Read Like A Writer

There are two ways to learn how to write fiction: by reading it and by writing it. Yes, you can learn lots about writing stories in workshops, in writing classes and writing groups, at writers' conferences. You can learn technique and process by reading the dozens of books like this one on fiction writing and by reading articles in writers' magazines. But the best teachers of fiction are the great works of fiction themselves. You can learn more about the structure of a short story by reading Anton Chekhov's 'Heartache' than you can in a semester of Creative Writing 101. If you read like a writer, that is, which means you have to read everything twice, at least. When you read a story or novel the first time, just let it happen. Enjoy the journey. When you've finished, you know where the story took you, and now you can go back and reread, and this time notice how the writer reached that destination. Notice the choices he made at each chapter, each sentence, each word. (Every word is a choice.) You see now how the transitions work, how a character gets across a room. All this time you're learning. You loved the central character in the story, and now you can see how the writer presented the character and rendered her worthy of your love and attention. The first reading is creative—you collaborate with the writer in making the story. The second reading is critical.

John Dufresne, from his book, The Lie That Tells A Truth: A Guide to Writing Fiction


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Saturday, February 11, 2017

The Century Handbook of Writing by Garland Greever and Easley S. Jones (1927)

Transcriber's Notes

  1. Misprints and punctuation errors were corrected. Hover over underlined word in the text to see the corrections made. A list of corrections can be found at the end of the text.
  2. Abbreviations have been marked up using <abbr> tag with the expanded form in the title attribute.
  3. A chart summarizing the table of contents found inside the front and back covers is presented separately as an illustration and in tabular format.
  4. The following accesskeys are provided:






This handbook treats essential matters of grammar, diction, spelling, mechanics; and develops with thoroughness the principles of sentence structure. Larger units of composition it leaves to the texts in formal rhetoric.

The book is built on a decimal plan, the material being simplified and reduced to one hundred articles. Headings of these articles are summarized on two opposite pages by a chart. Here the student can see at a glance the resources of the volume, and the instructor can find immediately the number he wishes to write in the margin of a theme. The chart and the decimal scheme together make the rules accessible for instant reference.

By a device equally efficient, the book throws upon the student the responsibility of teaching himself. Each article begins with a concise rule, which is illustrated by examples; then follows a short "parallel exercise" which the instructor may assign by adding an x to the number he writes in the margin of a theme. While correcting this exercise, the student will give attention to the rule, and will acquire theory and practice at the same time. Moreover, every group of ten articles is followed by mixed exercises; these may be used for review, or imposed in the margin of a theme as a penalty for flagrant or repeated error. Thus friendly counsel is backed by discipline, and the instructor has the means of compelling the student to make rapid progress toward good English.

Although a handbook of this nature is in some ways arbitrary, the arbitrariness is always in the interest of simplicity. The book does have simplicity, permits instant reference, and provides an adequate drill which may be assigned at the stroke of a pen.



When a number is written in the margin of your theme, you are to turn to the article which corresponds to the number. Read the rule (printed in bold-face type), and study the examples. When an r follows the number on your theme, you are, in addition, to copy the rule. When an x follows the number, you are, besides acquainting yourself with the rule, to write the exercise of five sentences, to correct your own faulty sentence, and to hand in the six on theme paper. If the number ends in 9 (9, 19, 29, etc.), you will find, not a rule, but a long exercise which you are to write and hand in on theme paper. In the absence of special instructions from your teacher, you are invariably to proceed as this paragraph requires.

Try to grasp the principle which underlies the rule. In many places in this book the reason for the existence of the rule is clearly stated. Thus under 20, the reason for the rule on parallel structure is explained in a prologue. In other instances, as in the rule on divided reference (20), the reason becomes clear the moment you read the examples. In certain other instances the rule may appear arbitrary and without a basis in reason. But there is a basis in reason, as you will observe in the following illustration.

Suppose you write, "He is twenty one years old." The instructor asks you to put a hyphen in twenty-one, and refers you to 78. You cannot see why a hyphen is necessary, since the meaning is clear without it. But tomorrow you may write. "I will send you twenty five dollar bills." The reader cannot tell whether you mean twenty five-dollar bills or twenty-five dollar bills. In the first sentence the use of the hyphen in twenty-one did not make much difference. In the second sentence the hyphen makes seventy-five dollars' worth of difference. Thus the instructor, in asking you to write, "He is twenty-one years old," is helping you to form a habit that will save you from serious error in other sentences. Whenever you cannot understand the reason for a rule, ask yourself whether the usage of many clear-thinking men for long years past may not be protecting you from difficulties which you do not foresee. Instructors and writers of text books (impressive as is the evidence to the contrary) are human, and do not invent rules to puzzle you. They do not, in fact, invent rules at all, but only make convenient applications of principles which generations of writers have found to be wisest and best.



The first thing to make certain is that the thought of a sentence is complete. A fragment which has no meaning when read alone, or a sentence from which is omitted a necessary word, phrase, or idea, violates an elementary principle of writing.

Fragments Wrongly Used as Sentences

1. Do not write a subordinate part of a sentence as if it were a complete sentence.

  • Wrong: He stopped short. Hearing some one approach.
  • Right: He stopped short, hearing some one approach. [Or] Hearing some one approach, he stopped short.
  • Wrong: The winters are cold. Although the summers are pleasant.
  • Right: Although the summers are pleasant, the winters are cold.
  • Wrong: The hunter tried to move the stone. Which he found very heavy.
  • Right: The hunter tried to move the stone, which he found very heavy. [Or] The hunter tried to move the stone. He found it very heavy.

Note.—A sentence must in itself express a complete thought. Phrases or subordinate clauses, if used alone, carry only an incomplete meaning. They must therefore be attached to a sentence, or restated in independent form. Elliptical expressions used in conversation may be regarded as exceptions: Where? At what time? Ten o'clock. By no means. Certainly. Go.


  1. My next experience was in a grain elevator. Where I worked for two summers.
  2. The parts of a fountain pen are: first, the point. This is gold. Second, the body.
  3. The form is set rigidly. So that it will not be displaced when the concrete is thrown in.
  4. There are several reasons to account for the swarming of bees. One of these having already been mentioned.
  5. Since June the company has increased its trade three per cent. Since August, five per cent.
Incomplete Constructions

2. Do not leave uncompleted a construction which you have begun.

  • Wrong: You remember that in his speech in which he said he would oppose the bill.
  • Right: You remember that in his speech he said he would oppose the bill. [Or] You remember the speech in which he said he would oppose the bill.
  • Wrong: He was a young man who, coming from the country, with ignorance of city ways, but with plenty of determination to succeed.
  • Right: He was a young man who, coming from the country, was ignorant of city ways, but had plenty of determination to succeed.
  • Wrong: From the window of the train I perceived one of those unsightly structures.
  • Right: From the window of the train I perceived one of those unsightly structures which are always to be seen near a station.


  1. As far as his having been deceived, there is a difference of opinion on that matter.
  2. The fact that he was always in trouble, his parents wondered whether he should remain in school or not.
  3. People who go back to the scenes of their childhood everything looks strangely small.
  4. It was the custom that whenever a political party came into office, for the incoming men to discharge all employees of the opposite party.
  5. Although the average man, if asked whether he could shoot a rabbit, would answer in the affirmative, even though he had never hunted rabbits, would find himself badly mistaken.
Necessary Words Omitted

3. Do not omit a word or a phrase which is necessary to an immediate understanding of a sentence.

  • Ambiguous: I consulted the secretary and president. [Did the speaker consult one man or two?]
  • Right: I consulted the secretary and the president. [Or] I consulted the man who was president and secretary.
  • Ambiguous: Water passes through the cement as well as the bricks.
  • Right: Water passes through the cement as well as through the bricks.
  • Wrong: I have had experience in every phase of the automobile.
  • Right: I have had experience in every phase of automobile driving and repairing.
  • Wrong: About him were men whom he could not tell whether they were friends or foes.
  • Right: About him were men regarding whom he could not tell whether they were friends or foes. [Or, better] About him were men who might have been either friends or foes.


  1. When still a small boy, my family moved to Centerville.
  2. Constantly in conversation with some one broadens our ideas and our vocabulary.
  3. It was a trick which opposing teams were sure to be baffled.
  4. They departed for the battle front with the knowledge they might never return.
  5. At the banquet were all classes of people; I met a banker and plumber.

4. Comparisons must be completed logically.

  • Wrong: His speed was equal to a racehorse.
  • Wrong: Of course my opinion is worth less than a lawyer.
  • Wrong: The shells which are used in quail hunting are different than in rabbit hunting.

Compare a thing with another thing, an abstraction with another abstraction. Do not carelessly compare a thing with a part or quality of another thing. Always ask yourself: What is compared with what?

  • Right: His speed was equal to that of a racehorse.
  • Right: Of course my opinion is worth less than a lawyer's.
  • Right: The shells used in quail hunting are different from those used in rabbit hunting.
  • Self-contradictory: Chicago is larger than any city in Illinois.
  • Right: Chicago is larger than any other city in Illinois.
  • Impossible: Chicago is the largest of any other city in Illinois.
  • Right: Chicago is the largest of all the cities in Illinois. [Or] Chicago is the largest city in Illinois.

Note.—After a comparative, the subject of the comparison should be excluded from the class with which it is compared; after a superlative, the subject of the comparison should be included within the class.

  • Wrong:
    • taller of all the girls.
    • tallest of any girl.
  • Right:
    • taller than any other girl [comparative].
    • tallest of all the girls [superlative].


  1. The climate of America helps her athletes to become superior to other countries.
  2. This tobacco is the best of any other on the market.
  3. You men are paid three dollars more than any other factory in the city.
  4. I thought I was best fitted for an engineering course than any other.
  5. Care should be taken not to turn in more cattle than the grass in the pasture.
Cause and Reason

5. A simple statement of fact may be completed by a because clause.

  • Right: I am late because I was sick.

But a statement containing the reason is must be completed by a that clause.

  • Wrong: The reason I am late is because I was sick. [The "reason" is not a "because"; the "reason" is the fact of sickness.]
  • Right: The reason I am late is that I was sick.

Because, the conjunction, may introduce an adverbial clause only.

  • Wrong: Because a man wears old clothes is no proof that he is poor. [A because clause cannot be the subject of is.]
  • Right: The fact that a man wears old clothes is no proof that he is poor. [Or] The wearing of old clothes is not proof that a man is poor.

Note.Because of, owing to, on account of, introduce adverbial phrases only. Due to and caused by introduce adjectival phrases only.

  • Wrong: He failed, due to weak eyes. [Due is an adjective; it cannot modify a verb.]
  • Right: His failure was
    • due to
    • caused by
    • because of
    weak eyes.
  • Right: He failed
    • owing to
    • on account of
    weak eyes.


  1. The reason why I would not buy a Ford car is because it is too light.
  2. My second reason for coming here is because of social advantages.
  3. Because John is rich does not make him happier than I.
  4. Because I like farming is the reason I chose it.
  5. The only reason why vegetation does not grow here is because of the lack of water.
is when or is where Clauses

6. Do not use a when or where clause as a predicate noun. Do not define a word by saying it is a "when" or a "where". Define a noun by another noun, a verb by another verb, etc.

  • Wrong: The great event is when the train arrives.
  • Right: The great event is the arrival of the train.
  • Wrong: Immigration is where foreigners come into a country.
  • Right: Immigration is the entering of foreigners into a country.
  • Wrong: A simile is when one object is compared with another.
  • Right: A simile is a figure of speech in which one object is compared with another.

Note.—A definition of a term is a statement which (1) names the class to which the term belongs, and (2) distinguishes it from other members of the class. Example. A quadrilateral is a plane figure having four sides and four angles. To test a definition ask whether it separates the term defined from all other things. If the definition does not do this, it is incomplete. Define California (so as to exclude other states), window (so as to exclude door), star (exclude moon), night, rain, circle, Bible, metal, mile, rectangle.


  1. The pistol shot is when the race begins.
  2. A snob is when a man treats others as inferior socially.
  3. The wireless telegraph is where messages are sent a long distance through the air.
  4. The definition of usury is where one charges interest higher than the legal rate.
  5. Biology is when one studies plant and animal life.
Undeveloped Thought

7. Do not halfway express an idea. If the idea is important, develop it. If it is not important, omit it.

  • Incomplete: We were now quite sure that we had lost our way, and Jack said he had a business engagement that night.
  • Better: We were now quite sure that we had lost our way, a fact which was all the more annoying as Jack said he had a business engagement that night.
  • Puzzling: Since McAndrew had inherited money, his suitcase was plastered with labels.
  • Right: Since McAndrew had inherited money, he had traveled extensively. His suitcase was plastered with the labels of foreign hotels.
  • Careless: In looking for gasoline troubles, we forgot to see whether the tank was supplied.
  • Right: In looking for the cause of the trouble, we forgot to see whether the tank was supplied with gasoline.

Note.—In giving information about books, do not confuse the title with the contents or some part of the contents. Be accurate in referring to the time, scene, action, plot, or characters.

  • Loose thinking: Shakespeare's Hamlet occurs in Denmark [The scene is laid?]. Many passages are powerful, especially the grave-digging [Is grave-digging a passage?]. The character of Horatio is a noble fellow [conception], and the same is true of Ophelia [Ophelia a fellow?]. The drama takes place over several weeks. [The action covers a period of several weeks.]


  1. The victrola brings to the home the world's musical ability.
  2. The user of Dietzgen instruments is not vexed by numerous troubles that accompany the inferior makes.
  3. To the picnicker rainy weather is bad weather, while the farmer raises a big crop.
  4. Some diseases can be checked by preventives, and in many cases can be of great use to an army.
  5. This idea of breaking all records held for eating is naturally harmful to the digestion, and these important organs may thank their stars that Christmas does not come very often.

The state of mind of a writer is not the state of mind of his reader. The writer knows his ideas, and has spent much time with them. The reader meets these ideas for the first time, and must gather them in at a glance. The relation between two ideas may be clear to the writer, and not at all clear to the reader. Therefore,

8. In passing from one thought to another, make the connection clear. If necessary, insert a word, a phrase, or even a sentence, to carry the reader safely across.

  • Space transition needed: We were surprised to see a house in the distance, but we went to the door and knocked. [This sentence does not give a reader the effect of distance.]
  • Better: We were surprised to see a house in the distance. But we hastened toward it with thoughts of a warm meal and a good lodging. We entered the yard, and went up to the door, and knocked.
  • Exterior-interior transition needed: We noticed that the house was built of cobblestones. There was a broad window from which we could look out upon the small stream that dashed down the rocky hillside.
  • Better: We noticed that the house was built of cobblestones. We went inside, and found that the living room was large and airy. There was a broad window from which we could look out upon the small stream that dashed down the rocky hillside.
  • Cause transition lacking: The Romans were great road-builders. They wished to maintain their empire.
  • Better: The Romans were great road-builders, because means of moving troops quickly were necessary to the maintenance of their empire.
  • General-to-particular transition needed: Modern machinery often makes men its slaves. Last summer I worked for the Chandler Company. [This gap in thought occurs oftenest between the first two sentences of a paragraph or theme.]
  • Better: Modern machinery often makes men its slaves. This truth is well illustrated by my own experience. Last summer I worked for the Chandler Company.
  • Transition to be improved by changing order: A careless trainer may spoil a good colt. A good horse can never be made of a vicious colt. [Here the order of ideas is: "Trainer ... colt. Horse ... colt." Turn the last sentence end for end.]
  • Better: A careless trainer may spoil a good colt. And a vicious colt can never be made a good horse. [Now the order of ideas is "Trainer ... colt. Colt ... horse."]
  • Transition to be improved by removal of a disturbing element: Our class in physics last week visited a pumping station in which the Corliss type of steam engine is used. The engines are manufactured by the Allis-Chalmers Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. This type of engine is used because it has several advantages. [The italicized sentence should be omitted here, and used later in the theme.]

Note.—The divisions of thought within a paragraph may likewise be indicated by connectives: however, on the other hand, equally important, another interesting problem is, for this reason, the remedy for this, so much for, it remains to mention, of course I admit, finally. (For a longer list see 36.) Such phrases are also useful in linking one paragraph to another.

When a student first learns the art, he is likely to use transition phrases in excess, and produce something like the following: "When I have to write a theme, I first think of my subject. As soon as I have my subject, I take out my paper. On the paper I then make a rough outline." This abuse of transition causes an overlapping of thought, like shingles laid three inches to the weather. An abrupt transition is better than wordiness.


  1. The shore looked far off. Then we reached it.
  2. A light snow was falling last night. This is a good day for hunting rabbits.
  3. A dollar is often a large sum. I sold newspapers when I was a boy.
  4. Many English words still preserve their old meanings. There is the teller in the bank.
  5. We had to walk half a mile across the pastures in the fresh morning air. Exercise indoors does not arouse much zest or enthusiasm.
A. Fragments Misused as Sentences

Rewrite the following statements in sentences each of which expresses a complete thought.

  1. He gave me a flower. Which was wilted.
  2. The gasoline flows through the supply tube to the carburetor. Where it should vaporize and enter the cylinders.
  3. People of all ages were there. Old men, young women, and even children.
  4. He told us that you had a good standing among business men. That you always met your bills promptly.
  5. Excuse Everett Smith from school this morning. He having the measles.
  6. The internal combustion engine may be either one of two types. The two cycle or the four cycle.
  7. The young men and women acted like children. Who should have known better.
  8. There was a cross cow in the pasture. Which had long horns.
  9. Bacteria are microscopic organisms. Especially found where milk or some other substance decomposes.
  10. We pass on down the street. The buildings rising two or three stories high on either side.
  11. The Y. M. C. A. enables you to keep your religious interests alive. As well as to associate with clean young men.
  12. She wasted her time on foolish clothes. While her mother took in washing.
  13. He was dressed in a ridiculous fashion. Wearing, for instance, an orange necktie.
  14. The point is similar to that of the ordinary steel pen, except that it is made of gold. Gold being used on account of its greater smoothness and durability.
  15. Tire troubles have been made less formidable by the invention of a compact, efficient little vulcanizer. A factory for making which is now being built.
B. Incomplete Constructions

Improve the following statements. Supply missing words. Make sure that each construction and each sentence is complete.

  1. When one year old, my mother died.
  2. Yours received, and in reply would say your order has been filled.
  3. While in there a man came in and bought a quarter's worth of soap.
  4. War is largely dependent upon the engineers to design new machinery.
  5. When you talk to a man look at him, not the floor or ceiling.
  6. In writing a book, an author's first one is usually not very good.
  7. Every summer while in high school, our family has gone to our cottage on Lake Michigan.
  8. When a boy, Mary was my best friend.
  9. There is, however, another reason a person should know how to swim.
  10. I think more of her than anyone else.
  11. Corrupt laws are often the means rich people obtain the earnings of others.
  12. A hundred dollars invested in a warning signal, future accidents would be prevented.
  13. Electric transmission is sometimes used on automobiles more of an experiment than anything else.
  14. Was delighted to hear from you. Glad to hear you entered the wholesale business. Wish you success.
  15. As a rule people eat too much. This point should be noticed, and not overwork the digestive organs.
C. Incomplete Logic

The following sentences are inadequate statements of cause, comparison, etc. Complete the thought.

  1. His neck is as long as a giraffe.
  2. His name was David Meek, from New Hampshire.
  3. The Pacific Ocean is larger than any ocean.
  4. Because he never worked led to his failure.
  5. A monitor is where a heavily armored boat of light draft can go near the shore.
  6. Democracy is when people, through representatives, govern themselves.
  7. The story of Huckleberry Finn is in reality Mark Twain himself.
  8. Because a man has money is no reason why he should be lazy.
  9. The character of Sydney Carton is the real hero of this novel.
  10. A forester leads an interesting life is the reason I want to be one.
  11. Tact is where a man anticipates the criticism of others, and acts with discretion.
  12. The comfort of a modern house is much greater than the old-time house.
  13. Free trade is when no revenue is collected on imports, beyond enough to run the government.
  14. The cost of room, board, and tuition is low at this school, compared to the more fashionable schools.
  15. The theme of this novel tells how a peasant, Jean Valjean, from a convict comes to be a respected citizen.
D. Undeveloped Thought and Transitions

Complete the thought of the following sentences, and secure a smooth transition between parts.

  1. As you enter this room, to the left is an interesting painting of the Canterbury Pilgrims.
  2. Poe delights in fantastic plots. A pirate's treasure chest was discovered in The Gold Bug.
  3. I got up and ate a bite of breakfast. A few of my friends came over. We went to play golf.
  4. All the loose material on the trail is carried off by the rush of the water. The last time I was on it was in early summer, and I found it in this rough condition.
  5. I managed to find the softest board in the floor and went to sleep. Some of the boys found pleasure in arousing me with a shower of cold water.
  6. Under guise of friendly escort the Indians accompanied the inhabitants of the fort a few miles. Only three escaped the massacre.
  7. Many people say that in civil engineering it depends on the prosperity of the country; in hard times they do not build and in good times they do build.
  8. Canada has more forests than minerals. Canada has made only a start in the lumber industry. The minerals are found, for the most part, in the mountain district near Lake Superior.
  9. Thanksgiving day, as we are told, is a day on which our Puritan forefathers gathered round the roast turkey and gave thanks to God for his goodness. Last Thanksgiving I was at home.
  10. The old method was to dig the holes by hand, and drop two or three kernels in each hole. Corn has become a staple crop. Machinery is used. The preparing of a field for corn has become a science.


Unity means oneness. A sentence should contain one thought. It may contain two or more statements only when these are closely related parts of a larger thought or impression. A writer should make certain, first, that his thought has unity; and second, that this unity will be obvious to the reader.

Unrelated Ideas in One Sentence

10. Do not combine ideas which have no obvious relation to each other. Place the ideas in separate sentences. Or, write the ideas as one sentence, making their relation obvious.

  • Wrong: The Spartans did not care for literature, and lived in the southern part of Greece.
  • Wrong: The coffee business is not difficult to learn, and the most important work in preparing coffee for the market is the roasting of the green berries.

The simplest method of correction is to divide the sentence.

  • Right: The Spartans lived in the southern part of Greece. They did not care for literature.
  • Right: The coffee business is not difficult to learn. The most important work in preparing the coffee for the market is the roasting of the green berries.

Another method of correction is to subordinate one idea to the other, or to change the wording until the relation between the ideas is obvious.

  • Right: The Spartans, who lived in the southern part of Greece, did not care for literature.
  • Right: The coffee business is not difficult to learn, since the only important work in preparing the coffee for the market is the roasting of the green berries.


  1. Franklin is often regarded as the typical American, and wrote an interesting autobiography.
  2. Coal miners wear little oil lamps in their caps, and they seldom receive very good wages.
  3. My neighbor, Mr. Houghton, was always a very good friend of mine, and died last night.
  4. I dropped the clock and injured the works, but the jeweler told me it would be cheaper for me to buy a new clock.
  5. The next thing the camper should do is to make a bed, and the branches of the spruce are the best.
Excessive Detail

11. Do not encumber the main idea of a sentence with superfluous details. Place some of the details in another sentence, or omit them.

  • Faulty: In the town in which I live there are several large churches, and about six o'clock one morning, in a violent storm, one of these churches was struck by lightning.
  • Right: In my home town there are several large churches. One morning about six o'clock, in a violent storm, one of these churches was struck by lightning.
  • Wrong: In 1836, in Baltimore, Poe married Virginia Clemm, his cousin, who was hardly more than a child, being then fourteen years old, while Poe himself was twenty-eight, and to her he wrote much of his best verse.
  • Right: In 1836 Poe married Virginia Clemm. Poe was then twenty-eight, and Virginia was only fourteen. To this girl Poe wrote much of his best verse.


  1. The house with the red tile roof is the finest in the city, and is owned by Mr. Saunders, who made his money speculating in land.
  2. Then the engine tilted and fell over on one side, and the boiler exploded and added to the frightful scene.
  3. The deer whose antlers you see over the fireplace as you enter the room was shot by my Uncle Will, who is now in South America on a hunting expedition.
  4. The seeds, which have previously been soaked in water over night, are now planted carefully, not too deep, in straight rows sixteen inches apart, the best time being in April, when the ground is soft and has been thoroughly spaded.
  5. One day last week my employer, Mr. Conway, a jolly, peculiar man, raised my salary, first telling me I was about to be discharged, and laughing at me when I looked so surprised.
Stringy Sentences to be Broken up

12. Avoid stringy compound sentences. The crude, rambling style which results from their use may be corrected by separating the material into shorter sentences, or by subordinating lesser ideas to the main thought.

  • Faulty: The second speaker had sat quietly waiting, and he was a man of a different type, and he began calmly, yet from the very first words he showed great earnestness.
  • Right: The second speaker, who had sat quietly waiting, was a man of a different type. He began calmly, yet from his very first words he showed great earnestness.
  • Faulty: There are many stops on the organ which control the tones of the different pipes and one has to learn how and when to use these and this takes time and practice.
  • Right: On the organ are many stops which control the tones of the different pipes. To learn how and when to use these takes time and practice.
  • Faulty: He published prose fiction, and this was then the accepted literary form, and the drama was neglected.
  • Better: He published prose fiction, which was then the accepted literary form, the drama being neglected. [This sentence makes three statements in a diminishing series. The important idea is expressed in a main clause; a less important explanation is fitted into a relative clause; and a still less important comment takes a parenthetical phrase at the end.]

Note.—One of the crying faults of the immature writer is that by excessive coördination he obscures the fine shades of meaning. When two clauses are joined, the meaning will very often be more exact if one is subordinated to the other. For a list of subordinating connectives, see 36.


  1. He went down town, and it began to rain, and so he decided to go to the city library.
  2. There is an old saying which I have often heard and I believe in it to a certain extent, and it runs as follows: The more you live at your wit's end, the more the wit's end grows.
  3. Our salesman, Mr. Powers, has spoken very favorably of your firm, and we feel that our relations will be most pleasant, and the report of the commercial agencies is sufficient evidence of your good financial standing.
  4. There was no escaping from this churn, so one of the frogs, after a brief struggle thought that he might just as well die one time as another, and so he gave up and sank to the bottom.
  5. Socrates did no writing himself, and the only information we have of him we get from the writings of his pupils and from later writers, and our most reliable knowledge comes from two of these writers, Plato and Xenophon.
Choppy Sentences to be Combined

13. Do not use two or three short sentences to express ideas which will make a more unified impression in one sentence. Place subordinate ideas in subordinate grammatical constructions.

  • Excessive predication: Excavating is the first operation in street paving. The excavating is usually done by means of a steam shovel. The shovel scoops up the dirt and loads it directly into wagons.
  • Right: Excavating, the first operation in street paving, is usually done by a steam shovel which loads the dirt directly into wagons.
  • Monotonous: The doe is wading along the shore. She is nibbling the lily pads as she goes. Now she moves slowly around the point. She has a little spotted fawn with her. The fawn frolics along at the heels of his mother.
  • Better: Wading along the shore, the doe nibbles the lily pads by the way, and moves slowly around the point. A spotted fawn frolics at her heels.
  • Primer style: Rooms are marked on the floor. These rooms are about fourteen feet square.
  • Better: The floor is marked off into rooms about fourteen feet square.

Note.—An occasional short sentence is permissible, even desirable. Successive short sentences may be used to express rapid action, or emphatic assertion, or deliberate simplicity. Otherwise, avoid them.


  1. Decatur has wide streets. The streets are paved with brick, asphalt, and creosote blocks.
  2. Sixteen posts are set in a row. All of these are at equal intervals.
  3. The boat approaches the leeward side of the ship. This side is the side protected from the wind.
  4. The Scientific American reports the progress of science. It explains new inventions. It makes practical applications of scientific principles.
  5. The beans are usually harvested about the middle of September. They are cut when the plants turn color at the roots and the beans turn white. They are cut by a bean-cutter which takes two rows at a time.
Excessive Coördination

In structure a sentence may be

  1. Simple: The rain fell.
  2. Compound: The rain continued and the stream rose.
  3. Complex: When the rain ceased, the flood came.

In B, the clauses are of almost equal importance, and the first is coördinated with the second. In C, the clauses are not of equal importance, and the first is subordinated to the second. And is a coördinating conjunction. When is a subordinating conjunction. For a list of connectives see 36.

14. Do not use coördination when subordination will secure a more clear and emphatic unit of thought. Especially do not coördinate a main idea with an explanatory detail. The speech of children connects all ideas, important and unimportant, with and. Discriminating writers place minor ideas in subordinate clauses, consign still less important ideas to participial or prepositional phrases, and omit trivial details altogether.

  • Childish: I went down town and saw a crowd standing in the street, and wanted to know what was the matter, and so I went up and asked a man.
  • Right: When I went down town, I saw a crowd standing in the street, and since I wanted to know what was the matter, I asked a man. [Two clauses are subordinated by the use of when and since. This change abolishes two ands. The words went up and are struck out. One and remains, and deserves to remain, for it joins two ideas which are truly coördinate.]
  • Main idea not emphasized: I talked with an old man and his name was Ned.
  • Better: I talked with an old man named Ned. [A participial phrase replaces a clause. The name is now subordinated.]
  • Main idea not emphasized: Developing is the next step in preparing the film, and it is very important.
  • Better: Developing, the next step in preparing the film, is very important. [An appositional phrase replaces the first predicate.]
  • Main idea not emphasized: They began their perilous journey, and they had four horses.
  • Right [emphasizing perilous journey]: With four horses they began their perilous journey. [A prepositional phrase replaces a clause.]
  • Right [emphasizing having the horses]: When they began their perilous journey, they had four horses. [A subordinate clause replaces a main clause.]
  • Capable of greater unity: The frog is a stupid animal, and may be caught with a hook baited with red flannel. [Is the writer trying to tell us how to catch frogs, or merely that frogs are stupid? Coördination makes the two ideas appear equally important.]
  • Right [emphasizing frogs are stupid]: The fact that the frog can be caught with a hook baited with red flannel proves his stupidity.
  • Right [emphasizing how to catch frogs]: The frog, being stupid, will bite at a piece of red flannel.


  1. Men were sent to Panama and could not live in such unsanitary conditions.
  2. When a letter came and it bore a familiar handwriting, I always opened it eagerly.
  3. West Hickory is the name of the place where the tannery is situated, and it is a laboring man's town.
  4. She wore a dress and it was silk, and cost her father a lot of money.
  5. Every race horse has a care taker or groom, and this man spends all his time and makes the horse comfortable.
Faulty Subordination of the Main Thought

15. Do not put the principal statement of a sentence in a subordinate clause or phrase. This violation of unity is sometimes called "upside-down subordination".

  • Faulty: I was going down the street, when I heard an explosion. [If hearing the explosion is the main thought, it should be placed in the main clause.]
  • Right: When I was going down the street, I heard an explosion.
  • Faulty: Longstreet received orders to attack the Federal right wing, which he did immediately.
  • Right: As soon as Longstreet received orders, he attacked the Federal right wing.
  • Faulty: I suspected that it would rain, although I did not take an umbrella.
  • Right: Although I suspected that it would rain, I did not take an umbrella.


  1. An old man used to work for us, who died yesterday.
  2. He became angry, saying he positively refused to go.
  3. He is a bright boy, although I should not want to trust him with my pocketbook.
  4. He had an ambition which was to become the best lawyer in the state by the time he was forty years old.
  5. The cable breaks and the elevator starts to drop, when the safety device always operates at once to prevent an accident.
Subordination Thwarted by and

16. Do not attach to a main clause by means of and, a word, phrase, or clause which you intend shall be subordinate. The presence of and thwarts subordination.

  • Wrong: Major went to bed, and leaving the work unfinished.
  • Right: Major went to bed, leaving the work unfinished.
  • Wrong: He ran home and with coat tails flying.
  • Right: He ran home with coat tails flying.


  1. They denied my request, and giving no reason for the refusal.
  2. He gave me his answer and in few words.
  3. The girl stood on the edge of the cliff, and thus showing that she was not afraid.
  4. A telegraph line is leased by the Associated Press, and thus giving the newspapers quick service.
  5. When the summer passed, the fisherman returned home for the winter, and where he renewed his acquaintance with the villagers.
The and which construction

17. Use and which (or but which), and who (or but who) only between relative clauses similar in form. Between a main clause and a relative clause, and or but thwarts subordination.

  • Wrong: This is an important problem, and which we shall not find easy to solve.
  • Right: This problem is an important problem, which we shall not find easy to solve.
  • Right: This problem is one which is important, and which we cannot easily solve.
  • Wrong: Les Miserables is a novel of great interest and which everybody should read.
  • Right: Les Miserables is a novel of great interest, and one which everybody should read.
  • Wrong: Their chief opponent was Winter, a shrewd politician, but who is now less popular than he was.
  • Right: Their chief opponent was Winter, a shrewd politician, who is now less popular than he was.

Note.—Rule 17 is sometimes briefly stated: "Do not use and which unless you have already used which in the sentence." This statement is generally true, but an exception must be made for sentences like the following: Right: "He told me what countries he had visited, and which ones he liked most."


  1. Just outside is a small porch looking out over the street, and which can be used for sleeping purposes.
  2. She is a woman of pleasing personality, and who can converse intelligently.
  3. It is a difficult task, but which can be accomplished in time.
  4. He is a good-looking man, but who is very snobbish.
  5. The rule made by the conference of college professors in 1896, and which has been followed ever since, applies to the case we are considering.
Unity Thwarted by Punctuation
The Comma Splice

18. Do not splice two independent statements by means of a comma. Write two sentences. Or, if the two statements together form a unit of thought, combine them (1) by a comma plus a conjunction, (2) by a semicolon, or (3) by reducing one of the statements to a phrase or a subordinate clause.

  • Wrong: The town has two railroads, it was founded when oil was discovered.
  • Right: The town has two railroads. It was founded when oil was discovered.
  • Wrong: The speed of the car seemed slower than it really was, this was due, no doubt, to the absence of all noise. [Here are three commas. The reader cannot quickly discover which one marks the great division of thought.]
  • Right: The speed of the car seemed slower than it really was. This was due, no doubt, to the absence of all noise.
  • Wrong: The winters were long and cold, nothing could live without shelter.
  • Right: The winters were long and cold. Nothing could live without shelter.
  • Right: The winters were long and cold, and nothing could live without shelter [For the use of the comma, see 91a].
  • Right: The winters were long and cold; nothing could live without shelter [For the use of the semicolon see 92].
  • Right: The winters were so long and cold that nothing could live without shelter.

Exception.—Short coördinate clauses which are parallel in structure and leave a unified impression, may be joined by commas, even though the conjunctions be omitted.

  • Right: All was excitement. The ducks quacked, the pigs squealed, the dogs barked. [The general idea excitement gives the three clauses a certain unity.]


  1. The key is turned to the right, this unlocks the door.
  2. The author keeps one guessing, there is no hint how the story will end.
  3. The farmer is independent, he has no task-master.
  4. There has been a change of government, in fact there has been a revolution.
  5. Lamb had failed in poetry, in the drama, and in the novel, in the essay, at last, he succeeded.
A. The Comma Splice

Rewrite the following material in sentences each of which is a unit of thought. Most of the statements should be summarily cut apart. If you decide that others taken together have unity of thought, combine them (1) by a comma plus a conjunction, (2) by a semicolon, or (3) by reducing one of the statements to a phrase or a subordinate clause.

  1. The canoe is long and narrow, it is made of birch bark.
  2. I decided to serve tea, of course cream and sugar would be needed.
  3. Some men hunt rabbits for market purposes only, they are the sportsman's enemies.
  4. This city furnished many boats for the siege of Calais, when these boats returned they brought the plague with them.
  5. The bottom of the box is then put in, it is nailed to the sides.
  6. It is not easy to become a good musician, one must practice continually.
  7. The Northern and Southern states could not be separate nations, there was no natural boundary between them.
  8. The telephone is a great invention, it is very useful to the farmer.
  9. Why would no one come to help me, my feet ached and I was thirsty.
  10. I know a girl who has a cynical disposition, she is always criticizing.
  11. I went into the office hopeless, a dime stood between me and starvation.
  12. The construction of the bridge has much to do with the tone of a violin, it should be lower on the side nearest the E string.
  13. A private expense account does not require much labor or time, just one hour a week will suffice to keep tract of all expenditures.
  14. We offer you sixty dollars a month to start, this is all we can afford to pay at present.
  15. He wanted personal success but would not shirk a duty or harm any one in any way to gain that success, at all times he forgot his own personal importance and was ready to do any task set before him.
B. One Thought in a Sentence

By dividing, subordinating, or logically combining the following statements, secure unity of thought.

