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English Center CoordinatorChristopher Heuer, Professor EnglishChristopher.Heuer@gallaudet.edu
Math Center CoordinatorSusanna Henderson, Lecturer II STEMsusanna.firstname.lastname@example.org
ASL Center CoordinatorRobin Massey, ASL Departmentaslcenter@gallaudet.edu
Here are tips a number of common writers frequently make grammar and punctuation mistakes. Therefore, the following tips focus on the common errors that writers have been encountered in their papers. It is not about reviewing all the necessary grammar and punctuation rules; rather, it is an overview to help writers troubleshoot common errors.
Capital letters are used with:
However, a word like a, an, the, but, for, and is not capitalized unless it is the first word of the title or the first word after a colon.
The two main uses of the apostrophe are:
Use quotation marks when you want to show the exact words of a speaker or writer. Place all commas and periods inside of the quotation marks.
Use quotation marks when you want to quote or show the titles of short stories, novellas, articles, chapter titles in books, poems, television shows, songs, and papers that you write.
Use italics or underline to show the titles of books, magazines, newspapers, plays, art masterpieces, and long musical compositions.
Commas often show a pause in a sentence. There are nine main uses of the comma:
A noun is a person, place, thing, quality, concept or action. The first letters of some nouns are capitalized to show a specific name or title (Greg). These are called proper nouns. Other nouns that are not specific do not use a capital letter (man). These are called common nouns. Nouns that have a singular and plural form are called count nouns. Nouns that only have a singular form are called non-count nouns. For example, homework is a non-count noun.
A verb is a word that tells what the subject of the sentence does. The verb tells the action of the sentence. Sometimes the action shows movement (jump) or sometimes it shows how a thing is or that it exists (is). The verb also shows time which is called tense. The form of the verb or its tense can tell when the action takes place.
If you are writing more than one sentence (a paragraph, an essay, etc), you should try to use a consistent tense. In other words, if you begin in the past, stay in the past, do not shift to the present tense without a good reason. Constant changes in tense confuse the reader. For example:
"A" and "An" are used before general or non-specific count nouns such as people, animals, things and places. But they cannot be used before non-count nouns. "The" is used before specific names of people, animals, things and places (for both count and non-count nouns).
Grammatically, modal verbs behave in a different way from ordinary verbs. They do not show tense and do not follow subject/verb agreement rules. The structure of the sentence is subject + modal + second verb.
Never add -s, -es, -ed, or -ing to the second verb.
In English, the subject and verb of a sentence must agree. In the present tense, all singular subjects except I and you require that you add 's' or 'es' to the verb. If the subject is plural, do not add 's' or 'es' to the verb.
Remember, most nouns use -s or -es to show plurality while verbs do not. If your sentence has an -s on the subject and an -s on the verb, your sentence is probably wrong.
Pronouns are substitutes for nouns that keep writers from unnecessarily repeating words in writing.
In the above example, her takes the place of Carol. Just like verbs and subjects must agree, pronouns have to agree with the noun or verb they are replacing.
Words in a pair or a series should have parallel structure. Parallel structure means that if you write a sentence that uses two verb infinitives, for example, then add a third verb, all three verbs should use infinitives. However, you only need to use the word to for the first verb. It will automatically apply to the other verbs in the list.
Every sentence must have a subject and a verb and must express a complete thought. A word group that lacks a subject or a verb and that does not express a complete thought is a fragment.
Adjectives made from Verbs (-ED/-ING)
Verbs of EMOTION can become Adjectives by adding either ED or ING.
Verb+ED becomes an adjective when it is used to describe a person or animal that experiences an emotion. You can call this adjective the Experiencer adjective.
Verb+ING becomes an adjective when it is used to describe the things that cause an emotion. You can call this the Instigator (Causing) adjective.
Commonly Confused Words
You're and Your
To and Too
They're and Their
It's and Its
Whose and Who's
Advice and Advise
Effect and Affect
Some words can become different parts of speech by changing their endings or their placement in the sentence. The forms of these words look almost the same, but depending on which part of speech they are, their spelling changes.
Some words use the same spelling for different forms of the word, but depending on how it is used in the sentence, it can mean different things.
If you would like to see more sample words and their various forms, look at our Word Endings page.
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