A directory of resources inthe field of technical communication.


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Grammar is a term for the rules governing the use of any given language. Along with diction (choice of words), it is an important part of quality communication. Technical communication deliverables are often judged by these rules, and as a result, technical communicators are often relatively skilled in the theory and practice of them. Grammar is often discussed in the contexts of rhetoric, writing, editing, presentations and collaboration.



5th Grade Grammar: Take the Quiz!

If you think your grammar skills are top notch, take this 5th grade grammar quiz to find out!

Eftekhar, Christina. Carolina Communique (2012). Articles>Writing>Grammar


America the Beautiful

Writers of English have choices. Most every word we commit to paper (or its electronic equivalent) has a synonym

Wenger, Andrea. Carolina Communique (2007). Articles>Writing>Grammar>Tropes


The American Heritage Book of English Usage  (link broken)

This book is designed to inform you about current problems in English usage so you can make intelligent decisions when communicating. When confronted with a choice about a usage, you may ask yourself a number of questions: Has this usage been criticized for some reason in the past? If so, are these criticisms substantial? What are the linguistic and social issues involved? Have people frequently applied this usage in the past, and for how long? What do well-respected writers think of the usage today? You will find answers to these and many other questions in this book.

Bartleby.com (1996). Reference>Style Guides>Diction>Grammar


Appearing for Sentence

Commas, semi-colons and colons are the sentence tidiers. Used correctly, they'll give your written language the 'punctuation' that pauses, voice modulations and gestures provide when you speak.

Right Words (2006). Articles>Writing>Style Guides>Grammar


Assembly Instructions for a Correct Sentence: The Sentence Diagram   (link broken)   (PDF)

This workshop explores the whys and hows of sentence diagramming. Knowledge of the time-honored technique can aid editors, writers, and instructors in preventing and correcting pesky errors in sentence structure, including dangling modifiers, misplaced modifiers, and faulty parallelism. Diagramming offers the familiar look of technical drawings, the comforting feel of pencil on paper, and unmatched analytical potential.

Jennings, Ann S. STC Proceedings (1999). Articles>Writing>Grammar


Awareness Versus Production: Probing Students’ Antecedent Genre Knowledge

This article explores the role of students’ prior, or antecedent, genre knowledge in relation to their developing disciplinary genre competence by drawing on an illustrative example of an engineering genre-competence assessment. The initial outcomes of this diagnostic assessment suggest that students’ ability to successfully identify and characterize rhetorical and textual features of a genre does not guarantee their successful writing performance in the genre. Although previous active participation in genre production (writing) seems to have a defining influence on students’ ability to write in the genre, such participation appears to be a necessary but insufficient precondition for genre-competence development. The authors discuss the usefulness of probing student antecedent genre knowledge early in communication courses as a potential source for macrolevel curriculum decisions and microlevel pedagogical adjustments in course design, and they propose directions for future research.

Artemeva, Natasha and Fox, Janna. Journal of Business and Technical Communication (2011). Articles>Education>Grammar


Basics for Communicating Clearly

Like the pronouns I, he, she, we, and they, the pronoun who is used as the subject of a verb.

Shacklock, Linda. STC Phoenix (2006). Articles>Writing>Grammar


The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation  (link broken)

Jane Straus' easy-to-use reference guide and workbook is now available as an online resource. This popular book is an indispensable and entertaining guide for writers, proofreaders, editors, managers, clerical staff, teachers, and students. Use this site to find the answers to your questions concerning proper English grammar and punctuation.

Straus, Jane. Grammarbook.com (2004). Reference>Style Guides>Grammar


Review: The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation  (link broken)   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

If you are still struggling to decode the complex jargon and structure of English grammar with a long list of reference books, relax. The long wait for a reader-friendly book on English grammar is over. With her straightforward and perfectly-logical approach, Jane Straus reveals the mysteries of grammar and punctuations in her book The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation. The book is extremely well-organized, allowing readers to quickly locate the required topics. Concepts are described in clear and simple phrases, backed with examples from everyday language usage.

Kudesia, Saurabh. International Journal for Technical Communication (2006). Articles>Reviews>Style Guides>Grammar


Breaking the Rules  (link broken)   (PDF)

In our early writing years, many of us toiled under strict teachers who drilled the rules of English grammar into our collective consciousness. We sweated drops of blood on our pristine paper as we tried to craft perfect sentences for that much-desired 'A.' We prayed that we didn’t leave a word or clause misplaced or dangling for the teacher’s angry red pen to mark. Yet pick up a work of modern fiction, and you might notice that the writer has broken many of the rules that were drummed into our impressionable heads. These days, fiction often resembles the casual style of postmodern poetry, with sentence fragments and punctuation sprinkled about like seasoning. But in technical communication, we can’t be so casual. We must adhere to those rules of grammar our English teachers upheld— at least, for the most part.

Gallagher, Jolie A. Intercom (2002). Articles>Writing>Grammar>Technical Writing


Business Writing Tips for Technical Communicators

Technical communication tends to focus on delivering objective information in a clear, accurate, and accessible way. Business writing, on the other hand, often has an emotional component. Sometimes we have to deliver bad news. Sometimes we need to gather information from people already stressed because they’re busy with other things. Here are some tips for effective business writing.