  1. She was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 30, 1902, where she has lived ever since and is now well known.
  2. Franklin was kindly, shrewd, and capable, and was the representative of the United States in France.
  3. She said that Mrs. Brown was ill and that she was just caring for the baby, she loved babies anyway, she said.
  4. One Sunday afternoon there was an excursion to Beaver and several of us decided to go and take our lunches and return on the eight o'clock car.
  5. He gave me the dimensions of the room. The dimensions were ten by twelve feet.
  6. Good grades may be obtained in two ways: by honest work, and by cheating; however any one who cheats is doing himself more harm than good.
  7. The wall studding is made of two-by-fours. These two-by-fours are placed sixteen inches apart.
  8. The returning Crusaders brought with them oriental learning, and found the peasantry impoverished.
  9. The articles in this magazine are of high quality. The articles are well written and attractively illustrated.
  10. A Japanese woman going abroad at night must carry a lighted lamp and must not speak to any one, women do not have much freedom in Japan.
  11. The sugar beets are irrigated by river water. They are irrigated by means of furrows. The furrows run between the rows of beets. The beets are irrigated once a week.
  12. The referee asked each captain if his men were ready, after which he blew the whistle, and the game was on, and within five minutes our team scored a touchdown.
  13. The ground should be harrowed as soon as possible after it is plowed. It is a good plan to harrow the ground on the same day that it is plowed, or on the day following.
  14. Choose the middle of the prepared ground, which is about eighty-five by fifty feet, as your starting point, measure twenty-four feet east and west and set the net posts; then, after marking off the different courts with tape, you are ready for a good game of tennis.
  15. There are two places on the island suitable for plays: one in the bungalow and the other down on the sandy point; the latter lends itself to the purpose readily, there are two trees which make a splendid support for wires on which to hang the curtain, and just east of these the ground slopes enough to make a natural amphitheater.
C. Excessive Coördination

The ideas in the following sentences are loosely strung together with coördinating conjunctions. Place the important idea in the main clause. Subordinate other ideas by reducing each to a dependent clause, or a phrase, or a word.

  1. Chris has a new coat and it is double-breasted.
  2. I had a dog, and his name was Scratcher.
  3. He gave a laugh but it was forced.
  4. The woodcock is so foolish and deliberately walks into a trap.
  5. The engineers fastened rafts to the piles, and which were pulled up when the tide rose.
  6. Students often sit all doubled up, and raising their feet high on the table.
  7. Dunlap is carrying a palette, but without any paint on it.
  8. The government has been successful in its suit, and the tobacco trust was dissolved.
  9. The British troops had no protection against poisonous gas and the use of gas by the enemy was unexpected.
  10. I make it a rule to study one thing at least an hour and no long rest between.
  11. The concrete is spread in a layer, and this is about nine inches thick, and the width being ten feet.
  12. Rockwell is our postmaster, and is accommodating, but he has a disposition to be curious.
  13. At the Gatun Dam there are concrete locks, and the purpose of these is to lift vessels into the lake.
  14. They say to tourists that objects are historic but which are not historic at all.
  15. I was lying quietly in the hammock, and I happened to look up in the tree, and there was a green bird and eating a cherry.
  16. They disputed for a time, and afterward the officer became angry, and whipped out his sword.
  17. A mirage is an illusion and the traveler thinks he sees water when there really is none.
D. Upside-down Subordination

In the following sentences the important idea is buried in a subordinate clause or phrase. Rescue this main idea, express it in the main clause, and if possible subordinate the rest of the sentence to it.

  1. I spoke to her on the street, when she did not answer.
  2. She thanked me for my assistance, also asking me to come and visit her the following Sunday.
  3. The water froze in the buckets, although they did not burst.
  4. The crows cawed angrily and circling around in one place.
  5. He is threatened with tuberculosis, although he will not sleep in the open air.
  6. We had hacked the bark, the tree dying after a few months.
  7. One of the contestants was from Wendover College, who received the prize.
  8. You ask a person what a spiral staircase is, when he will go to showing you by motions of his hand.
  9. It was about three o'clock, and we decided to return home, which we did.
  10. The plumber came, stopping the leak as soon as he arrived.
  11. Benton sold stamps, in which business he grew rich.
  12. The sun's heat beats down upon the brick tenements, which is terrible.
  13. The chemist tested the purity of the water, but which he found unfit to drink.
  14. Montaigne wrote an essay on "Solitude," where he pointed out the disadvantages of travel.
  15. The house is set close to the edge of the bluff, overlooking a wide bend of the Alleghany River.
  16. Things had been going from bad to worse among the Indians, and some Sioux were entertaining a few Chippewas, and murdered them, when the government took a hand in the affair.
  17. The slight knowledge of metals and wide-awake observation of an inexperienced miner discovered gold in Arizona.


Clearness is fundamental. The writer should be content, not when his meaning may be understood, but only when his meaning cannot be misunderstood. He may attain this entire clearness by giving attention to five matters:

  • Reference (20-23)
  • Coherence (24-28)
  • Parallel Structure (30-31)
  • Consistency (32-35)
  • Use of Connectives (36-38)


By the use of pronouns, participles, and other dependent words, language becomes flexible and free. But each dependent part must refer without confusion to a word which is reasonably near, and properly expressed. Ordinarily a reader expects a pronoun or a participle to refer to the nearest noun (or pronoun) or to an emphatic noun.

Divided Reference

20. A pronoun should be placed near the word to which it refers, and separated from words to which it might falsely seem to refer. If this method does not secure clearness, discard the pronoun and change the sentence structure.

  • Uncertain reference of which: He dropped the bundle in the mud which he was carrying to his mother. [The reader for a moment refers the pronoun to the wrong noun. Bring which nearer to its proper antecedent bundle.]
  • Right: He dropped in the mud the bundle which he was carrying to his mother.
  • Vague reference of this: My failure in mathematics was serious. My grades in English, history, and Latin were good enough. But this brought down my average. [This? What this? Five nouns intrude between the pronoun this and its proper antecedent failure.]
  • Right: In English, history, and Latin I received fairly good grades. But in mathematics I received a failure. This brought down my average.
  • Remote reference of it: If you want to make a good speech, take your hands out of your pockets, open your mouth wide, and throw yourself into it.
  • Right: If you want to make a good speech, take your hands out of your pockets, open your mouth wide, and throw yourself into what you are saying. [Or, better] Take your hands out of your pockets, open your mouth wide, and throw yourself into the speech.
  • Ambiguous reference of he: John spoke to the stranger, and he was very surly.
  • Right: John spoke to the stranger, who was very surly. [Or] John spoke in a surly manner to the stranger.

Note.—The reference of relative and demonstrative pronouns is largely dependent upon their position. The reference of a personal pronoun (he, she, they, etc.) is not so much dependent upon its position, the main consideration being that the antecedent shall be emphatic (See the next article.)


  1. He was driving an old mule attached to a cart that was blind in one eye.
  2. There is a grimy streak on the wall over the radiator which can be removed only with great difficulty.
  3. The feet of Chinese girls were bandaged so tightly when they were babies that they could not grow.
  4. He gave me a receipt for the money which he told me to keep.
  5. After the pictures have been taken and the film has been removed, they are sent to the developing room where it is developed and dried.
Weak Reference

21. Do not allow a pronoun to refer to a word not likely to be central in the reader's thought; a word, for example, in the possessive case, or in a parenthetical expression, or in a compound, or not expressed at all. Make the pronoun refer to an emphatic word.

  • Wrong: When a poor woman came to Jane Addams' famous Hull House, she always gave help. [Poor woman and Hull House are the emphatic words, to which any pronoun used later is instinctively referred by the reader.]
  • Right: When a poor woman came to Jane Addams' famous Hull House, she always received help. [Or] When a poor woman came to Hull House, Jane Addams always gave help.
  • Wrong: In biology, which is the study of plants and animals we find that they are made up of unitary structures called cells. [Since the words plants and animals occur only in a parenthetical clause, the reader is surprised to find them used as an antecedent.]
  • Right: In the study of biology we find that plants and animals are made up of unitary structures called cells.
  • Wrong: This old scissors-grinder sharpens them for the whole neighborhood. [The center of interest in the reader's mind is a man, not scissors.]
  • Right: This old scissors-grinder sharpens scissors for the whole neighborhood.
  • Wrong: I always liked engineers, and I have chosen that as my profession.
  • Right: I always liked engineering, and I have chosen it as my profession.
  • Absurd: When the baby is through drinking milk, it should be disconnected and put in boiling water. [The central idea in the reader's mind is baby, not milk-bottle. The writer may have been thinking about the bottle, but he did not make the word emphatic; in fact, he did not express it at all.]
  • Right: When the baby is through drinking milk, the bottle should be taken apart and put in boiling water.

Note.—Ordinarily, do not refer to the title in the first line of a theme. The reader expects you to assert something, and face forward, not to turn back to what you have said in the title.

  • Faulty:

    Color Photography

    I am interested in this new development of science. For a long time I ...

  • Right:

    Color Photography

    Taking pictures in color has long appealed to me as an interesting possibility ...


  1. In Shakespeare's play Othello he makes Iago a fiend.
  2. The noodle-cutter is a kitchen device which saves time in making this troublesome dish.
  3. The life of a forester is interesting, and I intend to follow that profession.
  4. He took down his great-grandfather's old sword, who had carried it at Bunker Hill.
  5. I was always making experiments in science, and I naturally acquired a liking for periodicals of that nature.
Broad Reference

22. Do not use a pronoun to refer broadly to a general idea. Supply a definite antecedent or abandon the pronoun.

  • Wrong: The tapper strikes the gong, which continues as long as the push button is pressed. [The writer intends that which shall refer to the entire preceding clause, but the reference is intercepted by the word gong.]
  • Right [supplying a definite antecedent]: The tapper strikes the gong, a process which continues as long as the push button is pressed. [Or, abandoning the pronoun] The tapper strikes the gong as long as the push button is pressed.
  • Wrong: Read the directions which are printed on the bottle and it may save you from making a mistake.
  • Right [supplying a definite antecedent]: Read the directions which are printed on the bottle. This precaution may save you from making a mistake. [Or, abandoning the pronoun] Reading the directions on the bottle may prevent a mistake.
  • Wrong: The managers told him they would increase his salary if he would represent them in South America. He refused that.
  • Right: The managers told him they would increase his salary if he would represent them in South America. He refused the offer.

Exception.—It cannot be maintained that a pronoun must always have one definite word for its antecedent. Many of the best English authors occasionally use a pronoun to refer to a clause. But the reference must always be clear.

Note.—Impersonal constructions must be used with caution. "It is raining" is correct, although it has no antecedent. We desire that the antecedent shall be vague, impersonal. But unnecessary use of the indefinite it, you, or they should be avoided.

  • Faulty: It says in our history that Columbus was an Italian.
  • Right: Our history says that Columbus was an Italian.
  • Not complimentary to the reader: You aren't hanged nowadays for stealing.
  • Right: No one is hanged nowadays for stealing.
  • Faulty: They are noted for their tact in France.
  • Right: The French are noted for their tact.


  1. You use little slang in your paper which is commendable.
  2. They had no reinforcements which caused them to lose the battle.
  3. The carbon must be removed from pig iron to make pure steel, and that is done by terrific heat.
  4. Our stenographer spends most of her spare time at a cheap movie theater, which is in itself an index of her character.
  5. It says in the new rules that you aren't allowed in the building on Sunday.
Dangling Participle or Gerund

23. A participle, being dependent, must refer to a noun or pronoun. The noun or pronoun should be within the sentence which contains the participle, and should be so conspicuous that the participle will be associated with it instantly and without confusion.

  • Wrong: Coming in on the train, the high school building is seen. [Is the building coming in? If not, who is?]
  • Right: Coming in on the train, one sees the high school building.

A sentence containing a dangling participle may be corrected (1) by giving the word to which the participle refers a conspicuous position in the sentence, or (2) by replacing the participial phrase by some other construction.

  • Wrong: Having taken our seats, the umpire announced the batteries.
  • Right: Having taken our seats, we heard the umpire announce the batteries. [Or] When we had taken our seats, the umpire announced the batteries.
  • Wrong: She was for a long time sick, caused by overwork. [The participle caused should not modify sick. A participle is used as an adjective, and should therefore modify a noun.]
  • Right—using an adjectival modifier:
    She had a long sickness,
    • caused by
    • due to
  • Right—using an adverbial modifier:
    She was for a long time sick
    • because of
    • owing to
    • on account of

When a gerund phrase (in passing, while speaking etc.) implies the action of a special agent, indicate what the agent is. Otherwise the phrase will be dangling.

  • Faulty: In talking to Mr. Brown the other day, he told me that you intend to buy a car.
  • Better: In talking to Mr. Brown the other day, I learned that you intend to buy a car.
  • Faulty: The address was concluded by reciting a passage from Wordsworth.
  • Better: The speaker concluded his address by reciting a passage from Wordsworth. [Or] The address was concluded by the recitation of a passage from Wordsworth.

Note.—Two other kinds of dangling modifier, treated elsewhere in this book, may be briefly mentioned here. A phrase beginning with the adjective due should refer to a noun; otherwise the phrase is left dangling (See 5 Note). An elliptical sentence (one from which words are omitted) is faulty when one of the elements is left dangling (See 3).

  • Faulty: I was late due to carelessness [Use because of].
  • Ludicrous: My shoestring always breaks when hurrying to the office at eight o'clock [Say when I am hurrying].


  1. Coming out of the house, a street car is seen.
  2. While engaged in conversation with my host and hostess, my maid placed upon the table a steaming leg of lamb.
  3. A small quantity of gold is thoroughly mixed with a few drops of turpentine, using the spatula to work it smooth.
  4. After being in the oven twenty minutes, open the door. When fully baked, you are ready to put the sauce on the pudding.
  5. Entering the store, a soda fountain is observed. Passing down the aisle, a candy counter comes into view. The rear of the store is bright and pleasant, caused by a skylight.


The verb cohere means to stick or hold firmly together. And the noun coherence as applied to writing means a close and natural sequence of parts. Order is essential to clearness.

General Incoherence

24. Every part of a sentence must have a clear and natural connection with the adjoining part. Like or related parts should normally be placed together.

  • Bring related ideas together: Little Helen stood beside the horse wearing white stockings and slippers.
  • Right: Little Helen, in white stockings and slippers, stood beside the horse.
  • Keep unlike ideas apart: The colors of purple and green are pleasing to the eye as found in the thistle.
  • Right: The purple and green colors of the thistle are pleasing.
  • Distribute unrelated modifiers, instead of bunching them: I found     a heap of snow     on my bed     in the morning     which had drifted in through the window. [Subject verb—object—place—time—explanation.]
  • Right: In the morning     I found     on my bed     a heap of snow     which had drifted in through the window. [Time—subject verb—place—object—explanation.]
  • Bring related modifiers together: When he has prepared his lessons, he will come, as soon as he can put on his old clothes. [Condition—main clause—condition.]
  • Right: When he has prepared his lessons and put on his old clothes, he will come. [Condition and condition—main clause.]


  1. He was gazing at the landscape which he had painted with a smiling face.
  2. She turned the steak with a fork which she was cooking for dinner every few minutes.
  3. Dickens puts the various experiences he had in the form of a novel when he was a boy.
  4. If the roads are made of dirt, the farmer has to wait, if the weather is rainy, till they dry.
  5. We received practically very little or none at all experience in writing themes.
Logical Sequence

25. Place first in the sentence the idea which naturally comes first in thought or in the order of time.

  • Faulty: We went to the station from the house after bidding all goodby.
  • Right: We said goodby to all, and went from the house to the station.

Do not begin one idea, abandon it for a second, and then return to the first. Complete one idea at a time.

  • Faulty: She looked up as he approached and smoothed her hair. [The writer begins a main clause, changes to a subordinate clause, and then attempts to add more to the main clause. Unfortunately the last two verbs appear to be coördinate.]
  • Right: She looked up and smoothed her hair as he approached. [Or] As he approached she looked up, and smoothed her hair.

Ordinarily, let a second thought begin where the first leaves off.

  • Faulty: An orange grove requires plenty of water. The young trees will die if they do not have plenty of water. [The order of ideas is: "Grove ... water. Trees ... water." Reverse the order of the second sentence.]
  • Right: An orange grove requires plenty of water. For without water the young trees will die. [Now the order of ideas is: "Grove ... water. Water ... trees."]


  1. I boarded the train, after buying a ticket.
  2. I dropped my pen when the whistle blew and sighed.
  3. Unless the bank clerk has ability he will never be successful unless he works faithfully and hard.
  4. I remember the days when Rover was a pup. Now he is not half so interesting as he was then.
  5. A chessboard is divided into sixty-four squares, and there is plenty of room between the opposing armies for a terrific battle, since each army occupies only sixteen squares.
Squinting Modifier

26. Avoid the squinting construction. That is, do not place between two parts of a sentence a modifier that may attach itself to either. Place the modifier where it cannot be misunderstood.

  • Confusing: I told him when the time came I would do it. [When the time came is said to "squint" because the reader cannot tell whether it looks forward to the end of the sentence, or backward to the beginning.]
  • Right: When the time came, I told him I would do it. [Or] I told him I would do it when the time came.
  • Confusing: Some friends I knew would enjoy the play. [I knew squints.]
  • Right: Some friends would enjoy the play, I knew.
  • Confusing: The orator whom every one was calling for enthusiastically hurried to the platform. [Enthusiastically squints.]
  • Clear: The orator whom every one was enthusiastically calling for hurried to the platform.


  1. The man who laughs half the time does not understand the joke.
  2. Playing football in many ways improves the mind.
  3. When she reached home much to her disgust the door was locked.
  4. When the lightning struck for the first time in my life I was afraid.
  5. The landlord wrote that he would if the rent were not paid in thirty days eject the tenant.
Misplaced Word

27. Such an adverb as only, ever, almost, should be placed near the word it modifies, and separated from words which it might falsely seem to modify. Such a conjunction as nevertheless, if required with a clause, should usually be placed near the beginning.

  • Illogical: I only need a few dollars.
  • Right: I need only a few dollars.
  • Illogical: I don't ever intend to go there again.
  • Right: I don't intend ever to go there again. [Or] I intend never to go there again.
  • Illogical: She has the sweetest voice I nearly ever heard.
  • Right: She has nearly [or almost] the sweetest voice I ever heard.
  • Tardy use of conjunction: I intend to try. I do not expect to accomplish much, however.
  • Right: I intend to try. I do not, however, expect to accomplish much.


  1. Students are only admitted to one lecture.
  2. This is the smallest book I almost ever saw.
  3. He is so poor he hasn't any food, scarcely.
  4. She had one dress that she never expected to wear.
  5. The difficulties were tremendous. He said that he would do his best, nevertheless.
Split Construction

28. Elements that have a close grammatical connection should not be separated awkwardly or carelessly. These elements are: (a) subject and verb, or verb and object; (b) the parts of a compound verb; and (c) the parts of an infinitive.

  • Awkward: One in the struggle for efficiency should not become a machine.
  • Better: In the struggle for efficiency one should not become a machine.
  • Awkward: What use of an education could a girl who married a penniless rogue and afterwards knew nothing but hard labor, make?
  • Better: What use of an education could a girl make who married a penniless rogue and afterward knew nothing but hard labor?
  • Crude: He was unable to even so much as stir a foot.
  • Better: He was unable even to stir a foot.

Note.—It is often desirable to separate the forms enumerated under (a) and (b) above, either for emphasis (See 40) or to avoid a bunching of modifiers at the end of a sentence (See 24). The whole point of rule 28 is not to depart from a natural order needlessly.


  1. One thing the beginner must remember is to not get excited.
  2. Ralph, when he heard the news, came flying out of the house.
  3. The president called together, for the need was urgent, his cabinet.
  4. Bryce said that it is more patriotic to judiciously vote than to frantically wave the American flag.
  5. About the time Florence Nightingale had to give up her plans, a war between Turkey, England, and France on one side and Russia on the other, broke out.
A. Reference of Pronouns

In the following sentences make the reference of pronouns exact and unmistakable.

  1. Brown wrote to Roberts that he had made a mistake.
  2. We heard a voice through the door which told us to enter.
  3. There is a walk leading from the street to the house which is made of thin slabs of stone.
  4. A milking stool was beside the cow on which he was accustomed to sit.
  5. Should a community, such as a small village, spend the money they do on roads?
  6. This magazine prints many special articles on politics and social reforms that are always instructive.
  7. I wish I could do something for the protection of birds in our country which is neglected.
  8. After a man has failed in one business, it is no sign he will fail in every other.
  9. Sometimes cane syrup is mixed with the maple syrup, which reduces the value of the product.
  10. It means hard and diligent work to study Latin, but it strengthens our brain or at least it gives it good exercise.
  11. In the class room the students become acquainted, which may develop into lifelong friendships.
  12. He was delighted with a ride on horseback, which animal he had been familiar with in his childhood on the farm.
  13. It says in our history that the battle of New Orleans was fought after the treaty of peace had been signed.
  14. Sparks flew about in the air, and it reminded me of a huge Fourth of July celebration.
  15. The doctor gave me medicine to stop the dull pain in my head. This made me feel much better.
B. Dangling Modifiers

Remembering that a participle is used as an adjective and must therefore refer to a noun or pronoun, correct the following sentences. Gerund phrases and a few elliptical sentences are included in the list.

  1. Having planned the basement, the next thing considered was the first floor.
  2. Glancing around the room, the ugly wall paper at once confronted me.
  3. After ringing the bell, and waiting a few moments, a maid came to the door.
  4. When selecting a site for an orchard, it should be well drained.
  5. Not being a skilled dancer, my feet moved awkwardly.
  6. Having no watch, the clock must be consulted.
  7. He was sick, caused by eating too much dessert.
  8. Radium is very difficult to get, making it the most valuable metal.
  9. One man goes home and beats his wife, resulting in internal injuries.
  10. Over the paper and kindling a few small chunks of coal are scattered, taking care not to choke the draft.
  11. In speaking of character, it does not mean to be a governor or a general.
  12. This town draws trade for a radius of twenty miles, thus accounting for the large volume of business.
  13. While talking to Ralph yesterday, he spoke about his recent success in the hardware business.
  14. The bus holds fifteen people, and when full, the bus man shuts the door.
  15. If bright and pleasant, the rabbit will be found sitting at the entrance of his burrow.
C. Coherence

Secure a clear, smooth, natural order for the following sentences.

  1. I have a lot for sale near the city limits.
  2. Many men can only speak their native tongue.
  3. I saw yesterday, crossing the street, a beautiful woman.
  4. They entered the room, and sitting on the floor they saw a baby.
  5. I put down my book when the clock struck and yawned.
  6. She dropped the money on the sidewalk which she was carrying home.
  7. The horse did not notice that the gate was open for several minutes.
  8. It was worth the trouble. I do not wish to have the experience again, however.
  9. My first trip away from home, of any distance, was made on a steamboat from St. Louis to New Orleans.
  10. He gazed at a young man who was waving his hands violently, called a cheer leader.
  11. Any soil will grow some variety of strawberry, except sand and clay.
  12. I turned triumphantly to Will, who was still gazing at the place where the muskrat sank with a beaming face.
  13. Only the interest, the principal being kept intact, is spent.
  14. A student should see that external conditions are favorable for study, such as light, temperature, and clothing.
  15. Draw a heavy line using a ruler to connect New York and San Francisco across the map.


When the structure of a sentence is simple and uniform, the important words strike the eye at once. Compare the following:

  • Parallel: Beggars must not be choosers.
  • Confusing: Beggars must not be the one who choose.

A reader gives attention partly to the structure of a sentence, and partly to the thought. The less we puzzle him with our structure, the more we shall impress him with our thought.

  • Parallel: Seeing is believing. [Attention goes to the thought.]
  • Confusing: Seeing is to believe. [Attention is diverted to structure.]

The reader's expectation is that uniform structure shall accompany uniform ideas, and that a departure from uniformity shall indicate a change of thought.

Parallel Structure for Parallel Thoughts

30. Give parallel structure to those parts of a sentence which are parallel in thought. Do not needlessly interchange an infinitive with a participle, a phrase with a clause, a single word with a phrase or clause, a main clause with a dependent clause, one voice or mode of the verb with another, etc.

  • Faulty: Riding is sometimes better exercise than to walk.
  • Right: Riding is sometimes better exercise than walking. [Or] To ride is sometimes better exercise than to walk.
  • Faulty: He had two desires, of which the first was for money; in the second place, he wanted fame.
  • Right: He had two desires, of which the first was for money and the second for fame. [Or] He had two desires: in the first place, he wanted money; in the second, fame.
  • Faulty: His rival handled cigars of better quality and having a higher selling price.
  • Right: His rival handled cigars of better quality and higher price.
  • Faulty: When you have mastered the operation of shifting gears, and after a little practice you will be a good driver.
  • Right: When you have mastered the operation of shifting gears, and had a little practice, you will be a good driver. [Or] After you master the gears and have a little practice, you will be a good driver.
  • Faulty. These are the duties of the president of a literary society:
    1. To preside at regular meetings,
    2. He calls special meetings,
    3. Appointment of committees.
  • Right: These are the duties of the president of a literary society:
    1. To preside at regular meetings,
    2. To call special meetings,
    3. To appoint committees.
  • Faulty: She was actively connected with the club, church, and with several organized charities. [Here parallelism is obscured by the omission from the second phrase of both the preposition and the article.]
  • Right: She was actively connected with the club, with the church, and with several organized charities.
  • Faulty: He was red-faced, awkward, and had a disposition to eat everything on the table. [The third element is like the others in thought, and should have similar form.]
  • Right: He had a red face, an awkward manner, and a disposition to eat everything on the table. [Or] He was red-faced, awkward, and voracious.

Note.—Avoid misleading parallelism. For ideas different in kind, do not use parallel structure.

  • Wrong: He was hot, puffing, and evidently had run very hard. [The third element is unlike the others in thought; hence the and is misleading.]
  • Right: He was hot and puffing; evidently he had run very hard.
  • Confusing: He was admired for his knowledge of science, and for his taste for art, and for this I too honor him. [The last for gives a false parallelism to unlike thoughts.]
  • Better: He was admired for his scientific knowledge and for his artistic taste. I honor him for both these qualities.


  1. The duties of the secretary are to answer correspondence, and keeping the minutes of the meetings.
  2. This process is the most difficult; it costs the most; and is most important.
  3. I make it a rule to be orderly, spend no money foolishly, and keep still when I have nothing to say.
  4. The cotton is put up in bales about five feet in length and three feet wide and four thick, and one of them weighing about five hundred pounds.
  5. Considerations of economy that one should bear in mind when planning a house are: first, a rectangular ground-plan; second, a one-chimney plan; third, to have only one stairway; fourth, eliminate as many doors as possible; fifth, the bathroom should be above the kitchen so as to reduce the cost of plumbing; and lastly, the rooms should be few and large rather than small and many of them.

Conjunctions that are used in pairs are called correlatives; for example, not only ... but also ..., both ... and ..., either ... or ..., neither ... nor ..., not ... or ..., whether ... or ....

31. Correlatives should usually be followed by elements parallel in form; if a predicate follows one, a predicate should follow the other; if a prepositional phrase follows one, a prepositional phrase should follow the other; and so on.

  • Faulty: He was not only courteous to rich customers but also to poor ones. [Here the phrases intended to be balanced against each other are to rich customer's and to poor ones. As the sentence stands, it is the word courteous that is balanced against to poor ones.]
  • Right: He was courteous not only to rich customers but also to poor ones.
  • Faulty: She could neither make up her mind to go nor could she decide to stay.
  • Right: She could neither make up her mind to go nor decide to stay. [Or] She could not make up her mind either to go or to stay.
  • Faulty: I talked both with Brown and Miller. [Here one conjunction is followed by a preposition and the other by a noun.]
  • Right: I talked with both Brown and Miller. [Or] I talked both with Brown and with Miller.


  1. He was courteous to both friends and his enemies.
  2. Such conduct is not only dangerous to society but becomes a national disgrace as well.
  3. She had neither affectation of manners nor was she sharp-tongued.
  4. After reading Thoreau's Walden I appreciate not only the style but also I am inclined to believe in his ideas.
  5. The good that the delegates derive from the convention not only helps them, but they tell others what happened.


Shift in Subject or Voice

32. Do not needlessly shift the subject, voice, or mode in the middle of a sentence. Keep one point of view, until there is a reason for changing.

  • Faulty: In the stream which the road led over, fish were plentiful. [Here the first mental picture is of a stream. Then the thought is jerked away to the road above. Then it returns to the fish in the stream.]
  • Right: In the stream which flowed under the roadway, fish were plentiful.
  • Faulty: Mark Twain was born in the West, but the East was his home in later years. [The change of subject is uncalled for.]
  • Right: Mark Twain was born in the West, but lived in the East in his later years. [Or] The West was the birthplace of Mark Twain, and the East was his home in his later years.
  • Faulty: A careful driver can go fifteen miles on a gallon of gasoline, and at the same time very little lubricating oil is used. [The shift from active to passive voice is awkward and confusing.]
  • Right: A careful driver can go fifteen miles on a gallon of gasoline, and at the same time use very little lubricating oil.
  • Faulty: When a problem in chemistry is given, or when we wish to calculate certain formulas, we find that a knowledge of mathematics is indispensable.
  • Right: When a problem in chemistry is given, or when certain formulas are to be calculated, a knowledge of mathematics is indispensable. [Or] When we face a problem in chemistry, or wish to calculate certain formulas, we find that a knowledge of mathematics is indispensable.
  • Faulty: Next the ground should be harrowed. Then you sow the wheat. [The subject changes from ground to you. One verb explains what should be done, the other what somebody does.]
  • Right: Next the ground
    • is
    • should be
    harrowed. Then it
    • is
    • should be
    sown to wheat. [Or] Next you should harrow the ground. Then you should sow the wheat.


  1. One end of a camera carries the film, and the lens and shutter are in the other end.
  2. When an athlete is in training, good healthful food should be eaten.
  3. An engineer's time is not devoted to one branch of science, but should include many.
  4. By having only five men in charge of our city government, they would have more power, and we could then fix responsibility.
  5. There are two main classes of cake, sponge and butter. We are taught to make both in cooking school. I like the sponge cake. The butter cake is preferred by most persons.
Shift in Number, Person, or Tense

33. Avoid an inconsistent change in number, person, or tense.

  • Faulty change in number: One should save their money.
  • Right: People should save their money. [Or] A man should save his money.
  • Faulty change in person: Place the seeds in water, and in a few days a person can see that they have started to grow.
  • Right: Place the seeds in water, and in a few days you will see that they have started to grow.
  • Faulty change in number: Take your umbrella with you. They will be needed today.
  • Right: Take your umbrella with you. You will need it today.
  • Faulty change in tense: Freedom means that a man may conduct his affairs as he pleases so long as he did not injure anybody else.
  • Right: Freedom means that a man may conduct his affairs as he pleases so long as he does not injure anybody else.
  • Faulty change in tense: When he heard the news, he hurries down town and buys a paper.
  • Right: When he heard the news, he hurried down town and bought a paper.

Note.—A change of tense within a sentence is desirable and necessary in certain instances, for which see 55.

Sometimes, for the sake of vividness, past events are described in the present tense, as if they were taking place before our eyes. This usage is called the historical present. A shift to the historical present should not be made abruptly, or frequently, or for any subject except an important crisis.


  1. A person should be careful of their conduct.
  2. Sentences should be so formed that the reader feels it to be a unit.
  3. One should make the best of their surroundings and their possessions, provided they cannot better them.
  4. When he sees me coming, he looked the other way.
  5. Silas Marner lost many of his habits of solitude, and goes out among his neighbors.
Mixed Constructions

34. Do not make a compromise between two constructions.

  • Faulty: I cannot help but go.
  • Right: I cannot help going. [Or] I cannot but go. [Or] I can but go.
  • Faulty: They are as following:
  • Right: They are as follows: [Or] They are the following:
  • Faulty: He tried, but of no avail.
  • Right: He tried, but to no avail. [Or] He tried, but his effort was of no avail.
  • Faulty: There is no honor to be on this committee.
  • Right: It is no honor to be on this committee. [Or] There is no honor in being on this committee.
  • Faulty: Sparks from the chimney caught the house on fire.
  • Right: Sparks from the chimney set the house on fire. [Or] The house caught fire from the sparks from the chimney.

Note.—The double negative and kindred expressions (not hardly, not scarcely, etc.) are an especially gross form of mixed construction.

  • Wrong: He isn't no better now than he was then. [Logically, not no better means better. The two negatives cancel each other and leave an affirmative.]
  • Right: He isn't any better now than he was then. [Or] He is no better now than he was then.
  • Wrong: She couldn't see her friend nowhere.
  • Right: She couldn't see her friend anywhere. [Or] She could see her friend nowhere.
  • Wrong: We couldn't hardly see through the mist.
  • Right: We could hardly see through the mist. [Or] We couldn't see well through the mist.


  1. He doesn't come here no more.
  2. I cannot help but make this error.
  3. I remember scarcely nothing of the occurrence.
  4. I would not remain there only a few days.
  5. John would not do this under no circumstances.
Mixed Imagery

35. Avoid phrases which may call up conflicting mental images. When using metaphor, simile, etc., carry one figure of speech through, instead of shifting to another, or dropping suddenly back into literal speech.

  • Crude: The Republicans have gained a foothold in the heart of the cotton belt.
  • Right: The Republicans have gained a foothold in the South.
  • Crude: He traveled a rough road and climbed with his burden the ladder of success, where he is a glowing example and guide to other men. [The suggestion which a reader with a sense of humor may get is, that a man starts out as a traveler, suddenly becomes a hod-carrier, and is then transformed into a bonfire or a lighthouse.]
  • Right: He traveled a rough road, but found success. Other men followed in his steps.
  • Incongruous: Spring came scattering flowers, and there was rain a great per cent of the time. [This sentence mingles the language of poetry with the language of science. It should be fanciful, or else literal, throughout.]
  • Right: Spring came scattering flowers and rain. [Or] Spring came with much rain and many flowers.
  • Inconsistent use of irony: The phonograph was shrieking, "Waltz me around again, Willie." I am sure I love that beautiful song. The taste of the people who attend these cheap theaters is deplorable. [The three sentences should be ironical throughout, or not ironical at all.]


  1. We should meet the future from the optimistic point of view.
  2. General Wolfe put every ounce of his life into the capture of Quebec.
  3. A key-note of sincerity should be the mainspring of a well-built speech.
  4. He went drifting down the sands of time on flowery beds of ease.
  5. The blank in my mind crystallized into action.


The Exact Connective

36. Use a connective which expresses the exact relation between two clauses. Distinguish between time and cause, concession and condition, etc. Do not overwork and, so, or while.

  • Misleading: While he is sick, he is able to walk. [Use though.]
  • Misleading: Miss Brown sang, while her sister spoke a piece. [Use but.]
  • Faulty. Work hard when you want to succeed. [Use if.]
  • Faulty: They will be sorry without they do this. [Use unless.]
  • Faulty: Little poetry is read, only at times when it is compulsory. [Use except.]
  • Faulty. The early morning and evening are the best times to find ducks, and we did not see many flying. [Use and for that reason.]
  • Faulty: Corbin says: "In America sportsmanship is almost a passion," and in England "the player very seldom forgets that he is a man first and an athlete afterward." [Use whereas.]

Note.So is an elastic word that covers a multitude of vague meanings. Language has need of such a word, and in many instances (especially when the relation between clauses is obvious and does not need to be pointed out) so serves well enough. Use it, but not as a substitute for more exact connectives. Beware of falling into the "so-habit."

  • Abuse of so as a vague coördinating connective: So I went to call on Mrs. Woods, and so she told me about Mrs. White's new gown; so then I missed the car, and so of course our supper is late. [Strike out every so.]
  • Abuse of so as a subordinating connective: You may go, so you keep still. [Use provided.] So you do only that, I shall be satisfied. [Use though.]
  • Permissible: I was excited, so I missed the target.

So may sometimes be used to express result. But when a clause of result is important and needs emphasis, it is perhaps better to strike out so and subordinate the preceding clause.

  • Right: In my excitement I missed the target.
  • Right: Because I was excited, I missed the target.
  • Right: Being excited, I missed the target.
List of Connectives

A. With Coördinate Clauses, expressing

  1. Addition: and, besides, furthermore, again, in addition, in like manner, likewise, moreover, then too, and finally.
  2. Contrast: but, and yet, however, in spite of, in contrast to this, nevertheless, notwithstanding, nor, on the contrary, for all that, rather still, but unhappily, yet unfortunately, whereas.
  3. Alternative: or, nor, else, otherwise, neither, nor, or on the other hand.
  4. Consequence: therefore, hence, consequently, accordingly, in this way, it follows that, the consequence is, and under such circumstances, wherefore, thus, as a result, as a consequence.
  5. Explanation: for example, for instance, in particular, more specifically, for, because.
  6. Repetition for emphasis: in other words, that is to say, and assuredly, certainly, in fact, and in truth, indeed it is certain, undoubtedly, for example, in the same way, as I have said.

