I am having trouble with grammar and punctuation.

Often we think about grammar and punctuation as the last thing we check before we’re finished with a piece of writing. Another way to think about grammar and punctuation, though, is to consider the way in which these writing features can create meaning and pacing. It’s also important to keep in mind what grammar and punctuation conventions your reader might be expecting. Working with grammar and punctuation in this way can help you keep these features in the forefront of your mind as you’re writing, instead of applying them at the end. Here are some tips for making your grammar and punctuation choices purposeful.

  • Get familiar with the conventions you don’t know. Writing handbooks and also online resources can give you the basic and common expectations about grammar and punctuation choices. Read some of these sources to see what your options are for certain punctuation and other writing features.

  • As you read in your field or even just generally, pay attention to and keep a list of grammar and punctuation practices that you like. You can use these as models when you’re writing to give yourself more practice.

  • Become a better editor or proof-reader. If you have trouble with commas, for example, use the Find function in your word processor to locate all the times you use that punctuation and to see if you made the right decision. This strategy can work with all kinds of writing features. Also, using the highlight function to look at one sentence at a time can help you focus on the smaller details of the sentence’s construction rather than just the meaning. Try different strategies for proof-reading until you find the one that works best for you.

What can the Writing Center do to help?

Although the consultants in the Writing Center are not editors, we can help you develop editing strategies. Our consultants can also help you practice writing with different grammar and punctuation features so that you can explore the uses that work best for you and the particular piece you’re writing. We also offer a variety of handouts that cover common grammar and punctuation conventions.