Grammar Trouble Spots:
Use to separate words and word groups in a series of three or more items.
Example: I like coffee, tea, and water.
Use to separate two adjectives when the order of the adjectives is interchangeable.
Example: Please be careful moving the heavy, bulky boxes.
Use when two independent clauses are joined by conjunctions (for, and, nor, but,
Example: Warm weather is nice, but I dislike all of the bugs!
Use when starting a sentence with a dependent clause.
Example: After she finishes her general studies degree at MVCC, Dana will transfer to another school for two more years.
Use with however, therefore, moreover, and furthermore.
Example 1: Therefore, students should meet with their advisors every semester.
Example 2: Scheduling classes can be complicated; therefore, students should meet with their advisors.
Comma splices include two independent clauses joined together with a comma and no conjunction. Independent clauses are basically complete sentences, so adding a comma without a conjunction creates a run-on sentence.
Example: Using proper grammar is an essential academic skill, run-on sentences are a common grammatical error.
Fix comma splices
Add a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
Example: Using proper grammar is an essential academic skill, but run-on sentences are a common grammatical error.
Change the comma to a semicolon.
Example: Using proper grammar is an essential academic skill; run-on sentences are a common grammatical error.
Put a period where there is currently a comma, making two sentences.
Example: Using proper grammar is an essential academic skill. Run-on sentences are a common grammatical error.
It is important for writing to flow and make sense, so the option a writer chooses
to fix a comma splice will vary. If you would like more information on comma splices,
visit Fixing Comma Splices from the University of Toronto.
Semicolons add variety to your sentences, and with a few tips, you can learn to use them. They are stronger than a comma, yet they are not quite as powerful as a period.
Rule 1: Use a semicolon to join related independent clauses; do not use a conjunction between the clauses.
Example: The semester is almost over; I have three research papers and two final exams next week.
Rule 2: Use semicolons in a serial list when it has internal punctuation or is lengthy:
Example: I have visited various local cities: Utica, New York; Syracuse, New York; Rochester, New York; Rome, New York; Buffalo, New York.
Rule 3: Use Semicolons with Conjunctive Adverbs (moreover, nevertheless, however, otherwise, therefore, then, finally, likewise, and consequently)
Example: I enjoy going to college; however, life in the dorms has been a challenge.
Example: Some city streets need to be widened; moreover, the substantial pot holes must be fixed.
If you would like more information on semicolons, visit the University of Wisconsin - Madison's page on semicolons.
Run-on sentences involve joining two independent clauses without proper punctuation. These are also called fused sentences.
Example: I am a psychology major I enjoy learning about how the mind works.
Fixing run-on sentences
- Add a conjunction and a comma (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
Example: I am a psychology major, and I enjoy learning about how the mind works.
- Add because
Example: I am a psychology major because I enjoy learning about how the mind works.
- Add a semicolon
Example: I am a psychology major; I enjoy learning about how the mind works.
- Put a period between the independent clauses, and capitalize the start of each sentence.
Example: I am a psychology major. I enjoy learning about how the mind works.
Note: Another common type of run-on sentence is the comma splice. Example: I am a psychology major, I enjoy learning about how the mind works. A
comma is not the proper punctuation for the sentence. You can learn more about comma-splices
by reading our comma splice document. If you would like more information on run-ons,
visit the University of Minnesota's quick tips.
Rule 1: Capitalize the start of a new sentence
Example: Always proofread your paper for capitalization errors. Do not rely on the software to find all of your mistakes.
Rule 2: Capitalize proper nouns and names but not pronouns
Example: Have you met Jocelyn? If not, go and talk to her!
Rule 3: Capitalize days, months, and holidays; do not capitalize seasons.
Examples: Monday, June, and Christmas vs. spring, fall, winter, and summer.
Rule 4: In MLA, capitalize most words in a title.
Example: Learning the Basics of Capitalization
Rule 5: Capitalize acronyms.
Example: MVCC, FBI, CNN
Rule 6: Capitalize I (note that Google Docs will not alert you of the lowercase i).
Example: My instructor keeps deducting points because Google Docs does not correct my first person pronoun. My friends tell me I should use Microsoft Word to avoid this problem.
Capitalization can become a bit confusing. For example, you must capitalize Grandma Susie, Professor Shaw, God and Mayor Smith, but you do not capitalize the following: my grandmother, my professor, a god, or the mayor. Also, you must capitalize New York City but not the city of New York. For more information, visit More Capitalization Rules.