B. With Subordinate Adverb Clauses, expressing

  1. Time: when, then, before, while, after, until at last, as long as, now that, upon which, until, whenever, whereupon, meanwhile.
  2. Place: where, whence, whither, wherever.
  3. Degree or Comparison: as, more than, rather than, than, to the degree in which.
  4. Manner: as, as if, as though.
  5. Cause: because, for, as, inasmuch as, since, owing to the fact that, seeing that, in that.
  6. Purpose: that, so that, in order that, lest.
  7. Result: that is, so that, but that.
  8. Condition: if, provided that, in case that, on condition that, supposing that, unless.
  9. Concession: though, although, assuming that, admitting that, granting that, even if, no matter how, notwithstanding, of course.

C. With Adjective Clauses. Adjective or relative clauses are introduced by who, which, that, or an equivalent compound.


Insert within the parentheses all the connectives that might conceivably be used, and underscore the one which you consider to be most exact:

  1. He is not a broad-minded man; (     ) he has many prejudices.
  2. A number of friends came in, bringing refreshments, (     ) we spent a delightful evening.
  3. We ought to return now, for it is growing dark; (     ) I told Mary we would be home at six o'clock.
  4. I do not believe that climate is responsible for many of the differences between races, (     ) Taine says that it is.
  5. She took the letter from me and read it slowly, (     ) her eyes filled with tears.
Repetition of Connective with a Gain in Clearness

37. Connectives that accompany a parallel series should be repeated when clearness requires.

  • Preposition to be repeated: He was regarded as a hero by all who had known him at school, and especially his old school mates.
  • Right: He was regarded as a hero by all who had known him at school, and especially by his old school mates.
  • Sign of the infinitive to be repeated: He wishes to join with those who love freedom and justice, and end needless suffering.
  • Right: He wishes to join with those who love freedom and justice, and to end needless suffering.
  • Conjunction to be repeated: Since he was known to have succeeded in earlier enterprises, though confronted by difficulties that would have taxed the ability of older men, and his powers were now acknowledged to be mature, he was put in charge of the undertaking.
  • Right: Since he was known to have succeeded in earlier enterprises, though confronted by difficulties that would have taxed the ability of older men, and since his powers were now acknowledged to be mature, he was put in charge of the undertaking.
  • Conjunction to be repeated: He explained that the strikers asked only a fair hearing, since their contentions were misunderstood; were by no means in favor of the violent measures to which the public had grown accustomed; and had no desire to resort to bloodshed and the destruction of property.
  • Right: He explained that the strikers asked only a fair hearing, since their contentions were misunderstood; that they were by no means in favor of the violent measures to which the public had grown accustomed; and that they had no desire to resort to bloodshed and the destruction of property.


  1. The place is often visited by fishermen who catch some strange varieties of fish and especially summer tourists.
  2. The worth of a man depends upon his character, not his possessions. 3. He was delighted with that part of the city which overlooked the harbor and bay, and especially the citadel on the highest point.
  3. Although he was so youthful in appearance that the recruiting officer must have known he was under twenty-one, and had not yet become a fully naturalized citizen, his effort to enlist met with immediate success.
  4. In the course of his speech he said that he was a foreigner, he came to this country when he was fourteen years old, landing in New York with his only possessions tied in a handkerchief, went to work in an iron foundry, and after many years of toil he found himself at the head of a great industry.
Repetition of Connective with a Loss in Clearness

38. Do not complicate thought by persistent repetition of elements beginning with that, which, of, for, or but, and NOT parallel in structure.

  • Complicated repetition of that: He gave a quarter to the boy that brought the paper that printed the news that the war was ended. [That, which, and who are often used carelessly to form a chain of subordinate clauses. Three successive subordinations are all that a reader can possibly keep straight; ordinarily a writer should not exceed two. But in parallel structure (See 30 and 37) the number of that, which, or who clauses does not matter; a writer may fill a page with them and not confuse the reader at all.]
  • Right: He gave the boy a quarter for bringing him the paper with the news that the war was ended.
  • Complicated repetition of of: The East Side Civics Club is an organization of helpers of the helpless of the lower classes of the city.
  • Right: The East Side Civics Club is organized to help the helpless poor of the city.
  • Complicated repetition of for: The general was dismayed, for he had not expected resistance, for he had thought the power of the enemy was shattered.
  • Right: The general was dismayed; he had not expected resistance, for he had thought the power of the enemy was shattered.
  • Complicated repetition of but: He was undoubtedly a brave man, but now he was somewhat alarmed, but he would not turn back.
  • Right: He was undoubtedly a brave man; though now somewhat alarmed, he would not turn back. [Or] He was undoubtedly a brave man. He was now somewhat alarmed, but he would not turn back.

Note.—Guard against the but-habit. Frequent recurrence of but makes the reader's thought "tack" or change its course too often. There are ways to avoid an excessive use of but and however. When one wishes to write about two things, A and B, which are opposed, he need not rush back and forth from one idea to the other. Let him first say all he wants to say about A. Then let him deliberately use the adversative but, and proceed to the discussion of B. In the following paragraph on "Whipping Children" the writer tries to be on both sides of the fence at once.

  • Confusing: It is easier to punish a child for a misdeed, than to explain and argue. But the gentler method is better. Yet we all admit that the birch must be used sometimes. However, if it is used only for serious transgressions, the child will have a sense of proportion regarding what offenses are grave. But for ordinary small misdemeanors I think we need a new motto: Spoil the rod and spare the child.
  • Right: It is easier to punish a child for a misdeed than to explain and argue. And of course we all admit that the birch must be used sometimes. But if it is used only for serious transgressions, the child will have a sense of proportion regarding what offenses are grave. For ordinary small misdemeanors I think we need a new motto: Spoil the rod and spare the child.


  1. He did not agree at first, but hesitated for a time, but finally said that he would go along.
  2. Push down on the foot lever, which closes a switch which starts an electric motor which turns the flywheel so that the gasoline engine starts.
  3. Apple dumplings are good, but they must be properly baked, but fortunately this is not difficult to do.
  4. The work of the course consists partly of the study of the principles of grammar and of rhetoric, partly of the writing of themes, partly of oral composition, and partly of the reading and study of models of English prose.
  5. The landscape which lay before me was one which was different from any which I had ever seen before. There was one thing which impressed me, and that was the miles and miles of grass which stretched and undulated away from the hill on which I stood.
A. Parallel Structure

Give parallel structure to elements which are parallel in thought.

  1. Baskets are of practical value as well as being used for ornaments.
  2. The Book of Job ought to be interesting to a student, or for anybody.
  3. The important considerations are whether the soil is sandy, and if it is well drained, and that it shall be easily cultivated.
  4. A flower garden is a source of profit—profit not measured in money but in pleasure.
  5. He was successful in business, and also attained success in the political world.
  6. Whether his object was writing for pastime, or to please a friend, or money, we do not know.
  7. Always praise your enemy, because if you whip him your glory is increased, and if he whips you it lets you down easy.
  8. Either the ship will sink in the rough sea or go to pieces on the shore.
  9. An athlete must possess strength, nerve, and be able to think quickly.
  10. We were interested in buying some dry-goods, and at the same time see the sights of the great city.
  11. Some people talk foolishness, and others on serious subjects, and some keep still.
  12. Not only she noticed my condition, but commented on it.
  13. He abides by neither the laws of God nor man. He spoke both to Harry and Tom.
  14. It is good for the health of one's mind to get new ideas every day, and expressing them clearly in writing.
  15. Everyone who is capable of understanding the tax laws should know them and how they are abused.
  16. I began by making applications at federal, state, and city employment bureaus for a position as cost accountant, salesman, or clerical work.
  17. The damage to the trunk was caused by rough handling and not from faults in construction.
  18. Pope, Swift, Addison, and Defoe were four satirists, but differing greatly in their work.
  19. The occupants of these buildings are engaged in various kinds of business, namely: shoe-shining, shoe repair shops, cleaning and pressing clothes, confectionery stores, and restaurants.
  20. I sing of geese: of the Biblical goose, that blew his bugle from the roof of Noah's Ark; the classical goose that picked his livelihood along the shores of the Ægean; of the historical goose, that squawked to save old Rome; the mercenary goose, laying the golden egg; and, finally, of the roast goose.
B. Shift in Subject or Voice

Rewrite the following sentences, avoiding all unnecessary shift in construction.

  1. After you decide on the plan of the house, your attention is turned to the materials of construction.
  2. Editors are careful to use words that are exact, yet simple, and the use of technical terms is not generally considered to be good.
  3. Bank accounts should be balanced once a month in order that you may know your exact standing.
  4. We should have our athletic contest between the weakest students, and in that way they will become physically strong.
  5. When one is making a long-distance run, several cautions should be borne in mind by him.
  6. In melody the poem is good, but the author's ideas are eccentric.
  7. Lincoln's sentences are plain, blunt, and to the point. He lacks the ornate eloquence of Jefferson.
  8. The operator places a large shovelful of concrete in the mold, and the mixture is made solid by tamping.
  9. He might become angry, but it was over in a few minutes.
  10. The pauper chanced to gain entrance to the royal palace, and while there the young prince is met by him.
  11. When the weather is hot, plowing is accomplished very slowly with horses, while on the tractor the heat has no effect.
  12. First, one should mix one-half cup of corn syrup and one cup of brown sugar; then one cup of cream and the flavoring are added.
  13. In the college situated in a small town there are dormitories for the student, but in the cities they usually room where they please.
  14. An education should enable us to tell the valuable from the cheap book, and by it we should be able to tell the true from the counterfeit man.
  15. Moisten the sand thoroughly and set the box in a warm place, and in about a week's time it can readily be seen by the way the grains have sprouted which ears of seed corn have greatest vitality.
C. Shift in Number, Person, or Tense

Rewrite the following sentences, removing all inconsistency in grammatical form.

  1. Every one has a right to their own opinion.
  2. Bryant rushed to the window and shouts at the postman.
  3. The life of the honey bee has been studied, and their activities found to be remarkable.
  4. He says to me, "Are you ready?" And I answered, "No."
  5. When a person keeps a store, you should remember the names and faces of your customers.
  6. An automobile is expensive, and they are liable to become an elephant on your hands.
  7. If one studies the market, he would find that prices rise every year.
  8. If one went to Europe, he will find everything different.
  9. Since these tires were different in construction, the method of repairing will vary.
  10. Contentment is a state of mind in which one is satisfied with themselves and their surroundings.
  11. It is easy to catch 'possums if you can find the rascal.
  12. The writer of a theme should not waste time on a long introduction, and get to the facts of your subject as quickly as possible.
  13. Shakespeare's comedies are great fun. I prefer it to tragedy.
  14. Often a man will knock at the door, and finds no one at home.
  15. Too much attention will spoil a child. They should not be entertained every minute.
D. The Exact Connective

Each of the following sentences contains an idea which is, or may be, subordinate to another idea. (1) Decide what kind of subordinate relation should exist between the ideas. (2) Determine what connective best expresses this relation. (Consult 36 for a list of connectives.) (3) Write the sentence as it should be.

  1. Wealth is a good thing, while honest wealth is better.
  2. Spend an hour in the open air every day when you want to keep your health.
  3. The rattlesnake gives warning and it is only afterward that he strikes.
  4. South Americans are our national neighbors, and we as a nation should understand them.
  5. The city man knows nothing about a cow, only that it has horns.
  6. He got up early in order that he might be able to see the sunrise.
  7. The tenderfoot saw the funnel-shaped cloud when he made for a cyclone cellar.
  8. Men fear what they do not understand, and a coward is one who is ignorant.
  9. Hinting did not influence her; then he tried scolding.
  10. The valet spilled the wine, and the duke started up with an oath.
  11. While he writhed on the ground, he was not really hurt.
  12. He will not cash the check without you indorse it.
  13. We want this work done by the first of April, so please send an estimate soon.
  14. He had traveled everywhere, and he had a vivid recollection of only three scenes: Niagara Falls, the Jungfrau, and Lake Como.
  15. I never hear him talk but he makes me angry.
  16. Animals have some of the same feelings as human beings have.
  17. It was four o'clock and we decided to return and be home for supper.
E. Repetition of Connectives

In the following sentences determine whether repetition is desirable or undesirable, and change the sentences accordingly.

  1. With the coming of meal time, the potatoes are removed from the fire with a fork with a long handle.
  2. His clothes were brushed and neat, but patched and repatched. But still he could be bright and cheery.
  3. To no other magazine do I look forward to the arrival of its new issue, more than I do to the World's Work.
  4. At the time the book was written, I believe Forster was considered to be almost the best biographer living at that time.
  5. The freshman has no spirit until the sophomores have provoked him until he resists until he finds that he has spirit.
  6. Some socialists are against the present system of initiative, referendum, and recall, but advocate a system much like it but applied in a different way.
  7. The gun with which the Germans bombarded Paris with had a range of seventy-five miles.
  8. Basketball is a game that I have played for years, and I am greatly interested in.
  9. This is the lever which throws the switch which directs the train that takes the track that goes to Boston.
  10. Short talks were made by the captain, the coach, and by the faculty.
  11. At this school one can study to be a doctor, dentist, farmer, a lawyer, or an engineer.
  12. I like to cross the harbor on the ferry, to dodge in and out among the ships, see the gulls dart among the waves, smell the sharp tang of salty air, and to feel the rocking motion of the boat.
  13. In the sultry autumn, and when the winter's storms came, and when in spring the winds whistled, and in the summer's heat, he always wore the same old coat.
  14. He knew that if he did not ignite the piece of wet bark this time, that he could not dry his clothing or broil the bacon.
  15. The next speaker said that the need was critical, the schools must be enlarged, and that the paving now begun must be completed, and a new board of health should be created, that the interest on past debts had to be paid, and the city treasury was at this moment out of funds.


Emphasis by Position

40. Reserve the emphatic positions in a sentence for important words or ideas. (The emphatic positions are the beginning and the end—especially the end.)

  • Weak ending: Then like a flash a vivid memory of my uncle's death came to me.
  • Weak: I demand the release of the prisoners, in the first place.
  • Weak: This principle is one we cannot afford to accept, if my understanding of the question is correct.

Place the important idea at the end. Secure, if possible, an emphatic beginning. "Tuck in" unimportant modifiers.

  • Emphatic: Like a flash came to me a vivid memory of my uncle's death.
  • Emphatic: I demand, in the first place, the release of the prisoners.
  • Emphatic: This principle, if my understanding of the question is correct, is one we cannot afford to accept.


  1. "War is inevitable," he said.
  2. The cat had been poisoned to all appearances.
  3. There are several methods of learning to swim, as everyone knows.
  4. A liar is as bad as a thief, in my estimation.
  5. He saw a fight below him in the street, happening to look out of the window.
Emphasis by Separation

41. An idea which needs much emphasis may be detached, and allowed to stand in a sentence by itself.

  • Faulty: The flames were by this time beyond control, and the walls collapsed, and several firemen were hurt. [The ideas here are too important to be run together in one sentence.]
  • Right: By this time the flames were beyond control, and the walls collapsed. Several firemen were hurt.

A quotation gains emphasis when it is separated from what follows.

  • Faulty:
    "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
    Gang aft a-gley,"
    are some lines from Burns which McDonald was always quoting.
  • Right:
    "The best laid schemes o' mice an' men
    Gang aft a-gley."
    McDonald was always quoting these lines from Burns.

Direct discourse is more emphatic when it is separated from explanatory phrases, particularly from those which follow.

  • Faulty: Mosher leaped to the stage and shouted defiantly, "I will never consent to that!" and he looked as if he meant what he said.
  • Right: Mosher leaped to the stage and shouted his defiance: "I will never agree to that!" And he looked as if he meant what he said.


  1. After the tents are pitched, the beds made, and the fires started, the first meal is cooked and served, and this meal is the beginning of camp-life joy.
  2. He tried to make his wife vote for his own, the Citizen's Party, but she firmly refused.
  3. At the word of command the dog rushed forward; the covey rose with a mighty whir, and the hunter fired both barrels, and the dog looked in vain for a dead bird, and then returned disconsolate.
  4. I sat and gazed at the motto, "Aim high, and believe yourself capable of great things," which my mother had placed there for me.
  5. "A Book of Verses underneath the Bough,
    A Jug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread, and Thou
    Beside me singing in the Wilderness."
    were the four things Omar Khayyam wanted to make him happy.
Emphasis by Subordination

42. Do not place the important idea of a sentence in a subordinate clause or phrase. Make the important idea grammatically independent. If possible, subordinate the rest of the sentence to it.

  • Faulty: He had a manner which made me angry.
  • Faulty: The fire spread to the third story, when the house was doomed.
  • Faulty: For years the Indians molested the white people, thereby causing the settlers to want revenge.

The important idea should not be placed in a which clause, or a when clause, or a participial phrase.

  • Right: His manner made me angry.
  • Right: When the fire spread to the third story, the house was doomed.
  • Right: Years of molestation by the Indians made the white men want revenge.


  1. I was riding on the train, when suddenly there was an accident.
  2. There are two windows in each bedroom, thus insuring good ventilation.
  3. Yonder is the house which is my home.
  4. He saw that argument was useless, so he let her talk.
  5. His clothes were very old, making him look like a tramp.
The Periodic Sentence

A sentence is periodic when the completion of the main thought is delayed until the end. This delay creates a feeling of suspense. A periodic sentence is doubly emphatic: it has emphasis by position because the important idea comes at the end; it has emphasis by subordination because all ideas except the last one are grammatically dependent.

43. To give emphasis to a loosely constructed sentence, turn it into periodic form.

  • Loose: I saw two men fight a duel, many years ago, on a moonlit summer night, in a little village in northern France. [What is most important, the time? the place? or the actual duel? Place the important idea last.]
  • Periodic: Many years ago, on a moonlit summer night, in a little village in northern France, I saw two men fight a duel.
  • Loose: We left Yellowstone Gateway for the ride of our lives in a six-horse tally-ho. [Place the important idea last, and make all other ideas grammatically subordinate.]
  • Periodic: Leaving Yellowstone Gateway in a six-horse tally-ho, we had the ride of our lives.
  • Loose: The river was swollen with incessant rain, and it swept away the dam. [Which is the important idea? Why not make it appear more important by subordinating everything to it?]
  • Periodic: The river, swollen with incessant rain, swept away the dam.
  • Loose: War means to have our pursuit of knowledge and happiness rudely broken off, to feel the sting of death and bereavement, to saddle future generations with a burden of debt and national hatred.
  • Periodic: To have our pursuit of knowledge and happiness rudely broken off, to feel the sting of death and bereavement, to saddle future generations with a burden of debt and national hatred—this is war.


  1. I am happy when the spring comes, when the sun is warm, when the fields revive.
  2. He cares nothing for culture, for justice, for progress.
  3. As the boat gathered speed, the golden sun was setting far across the harbor.
  4. He amassed a great fortune, standing there behind his dingy counter, discounting bills, pinching coins, buying cheap and selling dear.
  5. The shattered aqueducts, pier beyond pier, melt into the darkness, from the plains to the mountains.
Order of Climax

44. In a series of words, phrases, or clauses of noticeable difference in strength, use the order of climax.

  • Wrong order: He was insolent and lazy.
  • Weak ending: Literature has expanded into a sea, where before it was only a small stream.
  • Weak ending: As we listened to his story we felt the sordid misery and the peril and fear of war.
  • Emphatic: He was lazy and insolent.
  • Emphatic: The stream of literature has swollen into a torrent, expanded into a sea.
  • Emphatic: As we listened to his story we felt the fear, the peril, the sordid misery of war.


  1. We boarded the train, after having bought our tickets and checked our baggage.
  2. War brings famine, death, disease after it.
  3. They have broken up our homes, enslaved our children, and stolen our property.
  4. In the old story, the drunken man, carried into the duke's palace, sees himself surrounded with luxury, and imagines himself a true prince, after waking up.
  5. The becalmed mariners were famished, hungry.
The Balanced Sentence

45. Two ideas similar or opposite in thought gain in emphasis when set off, one against the other, in similar constructions.

  • Weak and straggling: This paper, like many others, has many bad features, but in some ways it is very good. The news articles are far better than the editorials, which are feeble.
  • Balanced structure: This paper is in some respects good; in other respects very poor. The news articles are impressive, the editorials are feeble.
  • Weak and complicated: From the East a man who lives in the West can learn a great deal, and an Easterner ought to be able to understand the West.
  • Balanced: A Westerner can learn much from the East, and an Easterner needs to understand the West.
  • Weak: Both Mill and Macaulay influenced the younger writers. Mill taught some of them to reason, but many more of them learned from Macaulay only a superficial eloquence.
  • Balanced: Both Mill and Macaulay influenced the younger writers. If Mill taught some of them to reason, Macaulay tempted many more of them to declaim.

Note.—Although excessive use of balance is artificial, occasional use of it is powerful. It can give to writing either dignity (as in an oration) or point (as in an epigram). Observe how many proverbs are in balanced structure. "Seeing is believing.—Nothing venture, nothing have.—For every grain of wit there is a grain of folly.—You cannot do wrong without suffering wrong.—An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Note the effective use of balance in Emerson's Essays, particularly in Compensation; and in the Old Testament, particularly in Psalms and Proverbs.


  1. Machinery is of course labor-saving, but countless men are thrown out of work.
  2. There is a difference between success in business and in acquiring culture.
  3. I attend concerts for the pleasure of it, and to get an understanding of music.
  4. The stag in the fable admired his horns and blamed his feet; but when the hunter came, his feet saved him, and afterward, caught in the thicket, he was destroyed by his horns.
  5. We do not see the stars at evening, sometimes because there are clouds intervening, but oftener because there are glimmerings of light; thus many truths escape us from the obscurity we stand in, and many more from the state of mind which induces us to sit down satisfied with our imaginations and of our knowledge unsuspicious. [This sentence is correctly balanced, except at the end.]
The Weak Effect of the Passive Voice

46. Use the active voice unless there is a reason for doing otherwise. The passive voice is, as the name implies, not emphatic.

  • Weak: Your gift is appreciated by me.
  • Better: I appreciate your gift.
  • Weak and vague: His step on the porch was heard.
  • Better: His step sounded on the porch. [Or] I heard his step on the porch.

The passive voice is especially objectionable when by failing to indicate the agent of the verb it unnecessarily mystifies the reader.

  • Vague: The train was seen speeding toward us.
  • Better: We saw the train speeding toward us.


  1. Their minds were changed frequently as to what profession should be taken up by them.
  2. A gun should be examined and oiled well before a hunter starts.
  3. Finally the serenaders were recognized.
  4. In athletics a man is developed physically.
  5. If a man uses slang constantly, a good impression is not made.
Effective Repetition

47a. The simplest and most natural way to emphasize a word or an idea is to repeat it. The Bible is the best standard of simplicity and dignity in our language, and the Bible uses repetition constantly. A word or idea that is repeated must, of course, be important enough to deserve emphasis.

  • Fairly emphatic: He works and toils and labors, but he seems never to get anywhere.
  • Very emphatic: Work, work, work, all he does is work, and still he seems never to get anywhere.
  • Fairly emphatic: How did the general meet this new menace? He withdrew before it!
  • Very emphatic: How did the general meet this new menace? He withdrew! He retreated! He ran away!
  • Homely but emphatic: "I went under," said the old salt; "bows, gunnels, and starn—all under."
  • Deliberately too emphatic: Everywhere we hear of efficiency—efficiency experts, efficiency bureaus, efficiency methods, in the office, in the school, in the home—until one longs to fly to some savage island beyond the reach of inhuman modern science.

b. Not only words, but an entire grammatical structure may be repeated on a large scale for emphasis.

  • Weak: We hope that this shipment will reach you in good condition, and that you will favor us with other orders in the future, which will be given prompt and courteous attention. [This sentence is flimsy and spineless because the writer had a timid reluctance to repeat.]
  • Strong: We hope that this shipment will reach you in good condition. We believe that the quality of our goods will induce you to send us a second order. We assure you that such an order will receive prompt and courteous attention. [Note the emphasis derived from the resolute march of the expressions We hope, We believe, We assure.]
  • Emphatic: Through the patience, the courage, the high character of Alfred the country was saved—saved from the rapacities of fortune, saved from the malignancy of its enemies, saved from the sluggish despair of the people of England themselves.
  • Emphatic and natural: This corner of the garden was my first playground. Here I made my first toddling effort to walk. Here on the soft grass I learned the delight of out-of-doors. Here I became acquainted with the bull-frog, and the bumble-bee, and the neighbor's dog.
  • Emphatic and delightful: He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.


  1. He kept digging away for gold through long years.
  2. Breaking against the shore, came innumerable waves.
  3. Sand, sagebrush, shimmering flat horizon. I could not endure the barren monotony of the desert.
  4. We want you to come and visit us, and bring along a good appetite and your customary high spirits. Plan to stay a long time.
  5. 'Twas bitter cold outside. The cat meowed until I had to let her in.
Offensive Repetition

Careless repetition attracts attention to words that do not need emphasis. It is extremely annoying to the reader.

48a. Unless a word or phrase is repeated deliberately to gain force or clearness, its repetition is a blunder. Get rid of recurring expressions in one of three ways: (1) by substituting equivalent expressions, (2) by using pronouns more liberally, (3) by rearranging the sentence so as to say once what has awkwardly been said twice. Each of these schemes is illustrated below.

1. Repetition cured by the use of equivalent expressions (synonyms).

  • Bad: Just as we were half way down the lake, just off Milwaukee, we began to feel a slight motion of the ship and the wind began to freshen. The wind began to blow more fiercely from the south and the waves began to leap high. The boat began to pitch and roll.
  • Right: Just as we were half way down the lake, opposite Milwaukee, we began to feel a slight motion of the ship, for the wind had freshened. Before long a gale, blowing from the south, kicked up a heavy sea and caused the boat to pitch and roll. [Notice how combining the last two sentences helps to solve the problem of the last began, besides giving firmer texture to the construction.]

2. Repetition cured by the use of pronouns. (In using this method, one should take care that the reference of the pronouns is clear.)

  • Bad: The Law Building, the Commerce Building, and the Science Building are close together. The Commerce Building is south of the Law Building, and the Science Building is south of the Commerce Building. The Law Building is old and dilapidated. The Commerce Building is a red brick building, trimmed in terra-cotta. The Science Building resembles the Commerce Building.
  • Right: The Law, Commerce, and Science Buildings are close together in a row. The first of these is old and dilapidated. South of it stands the Commerce Building, which, because of its red brick and terra-cotta trimmings, somewhat resembles the Science Building.

3. Repetition cured by rearranging and condensing.

  • Bad: The autumn is my favorite of all the seasons. While autumn in the city is not such a pleasant season as autumn in the country, yet even in the city my preference will always be for the autumn.
  • Right: My favorite season is autumn. I like it best in the country, but even in the city it is the best time of the year.

b. Avoid a monotonous repetition of sentence structure. To give variety to successive sentences: (1) vary the length, (2) vary the beginnings, (3) avoid a series of similar compound sentences, (4) interchange loose with periodic structure, (5) use rhetorical question, exclamation, direct discourse, (6) avoid an excessive use of participles or adjectives.

1. Vary the length of sentences.

  • Bad: Walter came up the path carrying Betty in his arms. She was wet from head to toe. Damp curls clung to her pale face. Water dripped from her clothes. One hand hung loosely over Walter's arm. The other held a live duckling. She had saved the little duck from drowning. This was Betty's first day in the country.
  • Right: Walter came up the path carrying Betty in his arms—little Betty who was spending her first day in the country. She was wet from head to toe; damp curls clung to her pale face, and water dripped from her clothes. In one hand she held a live duckling. Her face lighted with courage as she told how she jumped into the pond and saved the little duck from drowning.

2. Vary the beginnings of sentences. Do not allow too many sentences to begin with the subject, or with a time clause, or with a participle, or with so. When you have finished a composition, rapidly read over the opening words of each sentence, to see if there is sufficient variety.

  • Bad [too many sentences begin directly with the subject]: Our way is circuitous. A sharp turn brings us round a rocky point. The road drops suddenly into a little valley. The roof of a house appears in a grove of trees below. A cottage is there and a flower garden. An old-fashioned well is near the door.
  • Right: Presently, on our circuitous way, we make a sharp turn round a rocky point. Before us the road drops suddenly into a little valley. In a grove of trees below appears the roof of a house, and as we draw nearer we see a cottage surrounded by flowers. Nothing could be more attractive to a weary traveler than the old-fashioned well near the door.

3. Avoid a series of similar compound sentences, especially those of two parts of equal length, joined by and or but.

  • Bad: Ring was a sheep dog, and tended the flock with his master. One day there came a deep snow, and the flock did not return. They found the herder frozen stiff, and the dog shivering beside him.
  • Right: Ring was a sheep dog, and tended the flock with his master. One day there came a deep snow. When the flock failed to return, the men became uneasy, and began to search. They found the herder frozen stiff, with the dog shivering beside him.

4. Change occasionally from loose to periodic or balanced structure (See 43 and 45).

  • Monotonous: I stood at the foot of Tunbridge hill. I saw on the horizon a dense wood, which, in the evening sunlight, was veiled in purple haze [Loose]. On the left was the village, the houses appearing like specks in the distance [Loose]. Nearer on the right was the creek, winding through the willows [Loose]. The creek approached nearer until it reached the dam, over which it rushed tumultuously [Loose]. Near by was a thicket of tall trees, through which I could see the white tents of my fellow campers, and their glowing camp fires [Loose].
  • Right: Far south from Tunbridge hill, on the dim horizon, I saw, veiled in the evening haze, a dense wood [Periodic, long, conveying the idea of distance better than a loose sentence]. On my left stood the village, the houses like specks; on my right wound the creek, nearer and nearer through the willows [Balanced]. The creek advanced by slow sinuous turns, until, reaching the dam, it plunged over tumultuously [Loose]. Through a thicket of tall trees, near at hand, I could see the white tents of my fellow campers, and their glowing camp fires [Periodic through the middle of the sentence; then loose].

5. Use question, exclamation, direct quotation.

  • Somewhat flat: He asked me the road to Camden. I did not know. I told him to ask Thurber, who knew the country well.
  • Better: He asked me the road to Camden. The road to Camden? How should I know? "Ask Thurber," I said impatiently; "he knows this country. I'm a stranger."

6. Avoid an excessive use of participles. Do not pile adjectives around every noun. Above all, do not form a habit of using adjectives in pairs or triplets.

  • Bad: Sitting by the window, I saw a sharp, dazzling flash of lightning, and heard a loud rumbling crash of heavy thunder, warning me of the coming of the storm. Darting across the gray, leaden sky, the quick, jagged lightning flashed incessantly. The tall stately poplar trees thrashed around in the boisterous wind. Then across the window, like a great white curtain, swept the streaming, blinding rain.
  • Right: I sat by the window. Suddenly a sharp flash of lightning and a roll of thunder gave warning of the approach of a storm. Soon lightning zig-zagged across the sky incessantly. The wind huddled the poplar trees. Then like a white curtain across the window streamed the rain.


  1. The parts of the tables are not put together at the factory, but the different parts are shipped in different shipments.
  2. In order to convince the reader that the present management of farms is inefficient, I shall give some examples of efficiency in the farm management on some farms with which I am acquainted.
  3. When one wishes to learn how to swim one must first become accustomed to the water. The best way to become accustomed to the water is to go into it frequently. After one has become accustomed to the water he may begin to learn the strokes.
  4. The Life of Sir Walter Scott, written by J. G. Lockhart, is an interesting biography of this great writer. It consists of a short biography by Scott himself, and also consists of a continuation of this biography by his son-in-law, J. G. Lockhart.
  5. If a piece of steel is kept hot for several seconds, it will lose some of its hardness. If kept hot longer, it will lose more of its hardness. Along with losing its hardness it will lose its brittleness. If the piece of steel is heated continually it will lose nearly all its hardness and brittleness. In other words, it will lose its "temper."
A. Lack of Emphasis in General

Make the following sentences emphatic.

  1. The man is a thief who fails in business but continues to live in luxury.
  2. The plant was withered and dry, not having been watered for over a week.
  3. Much time is saved in Chicago by taking the elevated cars, if you have a great distance to travel.
  4. The clock struck eleven, when he immediately seized his hat and left.
  5. These liberal terms should be taken advantage of by us.
  6. The study of biology has proved very interesting, as far as I have gone.
  7. Who is this that comes to the foot of the guillotine, crouching, trembling?
  8. They must pay the penalty. Their death is necessary. They have caused harm enough.
  9. I intend to get up fifteen minutes earlier, thereby giving myself time to eat a good breakfast.
  10. The book was reread several times, for I never grew tired of it.
  11. "What is the aim of a university education?" the speaker asked.
  12. A bicycle is sometimes ridden when a tire contains no air, total ruin resulting from the weight of the rim upon the flat tire.
  13. He sprang forward the instant the pistol cracked, since the start of a sprint is very important, and one cannot overdo the practicing of it.
  14. Sometimes the fuses fail to burn, or burn too fast, causing an explosion before the workmen are prepared for it.
  15. How father made soap was always a mystery to me. Cracklings saved from butchering time, lye, and water went into the kettle on a warm spring day and came out in the form of soap a few hours later, to my great astonishment.
B. Loose or Unemphatic Structure

Make the following sentences more emphatic by throwing them into periodic form.

  1. It was Tom, as I had expected.
  2. I will not tell, no matter how you beg.
  3. The supremacy of the old river steamboat is gone forever, unless conditions should be utterly changed.
  4. Across the desert he traveled alone, and over strange seas, and through quaint foreign villages.
  5. The hot water dissolves the glue in the muresco, making the mixture more easily applied.
  6. Visions of rich meadows and harvest-laden fields now pass before my eyes, as I sit by the fire.
  7. Some of the women were weeping bitterly, thinking they would never see their homes again.
  8. I splashed along on foot for three miles after night in a driving rain.
  9. Very high rent is demanded, thus keeping the peasants constantly in debt.
  10. Roderigo was in despair because he had been rejected by Desdemona, and was ready to end his life, by the time Iago entered.
  11. Through storm and cold the open boat was brought to the shore at last, after toil and suffering, with great difficulty.
  12. The car came to a violent stop against a rock pile, after it demolished two fences, upset a hen-house, and scared a pig out of his wits.
  13. The Panama Canal is the fulfilment of the dreams of old Spanish adventurers, the desires of later merchant princes, and the demand of modern nations for free traffic on the seas.
  14. The fiddle yelled, and the feet of the dancers beat the floor, and the spectators applauded, and the room fairly rang.
  15. The man with the best character, not the man with most money, will come out on top in the end.
C. Faulty Repetition

Repetition in the following sentences is objectionable, because it attracts attention to words or constructions that do not need to be emphasized. Improve the sentences, avoiding unnecessary repetition.

  1. He is a great friend of boys, and views things from the boys' point of view.
  2. In the case of the strike at Lawrence, Massachusetts, the real cause was low wages caused by immigration and child labor.
  3. First, a subject must be chosen, and in choosing a subject, choose one that you know something about.
  4. There are great opportunities in the field of science, and a scientist who makes a mark in the world of science makes a mark for himself everywhere.
  5. While the practical man is learning skill in the practical world, the college man is attaining a development of mentality that will surpass that of the practical man when the college man learns the skill of the practical man.
  6. The field is dragged and rolled. Dragging and rolling leaves the ground smooth and ready for planting.
  7. A great number and variety of articles appears in every issue. There is a complete review of each subject. It is treated in a short, but thorough manner.
  8. They gave me a hearty welcome. They stood back and looked at me. They wanted to see if three months in the city had made any changes in me. But they said it had not.
  9. Engineering is looked upon by many students as an easy and uninteresting study, but to my knowledge it is not uninteresting and easy. Engineering is probably one of the hardest courses in college. To me it is also the most interesting.
  10. A duck hunter should have a place to hunt where ducks are frequently found in duck season. Ducks often light in the backwater along a river, and in ponds. They are often found in small lakes. Corn fields are common feeding places for ducks. Ducks make regular trips to cornfields within reach of a body of water such as a river or lake. It is their nature to spend the night in the water, and in the morning and in the evening they go out to the fields to feed.



50a. The subject of a verb is in the nominative case, even when the verb is remote, or understood (not expressed).

  • Wrong: They are as old as us.
  • Right: They are as old as we [are].
  • Wrong: He is taller than her.
  • Right: He is taller than she [is].

Note.Than and as are conjunctions, not prepositions. When they are followed by a pronoun merely, this pronoun is not their object, but part of a clause the rest of which may be understood. The case of this pronoun is determined by its relation to the rest of the unexpressed clause. Sometimes the understood clause calls for the objective: "I like his brother better than [I like] him." Than whom, though ungrammatical, is sanctioned by usage.

b. Guard against the improper attraction of who into the objective case by intervening expressions like he says.

  • Wrong: The man whom they believed was the cause of the trouble left the country. [They believed is parenthetical, and the subject of was is who.]
  • Right: The man who they believed was the cause of the trouble left the country.
  • Wrong: Whom do you suppose made us a visit?
  • Right: Who do you suppose made us a visit?

Guard against the improper attraction of who or whoever into the objective case by a preceding verb or preposition.

