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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Don't Lose Your Articles - Part Two

In spite of having the thumb rules with us, we may still be at times unsure of placing the right articles. You may wonder sometimes like Sir Henry Higgins and say, ‘Why can’t we place the articles like the way it should be?’

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


Double Take

If you write documentation for products that can be dangerous if misused, ambiguity is scarier than rush hour traffic on I-40. If you already know what the sentence means, it's difficult to perceive that it could be taken to mean something else. By stringently applying rules of grammar, you help eliminate potential ambiguity even when you don't perceive it. Technical content is difficult enough to navigate; give the reader a clear path so he can focus on the journey instead of the road.

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


Double Take

When I peer-review a four-page document and insert the word the seventeen times, I wonder: Is this what my company is paying me to do? Am I truly adding value for my customers?

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


Dr. Grammar

Dr. Grammar may provide help with your grammar questions.

Dr. Grammar. Resources>Language>Grammar


Emphasize This!

Technical communicators tend to be problem solvers. We ask ourselves, 'How can I make this better?' We don't want our instruction material to simply be serviceable; we want it to help make our readers' lives easier. One way we do that is by anticipating mistakes that users might make if they don't read carefully. We use various techniques to emphasize material that could otherwise be overlooked. Some effective means of drawing the reader's eye to important material are presented below. Note that this article doesn't address safety messages. For proper use of safety messages, consult your corporate guidelines and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).

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


Escape From the Grammar Trap

Too many editors focus on the details and don't pay enough attention to the bigger picture. Editors can--and should--add even more value through substantive, technical, and usability editing. Copyediting is important, but the details are only part of what an editor can and should be reviewing. After all, a document can be correctly spelled and punctuated, grammatically correct, use only approved terminology, and follow the style guide perfectly--and still not serve the audience's needs. This article covers some reasons why editors focus on details and not the bigger picture; describes how much attention technical communicators should pay to formal rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage; and describes how we can distinguish between essential and nonessential rules of grammar, punctuation, and usage.

Weber, Jean Hollis. TECHWR-L (2002). Articles>Editing>Grammar


Every Noun Can Be...

When is a noun not a noun? When it's been verbed. A lot of verbing is going on, as you've probably noticed. In fact, it's happening so frequently that I think we'd better come up with a name for the part of speech produced by verbing a noun.

Allison, Nancy. Boston Broadside (1989). Articles>Writing>Diction>Grammar


Fear Not the Long Sentence

Everyone fears the long sentence. Editors fear it. Readers fear it. Most of all, writers fear it. Even I fear it. But...

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


Fear of Punctuation

So maybe you do know how to add memory to your computer or program your cell phone, but do you know where to put a comma in a sentence? If you have a sentence followed by a list, do you use a semicolon or a colon? Does the period go inside or outside of quotation marks? How do you keep up with changing rules of grammar and punctuation when you can't remember where to put the apostrophe? People often fear punctuation because the rules have changed and they continue to do so.

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


Review: Fifty Years of Stupid Grammar Advice

April 16 is the 50th anniversary of the publication of a little book that is loved and admired throughout American academe. Celebrations, readings, and toasts are being held, and a commemorative edition has been released. I won't be celebrating. The Elements of Style does not deserve the enormous esteem in which it is held by American college graduates. Its advice ranges from limp platitudes to inconsistent nonsense. Its enormous influence has not improved American students' grasp of English grammar; it has significantly degraded it.

Pullum, Geoffrey K. Chronicle of Higher Education (2009). Articles>Reviews>Style Guides>Grammar



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