Wenger, Andrea. Carolina Communique (2010). Articles>Writing>Technical Writing>Grammar


Caught in the Active  (link broken)

Have you been told, perhaps by your computerised grammar checker, that too many of your sentences are passive? Have you heard the rule of thumb that at least 80 percent of the sentences in any passage should be active? If you've had the problem or heard the rule, and wonder what the terms active and passive mean, and why one is good and the other frowned on, this article is for you.

Right Words. Articles>Writing>Style Guides>Grammar


Collecting Books about Editing  (link broken)   (PDF)

Intercom's 'friendly editor' discusses his extensive collection of dictionaries, grammars, and other books of interest.

Bush, Donald W. Intercom (2005). Articles>Editing>Style Guides>Grammar


Common Errors in English

Offers an extensive list of commonly confused words, their definitions and the correct way to use them.

Brians, Paul. Washington State University. Reference>Style Guides>Grammar


Common Errors to Avoid in Scientific Writing

This handout defines and shows examples of grammar, usage, and style errors commonly seen in undergraduate writing in the sciences. During class, students might be asked to revise each example.

conneXions (2008). Articles>Scientific Communication>Technical Editing>Grammar


Commonly Used and Misused Punctuation Marks  (link broken)

Defines the functions of several punctuation marks and provides examples of their correct usage.

LR Communication Systems (1999). Reference>Style Guides>Grammar


Conquering the Comma  (link broken)   (PowerPoint)

This presentation introduces your students to the rules of comma usage, including placement in compound sentences, after introductory elements, with dependent phrases and clauses, around non-essential elements, in a series, and with adjectives. This presentation also covers methods for avoiding a common comma error--the comma splice. This presentation is ideal for the beginning of a composition course, the assignment of a writing project, or as a refresher presentation for grammar usage.

Liethen, Jennifer Kunka. Purdue University. Presentations>Slideshows>Style Guides>Grammar


Control the Pace

Control the pace of the story by varying sentence length.

Clark, Roy Peter. Poynter Online (2004). Articles>Writing>Grammar>Rhetoric


Correcting Text Production Errors: Isolating the Effects of Writing Mode From Error Span, Input Mode, and Lexicality   (peer-reviewed)   (members only)

Error analysis involves detecting, diagnosing, and correcting discrepancies between the text produced so far (TPSF) and the writers mental representation of what the text should be. The use of different writing modes, like keyboard-based word processing and speech recognition, causes different type of errors during text production. While many factors determine the choice of error-correction strategy, cognitive effort is a major contributor to this choice. This research shows how cognitive effort during error analysis affects strategy choice and success as measured by a series of online text production measures. Text production is shown to be influenced most by error span, that is, whether the error spans more or less than two characters. Next, it is influenced by input mode, that is, whether the error has been generated by speech recognition or keyboard, and finally by lexicality, that is, whether the error comprises an existing word. Correction of larger error spans is more successful than that of smaller errors. Writers impose a wise speed accuracy trade-off during large error spans since correction is better, but preparation times (time to first action) and production times take longer, and interference reaction times are slower. During large error spans, there is a tendency to opt for error correction first, especially when errors occurred in the condition in which the TPSF is not preceded by an auditory prompt. In general, the addition of speech frees the cognitive demands of writing. Writers also opt more often to continue text production when the TPSF is presented auditorially first.

Leijten, Mariëlle, Luuk Van Waes and Sarah Ransdell. Written Communication (2010). Articles>Writing>Editing>Grammar


Creative Indents

Indenting the first line of every paragraph is a habit most of us acquired in grammar school. However, for those daring souls who have always insisted on coloring outside the lines, it’s time to consider using a different style paragraph indent. There are more options than you might have realized!

Strizver, Ilene. Upper and lowercase Magazine (2001). Design>Typography>Style Guides>Grammar


A Critique of Grammatical Coverage in Business-Communication Textbooks   (PDF)

Business English (BE) and business communication (BC) overlap. English handles linguistic mechanics and style, whereas communication holistically discusses the movement of a message from one person to another. The BC discipline, unfortunately, allows language basics into its pedagogy like a statistics course teaching fundamental mathematics. From the other side, some English courses teach BC before their students are able to handle that material. A subject teaches prepared students. If they are deficient, they are either kept out or the subject matter suffers.

Kenman, Leon F. Association for Business Communication (2004). Articles>Education>Grammar>Business Communication


Dangling for Position

Dangling modifiers can be humorous for the reader, but humiliating for the writer. They're insidious, creeping into our prose and undermining our sentence structure. But they're easy to find if you know what to look for.

Wenger, Andrea. Carolina Communique (2006). Articles>Writing>Grammar


Do You Suffer from Grammar Obsessive Disorder?  (link broken)

We look at the symptoms of this scourge of professional communicators—and offer help on how you can cope with its virulent manifestations.

MyRaganTV (2009). Humor>Multimedia>Video>Grammar


Dodge the Grammar Traps

You don't have to swallow a grammar book to write correctly. If you can just avoid ten serious and very common traps, your chances of making a grammar mistake drop dramatically.

McAlpine, Rachel. Quality Web Content (2004). Articles>Writing>Grammar


Don't Lose Your Articles

One of the difficult concepts to understand in the English language is perhaps the manner in which articles are used in a sentence. Over the course of one's life history, every student of English has had to face this nightmare at one point of time or another. The verbs are all in place and you know the nouns, the pronouns are fairly obvious, and the prepositions can eventually be worked out, but what comes before the word year and what comes before SMS is tricky.

Sastry, Uma. Indus (2009). Articles>Writing>Diction>Grammar



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