  • Wrong: Punish whomever is guilty. [The pronoun is the subject of is. The object of punish is the entire clause whoever is guilty.]
  • Right: Punish whoever is guilty.
  • Wrong: The mystery as to whom had rendered him this service remained. [The pronoun is the subject of had rendered. The object of the preposition is the entire clause who had rendered him this service.]
  • Right: The mystery as to who had rendered him this service remained.

c. The predicate complement of the verb to be (in any of its forms, is, was, were, be, etc.) is in the nominative case. To be never takes an object, because it does not express action.

  • Wrong: Was it her? Was it them? It is me.
  • Right: Was it she? Was it they? Is it I.
  • Wrong: The happiest people there were him and his mother.
  • Right: The happiest people there were he and his mother.

d. The object of a preposition or a verb is in the objective case.

  • Wrong: Some of we fellows went fishing.
  • Right: Some of us fellows went fishing.
  • Wrong: That seems incredible to you and I.
  • Right: That seems incredible to you and me.
  • Wrong: Who did they detect?
  • Right: Whom did they detect?

e. The "assumed" subject of an infinitive is in the objective case.

  • Right: I wanted him to go. [Him to go is the group object of the verb wanted. To go, being an infinitive, cannot assert an action, and consequently cannot take a subject. But to go implies that something is at least capable of action. Him is the latent or assumed subject of the action implied in to go.]
  • Right: Whom do you wish to be your leader? [Whom is the assumed subject of the infinitive to be.]

f. A noun or pronoun used to express possession is in the possessive case. Do not omit the apostrophe (See 97) from nouns, or from the pronouns one's and other's. Most of the other possessive pronouns do not require an apostrophe.

  • Right: The man's hair is gray.
  • Right: The machine does its work well. [It's would mean it is.]
  • Right: One should do one's duty.

g. A noun or pronoun linked with a gerund should be in the possessive case whenever the use of the objective case might cause confusion.

  • Faulty: Is there any criticism of Arthur going?
  • Right: Is there any criticism of Arthur's going?
  • Right: I had not heard of his being sick.
  • Right, but slightly less desirable: I had not heard of him being sick.

Note.—In other instances than those in which clearness is involved many good writers use the objective case with the gerund. But even in these instances most writers prefer the possessive case.

h. It is usually awkward and slightly illogical to attribute possession to inanimate objects.

  • Awkward: The farm's management.
  • Better: The management of the farm.
  • Awkward: The stomach's lining.
  • Better: The lining of the stomach.

Note.—Usage justifies many exceptions, particularly (1) expressions that involve time or measure, a day's work, a hair's breadth, a year's salary, a week's vacation, a cable's length; and (2) expressions that involve personification, explicit or implied, Reason's voice, the law's delay, for mercy's sake, the heart's desire, the tempest's breath.

i. A pronoun agrees with its antecedent in person, gender, and number, but not in case.

  • Right: I, who am older, know better.
  • Right: Tell me, who am older, your trouble.
  • Right: Many a man has saved himself by counsel.


  1. I am as old as (he, him). They may be pluckier than (we, us). Nobody is less conceited than (she, her).
  2. He gave help to (whoever, whomever) wanted it. The girls (who, whom) they say have the worst taste are on a committee to select the class pin.
  3. Four of (we, us) boys were left without a cent. That is a good investment for her cousin and (she, her).
  4. It was (he, him). It is (they, them). The sole occupants of the car were his chum and (he, him).
  5. I had not heard of (his, him) being sick. She does not approve of (our, us) being late to dinner. (They, them) who labor now the Master will reward.

51a. Each, every, every one, everybody, anybody, either, neither, no one, nobody, and similar words are singular.

  • Wrong: Everybody did their best.
  • Right: Everybody did his best.
  • Wrong: Each of my three friends were there.
  • Right: Each of my three friends was there.
  • Wrong: Either of the candidates are capable of making a good officer.
  • Right: Either of the candidates is capable of making a good officer.

b. Do not let this or that when modifying kind or sort be attracted into the plural by a following noun.

  • Wrong: He knew nothing of those kind of activities.
  • Right: He knew nothing of that kind of activities.
  • Wrong: I never did like these sort of post cards.
  • Right: I never did like this sort of post cards.

c. Collective nouns may be regarded as singular or plural, according to the meaning intended.

  • Right: The crowd is waiting.
  • Right: The crowd are not agreed.
  • Right: Webster maintained that the United States is an inseparable union; Hayne that the United States are a separable union.
  • English usage: The government were considering a new bill regarding labor.
  • American usage: The government was glad to place our troops at the disposal of General Foch.

d. Do not use don't in the third person singular. Use doesn't. Don't is contraction of do not.

  • Wrong: He don't get up early on Sunday morning.
  • Right: He doesn't get up early on Sunday morning.


  1. She said not to buy those sort of carpet tacks. These kind of apples won't keep. I don't care for these boasting kind of travelers.
  2. Neither of us were in condition to run the race. Every one assured Mrs. Merton they had spent a pleasant evening.
  3. He don't suffer much now. I don't care if she don't come today.
  4. Each of us in that dismal waiting room were angry with the agent for telling us the train was not late.
  5. No one of the girls will tell their age. It don't matter.

52a. A verb agrees in number with the subject, not with a noun which intervenes between it and the subject.

  • Wrong: The size of the plantations vary.
  • Right: The size of the plantations varies.
  • Wrong: The increasing use of luxuries are a menace to the country.
  • Right: The increasing use of luxuries is a menace to the country.
  • Wrong: The prices of grain fluctuates in response to the demand.
  • Right: The prices of grain fluctuate in response to the demand. [Or] The price of grain fluctuates in response to the demand.

b. The number of the verb is not affected by the addition to the subject of words introduced by with, together with, no less than, as well as, and the like.

  • Wrong: The mayor of the city, as well as several aldermen, have investigated the charges.
  • Right: The mayor of the city, as well as several aldermen, has investigated the charges.

c. Singular subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb.

  • Wrong: Either the second or the third of the plans they have devised are acceptable.
  • Right: Either the second or the third of the plans they have devised is acceptable.

d. A subject consisting of two or more nouns joined by and takes a plural verb.

  • Right: The hunting and fishing are good.

e. A verb should agree in number with the subject, not with a predicate noun.

  • Wrong: The weak point in the team were the fielders.
  • Right: The weak point in the team was the fielders.
  • Wrong: Laziness and dissipation is the cause of his failure.
  • Right: Laziness and dissipation are the cause of his failure.

f. In There is and There are sentences the verb should agree in number with the noun that follows it.

  • Wrong: There is very good grounds for such a decision.
  • Right: There are very good grounds for such a decision.
  • Wrong: There was present a man, two women, and a child.
  • Right: There were present a man, two women, and a child.


  1. The sound of falling acorns (is, are) one of the delights of an autumn evening. Eye strain through ill-fit glasses (is, are) injurious to the general health, but reading without glasses (is, are) often more harmful still.
  2. Neither the baritone nor the tenor (has, have) as good a voice as the soprano. The guitar or the mandolin (is, are) always out of tune.
  3. The Amazon with its tributaries (affords, afford) access to sea. The conductor of the freight train, along with the engineer and fireman of the passenger, (was, were) injured.
  4. Ghost stories late at night (is, are) a crime against children. My reason for knowing that it is six o'clock (is, are) the factory whistles.
  5. There (was, were) in the same coach a dozen singing freshmen. Years of experience in buying clothes (gives, give) me confidence in my judgment.
Shall and Will, Should and Would

Although there is a tendency to disregard subtle distinctions between shall and will in ordinary speech, it is desirable to preserve the more important distinctions in written discourse.

53. To express simple futurity or mere expectation, use shall with the first person (both singular and plural) and will with the second and third.

I shall go.We shall walk.
You will play.You will hear.
He will sing.They will reply.

To express resolution or emphatic assurance, reverse the usage; that is, use will with the first person (both singular and plural), and shall with the second and third.

I will; I tell you, I will.We will not be excluded.
You shall do what I bid.You shall not delay us.
He shall obey me.They shall pay the tribute.

In asking questions, use the form expected in the answer.

  • "Shall I go?" I asked myself musingly. "Shall we take a walk?" "You promise. But will you pay?" "Will it rain tomorrow?"

Should and would follow the rules given for shall and will.

  • Mere statement of a fact:
    I [or We] should like to go.
    You [or He or They] would of course accept the offer.
  • Resolution or emphatic assurance:
    I [or We] would never go under terms so degrading.
    You [or He or They] should decline; honor demands it.

Should has also a special use in the subjunctive (in all persons) to express a condition; and would has a special use (in all persons) to express a wish, or customary action.

  • If it should rain, I shall not go.
  • If I should remain, it would probably clear off.
  • Would that I could swim!
  • He [I, We, You, They] would often sit there by the hour.


  1. I (shall, will) probably do as he says. I'm determined; I (shall, will) go! We (shall, will) see what tomorrow (shall, will) bring forth.
  2. The train (shall, will) whistle at this crossing, I suppose. When the log is nearly severed, it (shall, will) begin to pinch the saw. The weather (shall, will) be warmer tomorrow.
  3. Johnny, you (shall, will) not go near those strawberries! He (shall, will) not leave us in this predicament. I repeat it, he (shall, will) not! We (shall, will) never sell this good old horse.
  4. (Shall, will) this calico fade? (Shall, will) you give the organ grinder some money? (Shall, will) I raise the window? (Should, would) I ask his permission?
  5. If you (should, would) visit his laboratory, you (should, would) learn how a starfish preserved in alcohol smells. You (shall, will) all die some day, my friends. (Shall, will) I ever forget this? Time (shall, will) tell.
Principal Parts

54. Use the correct form of the past tense and past participle. Avoid come, done, bursted, knowed, says for the past tense; and [had] eat, [had] froze, [have] ran, [has] went, [has] wrote, [are] suppose for the past participle. Memorize the principal parts of difficult verbs. The principal parts are the present tense, the past tense, and the past participle. A good way to recall these is to repeat the formula: Today I sing; yesterday I sang; often in the past I have sung. The principal parts of sing are sing, sang, sung. A list of difficult verbs is given below.



  1. Adams —— (past tense of draw) another glass of cider and —— (past tense of drink) it. When those squashes once —— (past tense of begin), they —— (past tense of grow) like mad.
  2. The thermometer had —— (past participle of fall) twenty degrees, and three water pipes had —— (past participle of freeze). Afterward one —— (past tense of burst).
  3. Annie had —— (past participle of speak) a piece, and Nancy had —— (past participle of write) a poem, and Isabel had nearly —— (past participle of burst) with envy.
  4. He —— (past tense of do) a brave deed; he —— (past tense of swim) straight for the whirlpool. I had —— (past participle of know) him before, and had —— (past participle of shake) hands with him.
  5. He —— (past tense of come) home late, and has —— (past participle of eat) his dinner. Now he has —— (past participle of go) down town. He has —— (past participle of ride) before. I —— (past tense of see) him. He —— (past tense of run) swiftly.
Tense, Mode, Auxiliaries

55a. In dependent clauses and infinitives, the tense is to be considered in relation to the time expressed in the principal verb.

  • Wrong: I intended to have gone. [The principal verb intended indicates a past time. In that past time I intended to do something. What? Did I intend to go, or to have gone?]
  • Right: I intended to go.
  • Wrong: We hoped that you would have come to the party. [The principal verb hoped indicates a past time. In that past time our hope was that you would come, not that you would have come.]
  • Right: We hoped that you would come.

b. When narration in the past tense is interrupted for reference to a preceding occurrence, the past perfect tense is used.

  • Wrong: In the parlor my cousin kept a collection of animals which he shot.
  • Right: In the parlor my cousin kept a collection of animals which he had shot.

c. General statements equally true in the past and in the present are usually expressed in the present tense.

  • Faulty: He said that Venus was a planet.
  • Right: He said that Venus is a planet.

d. The subjunctive mode of the verb to be is used to express a condition contrary to fact, or a wish.

  • Faulty: If he was here, I should be happy.
  • Right: If he were here, I should be happy.
  • Faulty: I wish that I was a man.
  • Right: I wish that I were a man.

e. Use the correct auxiliary. Make sure that the tense, mode, or aspect of successive verbs is not altered without reason.

  • Wrong: By giving strict obedience to commands, a soldier learns discipline, and consequently would have steady nerves in time of war. [Learns should be followed by will have.]
  • Wrong: An automobile should be kept in good working order so that its life is lengthened. [Should be is properly followed by may be.]


  1. Every one hoped that you would have spoken.
  2. I saw it in the window. It was the very book I wanted so long.
  3. If I was sick, I should go home.
  4. They expected to have won the game.
  5. The Masons never invite men to join their lodge, but if a person expresses a desire to join, his friends would probably be able to secure membership for him.
Adjective and Adverb

56a. Do not use an adjective to modify a verb.

  • Crude: He spoke slow and careful.
  • Right: He spoke slowly and carefully.
  • Crude: He sure did good in his classes.
  • Right: He surely did well in his classes.

b. In such sentences as He stood firm and The cry rang clear the modifier should be an adjective if it refers to the subject, an adverb if it refers to the verb.

  • Right: The sun shines bright on my old Kentucky home. [Here the thought is that the sun which shines is bright.]
  • Right: He worked diligently. [Here the modifier refers to the manner of working rather than to the person who works. It should therefore be an adverb.]
  • Right: It stood immovable. The shot rang loud. He becomes angry. The weeds grow thick. They remain obstinate. He seems intelligent.

c. After a verb pertaining to the senses, look, sound, taste, smell, feel, an adjective is used to denote a quality pertaining to the subject. (An adverb is used only when the reference is clearly to the verb.)

  • She looks beautiful. [Not beautifully.]
  • The dinner bell sounds good. [Not well.]
  • My food tastes bad. [Not badly.]
  • That flower smells bad. [Not badly.]
  • I feel good [in good spirits.]
  • I feel well [in good health. An adjectival use of well.]
  • I feel bad [in bad health or spirits. "I feel badly" would mean "My sense of touch is impaired."]


  1. They fought —— (heroic, heroically). Dave stumbled ——(awkward, awkwardly).
  2. Margaret —— (sure, surely) worked —— (faithful, faithfully) in economics.
  3. At this reply the teacher grew —— (wrathful, wrathfully). I hear you —— (plain, plainly).
  4. I feel —— (giddy, giddily). Your rose looks —— (sweet, sweetly). No perfume smells so —— (dainty, daintily).
  5. That salad tastes —— (good, well). I feel —— (bad, badly) today. Your voice sounds —— (good, well) and ——(familiar, familiarly).
A Word in a Double Capacity

57. Do not use a verb, conjunction, preposition, or noun in a double capacity when one of the uses is ungrammatical.

  • Wrong [verb]: An opera house was built in one part of town, and two churches in another.
  • Right: An opera house was built in one part of town, and two churches were built in another.
  • Wrong [verb]: He always has and will do it.
  • Right: He always has done it, and always will do it.
  • Wrong [conjunction]: He was as old, if not older, than any other man in the community.
  • Right: He was as old as any other man in the community, if not older.
  • Wrong [preposition]: He was fond and diligent in work.
  • Right: He was fond of work and diligent in it.
  • Wrong [noun]: He is one of the most skilful, if not the most skilful, tennis players in the state.
  • Right: He is one of the most skilful tennis players in the state, if not the most skilful.


  1. He is as old, if not older, than she is.
  2. Two boats were in the water, and one on the shore.
  3. From childhood he has, and to old age he will, have many hobbies.
  4. A visit to a ten cent store is better, or at least as good, as a visit to a circus. You see as many or more queer things than in any show.
  5. One of the greatest, if not the greatest, secrets in keeping our health, is to keep our teeth in good condition. A famous physician said that one of the next, if not the very next, marked advance in medical science will be through discoveries in the realm of dentistry.
Parts of Speech, Other Grammatical Terms, Conjugation
The Parts of Speech and Their Uses
A noun is a name. It may be proper (Philip Watkins), or common. Common nouns may be concrete (man, windmill), or abstract (gratitude, nearness). A noun applied to a group is said to be collective (family, race). The uses of a noun are: to serve as the subject of a verb, to serve as the object of a verb or a preposition, to be in apposition with another noun (Jenkins, our coach), to indicate possession (Joseph's coat of many colors); and less frequently, to serve as an adjective (the brick sidewalk) or adverb (John went home), and to indicate direct address (Jehovah, help us!).
A pronoun is a word which takes the place of a noun. It may be personal (I, thou, you, he, she, it, we, they), relative (who, which, what, that, as, and compounds whoever, whichsoever, etc.), interrogative (who, which, what), demonstrative (this, that, these, those), or indefinite (some, any, one, each, either, neither, none, few, all, both, etc.). Strictly speaking, the last two groups, demonstratives and indefinites, are adjectives used as pronouns. Certain pronouns are also used as adjectives, notably the possessives (my, his, their, etc.) and the relative or interrogative which and what. The addition of -self to a personal pronoun forms a reflexive pronoun or intensive (I blamed myself. You yourself are at fault). A noun for which the pronoun stands is called the antecedent. The uses of pronouns are in general the same as those of nouns. In addition, relatives serve as connectives (the man who spoke), interrogatives ask questions (what man?), and demonstratives point out (that man).
A verb is a word or word-group which makes an assertion about the subject. It may express either action or mere existence. It may be transitive (trans meaning "across"; hence action carried across, requiring a receiver of the act; Brutus stabbed Cæsar; Cæsar is stabbed) or intransitive (not requiring a receiver of the act: Montgomery fell). Its meaning is dependent upon its voice, mode, and tense. Voice shows the relationship between the subject and the assertion made by the verb. The active voice shows the subject as actor (They elected Washington); the passive voice, as acted upon (Washington was elected). (A transitive verb may be active or passive, but an intransitive verb has no voice.) Mode indicates the manner of predicating an action, whether as assertion, condition, command, etc. There are three modes in English. The indicative mode affirms or denies (He went. She did not dance.) The subjunctive expresses condition or wish (If he were older, he would be wiser. Would that I were there!). The imperative expresses command or exhortation (Remain there. Go! Let us pray). Modal auxiliaries with these three modes form modal aspects of the verb. There are as many different aspects as there are auxiliaries. Aspects are sometimes spoken of as separate modes or called collectively the "potential mode." Tense expresses the time of the action or existence. The tenses are the present, the past, the future (employing the auxiliaries shall and will), the perfect (employing have), the past perfect (employing had), and the future perfect (employing shall have and will have). Verbals are certain forms of the verb used as other parts of speech (noun, adjective, adverb). For the verbal forms, infinitive, gerund, and participle, see the separate headings.
An adjective is a word used to modify a noun or pronoun. An adjective may be attributive (bright sun, cool-headed adventurers) or predicate (The field is broad. The meat tastes bad. I want this ready by Christmas). Adjectives assume three forms known as degrees of comparison. The positive degree indicates the simple quality of the object without reference to any other. The comparative degree indicates that two objects are compared (Stanley is the older brother). The superlative degree indicates that three or more objects are compared (Stanley is the oldest child in the family) or that the speaker feels great interest or emotion (A most excellent record). Ordinarily er or r is added to the positive to form the comparative, and est or st to the positive to form the superlative (brave, braver, bravest). But some adjectives (sometimes those of two, and always those of more than two, syllables) prefix more (or less) to the positive to form the comparative, and most (or least) to the positive to form the superlative (beautiful, more beautiful, most beautiful). Some adjectives express qualities that do not permit comparison (dead, four-sided, unique).
An adverb is a word used to modify a verb, an adjective, another adverb (She played well; unusually handsome; very sternly); or, more rarely, a verbal noun (Walking fast is good for the health), a preposition (The ship drifted almost upon the breakers), or a conjunction (It came just when we wished). Certain adverbs (fatally, entirely) do not logically admit of comparison. Those that do are compared like adjectives of more than two syllables (slowly, more or less slowly, most or least slowly).
A preposition is a connective placed before a substantive (called its object) in order to subordinate the substantive to some other word in a sentence (The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power. He ran toward the enemy without fear).
A conjunction is a word used to join together words, phrases, clauses, or sentences. A coördinate conjunction connects elements of equal rank (See 36). Correlative conjunctions are conjunctions used in pairs (See 31). A subordinate conjunction is one that connects elements unequal in rank (See 36). When a conjunction, in addition to its function as a connective, indicates a relation of time, place, or cause, it is often called a conjunctive adverb or relative adverb.
An interjection is a word thrown into speech to express emotion. It has no grammatical connection with other words. (Oh, is that it? Well, I'll do it. Hark!)
Other Grammatical Terms
Absolute expression.
An expression (usually composed of a substantive and a participle, perhaps with modifiers) which, though not formally and grammatically joined, is in thought related to the remainder of the sentence. (The relief party having arrived, we went home. This disposed of, the council proceeded to other matters. Defeated, he was not dismayed.)
A substantive to which a pronoun or participle refers. Literally, antecedent means that which goes before; but sometimes the antecedent follows the dependent word. (The man who hesitates is lost. Entering the store, we saw a barrel of apples.) Man is the antecedent of the pronoun who, and we is the antecedent of the participle entering.
Be, have, do, shall, will, ought, may, can, must, might, could, would, should, etc., when used with participles and infinitives of other verbs, are called auxiliary verbs.
The relation of a substantive to other words in the sentence as shown by inflectional form or position. The subject of a verb, or the predicate of the verb to be, is in the nominative case. The object of a verb or preposition, or the "assumed subject" of an infinitive, is in the objective case. A noun or pronoun which denotes possession is in the possessive case.
A portion of a sentence which contains a subject and a verb, perhaps with modifiers. The following sentence contains one dependent (subordinate) and one independent (principal) clause: When the storm ceased, the grove was a ruin.
The inflectional changes in the verb to indicate person, number, tense, voice, mode, and modal aspect.
The changes in a noun, pronoun, or adjective to indicate person, number, or case.
Ellipsis, elliptical expression.
An expression partially incomplete, so that words have to be understood to complete the meaning. An idea or relation corresponding to the omitted words is present, at least vaguely, in the mind of the speaker. Elliptical sentences are usually justifiable except when the reader cannot instantly supply the understood words. Examples of proper ellipses: You are as tall as I [am tall]. Is your sister coming? I think [my sister is] not [coming]. I will go if you will [go]. [I give you] Thanks for your advice.
A verbal in -ing used as a noun. (I do not object to your telling. His having deserted us makes little difference.) The gerund may be regarded as a special form of the infinitive.
A verbal ordinarily introduced by to and used as a noun (To err is human). In such sentences as "The road to follow is the river road," follow may be regarded as the noun of a phrase (compare the road to Mandalay), or the entire phrase may be regarded as an adjective. Similarly, in "He hastened to comply," comply may be regarded as a noun or to comply as an adverb. After certain verbs (bid, dare, help, make, need, etc.) the to is omitted from the infinitive group. (He bids me go. I need not hesitate.)
Change in the form of a word to show a modification or shade of meaning. At a very early period in our language there was a separate form for practically every modification. Although separate forms are now less numerous, inflection is still a convenient term in grammar. Its scope is general: it includes the declension of nouns, the comparison of adjectives and adverbs, and the conjugation of verbs.
To be grammatically dependent upon and to limit or alter the quality of. In the expression "The very old man," the and old modify man, and very modifies old.
A verbal used as an adjective, or as an adjective with adverbial qualities. In the sentence "Mary, being oldest, is also the best liked," being oldest refers exclusively, or almost exclusively, to the subject and is therefore adjectival. In such sentences as "He fell back, exhausted" and "Running down the street, I collided with a baby carriage," the participle refers in part to the verb and is therefore adverbial as well as adjectival.
A group of words forming a subordinate part of a sentence and not containing a subject and its verb. Examples: With a whistle and a roar the train arrived [prepositional phrase]. Bowing his head, the prisoner listened to the verdict of the jury [participial phrase]. In a loose, untechnical sense phrase may refer to any short group of words, even if the group includes a subject and its verb.
The word or word-group in a sentence which makes an assertion about the subject. It consists of a finite verb with or without objects or modifiers.
Predicate adjective.
An adjective in the predicate, usually linked with the subject by some form of the verb to be (is, was, were, etc.). (John is lazy. The soldiers were very eager.)
Predicate noun.
A noun linked with the subject by some form of the verb to be. (John is halfback. They were our neighbors.)
A sentence is a group of words containing (1) a subject (with or without modifiers) and a predicate (with or without modifiers) and not grammatically dependent on any words outside of itself; or (2) two or more such expressions related in thought. Sentences of type 1 are simple or complex; sentences of type 2 are compound. A simple sentence contains one independent clause (The dog barks angrily). A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses (The dog barks when the thief appears). A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses (The dog barks, and the thief runs).
A noun or a word standing in place of a noun. (The king summoned parliament. The bravest are the tenderest. She was inconsolable.) A substantive phrase is a phrase used as a noun. (From Dan to Beersheba is a term for the whole of Israel.) A substantive clause is a clause used as a noun. (That he owed the money is certain.)
Construction; the grammatical relation between the words, phrases, and clauses in a sentence.
Any form of the verb used as another part of speech. Infinitives, gerunds, and participles are verbals. They are used to express action without asserting it, and cannot, therefore, have subjects or be used as predicate verbs.
Abridged Conjugation of the verb to take
ModeTenseActive VoicePassive Voice
IndicativePresentI takeI am taken
PastI tookI was taken
FutureI shall (will) takeI shall (will) be taken
PerfectI have takenI have been taken
Past PerfectI had takenI had been taken
Future PerfectI shall (will) have takenI shall (will) have been taken
SubjunctivePresentIf I takeIf I be taken
PastIf I tookIf I were taken
PerfectIf I have takenIf I have been taken
Past PerfectIf I had takenIf I had been taken
Modal Aspects

(Modal aspects, formed by combining auxiliaries with the main verb, give special meanings—emphatic, progressive, etc.—to the primary modes. Since there are almost as many aspects as there are auxiliaries, only a few can be enumerated here.)

TenseModal AspectActive VoicePassive Voice
Present IndicativeEmphatic:I do take
Progressive:I am takingI am being taken
Contingent:I may takeI may be taken
Potential:I can takeI can be taken
Obligative:I must takeI must be taken
Past IndicativeEmphatic:I did take
Progressive:I was takingI was being taken
Contingent:I might takeI might be taken
Potential:I could takeI could be taken
Obligative:I must takeI must be taken
Present SubjunctiveEmphatic:If I do take
Progressive:If I be taking
Contingent:If I might take
Potential:If I could take
Obligative:If I must take
Present ImperativeEmphatic:Do take
Progressive:Be taking
VerbalTenseActive VoicePassive Voice
Infinitive Present:To takeTo be taken
Perfect:To have takenTo have been taken
Gerund Present:TakingBeing taken
Perfect:Having takenHaving been taken
Participle Present:TakingBeing taken
Past: Taken
Perfect:Having takenHaving been taken


Copy a page of good prose from any book, leaving wide spaces between the lines. Indicate the part of speech of every word. This may be done by abbreviations placed beneath the words. For example:

"Von Arden,
having fallen
pers pro.
rel. pro.
A. Case of Pronouns

Determine the correct form of the pronoun.

  1. It is (I, me).
  2. No one knows better than (she, her).
  3. Then came the whistle for Gerald and (I, me).
  4. It was (they, them).
  5. Alice can drive a car as well as (he, him).
  6. It was (she, her) (who, whom) you saw on the car.
  7. John, you may go with Dan and (I, me).
  8. If I were (she, her), I could not think of accepting the questionable honor.
  9. One evening four of (we, us) girls decided to go to the theater.
  10. Others are older than (we, us).
  11. (Who, Whom) do you imagine will be our next president?
  12. He does not approve of (our, us) walking on the grass.
  13. Counsel will be given to (they, them) who ask for it.
  14. That seems strange to you and (I, me).
  15. Her mother has more regular features than (she, her).
  16. Women (who, whom) some people would call "quiet" are often the wisest.
  17. Between you and (I, me), I'm hungry.
  18. The thought of (it, its) coming by parcel post never entered my mind.
  19. He never discovered (who, whom) his enemy was.
  20. In case of a fumble, the ball is given to (whoever, whomever) recovers it.
B. Agreement

Determine the correct form of the verb.

  1. He (don't, doesn't) care for music.
  2. The swimming, boating, and fishing (is, are) good.
  3. Each one of the two hands of the clock (is, are) made of gold.
  4. The ore is sorted and the cars having good ore (is, are) hauled to the smelter.
  5. A deck of ordinary playing cards consisting of fifty-two cards (is, are) used.
  6. It is safe to say that only one out of every ten of the great number of students (realizes, realize) the value of economy.
  7. In spite of all obstacles, the construction of the three hundred trestles and the twenty scaffolds (was, were) completed.
  8. Some nights may seem still, yet there (is, are) always noises.
  9. The exact meaning of such words as inspiration, prophecy, and orthodox (puzzles, puzzle) laymen.
  10. Hard roads (is, are) an important matter to all country people.
  11. There (has, have) been many lives lost in Arctic exploration.
  12. Personal gifts inspired by good will and directed by careful thought (is, are) the very best kind of charity.
  13. In Lincoln's replies to Douglas there (is, are) no flights or oratory.
  14. The conciseness of these lines (is, are) to be admired.
  15. A constant stream of wagons and horses (was, were) passing as the circus was unloaded.
  16. Nevertheless there (exists, exist) a certain class of students who are socially submerged.
  17. She (doesn't, don't) care for olives.
  18. "Current Events" (is, are) a very useful department of this magazine.
  19. No people (lives, live) in that house.
  20. The corporal, together with two other members of the patrol, (was, were) captured by the enemy.
C. Shall and Will, Should and Would

Determine the correct form of the verb.

  1. Perhaps I (shall, will) be able to go.
  2. I tell you, I (shall will) not allow that dog in the car.
  3. It is odd what a person (shall, will) do in a time of excitement.
  4. They have never seen anything like it, and probably they never (shall, will).
  5. "Johnny, you (shall, will) not go!" Johnny knew that further begging was useless.
  6. As we (shall, will) find by investigation, our coast fortifications are few.
  7. I (shouldn't, wouldn't) do that for anything.
  8. I (should, would) think you (should, would) enjoy your bicycle.
  9. (Shall, will) you go driving with us?
  10. Do you think it (shall, will) rain?
  11. Where (shall, will) I hang my hat?
  12. (Should, would) you go if I (should, would) ask you?
  13. Rover (should, would) stay in the house all the time, if we (should, would) let him.
  14. I promised that I (should, would) be at the station early, lest we (should, would) miss the train.
  15. You (shall, will) have much trouble with that cold, I'm afraid.
D. Lie, lay; sit, set; rise, raise

Fix in mind the following principal parts:

I lieI layI have lain
I layI laidI have laid
I sitI satI have sat
I setI setI have set
I riseI roseI have risen
I raiseI raisedI have raised

Lie, sit, rise are used intransitively; lay, set, raise are used transitively. Lay, set, raise are causatives; that is, to lay means to cause to lie, etc.

Insert a correct form of the verb lie or lay:

  1. I —— here and watch the clouds. My dog is ——ing at my feet.
  2. In the evening I —— aside all cares. I —— down on the couch and read. Yesterday I —— there an hour.
  3. The children have —— in bed until seven o'clock. John has —— his coat on a chair. He —— there asleep now.
  4. —— the shovel down. The garden is now —— out in rows. —— down and take a little rest.
  5. Smoke —— along the horizon. Snow was ——ing here yesterday. He is ——ing plans for the future.

Insert a correct form of the verb sit or set:

  1. Jerome —— the box on the floor. Then he —— on the box.[class="transnotes" this list should start from 6...]
  2. Four people are ——ing at the table. Who —— the lamp there?
  3. I had —— there an hour. They had —— the pitcher outside the door.
  4. I often —— up late. Last night I —— up late. I must ——the alarm clock.
  5. —— the package down. —— down and rest. While we are ——ing there the gardener is ——ing out the plants.

Insert a correct form of the verb rise or raise:

  1. —— up and speak! —— the window.
  2. He quickly —— his head. The cork had gone under, but now it —— again to the surface.
  3. During the night the bread —— to the top of the pan.
  4. The invalid slowly —— himself in his bed.
  5. The river has already —— and overflowed its banks.
E. Principal Parts of Verbs

In the following sentences supply the correct form of the verb.

  1. He —— (past tense of come) to this country in 1887.
  2. He has —— (past participle of eat) breakfast and —— (past participle of go) to the office.
  3. Have you —— (past participle of ride) far? I have ——(past participle of drive) ten miles.
  4. I am sure it was Henry who —— (past tense of do) it, for I —— (past tense of see) him running away as fast as he could go.
  5. The wind has —— (past participle of tear) down the chimney and —— (past participle of blow) down the tree.
  6. After he —— (past tense of lie) down, he remembered he had left his books —— (present participle of lie) in the orchard.
  7. He —— (past tense of throw) the ball so hard that the window was —— (past participle of break) into a hundred pieces.
  8. The man —— (past tense of give) warning before we had —— (past participle of go) too far.
  9. After we had —— (past participle of ride) about ten miles we —— (past tense of come) upon a stretch of hard road.
  10. Where —— (past tense of be) you? You ——n't (past tense of be) at home when I —— (past tense of ring) the bell.
  11. The harness was —— (past participle of break or burst) beyond repair. Who —— (past tense of break) it?
  12. I —— (past tense of take) four shots at the rabbit, but every shot —— (past tense of go) wild.
  13. He has —— (past participle of swim) across the harbor, and has —— (past participle of break) the record.
  14. I had —— (past participle of drink) buttermilk for several weeks. I —— (past tense of begin) to gain weight.
  15. When we had —— (past participle of sit) there an hour and —— (past participle of eat) all we wanted, Jim —— (past tense of draw) out his purse and —— (past tense of give) the waiter a dollar.
F. General

Improve the grammar of the following sentences.

  1. Those kind of lamps are ugly.
  2. It don't interest me any more.
  3. Nobody may enter the hall tonight without their admittance cards.
  4. One does not need to strain their ears while at the movies.
  5. Nearly all people eat too much, too fast, and too irregular.
  6. Don't take this letter too serious.
  7. He done the best he could with these kind of tools.
  8. Every person with a cold was blowing their nose.
  9. It would help considerable if you would speak to the manager about existing conditions.
  10. If I were the mayor, I could not do as good as he does.
  11. Talk polite to your customers.
  12. It is important that a salesman has a good memory.
  13. Each tube must be capable of withstanding a pressure of five hundred pounds per square inch before they are lowered into place.
  14. She is as tall, if not taller, than he is.
  15. He always has and always will say that.
  16. He is one of the worst, if not the very worst, player on the team.
  17. Final examinations require time and study that would not otherwise be done.
  18. I feel badly. He talks rude. It smells fragrantly.



60. Avoid wordiness. Strike out words not essential to the thought.

  • Roundabout impersonal construction: There are many interesting things which may be seen in New York. [12 words.]
  • Better: Many interesting things may be seen in New York. [9 words.]
  • Clause to be reduced to a phrase: The skeleton which stood in the office of Dr. Willard was terrifying to little Cecil. [15 words.]
  • Right: The skeleton in Dr. Willard's office was terrifying to little Cecil. [11 words.]
  • Clause and phrase each to be reduced to a word: Men who cared only for their individual interests were now in a state of discouragement. [15 words.]
  • Right: Selfish men were now discouraged. [5 words.]
  • Separate predication in excess: That day I was shocking wheat behind the binder. Shocking wheat behind the binder was my usual job in harvest. That day while I was working at this job, I found a nest full of partridge eggs. [37 words.]
  • Right: That day, while shocking wheat behind the binder, my usual job in harvest, I found a nest full of partridge eggs. [21 words.]
  • Ponderous scientific terms for simple ideas: Since, according to the physicists, the per cent of efficiency of a machine is equal to the amount of energy put in, divided by the amount of useful work performed, it naturally follows that in all human activities, unnecessary friction, since it lowers the amount of nervous energy, is going to lower the per cent of efficiency. While we may never reach an astonishing degree of efficiency by economizing nervous energy, nevertheless, if we consistently and perseveringly try to spare ourselves all unnecessary labor and exertion, we shall have an abundant supply of energy to direct into channels of usefulness. [100 words.]
  • Right: If we economize our strength, we can make our actions more efficient and useful. [14 words.]
  • Inflated writing: She was supreme in beauty among the daughters of Eve whom his ravished eyes had hitherto beheld. [17 words.]
  • Right: She was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. [10 words.]

Note.—A special form of wordiness is tautology—the useless repetition of an idea in different words.

