Matters of Grammar, Mechanics, and Style

For many students, the discussion of grammar, mechanics, and style is intimidating. There are rules, and lots of them. And when rules are broken, some kind of inquisition or punishment is bound to follow. Any student who has experienced an instructor’s editorial comments (also known as the red pen “blood” in the margins of a paper) knows what it feels like to be a hapless violator of the rules.

Rules Matter

Despite your gut reactions to learning certain rules for grammar, mechanics, and style, you have to acknowledge that the rules matter.  People communicate daily in written forms, such as emails, letters, reports, and essays. And many of them need to communicate in such a way that they are taken seriously.

In academic writing, it is your job to make sure that the people who read what you write (your instructor and classmates) understand what you are trying to say. If your thoughts are not arranged appropriately, your readers may get confused. If you do not acknowledge and employ the rules of grammar, mechanics, and style, you are at a distinct disadvantage as a communicator.

The Grammar Report

Being able to identify grammatical, mechanical, or stylistic problems that exist in your writing is one way to improve your writing. These problems may have been with you for some time, failing to be identified, researched, and remedied.

The Grammar Report assignments will assist you in not only identifying your problem, but also you help you seek out examples of the problem, research the rules related to the problem, and finally “reporting” on your experience to your classmates. Indeed, the process is not just about you addressing a writing problem; it is about sharing your experience and remedies, so that you can teach others to avoid writing errors.

Improving Grammar, Mechanics, and Style

There are a wide variety of resources to support your research. A good place to start is the free online textbook, Successful Writing. You can use the find/search feature of your browser to look up particular topics and use the practice exercises to work through the process of identifying and correcting errors.

Here are some online resources that you may find useful, as well:

At some point, you may find that you share the same grammatical, mechanical, or stylistic problems with others in this course. Take a moment to look at the most commonly occurring grammar errors listed in the “Attending to Grammar” materials developed by the Dartmouth Writing Program. Of the top 20 grammar errors listed, consider which ones are common to you. Then make sure you make every effort to eradicate them from your writing.