Teach your students how to punctuate dialogue correctly

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Punctuating dialogue can be confusing.  Writers are encouraged to quote exact words in fictional writing, personal writing, and other genres too. 

Nonetheless, that does not mean that the rule for when to use a capital letter and other punctuation marks is clear. 


This PowerPoint provides a number of examples relevant to the punctuation of dialogue.  The simple explanations combined with the examples will get students on the right track to having characters conversing on paper to evoke emotional responses from their readers. 

After all, stating someone’s exact words is a lot more meaningful than just casually telling what was said.

Click here to download the presentation

How to write a well developed paragraph

Transient

Breaking the monotony of five sentence paragraphs can be challenging.  Students get in the habit of checking off their topic sentence, three supporting details, and conclusion sentence with a sigh.  Unfortunately, what these students do not realize is that as they age, their paragraphs should too! 


By encouraging students to use a variety of detail types in their writing, they will excel to new heights in their composition of a well-developed paragraph.  When practicing using these detail types, keep in mind that you may need to encourage students to make up believable statistics, quotations, etc.  The focus is NOT on research; the focus is on constructing paragraphs that are well-developed and break the elementary style of five sentences and being done.  This is a great lesson to use following the “Detail types to strengthen nonfiction writing” resource that is also available on edgalaxy.com.

Click here to download the resources and lesson plan.

Free Classroom Posters: The 8 Parts of Speech

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I must admit that as a student I never really understood the difference between nouns, adverbs, interjections and the other parts of speech all that well.

Then when I went to university I almost convinced myself that they were an area of superfluous knowledge when I succeeded at a tertiary level with little to no knowledge of them

As a teacher though. I was quickly found out when trying to give my students the tools and language to make their writing more mature and appealing to specific audiences. 

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To address this I have spent quite a bit of time brushing up my own knowledge on the 8 parts of common speech.

  • Nouns
  • Verbs
  • Pronouns
  • Adjectives
  • Prepositions
  • Conjunctions
  • Interjections
  • Adverbs

To remind me of this I have made 9 posters to share with anyone who wants them that outline the purpose, example words and sentences for each of the 8 areas.

Click here to download them and enjoy.

*Please note all of our posters are originally designed using high resolution images and fonts at A3 paper size.

Be aware it will be automatically resized to your default paper size when using Adobe Acrobat Reader without any loss of quality. If you would like to print these documents at larger sizes you can read the Adobe Resize & Scaling FAQ here.

We recommend laminating them for best results.

Finally if you would like to purchase a completely editable version of this document to alter without any restrictions you can purchase it for $10.00 simply by emailing us.

Apostrophes, Bloody Apostrophes!

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Please feel free to print and distribute this material if you find it is useful.
This work is published under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Apostrophes are probably the most misused punctuation marks in contemporary written English. When used correctly, they enhance language by providing extra information in a sentence to better convey your meaning. When not used correctly, they can muddle your message and irritate pedants like myself.

It is not widely known that there is an international siblinghood that takes note of these things and applies harsh, but just, measures when serial offenders are identified. Next time you get a cockroach in your coffee when dining out, ask yourself, "Have I been misplacing my apostrophes lately?". You may not have noticed, but believe me, others have!

There are two primary situations when apostrophes are used. The first is to denote ownership and the second to indicate an abbreviation. (A 'contraction' I think is the technical term.)


Ownership

When two words are linked through one having some sort of ownership over another the apostrophe indicates this.

The girl's cat killed an alarming number of small native birds.

The girl owns a cat. When we refer to her cat, we use an apostrophe to show this.
Incidentally, cat skins make great hats. To wit: The environmental warrior's hat was made entirely of cat skins. (Note the apostrophe.)


Using Apostrophes with Singular and Plural Words

When one person owns something, the apostrophe comes before the 's'. When more than one person owns something, the apostrophe comes after the 's'.

The girl's cat bit the postman.

One girl had a cat, to the postman's regret.

The girls' cat bit the postman.

The cat was owned by more than one girl - perhaps they were sisters with a perverse dislike of male mail personnel.

The tree's limbs fell on the hiker's tent - rendering him temporarily disgruntled.

One tree dropped some limbs onto a tent belonging to one hiker. You know immediately there was one tree dropping limbs onto the tent of one hiker.

The trees' limbs fell on the hikers' tent - rendering them pained on the scone.

More than one tree dropped limbs onto a tent belonging to more than one hiker. You know immediately there were multiple trees dropping limbs onto the tent inhabited by multiple hikers.

The tree's limb fell on the hikers' tent - rendering them temporarily disgruntled.

One tree dropped a limb onto a tent belonging to more than one hiker - one hopes they were not overcrowded in there. You know immediately that the limbs came from one tree but that there was more than one hiker.

It gets more complicated if the word doing the owning is already plural. Then the apostrophe comes before the 's' again.

The crowd's wrath was tangible.

We know a crowd is more than one person, but as it is a collective term it is treated as a singular. After all, there is only one crowd.

The people's will was expressed to Jeffrey, but to Jeffrey's ultimate demise, he didn't listen.

The 'will' belongs to the people, the 'ultimate demise' belongs to Jeffrey.


Abbreviations

When two words are condensed into one, and some characters are dropped out, we use an apostrophe to illustrate that this has happened.

Don't we?

Do not we?