  • Gross tautology: He had an entire monopoly of the whole fruit trade. [This is like saying "black blackbird."]
  • Right: He had a monopoly of the fruit trade.
  • Tautological expressions:
    • this here
    • where at
    • return back
    • ascend up
    • repeat again
    • biography of his life
    • good benefits
    • fellow playmates
    • Hallowe'en evening
    • important essentials
    • indorse on the back
    • connect up
    • meet up with
    • combined together
    • perfectly all right
    • utter absence of
    • quite round
    • absolutely annihilated
    • still continue to
    • absolutely new creation
    • necessary requisite
    • total effect of all this


  1. The people who act the parts in a play want the people who witness the performance to applaud them.
  2. There is an oily grass which is found on the prairie, and which is called mesquite grass, and it covers the prairie.
  3. You wish to call the operator. You take the receiver from the hook. By taking the receiver from the hook you call the operator.
  4. At last the employer of the men, and those who were employed by him, having compromised their difficulties, effected a settlement, and reached an amicable understanding agreeable to both parties.
  5. The two merchants joined up their forces together in order to secure a monopoly of the entire trade of the village. There was one absolutely essential preliminary which they thought must necessarily precede everything else. It was that they should take all the old shop-worn articles and dispose of them by selling them as bargains at a reduced rate.

61. Avoid trite or hackneyed expressions. Such expressions may be tags from everyday speech (the worse for wear, had the time of my life); or stale phrases from newspapers (taken into custody, the officiating clergyman); or humorous substitutions (ferocious canine, paternal ancestor); or forced synonyms (gridiron heroes, the Hoosier metropolis); or conventional fine writing (reigns supreme, wind kissed the tree-tops); or oft-repeated euphemisms (limb for leg, pass away for die); or overworked quotations from literature (monarch of all I survey, footprints on the sands of time).

List of trite expressions:

  • along these lines
  • meets the eye
  • feathered songsters
  • a long-felt want
  • the last sad rites
  • launched into eternity
  • last but not least
  • doomed to disappointment
  • at one fell swoop
  • sadder but wiser
  • did justice to a dinner
  • a goodly number
  • budding genius
  • beggars description
  • a dull thud
  • silence broken only by
  • wended their way
  • abreast of the times
  • trees stood like sentinels
  • method in his madness
  • sun-kissed meadows
  • tired but happy
  • hoping you are the same
  • nipped in the bud
  • the happy pair
  • seething mass of humanity
  • specimen of humanity
  • with bated breath
  • green with envy
  • the proud possessor
  • too full for utterance
  • a pugilistic encounter
  • conspicuous by its absence
  • with whom they come in contact
  • exception proves the rule
  • favor with a selection
  • as luck would have it
  • more easily imagined than described
  • where ignorance is bliss


  1. Halleck returned from his trip considerably the worse for wear.
  2. The baby whom she had promised to keep quiet proved to be a foeman worthy of her steel.
  3. I first saw the light of day in New Orleans. It was in the Crescent City also that my dear mother passed away.
  4. Americans come off second best in a vocalizing encounter with umlauted u, while Germans and Frenchmen wage sanguinary battles with our th.
  5. The daily scramble for dear life to get aboard a trolley was like taking arms against a sea of troubles. Even standing room was conspicuous by its absence. Sheridan began to think along the line of getting to the office in some other way.
The Exact Word

62. Find the exact word. Do not be content with a loose meaning. Seek the verb, the noun, the adjective, the adverb, or the phrase which expresses your thought with precision. Such words as said, proposition, and nice are often used too loosely. Observe the possible gain in definiteness by substitution.

  • For said (verb): declared, related, insisted, exclaimed, added, repeated, replied, admitted, commented, corrected, protested, explained, besought, interrupted, inquired, stammered, sighed, murmured, or thundered.
  • For proposition (noun): transaction, undertaking, venture, recourse, suggestion, overture, proposal, proffer, convenience, difficulty, thesis, or doctrine.
  • For nice (adjective): discriminating, precise, fastidious, dainty, neat, pretty, pleasant, fragrant, delicious, well-behaved, good, or moral.
  • Inexact verb: He had not sufficiently regarded the difficulties of the task [Use considered].
  • Inexact noun: Promptness is an item which a manager should possess [Use quality].
  • Inexact adjective: He looked awfully funny when I told him he had made a mistake [Use surprised].
  • Inexact phrasing throughout: Health is first in every line of activity. A man who has it does not hold it with enough respect, and make efforts enough to keep it.
  • Right: Health is indispensable to success in any work. Even those who have it do not realize its value.


  1. He was proud of the honorable record he had gained.
  2. He resolved that some day he would be a banker, and I shall tell you how he tried to do so.
  3. Isn't the sunset grand? Isn't it nice to be out of doors?
  4. The mystery as to which ones of the piano keys to play was hard for him to acquire.
  5. If the package comes by freight, you must negotiate the proposition of getting it home; but if it comes by express, the delivery is done free.

63. Concrete words are often more effective than vague, general, or abstract words.

  • Not specific: She held herself aloof from her brothers' games and amusements.
  • Concrete: She never played soldier or sailed paper boats with her brothers.
  • No appeal to the senses: I liked to watch the servant girl as she moved about the kitchen, preparing our morning repast.
  • Concrete: I liked to watch Norah as she fried our crisp breakfast bacon and browned our buckwheat cakes.
  • Flat, not readily visualized: The first inhabitants overcame the barriers to settlement about a century ago.
  • Concrete: Rough backwoodsmen broke through the underbrush and swamp-land a century ago.


  1. The scientist discovered a bird in a tree.
  2. Our hostess set before us many good things to eat.
  3. The sailor was carving queer figures on a piece of soft wood.
  4. The night watchman heard something that made him suspicious.
  5. I stood at the door of the shop to watch the astonishing things the blacksmith was doing.

64. Avoid the frequent repetition of a sound, especially if it be harsh or unpleasant.

  • Bad: He is an exceedingly orderly secretary.
  • Better: As a secretary he is very systematic. [Or] The secretary is very systematic.
  • Bad: Immediately the squirrel hid himself behind the hickory tree.
  • Better: Immediately the squirrel dodged behind the hickory tree.
  • Unfortunate rime: Bert did not dare to go home with wet hair.
  • Better: Bert did not dare to go home with his hair wet. [Or] Bert was afraid to go home with wet hair.


  1. That Christmas happened to be unusually happy.
  2. I fear we must sit near the rear of the room.
  3. The Jackies went clambering and scurrying up the rigging.
  4. The ship slips anchor while the idlers sip tea on the deck.
  5. The third treasure-seeker heard a thud. His pick had struck an obstruction.
Subtle Violations of Good Use: Faulty Idioms, Colloquialisms

65. Avoid subtle violations of good use, particularly (a) faulty idioms and (b) colloquialisms.

a. Make your expression conform to English idiom. A faulty idiom is an expression which, though correct in grammar and general meaning, combines words in a manner contrary to usage. Idioms are established by custom, and cannot be explained by logical rules. "I enjoy to read" is wrong, not because the words offend logic or grammar, but merely because people do not instinctively make that combination of words. "I like to read" and "I enjoy reading" are good idioms.

Faulty IdiomsCorrect Idioms
in the city Toledoin the city of Toledo
in the year of 1920in the year 1920
I hope you a good timeI wish you a good time
the Rev. Hopkinsthe Reverend Mr. Hopkins
possessed with abilitypossessed of ability
stay to homestay at home
different thandifferent from
independent fromindependent of
in search forin search of

Observe that many idioms are concerned with prepositions. Make sure that a verb or adjective is accompanied by the right preposition. Study the following list of correct idioms:

  • accused of (a theft)
  • accused by (a person)
  • accord with (a person)
  • agree with (a person)
  • agree to (a proposal)
  • agreeable to
  • angry at (things or persons)
  • angry with (a person)
  • careful about (an affair)
  • careful of (one's money)
  • comply with
  • convenient to (a person)
  • convenient for (a purpose)
  • correspond to (things)
  • correspond with (persons)
  • dissent from
  • enamored of
  • entrust to
  • free from
  • listen to
  • part from (a person)
  • part with (a thing)
  • pleased with
  • resolve on
  • sympathize with
  • take exception to

b. Do not carry the standards of conversation into formal writing. Colloquial usage is more free than literary usage. The colloquial sentence That's the man I talked with becomes in writing That is the man with whom I talked. The colloquial sentence It was a cold day but there wasn't any wind blowing is a loose string of words. Written discourse requires greater tension and more care in subordinating minor ideas: The day, though cold, was still. Contractions are proper in conversation, and in personal or informal writing. In formal writing they are not appropriate. And do not let such expressions as He doesn't, We aren't, It's proved, used in talk by careful speakers, mislead you into expressions like He don't, We ain't, It's proven, which violate even colloquial good use.


  1. He confessed of his inability to comply to the demand.
  2. Is he from Irish descent? Is humor characteristic with the Irish?
  3. She was not to home, but I was reluctant against leaving.
  4. He dissented to the opinion of the committee's majority, for his ideas were utterly different than theirs.
  5. He got a few jobs as a carpenter that summer, but they didn't pay him much, and so he went to loafing around, and he's been at it ever since.
Gross Violations of Good Use: Barbarisms, Improprieties, Slang

66. Avoid gross violations of good use, particularly (a) barbarisms, (b) improprieties, and (c) slang.

a. Barbarisms are distortions of words in good use, or coinages for which there is no need. Examples: to concertize, to burgle or burglarize, to jell, alright, a-plenty, most (for almost), performess, fake, pep, tasty, illy, complected, undoubtably, nowheres, soph, lab, gents.

b. Improprieties are words wrenched from one part of speech to another, or made to perform an unnatural service. Examples: to suspicion, to gesture, to suicide, a steal, a try, a go, an invite, the eats, humans, some or real or swell (as adverbs), like (as a conjunction).

c. Slang is speech consisting either of uncouth expressions of illiterate origin, or of legitimate expressions used in grotesque or irregular senses. Though sometimes (witness eighteenth century mob, and nineteenth century buncombe) it satisfies a real need and becomes established in the language, in most instances it is short-lived (witness the thieves' talk in Oliver Twist, or passages from any comic opera song popular five years ago). Vicious types of slang are:

  • Expressions of vulgar origin (from criminal classes, the prize ring, the vaudeville circuit, etc.): get pinched, down and out, took the count, bum hunch, nix on the comedy stuff, get across.
  • Language strained or distorted for novel effect: performed the feed act at a bang-up gastronomic emporium, bingled a tall drive that made the horsehide ramble out into center garden.
  • Blanket expressions used as substitutes for thinking: corking, stunning, ain't it fierce?, can you beat it?, going some, just so I get by with it.

The use of the last-named type is most to be regretted. It leads to a mental habit of phonographic repetition, with no resort to independent thinking. If a man really desires to use slang, let him invent new expressions every day, and make them fit the specific occasion.


  1. I disremember what sort of an outfit he wore.
  2. Helen's as light-complected a girl as you'll run across, I calculate.
  3. His ad brought a first-rate gent to hold down the job.
  4. Thompson hasn't stability, or it seems like it. He ain't got no gumption. He's too easy enthused.
  5. The grub was to of cost us two bits, but we didn't have the dough. We gets outside the food, and when the cashier ain't lookin', we runs out the door and beats it.
Words Often Confused in Meaning

67. Do not confuse or interchange the meanings of the following words:

Accept and except.
Accept means to receive; except as a verb means to exclude and as a preposition means with the exception of.
Affect and effect.
Affect is not used as a noun; effect as a noun means result. As verbs, affect means to influence in part; effect means to accomplish totally. "His story affected me deeply." "The Russians effected a revolution." Affect also has a special meaning to feign. "She had an affected manner."
Allusion and illusion.
Allusion means a reference; illusion means a deceptive appearance. "A Biblical allusion." "An optical illusion."
Already and all ready.
Already means by this time or beforehand; all ready means wholly ready. "I have already invited him." "Dinner is all ready." "We are all ready for dinner."
Altogether and all together.
Altogether means wholly, entirely; all together means collectively, in a group. "He is altogether honest." "The King sent the people all together into exile."
Can and may.
Can means to be able; may means to have permission. Can for may has a certain colloquial standing, but is condemned by literary usage.
Emigrate and immigrate.
Emigrate means to go out from a country; immigrate means to enter into a country. The same man may be an emigrant when he leaves Europe, and an immigrant when he enters America.
Healthy and healthful.
Healthy means having health; healthful means giving health. "Milk is healthful." "The climate of Colorado is healthful." "The boy is healthy."
Hanged and hung.
Hanged is the correct past tense of hang in the sense put to death, hanged on the gallows; hung is the correct past tense for the general meaning suspended.
Hygienic and sanitary.
Both words mean pertaining to health. Hygienic is used when the condition is a matter of personal habits or rules; sanitary is used when the condition is a matter of surroundings (water supply, food supply, sewage disposal, etc.) or the relations of numbers of people.
Instants and instance.
Instants means small portions of time; instance means an example.
Later and latter.
Later means more late; latter means the second in a series of two. "The latter" is used in conjunction with the phrase "the former."
Lead and led.
Led is the past tense of the verb to lead. Lead is the present tense.
Learn and teach.
Learn means to get knowledge of; teach means to give knowledge of or to. "The instructor teaches (not learns) me physics." "He learns his lessons easily."
Leave and let.
Leave means to abandon; let means to permit.
Less and fewer.
Less refers to quantity; fewer refers to number. "He has fewer (not less) horses than he needs."
Liable, likely, and apt.
Likely merely predicts; liable conveys the additional idea of harm or responsibility. Apt applies usually to persons, in the sense of having natural capability, and sometimes to things, in the sense of fitting, appropriate. "It is likely to be a pleasant day." "I fear it is liable to rain." "He is liable for damages." "He is an apt lad at his books." "That is an apt phrase."
Lie and lay.
Lay, a transitive verb, means to cause to lie. "I lay the book on the table and it lies there." "Now I lay me down to sleep." A source of confusion between the two words is that the past tense of lie is lay:
I lie down to sleep.I lay the book on the table.
I lay there yesterday.I laid it there yesterday.
I have lain here for hours.I have laid it there many times.
Like and as or as if.
Like is in good use as a preposition, and may be followed by a noun; as is in good use as a conjunction, and may be followed by a clause. "He is tall like his father." "He is tall, as his father is." "It looks as if (not like) it were going to rain."
Lose and loose.
Lose means to cease having; loose as a verb means to set free, and as an adjective, free, not bound.
Majority and plurality.
In a loose sense, majority means the greater part. More strictly, it means the number by which votes cast for one candidate exceed those of the opposition. A plurality is the excess of votes received by one candidate over his nearest competitor. In an election A receives 500 votes; B, 400 votes; and C, 300 votes. A has a plurality of 100, but no majority.
Practical and practicable.
Practical means not theoretical; practicable means capable of being put into practice. "A practical man." "The arrangement is practicable."
Principal and principle.
Principal as an adjective means chief or leading; principle as a noun means a general truth. Principal as a noun means a sum of money, or the chief official of a school.
Proof and evidence.
In a law court, proof is evidence sufficient to establish a fact; evidence is whatever is brought forward in an attempt to establish a fact. "The evidence against the prisoner was extensive, but hardly proof of his guilt." In ordinary speech, proof is sometimes loosely used as a synonym for evidence.
Pseudo- and quasi-.
As a prefix, pseudo- means false; quasi- means literally as if, hence seeming, so-called. "Phrenology is a pseudo-science." "A quasi-evolutionary doctrine."
Quiet and quite.
Quiet is an adjective meaning calm, not noisy; quite is an adverb meaning entirely.
Respectfully and respectively.
Respectfully means in a courteous manner; respectively means in a way proper to each. "Yours respectfully" (not respectively). "He handed the commissions to Gray and Hodgins respectively."
Rise and raise.
Rise is an intransitive verb; raise is a transitive verb. "I rise to go home." "I raise vegetables." "I raise the stone from the ground."
Sit and set.
Set, a transitive verb, means to cause to sit. "He sets it in the corner and it sits there." The past tense of sit is sat.
I sit down.I always set it in its place.
He sat in this very chair.I set it in its place yesterday.
He has sat there an hour.I have always set it just here.
Stationary and stationery.
Stationary is an adjective meaning fixed; stationery is a noun meaning writing material.
Statue, stature, and statute.
Statue means a carved or moulded figure; stature means height; statute means a law.


  1. Insert affect or effect: Noise does not —— my studying. It has little —— on me. By the exercise of will power I was able to —— a change.
  2. Insert healthy or healthful: New Mexico has a —— climate, Graham bread is ——. You will be —— if you take exercise.
  3. Insert later or latter: I will see you ——. Here are two plans: the former is complex; the —— is simple. Sooner or —— you will learn the rule.
  4. Insert less or fewer: They have —— money than we; we have —— pleasures than they. It seems to me there are —— accidents.
  5. Insert principal or principle: The —— part of a clock is the pendulum, which swings regularly, according to a —— of science. My —— reason for trusting him is that he is a man of ——. He is the —— of the high school. The widow spends the interest on the money, but keeps the —— intact.
Glossary of Faulty Diction

68. Avoid faulty diction.

(for advertisement). Avoid in formal writing and speaking.
Never correct. Say I'm not, you [we, they] aren't, he [she, it] isn't.
All the farther, all the faster.
Crude. Use as far as, as fast as, in such sentences as "This is all the farther I can go."
(a) Incorrect in the sense of that or whether. "I don't know whether (not as) I can tell you." "Not that (not as) I know." (b) As ... as are correlatives. Than must not replace the second as. Right: "As good as or better than his neighbors." "As good as his neighbors, or better [than they]." See 57.
An abbreviation not desirable in formal writing.
Means filling with awe or filled with awe. Do not use in the sense of uncivil, serious, or ludicrous, or (in the adverbial form) in the sense of very, extremely.
Incorrect when used in the sense of remainder.
Not to be used for the fact that. "The fact that (not because) he is absent is no reason why we should not proceed." See 5.
Used of two persons or things. Not to be confused with among, which is used of more than two.
Blame on.
A crudity for put the blame on or blame. Faulty: "Don't blame it on me." Better: "Don't blame me."
A monstrosity for born. "I was born (not borned) in 1899."
The past tense of burst is the same as the present.
Bust or busted.
Vulgar for burst. Right: "The balloon burst." "The bank failed."
But what.
That is often preferable. "I do not doubt that (not but what) he is honest."
An adjective. Not in good use as a noun.
Cannot help but.
A confusion of can but and cannot help. "I can but believe you"; or "I cannot help believing you"; not "I cannot help but believe you." See 34.
Caused by.
To be used only when it refers definitely to a noun. Wrong: "He was disappointed, caused by the lateness of the train." The noun disappointment should be used instead of the verb disappointed. Then caused will have a definite reference. Right: "His disappointment was caused by the lateness of the train." See 23.
Means to demand as a right. Incorrect for maintain or assert.
An adjective, not an adverb. "He talked considerably (not considerable) about it."
Could of.
An illiterate form arising from slovenly pronunciation. Use could have. Avoid also may of, must of, would of, etc.
Plural. The singular (seldom used) is datum. Compare stratum, strata; erratum, errata.
Means to conduct oneself, not to lower or to degrade.
Different than.
Different from is to be preferred. Than is a conjunction. The idea of separation implied in different calls for a preposition, rather than a word of comparison.
Not in good use.
A gross error when used as the past tense of do, or as an adverb meaning already. "I did it (not I done it)." "I've already (not done) got my lessons."
A contraction for do not; never to be used for does not. The contraction of does not is doesn't. See 51d.
Vulgar for drowned.
Due to.
To be used only when it refers definitely to a noun. Faulty: "He refused the offer, due to his father's opposition." Right: "His refusal of the offer was due to his father's opposition." The noun refusal should be used instead of the verb refused. Then due will have a definite reference. See 5.
Not in good use.
An abbreviation for the Latin et cetera, meaning and other [things]. Et means and. And etc. is therefore grossly incorrect. Do not write ect.
Means to look forward to. Hardly correct in the sense of suppose.
Use cautiously as an adjective, and not at all as an adverb. Seek the exact word. See 62.
Means the first or first named of two. Not to be used when more than two have been named. The corresponding word is latter.
For to.
Incorrect for to. "I want you (not for you) to listen carefully." "He made up his mind to (not for to) accept."
A vulgar abbreviation of gentleman.
An adjective, not an adverb. Wrong: "He did good in mathematics." Right: "He did well in mathematics." "He did good work in mathematics."
An old form now usually replaced by got except in such expressions as ill-gotten gains.
Expresses conjecture. Not to be used in formal composition for think, suppose, or expect.
Had of.
Illiterate. "I wish I had known (not had of known) about it."
Had ought.
A vulgarism. "He ought (not had ought) to have resigned." "We oughtn't (not hadn't ought) to make this error."
Not to be used with a negative. See 34.
Do not use when you mean simply house.
Human or humans.
Not in good use as a noun. Say human being. Right: "The house was not fit for human beings (not humans) to live in."
Do not use for whether. "I can't say whether (not if) the laundry will be finished today."
Often misused for into. "He jumped into (not in) the pond."
Means it is; not to be written for the possessive its.
Kind of.
(a) Should not modify adjectives or verbs. "He was somewhat (not kind of) lean." "She partly suspected (not She kind of suspected) what was going on." (b) When using with a noun, do not follow by a. "That kind of man"; not "That kind of a man."
To be followed by a substantive; never by a substantive and a verb. "He ran like a deer." "Do as (not like) I do." "She felt as if (not like) she was going to faint." Like is a preposition; as is a conjunction.
Do not use where you plainly do not mean it, as in the sentence, "I was literally tickled to death."
Lend is in better use as a verb.
Do not use for settle or establish oneself.
Lose out.
Not used in formal writing. Say lose.
Lots of.
A mercantile term which has a dubious colloquial standing. Not in good literary use for many or much.
Might of.
A vulgarism for might have.
Do not use for almost. "Almost (not most) all."
Intensive or reflexive; do not use when the simple personal pronoun would suffice. "I saw them myself." "Some friends and I (not myself) went walking."
Used with nor, and not with or. "Neither the man whom his associates had suspected nor (not or) the one whom the police had arrested was the criminal." "She could neither paint a good picture nor (not or) play the violin well."
Means delicate or precise. Nice is used in a loose colloquial way to indicate general approval, but should not be so used in formal writing. Right: "He displayed nice judgment." "We had a pleasant (not nice) time." See 62.
Nowhere near.
Vulgar for not nearly.
O and Oh.
O is used with a noun in direct address; it is not separated from the noun by any marks of punctuation. Oh is used as an interjection; it is followed by a comma or an exclamation point. "Hear, O king, what thy servants would say." "Oh, dear!"
Do not use for have in such combinations as should have, may have, ought to have.
Off of.
On, upon, or some equivalent expression is usually preferable.
Ought to of.
A vulgarism for ought to have.
Over with.
Crude for over.
Trousers is the approved term in literary usage. Pants (from pantaloons) has found some degree of colloquial and commercial acceptance.
Not to be used for person, except in legal phrases.
A contraction not employed in formal writing. Say telephone.
A noun; not in good use as an adjective or an adverb. "He had plenty of (not plenty) resources." "He had resources in plenty (not resources plenty)."
Means a thing proposed. Do not use loosely, as in the sentence: "A berth on a Pullman is a good proposition during a railway journey at night." See 62.
Prefer proved.
Prefer provided in such expressions as "I will vote for him provided (not providing) he is a candidate."
Quite a.
Colloquial in such expressions as quite a while, quite a few, quite a number.
Rear or bring up is preferable in speaking of children. "She reared (not raised) seven children."
Rarely ever.
Crude for rarely, hardly ever.
Crude for very or really. "She was very (not real) intelligent." "He was really (not real) brave."
Remember of.
Not to be used for remember.
Right smart and Right smart of.
Extremely vulgar.
No longer used as a pronoun except in legal documents. "He saw her drop the purse and restored it (not the same) to her."
Not to be used with a negative. See 34.
Seldom ever.
Crude for seldom, hardly ever.
Do not confuse with will. See 53.
A sight or a sight of is very crude for many, much, a great deal of. "A great many (not a sight) of them."
Not incorrect, but loose, vague, and often unnecessary. (a) As an intensive, the frequent use of so has been christened "the feminine demonstrative." Hackneyed: "I was so surprised." Better: "I was much surprised." Or, "I was surprised." (b) As a connective, the frequent use of so is a mark of amateurishness. See 36 Note.
Not to be used as an adverb. "She was somewhat (not some) better the next day." Wrong: "He studied some that night." Right: "He did some studying that night."
Very crude. Use somewhere.
Has the same form in singular and plural. "He discovered a new species (not specie) of sunflower."
(a) To be completed by that, rather than by so that, when a result clause follows. "There was such a crowd that (not so that) he did not find his friends." (b) To be completed by as, rather than by that, who, or which, when a relative clause follows. "I will accept such arrangements as (not that) may be made." "He called upon such soldiers as (not who) would volunteer for this service to step forward."
Superior than.
Not in good use for superior to.
Avoid the crude adverbial use. "It surely (not sure) was pleasant." In answer to the question, "Will you go?" either sure or surely is correct, though surely is preferred. "[To be] sure." "[You may be] sure." "[I will] surely [go]."
A noun. Never to be used as a verb.
Take and.
Often unnecessary, sometimes crude. Redundant: "He took the ax and sharpened it." Better: "He sharpened the ax." Crude: "He took and nailed up the box." Better: "He nailed up the box."
In the sense to look after, takes a direct object without an interposed to. Attend, however, is followed by to. "The milliner's assistant tends (not tends to) the shop." "I shall attend to your wants in a moment."
That there.
Do not use for that. "I want that (not that there) box of berries."
Not to be used as an adjective. "Those (not them) boys."
There were or There was.
Avoid the unnecessary use. Crude: "There were seventeen senators voted for the bill." Better: "Seventeen senators voted for the bill."
These sort, These kind.
Ungrammatical. See 51b.
This here.
Do not use for this.
Do not carelessly omit a relative clause after those. Faulty: "He is one of those talebearers." Better: "He is a talebearer." [Or] "He is one of those talebearers whom everybody dislikes."
Those kind, those sort.
Ungrammatical. See 51b.
Do not carelessly misuse for when: "I had scarcely strapped on my skates when (not till) Henry fell through an air hole."
Means to give forth or to become known, not to occur. "The secret transpired." "The sale of the property occurred (not transpired) last Thursday."
A verb, not a noun.
Means alone of its kind, not odd or unusual.
United States.
Ordinarily preceded by the. "The United States raised a large army." (Not "United States raised a large army.")
Do not needlessly insert after such verbs as end, rest, settle.
Used to could.
Very crude. Say used to be able or once could.
Accompanied by much when used with the past participle. "He was very much (not very) pleased with his reception."
Want to.
Not to be used in the sense of should, had better. "You should (not You want to) keep in good physical condition."
Not to be used for away. "Away (not way) down the street."
Not to be used for way in referring to distance. "A little way (not ways)."
(a) Not to be used for that in such a sentence as "It was in the afternoon that the races began." (b) A when clause is not to be used as a predicate noun. See 6.
(a) Not to be used for that in such a sentence as "I see in the paper that our team lost the game." (b) A where clause is not to be used as a predicate noun. See 6.
Where at.
Vulgar. "Where is he? (not Where is he at?)"
Do not use for who or that in referring to persons. "The friends who (not which) had loved him in his boyhood were still faithful to him."
Do not use unnecessarily for which or that in referring to animals. Do not use the possessive form whose for of which unless the sentence is so turned as practically to require the substitution.
Do not confuse with shall. See 53.
Win out.
Not used in formal writing or speaking.
Not ordinarily to be used as singular. "A wood (not A woods)."
Would have.
Do not use for had in if clauses. "If you had (not would have) spoken boldly, he would have granted your request."
Would of.
A vulgarism for would have.
You was.
Use You were in both singular and plural.
Intensive or reflexive; do not use when the personal pronoun would suffice. "You (not Yourself) and your family must come."


  1. Be sure the gun works alright. I was already when you came.
  2. He talked considerable, but I couldn't scarcely remember what all he said.
  3. I never suspicioned that John could of been guilty of forging his father's note. It don't seem hardly possible.
  4. The island was not inhabited by humans. It was different than any place I ever remember of. One sailor and myself climbed a sand hill, but we couldn't see any signs of life anywheres.
  5. Hawkeye walked a ways into a woods. He was a right smart at ease, for he had Kildeer with him.
A. Wordiness

Strike out all that is superfluous, and make the following sentences simple and exact.

  1. Some students lack the ability of being able to spell.
  2. He seems to enjoy the universal esteem of all men.
  3. The mind rebels against the enforced discipline imposed upon it by others.
  4. This is the house that was constructed and erected by a young fellow who went by the common name of Jack.
  5. There are invariably people in the world who always want to get something for nothing. I saw some today crowding round a soap man who was giving away free samples gratis.
  6. Strawberries which grow in the woods or anywhere like that have a flavor that is better than that of those which grow in gardens.
  7. The people showed Jackson the greatest honor it is within their power to bestow by electing him president.
  8. It was an old man of about sixty years, and he carried a cane to support himself with when he took a walk. He pulled out his watch to see what time it was every few minutes.
  9. My favorite magazine is the one called Popular Mechanics. I like it because it appeals to me.
  10. There is a bird, and that bird is the cuckoo, that seems to think it unnecessary to build its own nest, and so it occupies any nest that it happens to find.
  11. It is a good plan to follow if one would like to be able to develop his memory to make it a rule to learn at least a few lines of poetry every night before going to bed.
  12. In the annals of history there is no historical character more unselfish than the character of Robert E. Lee.
  13. There are quite a few hotels in Estes Park, which is in Colorado, but the one that is the most picturesque and striking so that you remember it a long time on account of its unusual surroundings is Long's Peak Inn.
  14. It is often, but not always, a good sign that when one person is quick to suspect another person of disloyalty or dishonesty that he himself is disloyal or dishonest.
  15. The canine quadruped was under suspicion of having obliterated by a process of mastication that article of sustenance which the butcher deposits at our posterior portal.
B. The Exact Word

Substitute, for inaccurate words and phrases, expressions which carry an exact and reasonable meaning.

  1. Ostrich eggs made into omelets are a funny experience.
  2. A small back porch can be built which will enter directly into the kitchen.
  3. Ruskin uses a great deal of unfamiliar words.
  4. Reading will broaden the point of view of a student.
  5. To visit the plant in operation is indeed a spectacular sight.
  6. My plants grew and looked nicer than any I ever saw.
  7. I place little truth in that article, since it appeared in a strong partisan paper.
  8. The manufacturing of automobiles has gained to quite an extent.
  9. Emerson has some real clever thoughts in his essays.
  10. I do not mean to degrade our local street car system, for indeed, it is good along some lines.
  11. I want to attain a greater per cent of efficiency in my study.
  12. Imagination is an important part in the successful writing of themes.
  13. His employer praised him for the preparation he had done.
  14. I used water-wings as a sort of a "safety first" until I learned how to swim.
  15. In order to prevent infection from disease, two big things are necessary.
  16. The pastor delivered the announcements and after the collection had been obtained, he presented the sermon of the morning.
  17. Another factor in my career that winter was that I became a part of the orchestra.
  18. It was a mighty nice party that Mrs. Jones gave and everybody seemed to have an awfully nice time.
  19. The more general word socialism might be divided into three distinct classes, namely: the political party, the theoretical socialist, and last what might be called a general tendency.
  20. Starting with the pioneer days and up to the present time every energy was set forth to lay low the forests and to get homes from the wilderness.
C. Words Sometimes Confused in Meaning

Use the word which accurately expresses the thought.

  1. The climate of California is very (healthful, healthy).
  2. (Leave, let) me have the book.
  3. He is afraid that he will (loose, lose) his position.
  4. The (principal, principle) speaker of the day was Colonel Walker.
  5. I cannot run (as, like) he can.
  6. An hour ago he (laid, lay) down to sleep.
  7. I fear we are (liable, likely) to be punished.
  8. The scolding did not much (affect, effect) him.
  9. The light roller presses down the bricks so that the steam roller will break (fewer, less) of them.
  10. Whittier makes many (allusions, illusions) to the Bible.
  11. Bread will (raise, rise) much more quickly in a warm place than in a place where there is a draft.
  12. It hardly seems (credible, creditable) that a small child could walk ten miles.
  13. I can't write a letter on this (stationary, stationery).
  14. He (sets, sits) at the head of the table.
  15. He spoke to the stranger (respectfully, respectively).
  16. Did the president (affect, effect) a settlement of the strike?
  17. I cannot (accept, except) help from anyone.
  18. Are the guests (already, all ready) for dinner?
  19. Is the train moving or (stationary, stationery)?
  20. It is (apt, likely, liable) to be pleasant tomorrow.
D. Colloquialism, Slang, Faulty Idiom, etc.

The diction of the following sentences is incorrect or inappropriate for written discourse. Improve the sentences.

  1. I was kind of tired this morning, but now I feel alright.
  2. I should of known better.
  3. A young lady and myself went walking.
  4. He is out of town for a couple days.
  5. I feel some better now.
  6. He will benefit greatly from the results.
  7. The Puritans were a very odd acting people.
  8. I like camping because of many reasons.
  9. Cook your meal, and after you are finished eating, wash the dishes.
  10. He is a regular genius of a bookkeeper.
  11. It is hard to see how humans can live in such tenements.
  12. The soldiers destroyed property without the least regard of who owned it.
  13. She was crazy for an invite to the hop.
  14. It was up to me to get out before there was something doing.
  15. The Gettysburg Address is very simple of understanding though very strong of meaning.
  16. When we become located in a desirable locality, we intend to pay off some of our social indebtedness.
  17. Have some local glass dealer to mend the broken door, and send us the bill for the same.
  18. The first part of Franklin's Autobiography is different than the latter part, which he wrote after the Revolutionary War.
  19. In 1771 a fellow by the name of Arkwright established a mill in which spinning machines were run by water power.
  20. Each day has brought closer to home the truth that the condition of mankind in one part of the world is certain to effect the equilibrium of mankind in most all other parts of the world.


No one is able to spell all unusual words on demand. But every one must spell correctly even unusual words in formal writing. The writer has time or must take time to consult a dictionary. The best dictionaries are Webster's New International Dictionary, the Standard Dictionary (less conservative than Webster's), the Century Dictionary and Cyclopedia (Volume 2 of the Century is the best place to look for proper names), and Murray's New English Dictionary (very thorough, each word being illustrated with numerous quotations to show historical development). An abridged edition of one of these (the price is one to three dollars) should be accessible to each student who cannot buy the larger volumes. The best are: Webster's Secondary School Dictionary, Funk and Wagnalls Desk Standard Dictionary, the Oxford Concise Dictionary, and Webster's Collegiate Dictionary.

But the student will be spared constant recourse to the dictionary, and will save himself much time and many humiliations, if he will employ the rules and principles which follow.

Recording Errors

70. Keep a list of all the words you misspell, copying them several times in correct form. Concentrate your effort upon a few words at a time—upon those words which you yourself actually misspell. The list will be shorter than you think. It may comprise not more than twenty or thirty words. Unless you are extraordinarily deficient, it will certainly not comprise more than a hundred or a hundred and fifty. Find where your weakness lies; then master it. You can accomplish the difficult part of the task in a single afternoon. An occasional review, and constant care when you write, will make your mastery permanent.

After this, and only after this, begin slowly to learn the spelling of words which you do not yourself use often, but which are a desirable equipment for all educated men. See the list under 79. Concentrate your efforts upon a few words at a time. It is better to know a few exactly than a large number hazily. Form the mental habit of being always right with a small group of words, and extend this group gradually.


Prepare for your instructor a corrected list of words which you have misspelled in your papers to the present time.

Pronouncing Accurately

71. Avoid slovenly pronunciation. Careful articulation makes for correctness in spelling.

Watch the vowels of unaccented syllables; give them distinct (not exaggerated) utterance, at least until you are familiar with the spelling. Examples: separate, opportunity, everybody, sophomore, divine.

Sound accurately all the consonants between syllables, and do not sound a single consonant twice. Examples: candidate, government, surprise (not supprise), omission (compare occasion), defer (compare differ).

Sound the g in final -ing. Examples: eating, running.

Pronounce the -al of adverbs derived from adjectives in -ic or -al. Examples: tragically, occasionally, generally, ungrammatically.

Do not transpose letters; place each letter where it belongs. Examples: perspiration (not prespiration), tragedy (not tradegy).

Note.—The principle of phonetic spelling as stated above applies to many words, but by no means to all. The Simplified Spelling Board would extend this principle by changing the spelling of words to correspond with their actual sounds. It recommends such forms as tho, thru, enuf, quartet, catalog, program. If the student employs these forms, he must use them consistently. Many writers oppose simplified spelling; many advocate it; many compromise. Others desire to supplant our present alphabet with one more nearly phonetic, and prefer, until this fundamental reform takes place, to preserve our present spelling as it is.


Copy the following words slowly, pronouncing the syllables as you write: accidentally, accommodate, accurately, artistically, athletics (not atheletics), boundary, candidate, cavalry, commission, curiosity, defer, definite, description, despair, different, dining room, dinned, disappoint, divide, divine, emphatically, eighth, everybody, February, finally, goddess, government, hundred, hurrying, instinct, laboratory, library, lightning, might have (not might of), naturally, necessary, occasionally, omission, opinion, opportunity, optimist, partner, perform, perhaps, perspiration, prescription, primitive, privilege, probably, quantity, really, recognise, recommend, reverence, separate, should have (not should of), sophomore, strictly, superintendent, surprise, temperance, tragedy, usually, whether.

