just like above you can replace the contraction with the two words to see if you used the right form. Its describes possession.
  • You're and Your - This is probably the most commonly mixed-up pair. You're is a contraction of 'you are,' while your is for possession.

Your subjects and verbs need to agree, meaning that they both need to be either singular or plural. The problems in this area come more from the problems in the English language; to native speakers, we can hear when subjects and verbs don't agree in our heads, but non-native speakers sometimes have trouble with this. As a general rule, most singular verbs end with the letter S while most plural nouns end with the letter S. It may also be hard to determine the subject of the sentence that the verb needs to agree with, as shown below:
    The army, complete with tanks, infantry, and a competent commander, shoots at the approaching enemy.
In this example, army is the singular subject, leading to the usage of the singular shoots. The list of what the army is only describes the subject; it is not the subject.

If you have been following all of the rules so far, these two errors should never crop up in your posts, but sometimes they can't be avoided. Run-on sentences are basically just that, a sentence that seems to run on without end. They are usually two or three separate ideas that are combined into a single sentence due to lack of correct punctuation and can easily be fixed by sprinkling in some periods. Sentence fragments are basically the opposite, as they are a 'sentence' that doesn't have a complete thought (run-ons have too many). These can be solved by either removing the fragment or combining it with a sentence to form a complete thought.

As already stated, Advanced Tau Tactica is not an English course, but we do expect knowledge of the English language in order to participate. This is by no means an all-inclusive list; it is merely a collection of the problems most frequently encountered by new members and some non-native speakers. This is also still a living document, as are all threads and posts, and may be changed based on the occurrence of some errors or the lack of others.

Any further questions or clarifications may be sent to SpartanTau via PM.

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