I shouldn't leave now, as the bailiff is waiting outside for me.

I should not leave now, as the consequences could be ugly.


Exceptions

The main exceptions are its and it's. It's means it is. For possession use its.

It's a rather hot day today.

It is a rather hot day today.

The dog chased its tail

The tail belongs to the dog but this is an exception so no apostrophe. You wouldn't say 'the dog chased it is tail' would you?


Never

Never use an apostrophe when a word simply ends in 's' because it's plural.

The use of the apostrophe in the word highlighted in red below, "boat's" is incorrect.

There was a large number of boat's.

The 's' just means there were more than one. It makes no sense whatever to include an apostrophe there.


This page was created and is maintained by Ian Wright, (former Manager of Learning Innovation at the University of Ballarat - now working at the University of the Sunshine Coast in Queensland). I welcome feedback and comments and can be emailed at misterianwright[at]gmail.com. I'd like to acknowledge the many people who've provided feedback and those who have made suggestions - resulting in a number of improvements to this page. This page was first written in the early 90's of last century as a paper-based document. Like many of us, it has since migrated onto the Internet.

I also acknowledge the anonymous person who took me to task for my alleged 'cat hating'! I don't hate cats, but I do hate them being in environments where they are unrestrained and destroy precious native wildlife.

Last updated: Oct 4 2012

10 Common grammatical errors that drive teachers nuts.

Hey, I'll be the first to admit that everyone makes the odd grammatical error every once inow and then.  But there is an ever growing incidence of students are making unforgivable mistakes with their grammar because it is almost common place.

These mistakes might get overlooked in junior high or elementary school, but as students start going for jobs and or university places these common grammatical errors can be near fatal in some employers and educators eyes.

So... Here are ten of the most common grammatical errors that every teacher should aim to drive out their students before the end of the year.

Let us know if you have any others.

"Alot"

Despite not being an actual word, "alot" certainly sees a staggering amount of usage both on the Internet and in the classroom. More of a spelling error forcing "a" and "lot" into an unholy portmanteau than a grammar offense, it nevertheless elicits more than a few eyetwitches.

Your vs. You’re

This one drives me insane, and it’s become extremely common among bloggers. All it takes to avoid this error is to take a second and think about what you’re trying to say.

“Your” is a possessive pronoun, as in “your car” or “your blog.” “You’re” is a contraction for “you are,” as in “you’re screwing up your writing by using your when you really mean you are.”

There vs. Their

This one seems to trip up everyone occasionally, often as a pure typo. Make sure to watch for it when you proofread.

“There” is used many ways, including as a reference to a place (“let’s go there”) or as a pronoun (“there is no hope”). “Their” is a plural possessive pronoun, as in “their bags” or “their opinions.” Always do the “that’s ours!” test—are you talking about more than one person and something that they possess? If so, “their” will get you there.

Tense disagreement

Before turning in that term paper, do make sure that every verb tense agrees with one another. Otherwise, one ends up creating an exceptionally awkward reading experience.

In my personal opinion:

If it's your opinion, it's personal. The qualifier "personal" is redundant. This one is so often used, though, that it can be hard to avoid.

Affect or Effect:

It's not entirely surprising that these are mixed up often, given their similar spellings and meanings. Affect is a verb, and effect is a noun. You can affect something, which might have an effect.

"Ain’t"

Some enjoy touting, "ain’t ain’t a word," but its cozy little spot in Merriam-Webster would beg to disagree. Although this doesn’t mean it inherently works in a formal writing piece. Save it for something more casual — or fiction.

Punctuation outside quotation marks

When writing dialogue or embedding a quote, remember that any appropriate punctuation belongs inside the quotation marks.

Loose/lose

"Loose" happens when something isn’t tight, whereas "lose" provides verbage for the phenomenon of a noun managing to either disappear or seem like it did.

15 GRAMMAR GOOFS THAT MAKE YOU LOOK SILLY.

Believe me, the English language is a complex beast.  I teach it and regularly get feedback from readers who point out the errors I make in my blog posts that have been a little too rushed.

This infographic below highlights some of the most common grammatical errors we make.  Feel free to contrubute others below.

15 Grammar Goofs That Make You Look Silly

Video to Teach about Personal Pronouns

This video does a great job teaching kids how to use personal pronouns by giving them a song that will really get stuck in their heads.  It is reallly quite effective with primary / elementary students but will be effective on students of all ages.

Grammarly: The World's Most Accurate Grammar Checker

Grammarly is an automated proofreader and your personal grammar coach. Check your writing for grammar, punctuation, style and much more.  It is far more advanced than Microsoft Word and as a teacher it actually offers students a greater understanding of the fundamentals of correct grammar by providing examples and putting grammar into context.

Grammarly also has a very advanced plagiarism checker for those students who are a little too fond of the good old, copy and paste.

Using Grammarly Is Easy

  • Copy and paste a text into the editor. Press “Start Review,” then wait for the review process to finish.
  • Get a detailed report highlighting mistakes and other issues.
  • Review a list of issues and suggestions for improvement.

Grammarly vs. Microsoft® Word - Example mistakes caught only by Grammarly

Contextual Spelling The philosopher did not speak allowed often.
Modifier Presenting your ideas effectively improves communication.
Preposition Be careful for the ice, the steps are slippery!
Punctuation "Let's go outside" said the boy.
Quantifier Do you want more or less apples?