Logical Kinship in Words

72. Get help in spelling a difficult word by thinking of related words. To think of ridiculous will prevent your writing a for the second i of ridicule; to think of ridicule will prevent your writing rediculous. To think of prepare will prevent your writing preperation; to think of preparation will forestall preparitory. To think of busy will save you from the monstrosity buisness. To think of the prefixes re- (meaning again) and dis- (meaning not), and the verbs commend and appoint, will prevent your writing recommend or disappoint with a double c or s.

Note.—The relationship between words is not always a safe guide to spelling. Observe four, forty; nine, ninth; maintain, maintenance; please, pleasant; speak, speech; prevail, prevalent. Do not confuse the following prefixes, which have no logical connection:

ante- (before)anti- (against, opposite)
de- (from, about)dis- (apart, away, not)
per- (through, entirely)pre- (before)


  1. Write the nouns corresponding to the following verbs: prepare, allude, govern, represent, degrade.
  2. Write the adjectives corresponding to the following nouns and the nouns corresponding to the following adjectives: desperation, academy, origin, ridiculous, miraculous, grammatical, arithmetical, busy.
  3. Write the adverbs corresponding to the following adjectives: real, sure, actual, hurried, accidental, incidental, grammatical.
  4. Copy the following pairs of related words or related forms of words: labor, laboratory; debate, debater; base, based; deal, dealt; chose, chosen; mean, meant.
  5. Write each of the following words with a hyphen between the prefix and the body of the word: describe, description, disappoint, disappear, disease, dissatisfy, dissever, permit, perspire, prescription, preconceive, recommend, recollect, reconsider, antedate, antecedent, anticlimax, antitoxin.
Superficial Resemblances between Words

73. Guard against misspelling a word because it bears a superficial resemblance, in sound or appearance, to some other word. Most of the words in the following list have no logical connection; the resemblance is one of form only (angel, angle). But a few words are included which are different in spelling in spite of a logical relation (breath, breathe).

  • accept (to receive)
  • except (to exclude, with exclusion of)
  • advice (noun)
  • advise (verb)
  • affect (to influence in part)
  • effect (to bring to pass totally)
  • allusion (a reference)
  • illusion (a deceiving appearance)
  • all right
  • almost
  • already
  • altogether
  • always
  • alley (a back street)
  • ally (a confederate)
  • altar (a structure used in worship)
  • alter (to make otherwise)
  • angel (a celestial being)
  • angle (the meeting place of two lines)
  • baring (making bare)
  • barring (obstructing)
  • bearing (carrying)
  • born (brought into being)
  • borne (carried)
  • breath (noun)
  • breathe (verb)
  • capital (a city)
  • capitol (a building)
  • canvas (a cloth)
  • canvass (to solicit)
  • clothes (garments)
  • cloths (pieces of cloth)
  • coarse (not fine)
  • course (route, method of behavior)
  • conscious (aware)
  • conscience (an inner moral sense)
  • dairy
  • diary
  • device (noun)
  • devise (verb)
  • desert (a barren country)
  • dessert (food)
  • dining room
  • dinning
  • disappear
  • disappoint
  • disavowal
  • dissatisfaction
  • dissimilar
  • dissipate
  • dissuade
  • decent (adjective)
  • descent (downward slope or motion)
  • dissent (a disagreement)
  • dual (adjective)
  • duel (noun)
  • formally (in a formal way)
  • formerly (in time past)
  • forth
  • forty
  • four
  • fourth
  • freshman
  • freshmen (not used as adjective)
  • gambling (wagering money on games of chance)
  • gamboling (frisking or leaping with joy)
  • guard
  • regard
  • hear
  • here
  • hinder
  • hindrance
  • holly (a tree)
  • holy (hallowed, sacred)
  • wholly (altogether)
  • hoping (from hope)
  • hopping
  • instance (an example)
  • instants (periods of time)
  • isle (an island)
  • aisle (a narrow passage)
  • its (possessive pronoun)
  • it's (contraction of it is)
  • Johnson, Samuel
  • Jonson, Ben
  • later (comparative of late)
  • latter (the second)
  • lead (present tense)
  • led (past tense)
  • lessen (verb)
  • lesson (noun)
  • liable (expresses responsibility or disagreeable probability)
  • likely (expresses probability)
  • loose (free, not bound)
  • lose (to suffer the loss of)
  • maintain
  • maintenance
  • nineteenth
  • ninetieth
  • ninety
  • ninth
  • past (adjective, adverb, preposition)
  • passed (verb, past tense)
  • peace (a state of calm)
  • piece (a fragment)
  • perceive
  • perform
  • persevere
  • persuade
  • purchase
  • pursue
  • personal (private, individual)
  • personnel (the body of persons engaged in some activity)
  • Philippines
  • Filipino
  • plain (clear; adjective)
  • plain (flat region; noun)
  • plane (flat; adjective)
  • plane (geometrical term; noun)
  • planed (past tense of plane)
  • planned (past tense of plan)
  • pleasant
  • please
} these three are the "double e group"
  • precede
  • proceed }
  • succeed }
  • exceed }
  • concede
  • intercede
  • recede
  • supersede
  • pre cé dence (act or right of preceding)
  • préc e dents (things said or done before, now used as authority
  • or model)
  • presence (state of being present)
  • presents (gifts)
  • prevail
  • prevalent
  • principal (chief, leading, the leading official of a school, a sum of money)
  • principle (a general truth)
  • quiet (still)
  • quite (completely)
  • rain
  • reign (rule of a monarch)
  • rein (part of a harness)
  • respectfully ("Yours respectfully")
  • respectively (in a way proper to each--should never be used to close a letter)
  • right
  • rite (ceremony)
  • write
  • shone (past tense of shine)
  • shown (past tense of show)
  • seize
  • siege
  • sight (view, spectacle)
  • site (situation, a plot of ground reserved for some use)
  • cite (to bring forward as evidence)
  • speak
  • speech
  • Spencer, Herbert (scientist)
  • Spenser, Edmund (poet)
  • stationary (not moving)
  • stationery (writing materials)
  • statue (a sculptured likeness)
  • stature (height, figure)
  • statute (a law)
  • steal (to take by theft)
  • steel (a variety of iron)
  • than
  • then
  • their (belonging to them)
  • there (in that place)
  • they're (they are)
  • therefor (to that end, for that thing)
  • therefore (for that reason)
  • till
  • until
  • to
  • too
  • two
  • track (an imprint, or a road)
  • tract (an area of land)
  • tract (a treatise on religion)
  • village
  • villain
  • wandering
  • wondering
  • weak (not strong)
  • week (seven days)
  • weather
  • whether
  • whole (entire)
  • hole (an opening)
  • who's (who is)
  • whose (the possessive of who)
  • your (indicates possession)
  • you're (contraction of you are)


  1. Insert to, too, or two: He is —— tired —— walk the ——miles —— the town. Then ——, it is —— late —— catch a car. It is —— minutes of ——. It is —— bad.
  2. Insert lose or loose: You will —— your money if you carry it —— in your pocket. We are ——ing time. The sailor ——ens the rope. Did you —— your ticket?
  3. Insert speak or speech: I was ——ing with our congressman about his recent ——. I —— from experience.
  4. Insert plan or plane: The architect's —— was accepted. The carpenter's —— cuts a long shaving. The carpenter does not —— the house.
  5. Insert quite or quiet: The baby is ——ly sleeping. She is —— well now, but last night she was —— sick. Be ——. Walk ——ly when you go.
Words in ei or ie


Write i before e
When sounded as ee
Except after c.

Examples: believe, grief, chief; but receive, deceive, ceiling.

Exceptions: Neither financier seized either species of weird leisure. (Also a few uncommon words, like seignior, inveigle, plebeian.)

Rules based on a key-word, lice, Alice, Celia (i follows l and e follows c) apply after two consonants only, and do not help one to spell a word like grief. Rule 74 applies after all consonants.

Note.—The words in which the sound is ee are the words really difficult to spell. When the sound is any other than ee (especially when it is a), i usually follows e.

Examples: veil, weigh, freight, neighbor, height, sleight, heir, heifer, counterfeit, foreign, etc.

Exceptions: ancient, friend, sieve, mischief, fiery, tries, etc.


Write the following words, supplying ei or ie: conc—t, retr—ve, dec—tful, n—ce, y—ld, p—ce, s—ge, s—ze, rec—pt, n—ther, w—rd, rel—ve, l—sure, f—ld, v—n, r—gn, sover—gn, sl—gh, br—f, dec—ve, r—n, f—nt, perc—ve, w—ld, gr—vous, —ther.

Doubling a Final Consonant

75. Monosyllables and words accented on the final syllable, if they end in one consonant preceded by a single vowel, double the consonant before a suffix beginning with a vowel.

Examples: (a) Words derived from monosyllables: plan-ned, clan-nish, get-ting, hot-test, bag-gage, (b) Words derived from words accented on the final syllable: begin-ning, repel-lent, unregret-ted.

Note 1.—There are four distinct steps in the application of this rule. (1) The primary word must be found. To decide whether begging contains two g's, we must first think of beg. (2) The primary word must be a monosyllable or a word accented on the final syllable. Hit and allot meet this test; open does not. Deferred and differed, preferred and proffered, committed (or committee) and prohibited double or refrain from doubling the final consonant of the primary word according to the position of the accent. The seeming discrepancy between preferred and preferable, between conferred and conference, is due to a shifting of the accent to the first syllable in the case of preferable and conference. (3) The primary word must end in one consonant. Trace, oppose, interfere, help, reach, and perform fail to meet this test, and therefore in derivatives do not double the last consonant. Assurance has one r, as it should have; occurrence has two r's, as it should have. (4) The final consonant of the primary word must be preceded by a single vowel. This principle excludes the extra consonant from needy, daubed, and proceeding, and gives it to running.

Note 2.—After q, u has the force of w. Hence quitting, quizzes, squatter, acquitted, equipped, and similar words are not really exceptions to the rule.


  1. Write the present participle (in -ing) of din (not dine), begin, sin (compare shine), stop, prefer, rob, drop, occur, omit, swim, get, commit.
  2. Write the past tense (in -ed) of plan (not plane), star (compare stare), stop (compare slope), lop (not lope), hop (not hope), fit, benefit, occur (compare cure), offer, confer, bat (compare abate).
Final e before a Suffix Beginning with a Vowel

76. Words that end in silent e usually drop the e in derivatives or before a suffix beginning with a vowel.

Examples: bride, bridal; guide, guidance; please, pleasure; fleece, fleecy; force, forcible; argue, arguing; arrive, arrival; conceive, conceivable; college, collegiate; write, writing; use, using; change, changing; judge, judging; believe, believing.

Note 1.—Of the exceptions some retain the e to prevent confusion with other words. Exceptions: dyeing, singeing, mileage, acreage, hoeing, shoeing, agreeing, eyeing. The exceptions cause comparatively little trouble. One rarely sees hoing or shoing; he often sees hopeing and inviteing.

Note 2.—After c or g and before a suffix beginning with a or o the e is retained. The purpose of this retention is to preserve the soft sound of the c or g. (Observe that c and g have the hard sound in cable, gable, cold, go.)

Examples: peaceable, changeable, noticeable, serviceable, outrageous, courageous, advantageous.


  1. Write the present participle of the following words: use, love, change, judge, shake, hope, shine, have, seize, slope, strike, dine, come, place, argue, achieve, emerge, arrange, abide, oblige, subdue.
  2. Write the present participle of the following words: singe, tinge, dye, agree, eye.
  3. Write the -ous or -able form of the following words: trace, love, blame, move, conceive, courage, service, advantage, umbrage.
  4. Write the adjectives which correspond to the following nouns: force, sphere, vice, sense, fleece, college, hygiene.
  5. Write the nouns which correspond to the following verbs: please, guide, grieve, arrive, oblige, prepare, inspire.

77a. Most nouns add s or es to form the plural. Examples: word, words; fire, fires, negro, negroes; Eskimo, Eskimos; leaf, leaves (f changes to v for the sake of euphony); knife, knives.

b. Nouns ending in y preceded by a consonant (or by u as w) change the y to i and add es to form the plural.

  • Examples: sky, skies; lady, ladies; colloquy, colloquies; soliloquy, soliloquies.
  • Other nouns ending in y form the plural in the usual way. Examples: day, days; boy, boys; monkey, monkeys; valley, valleys.

c. Compound nouns usually form the plural by adding s or es to the principal word. Examples: sons-in-law, passers-by; but stand-bys, hat-boxes, writing-desks.

d. Letters, signs, and sometimes figures, add 's to form the plural. Examples: Cross your t's and dot your i's; ?'s; $'s; 3's or 3s.

e. A few nouns adhere to old declensions. Examples: ox, oxen; child, children; goose, geese; foot, feet; mouse, mice; man, men; woman, women; sheep, sheep; deer, deer; swine, swine.

f. Words adopted from foreign languages sometimes retain the foreign plural. Examples: alumnus, alumni; alumna, alumnæ; fungus, fungi; focus, foci; radius, radii; datum, data; medium, media; phenomenon, phenomena; stratum, strata; analysis, analyses; antithesis, antitheses; basis, bases; crisis, crises; oasis, oases; hypothesis, hypotheses; parenthesis, parentheses; thesis, theses; beau, beaux; tableau, tableaux; Mr., Messrs. (Messieurs); Mrs., Mmes. (Mesdames).


Write the singular and plural of the following words: day, sky, lady, wife, leaf, loaf, negro, potato, tomato, pass, glass, boat, beet, flash, crash, bead, box, passenger, messenger, son-in-law, Smith, Jones, jack-o'-lantern, hanger-on, stratum, datum, phenomenon, crisis, basis, thesis, analysis.


78a. Use a hyphen between two or more words which serve as a single adjective before a noun: iron-bound bucket, well-kept lawn, twelve-inch main, normal-school teacher, up-to-date methods, twentieth-century ideas, devil-may-care expression, a twenty-dollar-a-week clerk.

But when the words follow the noun, the hyphen is omitted. The lawn is well kept. Methods up to date in every way.

Also adverbs ending in -ly are not ordinarily made into compound modifiers: nicely kept lawn, securely guarded treasure.

b. Use a hyphen between members of a compound noun when the second member is a preposition, or when the writing of two nouns solid or separately might confuse the meaning: runner-up, kick-off; letting-down of effort, son-in-law, jack-o'-lantern, Pedro was a bull-fighter, a woman-hater, Did you ever see a shoe-polish like this?

c. Use a hyphen in compound numbers from twenty-one to ninety-nine, and in fractions according to the following examples:

Twenty-three, eighty-nine; but one hundred and one. Twenty-third, one-hundred-and-first man. Three-fourths, four and two-thirds, thirty-hundredths, thirty-one hundredths.

But omit the hyphen in simple fractions when loosely used: Three quarters of my life are spent. One third of his fortune.

d. A hyphen is not used in the following common words: airship, altogether, anybody, baseball, basketball, everybody, football, goodby, herself, handbook, himself, inasmuch, itself, midnight, myself, nevertheless, nobody, nothing (but no one), nowadays, railroad, themselves, together, typewritten, wherever, without, workshop, yourself, newspaper, sunset.

e. For words that do not come within the scope of rules, consult an up-to-date dictionary. Compounds tend, with the passing of time, to grow together. Once men wrote steam boat, later steam-boat, and finally steamboat. New-coined words are usually hyphenated; old words are often written solid. The degree of intimacy between the parts of a compound word affects usage; thus we write sun-motor, but sunbeam; birth-rate, but birthday; cooling-room, but bedroom; non-conductor, but nonsense. The ease with which a vowel blends with the consonant of a syllable adjoining it affects usage; thus self-evident, but selfsame; non-existent, but nondescript; un-American, but unwise. Many compounds, however, are still uncontrolled by usage; whether they should be written as two words or one, whether with or without the hyphen, the dictionaries themselves do not agree.


Copy the following expressions, inserting hyphens where they are necessary: twenty two years old, twenty two dollar bills make forty dollars, twenty seven eighths inch boards, a normal school graduate, two handled boxes, a cloth covered basket, blood red sun, water tight compartment, sixty horse power motor, seven dollar bathing suits, a happy go lucky fellow, germ destroying powder, he had a son in law, passers by on the street, the kick off is at three o'clock, dark complexioned woman, silver tongued orator, a dish like valley, a rope like tail, a fish shaped cloud, a touch me not expression, will o' the wisp, well to do merchant, rough and tumble existence.


The English language comprises about 450,000 words. Of these a student uses about 4000 (although he may understand more than twice that number when he encounters them in sentences). Of these, in turn, not more than four or five hundred are frequently misspelled. The following list includes nearly all of the words which give serious trouble. Certain American colleges using this list require of freshmen an accuracy of ninety per cent.

  • absurd
  • academy
  • accept
  • accidentally
  • accommodate
  • accumulate
  • accustom
  • acquainted
  • acquitted
  • across
  • addressed
  • adviser
  • aeroplane
  • affects
  • aggravate
  • alley
  • allotted
  • all right
  • ally
  • already
  • altar
  • alter
  • altogether
  • alumnus
  • always
  • amateur
  • among
  • analogous
  • analysis
  • angel
  • angle
  • annual
  • anxiety
  • apparatus
  • appearance
  • appropriate
  • arctic
  • argument
  • arising
  • arithmetic
  • arrange
  • arrival
  • ascend
  • asks
  • athletic
  • audience
  • auxiliary
  • awkward
  • balance
  • barbarous
  • baring
  • barring
  • baseball
  • based
  • bearing
  • becoming
  • before
  • beggar
  • begging
  • beginning
  • believing
  • benefited
  • biscuit
  • boundaries
  • brilliant
  • Britain
  • Britannica
  • buoyant
  • bureau
  • business
  • busy
  • calendar
  • candidate
  • can't
  • cemetery
  • certain
  • changeable
  • changing
  • characteristic
  • chauffeur
  • choose
  • chose
  • chosen
  • clothes
  • coarse
  • column
  • coming
  • commission
  • committee
  • comparative
  • compel
  • compelled
  • competent
  • concede
  • conceivable
  • conferred
  • conquer
  • conqueror
  • conscience
  • conscientious
  • considered
  • continuous
  • control
  • controlled
  • coöperate
  • country
  • course
  • courteous
  • courtesy
  • cruelty
  • cylinder
  • dealt
  • debater
  • deceitful
  • decide
  • decision
  • deferred
  • definite
  • descend
  • describe
  • description
  • derived
  • despair
  • desperate
  • destroy
  • device
  • devise
  • dictionary
  • difference
  • digging
  • dilemma
  • dining room
  • dinning
  • disappear
  • disappoint
  • disavowal
  • discipline
  • disease
  • dissatisfied
  • dissipate
  • distinction
  • distribute
  • divide
  • divine
  • doctor
  • don't
  • dormitories
  • drudgery
  • dying
  • ecstasy
  • effects
  • eighth
  • eliminate
  • embarrass
  • eminent
  • encouraging
  • enemy
  • equipped
  • especially
  • etc.
  • everybody
  • exaggerate
  • exceed
  • excellent
  • except
  • exceptional
  • exhaust
  • exhilarate
  • existence
  • expense
  • experience
  • explanation
  • familiar
  • fascinate
  • February
  • fiery
  • fifth
  • finally
  • financier
  • forfeit
  • formally
  • formerly
  • forth
  • forty
  • fourth
  • frantically
  • fraternity
  • freshman (adj.)
  • friend
  • fulfil
  • furniture
  • gallant
  • gambling
  • generally
  • goddess
  • government
  • governor
  • grammar
  • grandeur
  • grievous
  • guard
  • guess
  • guidance
  • harass
  • haul
  • having
  • height
  • hesitancy
  • holy
  • hoping
  • huge
  • humorous
  • hurriedly
  • hundredths
  • hygienic
  • imaginary
  • imitative
  • immediately
  • immigration
  • impromptu
  • imminent
  • incidentally
  • incidents
  • incredulous
  • independence
  • indispensable
  • induce
  • influence
  • infinite
  • instance
  • instant
  • intellectual
  • intelligence
  • intentionally
  • intercede
  • irresistible
  • its
  • it's
  • itself
  • invitation
  • judgment
  • knowledge
  • laboratory
  • ladies
  • laid
  • later
  • latter
  • lead
  • led
  • liable
  • library
  • lightning
  • likely
  • literature
  • loneliness
  • loose
  • lose
  • losing
  • lying
  • maintain
  • maintenance
  • manual
  • manufacturer
  • many
  • marriage
  • Massachusetts
  • material
  • mathematics
  • mattress
  • meant
  • messenger
  • miniature
  • minutes
  • mischievous
  • Mississippi
  • misspelled
  • momentous
  • month
  • murmur
  • muscle
  • mysterious
  • necessary
  • negroes
  • neither
  • nickel
  • nineteenth
  • ninetieth
  • ninety
  • ninth
  • noticeable
  • nowadays
  • oblige
  • obstacle
  • occasion
  • occasionally
  • occur
  • occurred
  • occurrence
  • occurring
  • o'clock
  • officers
  • omitted
  • omission
  • opinion
  • opportunity
  • optimistic
  • original
  • outrageous
  • overrun
  • paid
  • pantomime
  • parallel
  • parliament
  • particularly
  • partner
  • pastime
  • peaceable
  • perceive
  • perception
  • peremptory
  • perform
  • perhaps
  • permissible
  • perseverance
  • pérsonal
  • personnél
  • perspiration
  • persuade
  • pertain
  • pervade
  • physical
  • picnic
  • picnicking
  • planned
  • pleasant
  • politics
  • politician
  • possession
  • possible
  • practically
  • prairie
  • precede
  • precédent
  • précedents
  • preference
  • preferred
  • prejudice
  • preparation
  • primitive
  • principal
  • principle
  • prisoner
  • privilege
  • probably
  • proceed
  • prodigy
  • profession
  • professor
  • proffered
  • prohibition
  • promissory
  • prove
  • purchase
  • pursue
  • putting
  • quantity
  • quiet
  • quite
  • quizzes
  • rapid
  • ready
  • really
  • recede
  • receive
  • recognize
  • recommend
  • reference
  • referred
  • regard
  • region
  • religion
  • religious
  • repetition
  • replies
  • representative
  • restaurant
  • rheumatism
  • ridiculous
  • sacrilegious
  • safety
  • sandwich
  • schedule
  • science
  • scream
  • screech
  • seems
  • seize
  • sense
  • sentence
  • separate
  • sergeant
  • several
  • shiftless
  • shining
  • shone
  • shown
  • shriek
  • siege
  • similar
  • since
  • smooth
  • soliloquy
  • sophomore
  • speak
  • specimen
  • speech
  • statement
  • stationary
  • stationery
  • statue
  • stature
  • statute
  • steal
  • steel
  • stops
  • stopped
  • stopping
  • stories
  • stretch
  • strictly
  • succeeds
  • successful
  • summarize
  • superintendent
  • supersede
  • sure
  • surprise
  • syllable
  • symmetrical
  • temperament
  • tendency
  • than
  • their
  • there
  • therefore
  • they're
  • thorough
  • thousandths
  • till
  • to
  • too
  • together
  • tragedy
  • track
  • tract
  • transferred
  • tranquillity
  • translate
  • treacherous
  • treasurer
  • tries
  • trouble
  • truly
  • Tuesday
  • two
  • typical
  • tyranny
  • universally
  • until
  • using
  • usually
  • vacancy
  • vengeance
  • vigilance
  • village
  • villain
  • weak
  • wear
  • weather
  • Wednesday
  • week
  • weird
  • welfare
  • where
  • wherever
  • whether
  • which
  • whole
  • wholly
  • who's
  • whose
  • wintry
  • wiry
  • within
  • without
  • women
  • world
  • writing
  • written
  • your
  • you're

Note 1.—The following words have more than one correct form, the one given here being preferred.

  • abridgement
  • acknowledgment
  • analyze
  • ax
  • boulder
  • caliber
  • catalog
  • center
  • check
  • criticize
  • develop
  • development
  • dulness
  • endorse
  • envelop
  • esthetic
  • gaiety
  • gild
  • gipsy
  • glamor
  • goodby
  • gray
  • inquire
  • medieval
  • meter
  • mold
  • mustache
  • odor
  • program
  • prolog
  • skilful
  • theater

Note 2.—In a few groups of words American spelling and English spelling differ. American spelling gives preference to favor, honor, labor, rumor; English spelling gives preference to favour, honour, labour, rumour. American spelling gives preference to civilize, apprize; defense, pretense; traveler, woolen; etc. English spelling gives preference to civilise, apprise; defence, pretence; traveller, woollen; etc.



80a. Titles. Center a title on the page. Capitalize important words. It is unnecessary to place a period after a title, but a question mark or exclamation point should be used when one is appropriate. Do not underscore the title, or unnecessarily place it in quotation marks. Leave a blank line under the title, before beginning the body of the writing.

b. Spacing. Careful spacing is as necessary as punctuation. Place writing on a page as you would frame a picture, crowding it toward neither the top nor the bottom. Leave liberal margins. Write verse as verse; do not give it equal indention or length of line with prose. Connect all the letters of a word. Leave a space after a word, and a double space after a sentence. Leave room between successive lines, and do not let the loops of letters run into the lines above or below.

c. Handwriting. Write a clear, legible hand. Form a, o, u, n, e, i, properly. Write out and horizontally. Avoid unnecessary flourishes in capitals, and curlicues at the end of words. Dot your i's and cross your t's; not with circles or long eccentric strokes, but simply and accurately. Let your originality express itself not in ornate penmanship, or unusual stationery, or literary affectations, but in the force and keenness of your ideas.


81a. Begin with a capital a sentence, a line of poetry, or a quoted sentence. But if only a fragment of a sentence is quoted, the capital should be omitted.

  • Right: He said, "The time has come."
  • Right: The question is, Shall the bill pass?
  • Right: They said they would "not take no for an answer."
  • Right:
    "The good die first,
    And they whose hearts are dry as summer dust
    Burn to the socket."—Wordsworth.

b. Begin proper names, and all important words used as or in proper names, with capitals. Words not so used should not begin with capitals.

  • Right: Mr. George K. Rogers, the Principal of the Urbana High School, a college president, the President of the Senior Class, a senior, the Second Corps of the Army of Northern Virginia, three battalions of infantry, the Fourth of July, on the tenth of June, the House of Representatives, an assembly of delegates, a Presbyterian church, the separation of church and state, the Baptist Church, the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, a creek known as Black Oak Creek, the Republican Party, a party that advocates high tariff, Rocky Mountains, The Bible, God, The Christian Era, Wednesday, in the summer, living in the South, turning south after taking a few steps to the east, one morning, O dark-haired Evening! italic type, watt, pasteurize, herculean effort.

c. Begin an adjective which designates a language or a race with a capital.

  • Right: A Norwegian peasant, Indian arrowheads, English literature, the study of French.

d. In the titles of books or themes capitalize the first word and all other important words. Prepositions, conjunctions, and articles are usually not important.

  • Right: The English Novel in the Time of Scott, War and Peace, Travels with a Donkey, When I Slept under the Stars.

e. Miscellaneous uses. Capitalize the pronoun I, the interjection O, titles that accompany a name, and abbreviations of proper names.

  • Right: Battery F, 150 F. A.; Mobile, Ala.; Dr. Stebbins.


  1. the teacher said, "let me read you a famous soliloquy." he began: "to be, or not to be: that is the question."
  2. the chinese laundry man does not write out his lists in english.
  3. the la fayette tribune says that a Principal of a School has been elected to congress.
  4. mr. woodson, the lecturer, said that "the title of a book may be a poem." he mentioned christmas eve on lonesome by john fox, jr.
  5. i like architecture. as i approached the british museum, i noticed the ionic colonnade that runs along the front. the first room i visited was the one filled with marbles which lord elgin brought from the parthenon at athens.

In manuscript, a horizontal line drawn under a letter or word is a sign for the printer to use italic type.

82a. Quoted titles of books, periodicals, and manuscripts are usually italicized.

  • Right: I admire Shakespeare's Hamlet. [The italics make the reader know that the writer means, Hamlet the play, not Hamlet the man.]
  • Right: John Galsworthy's novel, The Patrician, appeared in serial form in the Atlantic Monthly.

Note 1.—When the title of a book begins with an article (a, an, or the), the article is italicized. But the before the title of a periodical is usually not italicized.

Note 2.—It is correct, but not the best practice, to indicate the titles of books by quotation marks. The best method is to use italics for the title of a book, and quotation marks for chapters or subdivisions of the same book. Example: See Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. II, p. 427, "Modern Architecture".

b. Words from a foreign language, unless they have been anglicized by frequent use, are italicized.

  • Right: A great noise announced the coming of the enfant terrible.
  • Right: A play always begins in medias res.

c. The names of ships are usually italicized.

  • Right: The Saxonia will sail at four o'clock.

d. Words taken out of their context and made the subject of discussion are italicized or placed in quotation marks.

  • Right: So is a word faded and colorless from constant use.
  • Right: The t in the word often is not pronounced.

e. A word or passage requiring great emphasis is italicized. This device should not be used to excess. The proper way to secure emphasis is to have good ideas, and to use emphatic sentence structure in expressing them.


  1. In Vanity Fair Thackeray heads one chapter How to Live Well on Nothing a Year.
  2. Auf wiedersehen was his parting word. He had informed me, sub rosa of course, that he was going to Bremen.
  3. The battle between the Monitor and the Merrimac revolutionized naval warfare. How far back it seems to the days when Decatur set fire to the old Philadelphia!
  4. Her They say's are as plenteous as rabbits in Australia.
  5. A writer in the Century Magazine says the public may know better than an author what the title of his book should be. Dickens, for example, called one of his works The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club.

83a. In ordinary writing avoid abbreviations. The following, however, are always correct: Mr., Messrs., Dr., or St. (Saint), before proper names; B. C. or A. D., when necessary to avoid confusion, after a date; and No. or $ when followed by numerals.

In ordinary writing spell out

  • All titles, except those listed above.
  • Names of months, states, countries.
  • Christian names, unless initials are used instead.
  • Names of weights and measures, except in statistics.
  • Street, Avenue, Road, Railroad, Park, Fort, Mountain, Company, Brothers, Manufacturing, etc.

In ordinary writing, instead of & write and; for viz. write namely; for i. e., write that is; for e. g. write for example; for a. m. and p. m. write in the morning, this afternoon, tomorrow evening, Saturday night. Do not use etc. (et cetera) when it can be avoided.

b. In business correspondence, technical writing, tabulations, footnotes, and bibliographies, or wherever brevity is essential, other abbreviations may be used. Even here, short words should not be abbreviated: Alaska, Hawaii, Idaho, Iowa, Maine, Ohio, Samoa, Utah, March, April, May, June, July.


  1. Mr. Gregg & Dr. Appleton were rivals.
  2. Harris lacked but one of having a grade of one hundred; i. e., he had the two O's already.
  3. His inheritance tax was three thousand $. In Apr. he moved from Portland, Me., to Sandusky, O.
  4. Prof. Kellogg came down Beech St. at a quarter before eight every a. m.
  5. A No. of old friends visited them on special occasions; e. g., on their wedding anniversaries.

84a. It is customary to use figures for dates, for the street numbers in addresses, for reference to the pages of a book, and for statistics.

  • Right: June 16, 1920. 804 Chalmers Street. See Chapter 4, especially page 79.

Note.—It is desirable not to write st, nd, or th after the day of the month if the year is designated also. Right: March 3, 1919 (not March 3rd, 1919).

b. Figures are used for numbers which cannot be expressed in a few words. The dollar sign and figures are used with complicated sums of money.

  • Right: The farm comprised 3260 acres. The population of Kansas City, Missouri, was 248,381 in 1910. He earned $437 while attending school. The cost of the improvement was $1,940.25.

c. In other instances than those specified in a and b numbers as a rule should be written out. (This rule applies to numbers and to sums of money which can be expressed in a few words, to sums of money less than one dollar, and to ages and time of day.)

  • Right: The box weighs two hundred pounds. Xerxes had an army of three million men. I enclose seventy-five cents. He owed twelve hundred dollars. Grandfather Toland is eighty-seven years old. The train is due at a quarter past three.


  1. For 70 pounds of excess baggage I had to pay $1.00.
  2. At 2 o'clock Rice gave him the 2nd capsule.
  3. The letter was sent from twenty-one Warner St. November the eleventh, nineteen hundred and eighteen.
  4. Knox earned $5 a day he said; but they paid him only $0.75.
  5. At 40 he owned a 2,000 acre farm and had an income of $10,000 a year.

85a. When a word is broken at the end of a line, use a hyphen there. Do not place a hyphen at the beginning of the second line.

b. Words are divided only between syllables: depart-ment, dis-charge, ab-surd, univer-sity, pro-fessor (not depa-rtment, disc-harge, abs-urd, unive-rsity, prof-essor).

c. Monosyllabic words are never divided: which, through, dipped, speak (not wh-ich, thr-ough, dip-ped, spe-ak).

d. A consonant at the junction of two syllables usually goes with the second: recipro-cate, ordi-nance, inti-mate (not reciproc-ate, ordin-ance, intim-ate). Sometimes two consonants are equivalent to a single letter: falli-ble, photo-graph (not fallib-le, photog-raph).

e. Two or more consonants at the junction of syllables are themselves divided: en-ter-prise, com-mis-sary, in-car-nate (not ent-erpr-ise, comm-iss-ary, inc-arn-ate).

f. A prefix or a suffix is usually set off from the rest of the word regardless of the rule for consonants between syllables: ex-empt, dis-appoint, sing-ing, pro-gress-ive. But when a final consonant is doubled before a suffix the additional consonant goes with the suffix: trip-ping, permit-ted, omis-sion.

g. The best usage avoids separating one or two letters (unless in prefixes like un or suffixes like ly) from the rest of the word: achieve-ment, enor-mous, remem-bered, dyspep-sia (not a-chievement, e-normous, remember-ed, dyspepsi-a).

h. The first part of a divided word should not be ludicrous or misleading: dogma-tize, croco-dile, de-cadence, metri-cal, goril-la (not dog-matize, croc-odile, deca-dence, met-rical, go-rilla).


Place a hyphen between each pair of syllables in each word of more than one syllable: thoughtful, burrowing, thorough, chimney, brought, helped, harshnesses, which, murmur, superstition, ground, symmetry, ripped, compartment, disallow, obey, opinion, opportune, aggressive, intellectually, complicated, encyclopedia, wrought, electricity, abstraction, syllabication, punctuation, frustrate, except, substituting, distressful.


Three kinds of outlines are illustrated in this article: (a) the Topic Outline, (b) the Sentence Outline, and (c) the Paragraph Outline.

86a. A topic outline consists of headings (nouns or phrases containing nouns) which indicate the important ideas in a composition, and their relation to each other. Conform to the following model:

The Lumber Problem

Theme: The decline of our lumber supply requires that we shall take steps toward reforesting, conservation, and the use of substitutes for wood.

  1. The Depletion of our forests
    1. Former abundance
    2. Present scarcity (especially walnut, white pine, oak)
  2. The Causes of the depletion
    1. Great demand
      1. For building
      2. For industrial expansion (ties, posts, etc.)
      3. For fuel, and other minor uses
    2. Wasteful methods of forestry
  3. The Remedy
    1. Reforestation
      1. Planting by individuals
      2. Planting by the states
      3. Extension of the present National Forest Reserves
    2. The prevention of waste
      1. In fires, by insects, etc.
      2. In cutting and sawing
      3. In by-products (sawing, odd lengths, etc.)
    3. The use of substitutes for wood (concrete, steel, brick, stone, etc.)

b. A sentence outline is expressed in complete sentences. Conform to the following model:

The Lumber Problem

  1. The depletion of our forests is evident when one compares
    1. the former abundance, with
    2. the present scarcity (of walnut, white pine, and oak, especially).
  2. The causes of the depletion are:
    1. the great demand
      1. for building,
      2. for industrial expansion (ties, posts, etc.),
      3. for fuel and other minor uses; and
    2. wasteful methods of forestry.
  3. The remedies for the depletion are:
    1. reforestation
      1. by individuals,
      2. by the states,
      3. by extension of the present National Forest Reserves;
    2. the prevention of waste
      1. in fires, by insects, etc.,
      2. in cutting and sawing,
      3. in by-products (sawdust, odd lengths, etc.); and
    3. the use of substitutes, for wood (concrete, steel, brick, stone, etc.)

c. A paragraph outline is a series of sentences summarizing the thought of successive paragraphs in a composition. Conform to the following model:

The Disagreeable Optimist

  1. The present age may be called an era of efficiency, prosperity, and optimism, since efficiency has produced prosperity, and this in turn has produced "optimism"—a word recurrent in common literature and conversation.
  2. The optimist is often not natural or sincere, because his thoughts are centered on keeping up an appearance of being happy.
  3. He is intrusive, for he thrusts comfort upon those who wish to mourn, and repeats irritating epigrams and poems about cheer.
  4. He is undiscriminating, in that he prescribes the same remedy, "good cheer," for everybody and for every condition.
  5. He is sometimes harmful, because he tells us that the world is going well, when conditions need changing, and need changing badly.

d. Mechanical details. Indent headings that are coördinate (that is, of equal value) an equal distance from the margin. One inch to the right is a good distance for successive subordinate headings. Use Roman numerals, capital letters, Arabic numerals, and small letters to indicate the comparative rank of ideas. When a heading runs over one line, use hanging indention; that is, do not allow the second line to run back to the left-hand margin, but indent it. Make the numerals and letters (1, A, etc.) stand out prominently. The title of a theme should not be given a numeral or letter.

  • Faulty indention:

    Sources of energy which may be utilized when the coal supply is exhausted are

    I Rivers and streams, especially in mountain districts
    II The tides
    III The heat of the sun

  • Correct hanging indention:

    Sources of energy which may be utilized when the coal supply is exhausted are

    1. Rivers and streams, especially in mountain districts
    2. The tides
    3. The heat of the sun

e. Ideas parallel in thought should be expressed in parallel form. Nouns and phrases including nouns are ordinarily used.

  • Faulty parallelism:

    Advantages of a garden:

    1. Profitable
    2. It affords good exercise
    3. Gives pleasure
  • Right:

    Advantages of a garden:

    1. Profit
    2. Exercise
    3. Pleasure

f. Avoid faulty coördination (giving two ideas equal rank, when one should be subordinated to the other) and vice versa, avoid faulty subordination.

  • Faulty coördination:

    How Seeds Scatter

    1. By Wind
    2. Some Seeds provided with parachutes
    3. Others light, and easily blown about
    4. By Water
    5. By Animals
  • Right:

    How Seeds Scatter

    1. By Wind
      1. Some seeds provided with parachutes
      2. Others light, and easily blown about
    2. By Water
    3. By Animals

g. Avoid detailed subordination. Especially avoid a single subheading when it can be joined to the preceding line, or omitted.

  • Too detailed:
    1. The McClellan Orchard
      1. Situation
        1. On a northern slope
      2. Nature of soil
        1. Sandy
      3. Kind of fruit
        1. Apple
        2. Cherry
  • Right:
    1. The McClellan Orchard
      1. Situation: a northern slope
      2. Nature of soil: sandy
      3. Kind of fruit: apple and cherry


  1. Give a title to an outline which shall include the following topics. Group the topics under two main headings, and give the headings names.
    • Uses of the grape
    • The Vine
    • The Fruit Itself
    • How Marketed
    • How Cultivated
  2. Place in order the sentences of the following outline on "Why Keep a Diary?" Subordinate some of the headings to others.
    • A diary affords great satisfaction in future years.
    • We sometimes record in a diary information which proves useful.
    • A few lines a day will suffice.
    • A diary is not hard to keep.
    • We may find time for writing in our diary if we do not waste time at the table or on newspapers.
    • We may write in our diary just before we go to bed.
    • A diary will bring back the past.
    • We all have some moments to kill.
    • A diary gives us pleasure even in the present.
  3. Place in order the headings of the following outline on "Ulysses S. Grant." Subordinate some of the headings to others.
    • Obscurity in 1861
    • Prominence in 1865
    • Patience
    • President
    • General
    • Perseverance and Resolution
    • Character
    • The Turning Point in His Career

The parts of a letter are the heading, the inside address, the greeting, the body, the close, and the signature. For these parts good use prescribes definite forms, which we may sometimes ignore in personal letters, but must rigidly observe in formal or business letters.

87a. The heading of a letter should give the full address of the writer and the date of writing. Do not abbreviate short words, or omit Street or Avenue.

  • Objectionable: #15 Hickory, Omaha.
  • Right: 15 Hickory Street, Omaha, Nebraska.
  • Objectionable: 4/12/19; 10-28-'16; May 2nd, 1910.
  • Right: April 12, 1919; October 28, 1916; May 2, 1910.
  • The following headings are correct:
    • 106 East Race Street,
      Red Oak, Iowa,
      August 4, 1916.
    • 423 Michigan Avenue
      Chicago, Illinois
      May 20, 1918
    • Prescott, Arizona, June 1, 1920.

Note.—In personal letters the heading may be transferred to the end, below the signature, at the left-hand side. But it must not be so divided that the street address will appear in one place and the town and state in another.

The "closed" form of punctuation (the use of punctuation at the ends of the lines) is best until the student learns what is correct. Afterward, the adoption of the "open" form becomes purely a matter of individual taste and not a matter of carelessness or ignorance.

b. An inside address and a greeting are required in business letters. Personal letters contain the greeting, but may omit the inside address, or may supply it at the end of the letter.

  • The Jeffrey Chemical Works,
    510 Marion Street,
    Norfolk, Virginia.

  • Mr. Joseph N. Kellogg
    1411 Lake Street
    Cleveland, Ohio

    Dear Mr. Kellogg:
  • Secretary of Rice Institute,
    Houston, Texas.

    My dear Sir:

Greetings used in business letters are:

  • My dear Sir:
  • My dear Madam:
  • My dear Mr. Fisher:
  • Dear Sir:
  • Sir:
  • Sirs:
  • Gentlemen:
  • Ladies:

Greetings used in personal letters are:

  • My dear Miss Brown:
  • Dear Professor Ward:
  • Dear Jones,
  • Dear Mrs. Vincent,
  • Dear Robert,
  • Dear Olive,

"My dear Miss Brown" is more ceremonious than "Dear Miss Brown". As a rule, the more familiar the letter, the shorter the greeting.

A colon follows the greeting if the letter is formal or long; a comma, if the letter is familiar or in the nature of a note.

Both inside address and greeting begin at the left-hand margin. The body of the letter begins on the line below the greeting, and is indented as much as an ordinary paragraph (about an inch).

c. The body of a letter should be written in correct style.

1. Do not omit pronouns, or write a "telegraphic style".

  • Wrong: Just received yours of the 21st, and in reply would say your order has been filled and shipped.
  • Right: I have your letter of March twenty-first. Your order was promptly filled and shipped.

2. The idea that it is immodest to use I is a superstition. Undue repetition of I is of course awkward; but entire avoidance of it is silly.

3. Use simple language. Say "your letter"; not "your kind favor", or "yours duly received", or "yours of the 21st is at hand".

4. Avoid "begging" expressions which you obviously do not mean, especially the hackneyed "beg to advise".

  • Wrong: Received yours of the 3rd instant, and beg to advise we are out of stock.
  • Right: We received your order of March 3. We find that we have no more dining-room chairs B 2-4-6 in stock.
  • Wrong: I beg to enclose a booklet.
  • Right: I enclose a booklet.
  • Wrong: Permit us to say that prices have been advanced.
  • Right: The prices on our goods have been advanced.

5. Avoid the formula "please find enclosed". The reader will find what is enclosed; if you use "please", let it refer to what the reader shall do with what is enclosed.

  • Wrong: Enclosed please find 10 cents, for which send me Bulletin 58.
  • Right: I enclose ten cents, for which please send me Bulletin 58.

6. Avoid unnecessary commercial slang: On the job, A-1 service, O.K., your ad, popular-priced line, this party, as per schedule.

7. Get to the important idea quickly. In applying for a position, do not beat around the bush, or say you "wish to apply" or "would apply". Begin, "I make application for ...", "kindly consider my application for ...", or "I apply ..."

8. Group your ideas logically. Do not scatter information. A letter applying for a position might consist of three paragraphs: Personal qualifications (age, health, education, etc.); Experience (nature of positions, dates, etc.); References (names, business or profession, exact street address). Finish one group of ideas before passing to the next.

9. Do not monotonously close all letters with a sentence beginning with a participle: Hoping to hear from you ..., Asking your coöperation ..., Awaiting your further favors ..., Trusting this will be satisfactory ..., Wishing you ..., Thanking you .... The independent form of the verb is more emphatic (see 42); I hope to hear from you ..., We await further orders ..., We ask coöperation ....

d. The close should be consistent in tone with the greeting. It is written on a separate line, beginning near the middle of the page, and is followed by a comma. Only the first word is capitalized. Preceding expressions like "I am", "I remain", "As ever", (if they are used at all) belong in the body of the letter.

  • Right: I thank you for your courtesy, and remain

    Yours sincerely,
    Robert Blair
  • Right: I shall be grateful for any further information you can give me.

    Yours truly,
    Florence Mitchell

In business letters the following forms are used:

  • Yours truly,
  • Very truly yours,
  • Yours respectfully,

In personal letters the following are used:

  • Yours truly,
  • Yours sincerely,
  • Sincerely yours,
  • Cordially yours,

e. The outside address should follow one of the forms given below:

R. E. Stearns
512 Chapel Hill St.
Durham, N. C.

Mr. Donald Kemp
3314 Salem Street

Bentley Davis
906 Park Street
Ogden, Utah

Rogers, Mead, and Company
2401 Eighth Avenue
Los Angeles

Note.—An abbreviation in an address is followed by a period. Punctuation is also correct, but not necessary, after every line (a period after the last line, and a comma after the others).

A married woman is ordinarily addressed thus: Mrs. George H. Turner. But a title belonging to the husband should not be transferred to the wife. Wrong: Mrs. Dr. Jenkins, Mrs. Professor Ward. Right: Mrs. Jenkins, Mrs. Ward. Reverend Mr. Beecher is a correct address for a minister; not "Rev. Beecher". If a title of respect is placed before a name (Professor, Dr., Honorable), it is undesirable to place another title after the name (Secretary, M.D., Ph.D., Principal, Esq.).

f. Miscellaneous directions. Writing should be centered on the page, not crowded against the top, or against one side. Letter paper so folded that each sheet is a little book of four pages is best for personal correspondence. Both sides of such paper may be written on. The pages may be written on in any order which will be convenient to the reader. An order like that of the pages in a printed book (1, 2, 3, 4) is best.

Business letters are usually written on one side only of flat sheets 8-1/2 by 11 inches in size. The sheet is folded once horizontally in the middle, and twice in the other direction, for insertion in the envelope.

g. A business letter should have, in general, the following form:

1516 South Garrison Avenue.
Carthage, Missouri,
May 14, 1918.

J. E. Pratt, General Superintendent,
The Southwest Missouri Railroad Company,
1012 North Madison Street,
Webb City, Missouri.

Dear Sir:

I apply for a position as mechanic's assistant in the electrical department of your shops. I am nineteen years old, and in good physical condition. On June 6 I shall graduate from Carthage High School, and after that date I can begin work immediately.

I have had no practical experience in electrical work. But I have for two years made a special study of physics, in and out of school. I worked last summer in the local garage of Mr. R. S. Bryant. In addition, I have become familiar with tools in my workshop at home, so that I both know and like machinery.

For statements as to my character and ability, I refer you to R. S. Bryant, Manager Bryant's Garage; Mr. Frank Darrow (lawyer), 602 Ninth Street; W. C. Barnes, Superintendent of Schools; and C. W. Oldham, Principal of the High School—all of this city.

Respectfully yours,
Howard Rolfe

h. Formal notes and replies are written in the third person (avoiding I, my, me, you, your) and permit no abbreviations except Mr., Mrs., Dr.

Mrs. Clarence King requests the company of Mr. Charles Eliot at dinner on Friday, April the twenty-fourth, at six o'clock.

102 Pearl Street,
April the seventeenth.

In accepting an invitation, the writer should repeat the day and hour mentioned, in order to avoid a misunderstanding; in declining an invitation, only the day need be mentioned. The verb used in the reply should be in the present tense; not "will be pleased to accept", or "regrets that he will be unable to accept"; but "is pleased to accept", or "regrets that circumstances prevent his accepting".

Mr. Charles Eliot gladly accepts the invitation of Mrs. King to dinner on Friday, April the twenty-fourth, at six o'clock.

514 Poplar Avenue,
April the eighteenth.


88a. The first lines of paragraphs are uniformly indented, in manuscript, about an inch; in print, somewhat less. After a sentence, the remainder of a line should not be left blank, except at the end of a paragraph.

b. The length of a paragraph is ordinarily from fifty to three hundred words, depending on the importance or complexity of the thought. In exposition, the paragraphs should be long enough to develop every idea thoroughly. Scrappy expository paragraphs arouse the suspicion that the writer is incoherent, or that he has not given sufficient thought to the subject. Short paragraphs are permissible, and even desirable, in the following cases:

1. In a formal introduction to the main body of a discourse, or in the formal conclusion. (In some instances the paragraph may consist of a single sentence.)

2. In the body of a composition, when a brief logical transition between two longer paragraphs is necessary.

3. In short compositions on complex subjects, where space forbids the development of each thought on a proper scale. (But, as a rule, the student should limit his subject to a few simple ideas, each of which can be developed fully.)

4. In newspapers, where brevity and emphasis are required. (But the student should not take the journalistic style as a model.)

5. In description or narration meant to be vivid, vigorous, or rapid.

6. In dialogue.

c. In representing dialogue, each speech, no matter how short, is placed in a separate paragraph.

  • Right:

    "Listen!" he said. "There was a noise outside. Didn't you hear it?"

    "No," I whispered. It was dark in the room, except for a faint light at the window, and I felt my way cautiously to his side. "What is it? Burglars?"

    "I believe it is."

    "I can't hear anything."

    "Listen! There it is again."

    "Pshaw!" I had to laugh aloud. "Thompson's cow has got into the garden again."

Note that a slight amount of descriptive matter may be included in a paragraph with the direct discourse, the only requirement being that a change of speaker shall be indicated by a new paragraph.

When special emphasis is desired, a quotation may be detached from a preceding introductory statement.

  • Right:

    The speaker turned gravely about, and facing the front row, he said slowly and solemnly:

    "Small boys should be seen and not heard."

In exceptional cases a long, rapid-fire dialogue may, for purposes of compression, be placed in one paragraph. Dashes should then be used before successive quotations to indicate a change of speaker.

Omissions from a dialogue (as when only one side of a telephone conversation is reported), long pauses, and the unfinished part of interrupted statements, may be represented by a short row of dots.


Arrange in paragraphs, and insert quotation marks:

  1. Help! I cried, rolling over in the narrow crevasse, and wondering dazedly how far I had fallen through the snow. A muffled voice came from above: We'll have a rope down to you in a minute. Tie that bottle of brandy on the end of it, I suggested, and it'll come faster. [The student will here insert a sentence of his own to complete the dialogue.]
  2. Good morning, James, said the deacon, suspiciously. How are you? and where are you going? I'm all right, answered the boy, and I'm goin' down to the creek. As he spoke, he tried to hide something bulky underneath his coat. You oughtn't to go fishing on Sunday. [Add another sentence to finish the dialogue.]

The following sentences illustrate errors in the use of capitals, italics, numbers, abbreviations, etc. Make necessary changes.

  1. I met him at kansas city at a dinner of the commercial club.
  2. The senate and the house of representatives are the two branches of congress.
  3. In today's chicago herald the union pacific railroad advertises reduced rates to yellowstone park and the northwest.
  4. There are 30 men in each section in chemistry, but only 25 in each section in french.
  5. Early in pres. wilson's administration troops crossed the rio grande river. Pres. Carranza protested.
  6. In nineteen ten the population of new york city (including suburbs) was 4,766,883.
  7. Send the moving van to thirty walnut street at eight o'clock.
  8. I like Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice better than George Eliot's Adam Bede.
  9. May I call for you about 7:30 p. m., Miss Reynolds?
  10. The note draws 6 per cent interest, and is payable Jan. 1st, 1921.
  11. He will remain in town until Apr. 20th, and will then go away for the Summer. He is going abroad to study the spanish and italian languages.
  12. Grays elegy in a country churchyard is perhaps the best known poem in english literature.
  13. Enclosed please find $4, for which send me the New Republic for one year.
  14. In reply to yours of 3-7-18 wish to advise that we are out of stock.
  15. I enclose $0.10 for a copy of bulletin #314 of the dept. of Agriculture. Thanking you, I remain ... yours Respectively....


Punctuation is not used for its own sake. It is used in writing as gestures, pauses, and changes of voice are used in speaking—to add force or to reveal the precise relationship of thoughts. The tendency at present is against the lavish use of punctuation. This does not mean, however, that one may do as he pleases. In minor details of punctuation there is room for individual preference, but in essential principles all trustworthy writers agree.

The Period

90a. Place a period after a complete declarative or imperative sentence.

b. Do not separate part of a sentence from the rest of the sentence by means of a period. (See 1.)

  • Wrong: He denied the accusation. As every one expected him to do.
  • Right: He denied the accusation, as every one expected him to do.
  • Wrong: Anderson wrote good editorials. The best that appeared in any paper in the city.
  • Right: Anderson wrote good editorials, the best that appeared in any paper in the city. [Or] Anderson wrote good editorials—the best that appeared in any paper in the city.

Exception.—Condensed or elliptical phrases established by long and frequent use may be written as separate sentences. They should be followed by appropriate punctuation—usually by a period.

  • Examples: Yes. Of course. Really? By all means!

Note.—The student should distinguish clearly between a subordinate clause and a main clause. A subordinate clause is introduced by a subordinate conjunction (when, while, if, as, since, although, that, lest, because, in order that, etc.), or by a relative pronoun (who, which, that, etc.). Since a subordinate clause does not express a complete thought, it cannot stand alone, but must be joined to a main clause to form a sentence.

c. Place a period after an abbreviation.

  • Bros. Mr. e. g. Ph.D. LL.D. etc.

If an abbreviation falls at the end of a sentence, one period may serve two functions.


  1. The hen clucks to her chickens. When she scratches up a worm.
  2. Before my brother could forewarn me. I had touched my tongue against the cold iron. On which it stuck.
  3. The commission had the services of two men of international reputation. Charles Newman, Esq. and Gifford Bailey, Ph D.
  4. Since Hugh had fished only in creeks. He was surprised that the lines were let down a hundred feet or more. The right distance for codfish.
  5. Between 1775 and 1825 Virginia furnished the nation its leaders. Such as the author of the Declaration of Independence. The orator of the Revolution. The leader of the Revolutionary army. The chief maker of the Constitution. Four of our first five Presidents. And our greatest Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
The Comma

There are five principal uses of the comma:

  • to separate clauses (a-d)
  • to set off a parenthetical element (e)
  • to mark a series (f-g)
  • to introduce a quotation (h)
  • to compel a pause for the sake of clearness (i)

91a. A comma is used between clauses joined by but, for, and, or any other coördinating conjunction.

  • Right: The hour arrived, but Forbes did not appear. [The comma emphasizes the contrast.]
  • Right: She was glad she had looked, for a man was approaching the house. [The comma prevents the combination looked for a man.]
  • Right: He gave the money to Burke, and Reynolds received nothing. [The comma prevents confusion.]

Exception.—If the clauses are short and closely linked in thought, the comma may be omitted (She came and she was gone in a moment. McCoy talked and the rest of us listened.) If the clauses are long and complicated, a semicolon may be used (See 92b).

Note.—No comma should follow the conjunction. Wrong: He was enthusiastic but, inexperienced. Wrong: They went before the committee but, not one of them would answer a question.

b. Do not use a comma between independent clauses which are not joined by a conjunction. Use a period or a semicolon. (This error, the "comma splice," betrays ignorance of what constitutes a unified sentence. See 18.)

  • Wrong: The circus had just come to town, every one wanted to see it.
  • Right: The circus had just come to town. Every one wanted to see it.
  • Wrong: The story deals with the life of a youth, Don Juan, his mother desired to make an angel of him.
  • Right: The story deals with the life of a youth, Don Juan. His mother desired to make an angel of him.
  • Wrong: My courses required very hard study, did yours?
  • Right: My courses required very hard study. Did yours? [Or] My courses required very hard study; did yours?
  • Wrong: He will assist you without the slightest hesitation, indeed he will do so with alacrity.
  • Right: He will assist you without the slightest hesitation. Indeed he will do so with alacrity. [Or] He will assist you without the slightest hesitation; indeed he will do so with alacrity.

Exception.—Short coördinate clauses which are not joined by conjunctions, but which are parallel in structure and leave a unified impression, may be joined by commas.

  • Right: He sowed, he reaped, he repented.

c. An adverbial clause which precedes a main clause is usually set off by a comma.

When long:

  • Right: While I have much confidence in his sincerity, I cannot approve his decision. [The comma marks the meeting point of clauses too long to be easily read together. Brief clauses do not require the comma. Right: Where thou goest I will go.]

When ending in words that link themselves with words in the main clause:

  • Right: If Jacob finds time to plow, the garden can be planted tomorrow. [The comma prevents plow the garden from being read as verb and object.]

When not closely connected with the main clause in meaning:

  • Right: Although they were few, they were resolute. [Here the comma reveals the distinctness of the two stages of thought. In the sentence If it freezes the skating will be good the distinctness of the two thoughts is less emphatic, and the comma may be omitted.]

Note.—The comma is usually omitted when the adverbial clause follows the main clause.

  • Right: The score stood twelve to twelve when the first half ended. [The adverbial clause is linked closely with the element it modifies, the predicate; punctuation is unnecessary. If the when clause were placed before the element it does not modify, the subject, a comma should be inserted.]

d. Restrictive clauses should not be set off by commas; non-restrictive clauses should be set off by commas. (A restrictive clause is one inseparably connected with the noun or pronoun it modifies; to omit it would change the thought of the main clause. A non-restrictive clause is less vitally connected with the noun or pronoun; to omit it would not affect the thought of the main clause.)

  • Right: Men who are industrious will succeed. [The relative clause restricts the meaning; it is inseparably connected with the noun it modifies, and to omit it would change the thought of the main clause.]
  • Right: Thomas Carlyle, who wrote forty volumes, was of peasant origin. [The relative clause is non-restrictive; it is not inseparably connected with the noun it modifies, and to omit it would not change the thought of the main clause. Thus: Thomas Carlyle was of peasant origin.]
  • Right: Where is the house that Jack built? [Restrictive.]
  • Right: I went to Jack's house, which is across the street. [Non-restrictive.]
  • Wrong: Students, who are lazy, do not deserve to pass. [The sentence as it stands says that all students are lazy, and that none of them deserve to pass. Without the commas, the sentence would mean that such students as are lazy do not deserve to pass.]
  • Right: Students who are lazy do not deserve to pass.

The rule stated above for clauses applies also to phrases.

  • Right. She, hearing the voice, turned quickly. [Hearing the voice is non-restrictive. It does not identify she, and the thought of the main clause is complete without it.]
  • Right: Books pertaining to aeronautics are in demand. [Pertaining to aeronautics is restrictive. It explains what books are referred to, and without it the meaning of the main thought is changed.]
  • Right: Our country, made up as it is of democratic people, lacks the centralized power of a monarchy. [Non-restrictive.]
  • Right: A country made up of democratic people must be lacking in centralized power. [Restrictive. Made up of democratic people explains country and is essential to the thought of the sentence.]

e. Slightly parenthetical elements are set off by commas:

Direct address or explanation:

  • Write soon, Henry, and tell all the news.
  • They intend, as you know, to build a great dam across the river.
  • His father, they say, was frugal and industrious.
  • I, on my part, however, am unalterably opposed to the expenditure.
  • He was, according to such reports as have reached me, altogether in the right.

Mild interjections:

  • Well, we shall see.
  • Come now, let's talk it over.
  • But alas, the cupboard was bare.
  • The custom is, oh, very old.

Absolute phrases:

  • This being admitted, I shall proceed to my other evidence.

Geographical names which explain other names and dates which explain other dates:

  • The convention met at Madison, Wisconsin, on March 24, 1916.

Words in apposition:

  • We arrived at Austin, the capital of Texas.
  • It was Archie, my best friend in boyhood.
  • Exception.—The comma is omitted (1) When the appositive is part of a proper name. Right: William the Silent, Alexander the Great. (2) When there is unusually close connection between the appositive and the noun it modifies. Right: My one confidant was my brother Robert. (3) When the appositive is a word or phrase to which attention is called by italics or some other device which sets it apart. Right: The word sequent is derived from Latin. Right: The expression "That's fine" is one which I use indiscriminately.

Note.—When the parenthetical element occurs in the middle of a sentence, "set off by commas" means punctuate before and after.

  • Wrong: I was, madam at home yesterday.
  • Right: I was, madam, at home yesterday.
  • Wrong: I am to say the least, provoked.
  • Right: I am, to say the least, provoked.

f. Consecutive adjectives that modify the same noun are separated from each other by commas. If, however, the last adjective is closely linked in meaning with the noun, no comma is used before it.

  • Right: A short, slight, pitiable figure.
  • Right: A shrewd professional man. [Shrewd modifies, not man alone, but professional man.]
  • Right: A bedraggled old rooster. [Old rooster has almost the force of a compound word. Bedraggled modifies the general idea old rooster.]

Note.—The commas in a series of adjectives are used to separate the adjectives from each other. No comma should intervene between the final adjective and the noun. Wrong: He was only a frail, unarmed, frightened, youngster. Right: He was only a frail, unarmed, frightened youngster.

g. Words or phrases in series are separated by commas.

When the series takes the form a, b, and c, a comma precedes the and.

  • Confusing: The railroads in question are the New York Central, Pennsylvania and Chesapeake and Ohio. [The reader might surmise that the words Pennsylvania and Chesapeake and Ohio represent a single line or even three different lines.]
  • Right: The railroads in question are the New York Central, Pennsylvania, and Chesapeake and Ohio.
  • Confusing: For breakfast we had oatmeal, bacon, eggs and honey. [Omission of the comma after eggs suggests a mixture.]
  • Right: For breakfast we had oatmeal, bacon, eggs, and honey.

h. A comma should follow an expression like he said which introduces a short quotation. (For longer or more formal quotations use a colon.)

  • Right: He shouted, "Come on! I dare you!"
  • Right: Our captain replied, "We're ready."

But for indirect quotations, a caution is necessary. Do not place a comma between a verb and a that or how clause which the verb introduces.

  • Wrong: He explained, how the accident occurred.
  • Right: He explained how the accident occurred.
  • Wrong: The chauffeur told us, that the gasoline tank was empty.
  • Right: The chauffeur told us that the gasoline tank was empty.

i. A comma is used to separate parts of a sentence which might erroneously be read together.

  • Confusing: Long before she had received a letter.
  • Better: Long before, she had received a letter.
  • Confusing: We turned the corner and the horse stopped throwing us off.
  • Better: We turned the corner and the horse stopped, throwing us off.
  • Confusing: Through the alumni gathered there went a thrill of dismay.
  • Better: Through the alumni gathered there, went a thrill of dismay.
  • Wrong: For a dime you can buy two pieces of pie or cake and ice cream.
  • Right: For a dime you can buy two pieces of pie, or cake and ice cream.
  • Right: The man whom everybody had for years regarded as a crank and a weakling, is now praised for his sagacity and his strength.
  • Right: In a situation so critical as to require the utmost coolness of mind, he lost his wits completely. [Here the confusion might not be serious if the comma were omitted, but separation of the long introduction from the main clause is desirable.]

j. Do not use superfluous commas:

1. To mark a trivial pause:

  • Needless use of comma: In the road, stood a wagon.
  • Needless use of commas: The taking of notes, is a guarantee, against inattention, in class.

Slight pauses in a sentence are taken care of by the good sense of the reader. Do not sprinkle commas when the sentence is moving along freely with no complication in the thought.

  • Right: In the road stood a wagon.
  • Right: The taking of notes is a guarantee against inattention in class.

2. To separate an adjective from its noun:

  • Wrong: A tall, solemn, antique, clock stood in the hallway. [The first two commas separate the adjectives from each other. There is no reason why antique should be separated from the noun.]
  • Right: A tall, solemn, antique clock stood in the hallway.

3. Before the first word or phrase in a series unless the comma would be employed if the word or phrase stood alone:

  • Wrong: He made a study of, gymnastics, medicine, and surgery.
  • Right: He made a study of gymnastics, medicine, and surgery.
  • Wrong: He had learned, to be prompt, to think clearly, and to write correctly.
  • Right: He had learned to be prompt, to think clearly, and to write correctly.


  1. Before the workmen finished eating the tunnel caved in. Three Italian laborers were crushed, the others with the foreman escaped.
  2. Sneed the new chairman proposed that the convention should meet at Cheyenne Wyoming. The suggestion however was according to reports not adopted.
  3. He had a pen and an ink bottle was in the cupboard. By washing poor widows can earn but scant living.
  4. Saunders asked, how I liked the Overland car as compared with the Chalmers, the Hudson and the Buick. I started to reply but at that moment we were interrupted.
  5. People, who steal watermelons, say the stolen melons are sweetest. Farragut who was born in Tennessee was the North's ablest naval commander. The developer is a chemical, which reduces the silver salt.
The Semicolon

The semicolon represents a division in thought somewhat greater than that represented by a comma, and somewhat smaller than that represented by a period. It may represent grammatical separation and logical connection at the same time; that is, it may indicate that two statements are separate units in grammar, and are yet to be taken together to form a larger unit of logic or thought.

92a. The semicolon is used between coördinate clauses which are not joined by a conjunction. (For a possible exception see 91b.).

  • Wrong: He was alarmed in fact he was terrified.
  • Right: He was alarmed; in fact he was terrified.
  • Right: He drew up at the curb; he leaped from the car.

Note.—Very often the writer may choose freely between the semicolon and the period; in such instances the use of the semicolon implies greater logical unity between the clauses than the use of the period would show. Unless this logical unity is distinct, the period is to be preferred.

b. The semicolon is sometimes used between coördinate clauses which are joined by a conjunction if the clauses are long, or if the clauses have commas within themselves, or if obscurity would result were the semicolon not used. (Otherwise, see 91a.)

  • Right: Very slowly the glow in the heavens deepened and extended itself along the eastern horizon; but at last the bright-red rim of the sun showed above the crest of the hill.
  • Right: He arrived, so they tell me, after nightfall; and immediately going to a hotel, called for a room.
  • Confusing: She enjoyed the dinners, and the dancing, and the music, and the whole gay round of fashionable life was a delight to her.
  • Better: She enjoyed the dinners, and the dancing, and the music; and the whole gay round of fashionable life was a delight to her.

c. The semicolon is used between coördinate clauses which are joined by a formal conjunctive adverb (hence, thus, then, therefore, accordingly, consequently, besides, still, nevertheless, or the like).

  • Wrong: We have failed in this therefore let us try something else.
  • Right: We have failed in this; therefore let us try something else.
  • Wrong: He was tattered and muddy, besides he ate like a cormorant.
  • Right: He was tattered and muddy; besides he ate like a cormorant.

Note 1.—If a simple conjunction like and is used in the sentences above, a comma will suffice. But a comma is not sufficient before a conjunctive adverb like therefore. Conjunctive adverbs may be clearly distinguished from simple conjunctions (See 91a). They cannot always be easily distinguished from subordinating conjunctions (see 90b, Note), but the distinction, when it can be made with certainty, is an aid to clear thinking.

Note 2.—Good usage sometimes permits a comma to be used before a conjunctive adverb in short sentences where the break in the thought is not formal or emphatic. For instance, when the conjunctive adverb so is used as a formal or emphatic connective, a semicolon is desirable (I won't go; so that's settled). But in the sentence, "I was excited, so I missed the target", a comma is sufficient. For the use of so is here informal, and probably expresses degree as well as result. (Compare "I was so excited that I missed the target").

d. The semicolon is not used before quotations, or after the "Dear Sir" in letters. Use a comma or a colon. (See 91h, 93a, and 87b.)

  • Wrong: Mother said; "Let me get my needle."
  • Right: Mother said, "Let me get my needle."


  1. The eggs tasted musty, they were cold storage eggs.
  2. You should have seen that old, formally kept house, you should have sat in that stuffy and immaculate parlor.
  3. I objected to the plan however since he insisted upon it I yielded.
  4. I suppose I must go if I don't he will be anxious.
  5. Although the note is due on March 19, you have three days of grace, consequently you may pay it on March 22.
The Colon

93a. The colon is used to introduce formally a word, a list, a statement or question, a series of statements or questions, or a long quotation.

  • Right: Only one man stood between Burr and the presidency: Jefferson.
  • Right: My favorite novels are the following: Ivanhoe, Henry Esmond, and The Mill on the Floss.
  • Right: The difficulty is this: Where is the money to come from?
  • Right: The measure must be considered from several standpoints: Is it timely? Is it expedient? Is it just? Is it superior to the other measures proposed?
  • Right: I shall do three things next year: study hard, take care of my health, and enter into various student activities.
  • Right: Webster concluded with the following peroration: "When my eyes shall be turned for the last time to behold the sun in heaven," etc., etc.

b. The colon may be used before concrete illustrations of a general statement.

  • Right: The colors were various: blue, purple, emerald, and orange.
  • Right: The day was propitious: the sun shone, the birds sang, the flowers sent forth their fragrance.


  1. The city must have these improvements paved streets more schools better sanitation and a park.
  2. A guild comprised men of a single class tailors, fishmongers, or goldsmiths.
  3. Everything was favorable, it was a wheat-raising district, there were no rival mills, the means of transportation were excellent.
  4. The personal adornments of the eighteenth century "blood" were elaborate, wigs, cocked hat, colored breeches, red-heeled shoes, cane, and muff.
  5. The chief of the engineers reported "The route, taken as a whole, is practicable enough, but near Clifton, where the yards must be placed, it leads through a rocky defile."
The Dash

94a. The dash may be used instead of the marks of parenthesis, especially where informality is desired.

  • Right: She fell asleep—would you believe it?—in the middle of the lecture.
  • Right: That fellow actually—of course this is between you and me—stole money from his father.

b. Insert a dash when a sentence is broken off abruptly.

  • Right: The next morning—let's see, what happened the next morning?

c. The dash may be used near the end of a sentence, before a summarizing statement or an afterthought.

  • Right: When you have carried in the wood and the water, and milked the cows, and fed all the stock and the poultry, and mended the harness—when you have done these things, you may consider the rest of the evening your own.
  • Right: Barnes played a mischievous trick one day—in fact, Barnes was always into mischief.

d. The use of the dash to end sentences is childish.

  • Childish: At dawn I went on deck—far off to the left was a cloud, I thought, on the edge of the water—it grew more distinct as we angled toward it—it was land—before noon we had sailed into harbor.
  • Right: At dawn I went on deck. Far off to the left was a cloud, I thought, on the edge of the water. It grew more distinct as we angled toward it. It was land. Before noon we had sailed into harbor.

e. A dash should be made about three times as long as a hyphen; otherwise it may be mistaken as the sign of a compound word.


  1. The boy left the package on the where did that boy leave the package?
  2. She was haughty independent as a queen in fact and she told him no.
  3. The clatter of the other typewriters, the relentless movement of the hands of the clock, the calls from the press room for more copy, these made Sears write like mad.
  4. He made her acquaintance what do you think of this by scribbling his name and address on some eggs he sold to a grocer.
  5. He obtained a position in a big department store—his good taste was quickly recognized—within a month he was dressing the windows.
Parenthesis Marks and Brackets

95a. Parenthesis marks may be used to enclose matter foreign to the main thought of the sentence. (But see also 94a and 91e.)

  • Right: His testimony is conclusive (unless, to be sure, we find that he has perjured himself).

b. A comma or a semicolon used at the end of a parenthesis should as a rule follow the mark of parenthesis rather than precede it.

  • Right: If there is snow on the ground (and I am sure there will be), we shall have plenty of sleighing.

c. When confirmatory symbols or figures are enclosed within parenthesis marks, they should follow rather than precede the words they confirm.

  • Wrong: They earn (3) dollars a day.
  • Right: They earn three (3) dollars a day. [Or] They earn three dollars ($3) a day.

d. Do not use parenthesis marks to cancel a word or passage. Draw a horizontal line through whatever is to be omitted.

e. Brackets are used to insert explanatory matter in a quotation which one gives from another writer. Explanatory matter inserted by the original writer is enclosed within parenthesis marks.

  • Right: "Bunyan's masterpiece (The Pilgrim's Progress)," declared the lecturer, "is out of harmony with the spirit of the age that produced it [the age of the Restoration]." (Here the explanatory words the age of the Restoration are inserted by the person who is quoting the lecturer.)


  1. The supremacy of the horse-drawn vehicle is unless a miracle happens now gone forever.
  2. My count shows (41) forty-one bales of cotton in the mill yard.
  3. [Insert the Marne as your explanation]: "It was this battle," said the lecturer, "that made the name of Joffre immortal."
  4. [Insert Florida as the explanation of the person you are quoting]: "In that state oranges are plentiful."
  5. It was the opinion of Bailey and events proved him right that the government must assume control of the railroads.
Quotation Marks

96a. Quotation marks should be used to enclose a direct, but not an indirect, quotation.

  • Right: "I am thirsty," he said.
  • Wrong: He said "that he was thirsty."
  • Right: He said that he was thirsty.

b. A quotation of several paragraphs should have quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and at the end of the last paragraph.

c. In narrative each separate speech, however short, should be enclosed within quotation marks; but a single speech of several sentences should have only one set of quotation marks.

  • Wrong:

    "Will you come? she pleaded.


  • Right:

    "Will you come," she pleaded.


  • Wrong: He replied, "It was not for my own sake that I did this." "There were others whom I had to consider." "I can mention no names."
  • Right: He replied, "It was not for my own sake that I did this. There were others whom I had to consider. I can mention no names."

d. Quotation marks may be used with technical terms, with slang introduced into formal writing, or with nicknames; but not with merely elevated diction, with good English that resembles slang, with nicknames that have practically become proper names, or with fictitious names from literature.

  • Permissible: The rime is called a "feminine rime". He is really "a corker". Their name for my friend was "Sissy".
  • Better without the quotation marks: He was awed by "the grandeur of the mountains". "A humbug". "Fetch". "Stonewall" Jackson. He was a true "Rip Van Winkle".

e. Either quotation marks or italics may be used with words to which special attention is called. (See the examples under 91e, Exception, 3.) Quotation marks are used with the titles of articles, of chapters in books, of individual short poems, and the like. Italics are used with the titles of books or of periodicals, with the names of ships, and with foreign words which are still felt to be emphatically foreign.

f. A quotation within a quotation should be enclosed in single quotation marks; a quotation within that, in double marks.

  • Right: "It required courage," the speaker said, "for a man to affirm in those days: 'I endorse every word of Patrick Henry's sentiment, "Give me liberty, or give me death!"'"

g. When a word is followed by both a quotation mark and a question mark or an exclamation point, the question mark or the exclamation point should come first if it applies to the quotation; last, if it applies to the main sentence.

  • Wrong: He shouted but one command, "Give them the bayonet"!
  • Right: He shouted but one command, "Give them the bayonet!"
  • Wrong: Did Savonarola say, "I recant?"
  • Right: Did Savonarola say, "I recant"?

Note.—Regarding the position of a comma, semicolon, or period at the end of a quotation, usage differs. Printers ordinarily place commas and periods inside the quotation marks, and semicolons outside, from considerations of spacing. But logic, not spacing, should determine the order, and all three marks should be treated alike. They should be placed within the quotation marks if they were a part of the original quotation; otherwise outside. In quoting manuscript, the quotation marks should enclose exactly what is in the original. In quoting oral discourse, a certain liberty is necessarily allowed.

  • Correct: He said calmly, "It is I."
  • Also correct, but not commonly used: He said calmly, "It is I".
  • Correct, and in common use, but slightly illogical: He began, "Our Father which art in heaven." [The period should follow the quotation mark, since there is no period in the original quotation.]
  • Correct, and in common use, but slightly illogical: Can you tell me the difference between "apt," "likely," and "liable"; between "noted" and "notorious"?
  • Also correct: Can you tell me the difference between "apt", "likely", and "liable"; between "noted" and "notorious"?

h. When a quotation is interrupted by such an expression as he said,

1. An extra set of quotation marks is employed, and the interpolated words are normally set off by commas.

  • Wrong: "I rise said he to second the motion."
  • Right: "I rise," said he, "to second the motion."

2. A question mark or exclamation point should precede the interpolated expression if it would be used were the expression omitted.

  • Right: "'May I go?'" complained father, "is all that boy can ask."
  • Right: "Merciful heavens!" he cried, "we are lost."

3. The expression should be followed by a semicolon if the semicolon would follow the preceding words in case the expression were omitted.

  • Right: "I admit it", he said; "it is true."

4. Neither the expression nor the words following it should begin with a capital.

  • Wrong: "We must be quiet", Said the old man, "If we expect to catch sight of a squirrel."
  • Right: "We must be quiet", said the old man, "if we expect to catch sight of a squirrel."

i. An omission from a quotation is indicated by dots.

  • Right: "When a word is followed by both a quotation mark and ... an exclamation point, ... the exclamation point should come ... last, if it applies to the main sentence." [Abridged citation of g above.]

j. Do not use superfluous quotation marks:

1. Around the title at the head of a theme (unless it is a quoted title);

2. As a label for humor or irony.

  • Superfluous: The "abstemious" Mr. Crew ate an enormous dinner.
  • Better: The abstemious Mr. Crew ate an enormous dinner.


  1. Carew says, "that the profit comes from selling knickknacks."
  2. What's the matter with that horse? asked Williams. He's as frisky as if he had been shut up a week.
  3. "Who's your favorite character in the play?, persisted Laura. Is it "Brutus"? No, answered Howard; I admire his wife "Portia".
  4. "It's amazing, said Mrs. Phelps, how children love playthings. Helen Locke said yesterday, Hughie always tells me when I am putting him to bed, I want my Teddy bear".
  5. "You see, said Daugherty, the two offices across the corridor from each ether." "One is the county clerk's." "The other is the county collector's."
The Apostrophe

97a. In contracted words place the apostrophe where letters are omitted, and do not place it elsewhere.

  • Wrong: does'nt, theyr'e, oclock.
  • Right: doesn't, they're, o'clock.

b. To form the possessive of a noun, singular or plural, that does not end in s, add 's.

  • Right: A hunter's gun, children's games, the cannon's mouth.

c. To form the possessive of a noun, singular or plural, that ends in s, place an apostrophe after (not before) the s if there is no new syllable in pronunciation. If there is a new syllable in pronunciation, add 's.

  • Wrong: Moses's mandates, Keat's poems, Dicken's novels, those hunter's guns.
  • Right: Moses' mandates, Keats's poems (or Keats' poems), Dickens' (or Dickens's) novels, those hunters' guns.

d. Do not use an apostrophe with the possessive adjectives its, his, hers, ours, yours, and theirs. But one's, other's, either's take the apostrophe.

e. Add 's to form the plural of letters of the alphabet, of words spoken of as words, and sometimes numbers. But do not form the regular plural of a word by adding 's (See 77).

  • Right: His B's, 8's (or 8s), and it's look much alike.
  • Wrong: The Jones's, the Smith's, and the Brown's.
  • Right: The Joneses, the Smiths, and the Browns.


  1. We don't know theyr'e dishonest.
  2. The soldier's heads showed above the trenches.
  3. Five 8es, three 7es, and two 12es make 85.
  4. Pierce told the Keslers that Jones hogs were fatter than their's.
  5. Its three oclock by his watch; five minutes past three by her's.
The Question Mark and the Exclamation Point

98a. Place a question mark after a direct question, but not after an indirect question.

  • Wrong: What of it. What does it matter.
  • Right: What of it? What does it matter?
  • Wrong: He asked whether I belonged to the glee club?
  • Right: He asked whether I belonged to the glee club.

Note.—When the main sentence which introduces an indirect question is itself interrogatory, a question mark follows.

  • Right: Did she inquire whether you had met her aunt?

b. A question mark is often used within a sentence, but should not be followed by a comma, semicolon, or period.

  • Wrong: "What shall I do?," he asked.
  • Right: "What shall I do?" he asked.
  • Wrong: But where are the stocks?, the bonds?, the evidences of prosperity?
  • Right: But where are the stocks? the bonds? the evidences of prosperity?

c. A question mark within parentheses may be used to express uncertainty as to the correctness of an assertion.

  • Right: Shakespeare was born April 23 (?), 1564.
  • Right: In 1340 (?) was born Geoffrey Chaucer.

d. The use of a question mark as a label for humor or irony is childish.

  • Superfluous: Immediately the social lion (?) rose to his feet.
  • Better: Immediately the social lion rose to his feet.

e. The exclamation point is used after words, expressions, or sentences to show strong emotion.

  • Right: Hark! I hear horses. Give us a light there, ho!

Note.—The lavish use of the exclamation point is not in good taste. Unless the emotion to be conveyed is strong, a comma will suffice. See 91e.


  1. What is my temperature, doctor.
  2. "Shall we go by the old mill?", asked Newcomb?
  3. Did Wu Ting Fang say, "The Chinese Republic will survive."
  4. He inquired whether Lorado Taft is the greatest living American sculptor.
  5. Farewell. Othello's occupation's gone.

Punctuate the following sentences:

  1. Why its ten oclock
  2. It was a rainy foggy morning
  3. Arthurs cousin said Lets go
  4. I begged her to stay but she refused
  5. His parents you know were wealthy
  6. Near by the children were playing house
  7. Ever since John has driven carefully
  8. I smell something burning Etta
  9. Well Harry are you ready for a tramp
  10. I well remember a trip which I once took
  11. When the day has ended the twilight comes
  12. She was a poor lonely defenseless old woman
  13. Trout bass and pickerel are often caught there
  14. Lees army was defeated at Gettysburg Pennsylvania on July 3 1863
  15. Students who are poor appreciate the value of an education
  16. Clem Rogers who is poor as Jobs turkey has bought a phonograph
  17. He had no resentment against the man who had injured him
  18. He spoke to his father who sat on the veranda
  19. The rifle which he used on this trip was the best he had
  20. His long beard sticking out at an angle from his chin and his tall silk hat looked ridiculous

Punctuate the following sentences:

  1. I found the work difficult did you find it so
  2. If they had agreed to buy things would have been different but they didn't
  3. I could satisfy myself if need be with dreams and imaginary delights she must have realities
  4. Well Im not disappointed its just what I expected
  5. Hard roads are not only an advantage they are almost indispensable
  6. The man who hesitates is lost the woman who hesitates is won
  7. The nihilists accept no principle or creed they reject government and religion and all institutions which cramp the individuals desires
  8. No longer are women considered weaklings although not so strong as man physically they are now assumed to have will and courage of their own
  9. The Pilgrims wished to thank God so they prepared a feast
  10. Our country roads are full of chuck holes consequently one must drive with caution
  11. The first player advances ten paces the second eight the third six and so on
  12. I told her it was her own fault she was too reticent and held herself aloof
  13. He had complained of weariness therefore we left him in camp
  14. The Panama Canal consists of four sections the Atlantic Level the Lake the Cut and the Pacific Level
  15. There are three reasons why I do not like Ford cars first they rattle second they bump and third they never wear out
  16. Protoplasm has been found to contain four elements carbon hydrogen oxygen and nitrogen but by no artificial combination can these be made into the living substance
  17. Phlox mignonette sweet peas cannas all these yield flowers until late in the fall.
  18. He asked for hot water the mollycoddle as if this were a hotel
  19. Is this seat occupied sir asked Brown who stood in the aisle
  20. There are two types of democracy 1 a pure democracy and 2 a representative democracy

Punctuate the following sentences:

  1. And Harvey waiting all this time mind you sprang for the door
  2. I want to go to Memphis Tennessee to the old house if it is still standing where I was born
  3. My bill amounted to exactly counting the car fare nine dollars and ninety five cents
  4. I do not believe it he cried then turning to the others in the group he asked nervously do you
  5. Which is better to borrow money for ones school expenses or to work ones way
  6. He swore swore like a pirate and lashed the horses
  7. Dickens novel Martin Chuzzlewit is satirical
  8. But what of the Dakotas of Minnesota of Wisconsin are they to give us no political support
  9. The grain is then run into a bin called the weighing bin from this it is let down on to the scales
  10. Lincoln showed very plainly what the phrase All men are created equal means and what its application was to the anti-slavery movement.
  11. His name was lets see what was the fellows name.
  12. He looks sharply for little points passed over by the average person are important to him
  13. How uncomfortable I feel in a room whose windows are not covered by curtains I cannot describe
  14. Some time ago he moved away I was sorry because he was a fine young man
  15. I went to the lawyers office to hear the reading of my uncles will
  16. Well well I havent seen you for years But youre the same stub nosed freckle faced good natured Tom
  17. I did not stop long to consider the football togs were nearest at hand so in they went cleated shoes trousers sweater pads headgear and the rest
  18. Today I shall outline explain and argue the subject which has already been announced to you namely The Distribution of Taxes in Illinois
  19. His piping voice his long crooked nose his white hair falling over the shoulders of his faded blue coat his shuffling shambling gait as he hobbled up to Carletons Grocery with his basket all this I shall remember as long as I live
  20. We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights that among these rights are life liberty and the pursuit of happiness

Improve the following sentences, making as many changes as are necessary to express the thought clearly and accurately.

  1. It don't sound right.
  2. Us fellows hadn't ought to complain.
  3. The decision effects my brother and I alike.
  4. Following his breakfast he went up to the office.
  5. One finds that beginning on a pipe organ is much more complicated than the piano.
  6. She married before she was eighteen, she had never taken much interest in school work
  7. New Year's Eve, a young lady who I was calling upon, and myself decided to fool the old folks.
  8. Williams drove across town at full speed, this was against the ordinances.
  9. Mr. Black, who had been laying on the sofa, rose and set down by myself.
  10. The agricultural course is a study which every person should have a great deal of knowledge along that line.
  11. Swinging around the curve, the open switch was seen in time, and directly the train stopped we rushed off of the cars.
  12. I can say a little in regard to my expectations in connection with the next four years of my life, however. Expectations of work, pleasure, and perhaps a little sorrow.
  13. An interesting experience of mine was a collection of insects made when I studied biology.
  14. A man can talk to an animal, and he learns to obey him by repeating certain commands.
  15. The life of a princess as well as a hermit are made happy by a little child, as illustrated in the stories of Pharaoh's daughter and Silas Marner.
  1. Every one in the office were busy invoicing.
  2. Their unconscious pranks and laughter is very amusing.
  3. The tiger is a beautiful animal, it is also very ferocious.
  4. Either he or she are good companions for you.
  5. Again, take a student who has been forced to make his own way, the question may be harder to decide.
  6. As for the proposition which is before you, if it was me, I would not even consider it.
  7. The fly is the insect that causes more fatal deaths in a year than any other insect.
  8. The success of a sponge cake depends upon two things. The beating of the eggs and the mixing of the flour in lightly.
  9. James, a youth of such energy, and who is attractive in many ways, failed in his exams.
  10. Fish are only found in the deep holes, and they are hard to get at.
  11. Besides cigarettes, there are other forms of using tobacco, such as cigars, and in pipes, and chewing tobacco, making the total consumption very great.
  12. I am endeavoring to secure for this position a man not only with ability as a manager, but one who is capable of understanding and sympathizing with rural community conditions.
  13. Any one having any question to ask or who has trouble with their camera, may write to this department.
  14. When I hear oatmeal it nauseates me. I can see a mental picture of the breakfast table where I sat nearly all last summer.
  15. In ones second year in high school the books to be read are Burns poems, Miltons paradise Lost; Bunyans Pilgrims Progress, and several of Shakespeares plays.
  1. He promised to on no consideration delay.
  2. I heard a voice at the door which was familiar.
  3. The most important part of a book is often to read the preface.
  4. Observing carefully, a number of errors are seen to exist.
  5. Unless one is very wealthy they cannot afford to own a car.
  6. These kind of fellows usually make good athletes.
  7. It was the custom of we campers to ride into town and back on freight cars, when in need of supplies.
  8. As I was sitting near a radiator so I moved as I decided it was too warm there.
  9. To thine own self be true is the advice Polonius gave to his son.
  10. In order that Otto should not regain his political power back again, Sarphina put him in jail.
  11. For every action there is an opposite and equal reaction is the idea which Emerson's essay on compensation begins.
  12. To consult a Bible encyclopedia and read it concerning Easter, one learns quite a little about that religious holiday.
  13. Never try to shoot a rabbit or any animal when they are not moving, for among hunters it is very poor sportsmanship to kill any animal before they have had a chance to get away.
  14. We find that many of Whittier's poems were concerned with slavery, which he considered a very great moral wrong, and determined to do all in his power to eradicate this evil.
  15. Rhetoric is required in order that a person may learn how to express their thoughts so as to be readily understood, and the ability to do this greatly increases the value of your knowledge.
  1. Socialism is different than anarchy.
  2. He ate the lunch instead of his sister.
  3. The Volga is the longest of any river in Europe.
  4. I come over to see if you will leave Tilly go on a picnic with us tomorrow.
  5. The value of the birds are studied and the good results taught to the older children.
  6. Despotism is where a ruler is not responsible to those under his authority.
  7. When a boy or girl enters a high school they think they are very important.
  8. I was anxious to begin eating, so no time was wasted by me.
  9. They run out of ammunition, which caused them to loose the battle.
  10. The mind is not only developed, but also the body.
  11. He built a reservoir varying from 75 to 150 ft. in diameter and from 8 to 15 ft. high.
  12. The most principal reason for going to college is so as to prepare myself for teaching.
  13. While the room was not very large, yet it had a good-sized closet in which to put a trunk would be easy and lighted by a small window.
  14. A college education is supposed to be general and thorough by training a man not only into something definite, but give him a wider scope from which to choose from.
  15. Motion pictures give actual battle scenes showing just how the different countries carry on warfare, in taking care of the wounded, making ammunition, and how they discharge the artillery, and advance or retreat.
  1. He acted like the rest did.
  2. He don't see anything attractive about her.
  3. Neither Admiral Beatty nor Admiral Sims are afraid to take chances.
  4. The Girl's Campfire Organization was organized when the Boy Scouts organization was proved such a success.
  5. Coal is found likely 15 ft. from the waters edge, extending horizontally under the cliff.
  6. It is no sure sign that just because a student has took a course in literature, that he really enjoys the best reading.
  7. One of the most noticeable characteristics about Lowell's letters were that they are brief, to the point, and emphatic.
  8. On the license there will be found the laws regarding hunting and on the back of it tells when the different seasons are open.
  9. The St. Louis Republic is a partisan democratic newspaper and thus it can be guessed as to what their editorials are like concerning political questions.
  10. If the public in general is well posted on the subject and finds that the charity workers are in earnest, they are much more apt to donate.
  11. Some were laughing, some acted serious, others like myself were merely looking on.
  12. Entering the campus, the Library is seen, which is a building nicer than all the others.
  13. The Ideal Starter starts the engine perfectly without leaving the driver's seat.
  14. The fly feeds on decayed vegetable matter, and also the decayed animal.
  15. It is true that some people keep a fire extinguisher. It is of minor importance when considering organized fire protection. It is organized fire protection with which we are chiefly concerned, so let us dismiss the former and proceed to the latter subject.
  1. In olden days the curfew rung everywheres at 9 o'clock.
  2. If a person was to become a charity worker, it would necessitate him giving time and effort.
  3. I think most any person can appreciate a good joke when it is not on them.
  4. Your clothing for the hunt should be warm and of goods that will not tear easy.
  5. Life can be classified in four general stages. Infancy, Youth, Maturity, and Old Age.
  6. At the sound of the summons I had to arise from my downy cot and hurry to the morning repast.
  7. He was surprised at the way people lived in the city. Especially the dirt and misery of the slums.
  8. The house is battered and dingy, being built twenty years ago by Mr. Robinson, and needs paint badly.
  9. We hadn't scarcely more than begun the work when one of the engines got broke and we had to stop until it could be fixed.
  10. Neither self-denial nor self-sacrifice are to be admired, or even pardoned, at the cost of happiness, Stevenson says.
  11. The thing that took my eye most of all were the walls. Pennants, pictures, and souvenirs were hanging everywhere.
  12. Grandmother had put the spectacles in the Bible which she had lost.
  13. In the summer time the weather is warm but some people are complaining of the hot weather and who wish the weather would turn cooler but is it not this kind of weather that makes the plants grow, which in turn furnish us food?
  14. Until athletics are demanded from the weaker students, the training will go to the one who does not need it, and the ones who do need it are sitting up on the bleachers exercising their lungs.
  15. The people of olden times used pumps, but did not know why they worked, they thought it worked because "nature abhors a vacuum."
  1. Each one of these three books are interesting.
  2. You may put this hat in any desired shape you like.
  3. We motored over to Bloomington which was much more pleasant than the train.
  4. Every one of his statements are so clear that they cannot be misconstrued what they mean.
  5. Analysis is when things are resolved into elements or parts.
  6. She dropped the doll on the pavement, of which she was very fond.
  7. He was offered money to keep still, but would not, thus showing his good character.
  8. The first training center for training police dogs was in Hildesheim, Prussia, and was in the year 1896.
  9. The draining of land not only increases the yield, and it greatly lengthens the season that the land may be worked.
  10. He next stated the number of the founders of the Constitution, which were 39 in no.
  11. The life of Doctor Kingsley is a good example of a man who has succeeded.
  12. The fortunes of our country are now standing at the cannon's mouth, and one vote may stem the tide of disaster.
  13. There was little scenery on an Elizabethan stage. While the parts intended for women were performed by men.
  14. The cave which Tom Sawyer was lost in really existed. It was the cave just outside Hannibal, Missouri, it was near the Mississippi. Here was the place where Mark Twain was a boy.
  15. Yes, and the buildings werent what they are now, do you remember how we used to go to the old log meeting house, that was up on stilts, and the pigs crawled under the floor and raised such a disturbance that the preacher had to stop and have the pigs chased out before he could continue the sermon?


The numbers refer to articles.

  • Abbreviations, 83, 90c
  • Absolute expressions
    • Defined, 58
    • Punctuation of, 91e
  • Accept and except, 67
  • Ad, 68
  • Addresses, 87b, 87e
  • Adjectives
    • Classes of, 58
    • Comparison of, 58
    • Distinguished from adverbs, 56
    • In a series, 91f, 91j2
  • Adverbs,
    • Classes of, 58
    • Comparison of, 58
    • Distinguished from adjectives, 56
  • Affect and effect, 67
  • Aggravate, 68
  • Agreement
    • Of verbs, 52
    • Of pronouns, 51, 50i
  • Ain't, 68
  • All right, 68
  • Almost, Position of, 27
  • Allusion and illusion, 67
  • Already and all ready, 67
  • And before a subordinate phrase or clause, 16, 17
  • And used to excess, 14
  • And which construction, 17
  • Antecedent
    • Defined, 58
    • Faulty reference to, 20-23
  • Anybody, Number of, 51a
  • Apostrophe
    • In contractions, 97
    • With possessive, 97, 50f
  • Application for a position, 87g
  • Articles, Omission of, 3
  • As, Incorrect use of, 50a, 68
  • Aspect of the verb, 58
  • Auxiliary
    • Defined, 58
    • Use of, 55e
  • Awful, Abuse of, 68
  • Balanced sentence, 45
  • Balanced structure, 30, 45
  • Barbarisms, 66
  • Because clauses, 5
  • Because of phrases, 5 Note
  • Be, Nominative with, 50c
  • Both ... and, 31
  • Brackets, 95e
  • Brevity for emphasis, 41, 60
  • Business letters, 87c
  • Bust or busted, 68
  • But used to excess, 38 Note
  • Can and may, 67
  • Cannot help but, 34
  • Capitals, 81
  • Case
    • Defined, 58
    • Use of, 50
  • Cause, Inaccurate statement of, 5
  • Caused by, 5 Note, 23, 68
  • Change in number or person, 33
  • Change in subject or voice, 32
  • Change in tense, 33, 55
  • Choppy sentences, 13
  • Claim, 68
  • Clauses
    • Cause, 5
    • Coördinated loosely, 14, 12
    • Defined, 58
    • House-that-Jack-built, 38
    • Misplaced, 24
    • Misused as sentences, 1, 90b
    • Restrictive and non-r., 91d
    • Subordinate. Not to be used as complete sentences, 1
    • Subordination faulty, 15
    • To be reduced to phrases, 60
    • When or where clauses, 6
  • Clearness, 20-39
  • Climax, 44
  • Coherence, 24-29
  • Colon, 93
  • Collective nouns, Number of, 51c
  • Colloquialisms, 65
  • Comma, 91, 92c Notes 1 and 2, 95b
    • After quotation, 96 Note
    • "Comma splice" or "comma fault," 18
    • Not used after question mark, 98b
  • Comparison of adjectives and adverbs, 58
  • Comparisons, Inaccurate, 4
  • Compound sentence structure in excess, 12, 14
  • Compound words, 78
  • Concreteness, 63
  • Conjugation, 58
  • Conjunctions
    • Defined, 58
    • List of, 36
    • Omitted, 37
    • Repeated carelessly, 38
  • Conjunctive adverbs
    • Defined, 58
    • Punctuation with, 92c
  • Connectives, 8, 36, 37, 38
  • Consonants
    • Between syllables, 71, 85
    • Final (in spelling), 75
  • Construction
    • Incomplete, 2
    • Mixed, 34
    • Split, 28
  • Contractions
    • Apostrophe with, 97
    • When proper, 65b
  • Coördination, Excessive, 12, 14
  • Correlatives, 31
  • Could of, 68
  • Dangling gerund, 23
  • Dangling participle, 23
  • Dash, 94
  • Dates, Writing of, 84, 91e
  • Declension, 58
  • Definition, 6 Note
  • Dialogue
    • Paragraphing, 88c
    • Punctuation before, 91h, 93a
    • Punctuation in, 96
  • Diction, Faulty (list), 68
  • Different than, 68
  • Divided reference, 20
  • Don't, 51d
  • Double capacity, Words in, 57
  • Double negative, 34 Note
  • Drownded, 68
  • Due to, Proper use of, 5 Note, 23 Note, 68
  • Each, Number of, 51a
  • ei or ie, 74
  • Either, Number of, 51a
  • Either ... or, 31
  • Ellipsis
  • Emigrate and immigrate, 67
  • Emphasis
    • By brevity, 41
    • By position, 40
    • By repetition, 47
    • By separation, 41
    • By subordination, 42, 14
    • By variety, 48
  • Enthuse, 68
  • Etc., Use of, 68
  • Euphemism, 61
  • Ever, Position of, 27
  • Every, every one, everybody, Number of, 51a
  • Exclamation point, 98e
  • Exact connective, 36
  • Exact word, 62
  • Figures, Use of, 84
  • Figures of speech, Mixed, 35
  • Final consonant (in spelling), 75
  • Final e before a suffix, 76
  • Fine, Abuse of, 68
  • Fine writing, 61
  • Flowery language, 61
  • Formal invitations, 87h
  • Former, 68
  • Gent, 68
  • Geographical names, 91e
  • Gerund
    • Dangling, 23
    • Defined, 58
    • With possessive, 50g
  • Good use, 65, 66
  • Gotten, 68
  • Grammar, 50-59
  • Grammatical terms, 58
  • Guess,68
  • Hackneyed expressions, 61
  • Had ought, 68
  • Handwriting, 80c
  • Hanged and hung, 67
  • Healthy and healthful, 67
  • Historical present, 33 Note
  • However, Position of, 27
  • Human, humans, 68
  • Hygienic and sanitary, 67
  • Hyphen
    • Between syllables, 85
    • In compound words, 78
  • Idioms, 65
  • Illogical thought, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Imagery mixed, 35
  • Impersonal construction, Needless use of, 60
  • Improprieties, 66
  • Incomplete construction, 2
  • Indefinite it, you, they, 22 Note
  • Indention of paragraphs, 88
  • Inflection, 58
  • Infinitive
    • Case with, 50e
    • Defined, 58
    • Sign of, to be repeated, 37
    • Split, 28
    • Tense of, 55
  • Instants and instance, 67
  • Interjections
  • Invitations, Formal, 87h
  • Is when clauses, 6
  • Is where clauses, 6
  • Italics, 82, 96e
  • Its (possessive adjective), without apostrophe, 50f, 97d
  • Kind of, 68
  • Later and latter, 67
  • Lead and led, 67
  • Learn and teach, 67
  • Leave and let, 67
  • Length of paragraph, 88b
  • Length of sentences, 12, 13, 48b
  • Less and fewer, 67
  • Letters, 87
  • Liable and likely, 67
  • Lie and lay, 59D, 67
  • Like (for as), 67, 68
  • List
    • Of connectives, 36
    • Of principal parts, 54
    • Of grammatical terms, 58
    • Of words confused in meaning, 67
    • Of words incorrectly used, 68
    • Of words logically akin, 72
    • Of words confused in spelling, 73
    • For spelling, 79
  • Loan, 68
  • Locate, 68
  • Logic, 4, 5, 6, 7
  • Logical Agreement, 4, 5, 6
  • Logical Sequence, 25
  • Lose and loose, 67
  • Lots of, 68
  • Majority and plurality, 67
  • Manuscript, 80
  • Might of, 68
  • Misplaced word, 27
  • Mixed constructions, 34
  • Mixed imagery, 35
  • Modal aspects, 58
  • Mode
    • Definition of, 58
    • Use of subjunctive, 55d
  • Modifiers
    • Grouping of, 24, 25
    • Needless separation of, 24, 27
    • Squinting, 26
    • Wrongly used as sentences, 1, 90b
  • Money, 84c
  • Most (for almost), 66, 68
  • Myself, Needlessly used for I or me, 68
  • Negative, Double, 34 Note
  • Neither, Number of, 51a
  • Neither ... nor, 31
  • Nice, Inaccurate use of, 62, 68
  • Nicknames, Quotations with, 96d
  • Not only ... but also, 31
  • Nouns, Classes of, 58
  • Number
    • Shift in, 33
    • These kind, etc., 51b
    • Each, Every, etc., 51a
    • Collective nouns, 51c
    • Of verbs, 52
  • Numbers, Use of, 84
    • Formation of plural, 77d, 97e
  • O and Oh, 68
  • Objective case, 50d, 50e
  • Off of, 68
  • Omission
    • Of words, 3
    • From quotations, 96i
  • Only, Position of, 27
  • Outlines, 86
  • Overlapping thought, 8 Note
  • Owing to, Proper use of, 5 Note
  • Paragraphs, 88
  • Parallel structure, 30, 31, 45
  • Parenthesis and parenthetical elements, 91e, 94a, 95
  • Participle
    • Dangling, 23
    • Definition of, 58
  • Parts of speech, 58
  • Party, Abuse of, 68
  • Passive voice, not emphatic, 46
  • Past tense, Wrong forms of, 54
  • Past perfect tense, 55
  • Period, 90, 91b, 92a Note
    • After quotation, 96g Note
    • Not used after question mark, 98b
    • "Period blunder," 1, 90b
  • Periodic sentence, 43
  • Person, Change in, 33
  • Phonetic spelling, 71 Note
  • Phrases
    • Defined, 58
    • Not to be used as sentences, 1 Note
    • Absolute, 91e
  • Plurals, Spelling of, 77
  • Poetry to be separated from prose, 41, 80b
  • Point of view, Shift in, 32
  • Ponderous language, 60
  • Possessive
    • With gerund, 50g
    • Apostrophe with, 50f, 97
    • Inanimate objects in, 50h
  • Practical and practicable, 67
  • Predicate adjective, 58
  • Predicate noun, 58
  • Prefixes, 72
  • Prepositions
    • Defined, 58
    • Omitted, 3, 37
    • Repeated carelessly, 38
  • Principal parts, 54
  • Principal and principle, 67
  • Pronouns
    • Agreement with antecedent, 50i
    • Case of, 50
    • Kinds of, 58
    • Reference of, 20, 21, 22
    • Wrong use of myself, yourself, for I, me, you, 68
  • Pronunciation as a guide to spelling, 71
  • Proof and evidence, 67
  • Proposition, Synonyms for, 62
  • Proven, 68
  • Pseudo- and quasi-, 67
  • Quiet and quite, 67
  • Question mark, 98
  • Quotation marks vs. italics, 82a Note 2, 96e
  • Quotations
  • Reason, Statement of, to be completed by a that clause, 5
  • Redundance, 60
  • Reference
  • Reflexive wrongly used for the simple pronoun, 68
  • Repetition
    • Of connectives, good, 37; bad, 38
    • Of structure, good 47b; bad 48b
    • Of words, good, 47a; bad, 48a
  • Respectfully and respectively, 67
  • Restrictive and non-restrictive clauses, 91d
  • Right smart, 68
  • Rise and raise, 59D, 67
  • Said, Synonyms for, 62
  • Same, Abuse of, 68
  • Scrappy sentences, 13
  • Semicolon, 91b, 92, 95b
    • After quotation, 96g Note
    • Not used after question mark, 98b
  • Sequence of tense, 55
  • Sequence of thought, 25
  • Series, Punctuation of, 91f, 91g, 91j 3
  • Shall and will, 53
  • Shift in number, person, or tense, 33
  • Shift in subject or voice, 32
  • Should and would, 53
  • Sit and set, 59D, 67
  • Slang, 66
    • Quotations with, 96d
  • So, 36 Note, 68
  • Some, Abuse of, 68
  • Somewheres, 68
  • Sound, 64
  • Spacing, 80b
  • Specific words, 63
  • Spelling, 70-79
  • Split construction, 28
  • Split infinitive, 28
  • Squinting, 26
  • Stationary and stationery, 67
  • Statue, stature, and statute, 67
  • Stringy sentences, 12, 14
  • Subject in nominative case, 50a
  • Subjunctive mode
    • Defined, 58
    • Use of, 55d
  • Subordinating conjunctions
    • Defined, 58
    • Enumerated, 36
  • Subordination
  • Substantive defined, 58
  • Such, 68
  • Suffixes, 75, 76
  • Superlative degree in comparisons, 4, 58
  • Sure and surely, 68
  • Suspicion, 68
  • Syllabication, 85
  • Syntax defined, 58
  • Tautology, 60 Note
  • Technical terms, Quotations with, 96d
  • Tense
    • In dependent clauses, 55a
    • In general statements, 55c
    • Past Perfect, 55b
    • Sequence of, 55
    • Shift in, 33
  • Than or as, Case of pronouns after, 50a
  • That there, 68
  • Them (misused as adjective), 68
  • These kind, 51b
  • Those, Omission of relative clause after, 2, 68
  • Thought undeveloped, 7
  • Title
    • Capitals in, 81
    • Reference to, 21 Note
    • Spacing, etc., 80a, 96j
    • Quoted (books, periodicals, etc.), 82a, 96e
  • Transitions, 8, 36
  • Transpire, 68
  • Triteness, 61
  • Undeveloped thought, 7
  • Unity, 10-19
  • Upside-down subordination, 15
  • Usage, Good, 65, 66
  • Verbals, 58
  • Verb, Forms of the, 58
  • Ways, 68
  • Weak reference, 21
  • Where at, 68
  • While, Abuse of, 36
  • Win out, 68
  • Who, whoever, 50b
  • Woods, 68
  • Would of, 68
  • Wordiness, 60
  • Words
    • Confused in meaning, 67
    • Confused in spelling, 73
    • Double capacity of, 57
    • Misused, 68
    • Omission of, 3
  • Yourself wrongly used for you, 68

Transcriber's Notes:

  • Article 7, Missing period added (Many passages are powerful, especially the grave-digging [Is grave-digging a passage?].)
  • Article 13, Changed period to colon (Exercise:)
  • Article 14, Changed period to colon (Exercise:)
  • Article 24, Added missing article "a" (In the morning     I found     on my bed     a heap of snow...)
  • Article 25, Changed "them" to "then" (Do not begin one idea, abandon it for a second, and then return to the first.)
  • Article 31, Added missing comma (not only ... but also ..., both ... and ...)
  • Article 38, Changed "men to "man" (He was undoubtedly a brave man...)
  • Article 38, Changed "trangressions" to "transgressions" (However, if it is used only for serious transgressions...)
  • Article 39, Added missing parenthesis ((Consult 36 for a list of connectives.))
  • Article 54, Changed period to colon (Exercise:)
  • Article 58, Changed "I was being taken" to "I must be taken" in the conjugation table for the verb "to take" as Present Indicative Obligative in Passive voice
  • Article 65, Changed "idoms" to "idioms" (Study the following list of correct idioms)
  • Article 65, Added missing commas (ain't it fierce?, can you beat it?, going some)
  • Article 68, Added missing quotation mark ("We oughtn't (not hadn't ought) to make this error.")
  • Article 68, Changed "Verb" to "Very" (Very. Accompanied by much when used with the past participle.)
  • Article 71, Removed italic style for the word "compare" (compare occasion)
  • Article 86, Corrected numbering in a list changing "2." to "3." (3. Place in order the headings of the following outline)
  • Article 88, Added missing parenthesis ((In some instances the paragraph may consist of a single sentence.))
  • Article 88, Changed comma to period (We'll have a rope down to you in a minute.)
  • Article 91, Added missing parenthesis ((She came and she was gone in a moment. McCoy talked and the rest of us listened.))
  • Article 91, Changed period to colon (Right: For breakfast we had oatmeal, bacon, eggs, and honey.)
  • Article 92, Changed period to colon (Better: She enjoyed the dinners, and the dancing, and the music)
  • Article 94, Changed "d." to "b.", and "b." to "d." (b. Insert a dash when a sentence is broken off abruptly.; d. The use of the dash to end sentences is childish.)
  • Article 95, Changed "dedeclared" to "declared" ("Bunyan's masterpiece (The Pilgrim's Progress)," declared the lecturer)
  • INDEX, Changed period to comma (Impersonal construction, Needless use of)

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