Subject/ Verb Agreement

The subject/verb agreement rules states the main subject and the main verb must align in the same sentence. If the main subject is singular, the main verb will be singular and if the main subject is plural, the main verb will be plural.
  1. The subject and verb must match, even if they aren’t next to each other.
            EXAMPLE: The group of researchers is working on the study.
Singular noun: group refers to singular verb: is
*tip: Always ignore the nouns in prepositional phrases when determining if it’s single or plural.

2.    Subject joined by and take on a plural verb.
            EXAMPLE: The students and teachers were talking on the lawn.
Plural nouns: students, teachers refers to the plural verb: talking
*tip: When phrases refer to individual items such as “each student” or “every animal”
always use a singular verb.

3.   When the nouns are separated by or or nor look to the last noun to determine if verb is singular  
      or plural.
            EXAMPLE: Neither the players or the coach wanted to run five miles.
Singular noun: participant refers to the singular verb: run
            EXAMPLE: Either the class or the instructors clean the lunch tables.
Plural noun: instructors refer to the plural verb: clean

4.    Collective nouns (team, couple, employees) always take on a single verb.
            EXAMPLE: The team decided to go to the championship.
Singular noun: team refers to the singular verb: go

5.    Connectives, or items connected with phrases such as combined, coupled by, accompanied by, do not change the number of items.
EXAMPLE: Vinegar, combined with oil, makes a great salad dressing.
Singular noun: vinegar refers to singular verb: makes

6.    Indefinite pronouns such as: “anything, anywhere, anybody, anyone, each, either, neither,
everyone, everybody, nobody, somebody, someone” are singular.
            EXAMPLE: Each researcher is excited about the project.
                        Singular noun: each refers to singular verb: is

7.    Concerning fraction, the verb agrees with the whole item.
EXAMPLE: One-fourth of the cookies are gone.
                        Plural noun: cookies refers to plural verb: are

8.    Items such as scissors or trousers are singular even though they are a pair.
            EXAMPLE: The scissors is in the drawer.
                        Singular noun: scissors refer to singular noun: is

9.    Plural form subject are usually singular in a title.
            EXAMPLE: Mathematics is important to daily life.
                        Singular noun: mathematics refers to singular verb: is
10.  “They” can be single if referring to a single person or plural if referring to a group of people.
      EXAMPLE: There are many students. They are ready to begin the race.
                  Plural noun: they refers to the plural noun: are

Sentence Verb Agreement Quiz


Pronouns must agree in number, gender (if defined), and person with their antecedents.
Examples of indefinite pronouns that are always singular:
Anybody Everybody Anyone Everyone
Anything Everything Another Each
Either Neither One No one
Nobody Someone somebody  
Examples of indefinite pronouns that are always plural:
Both Few Several Many
Singular: Neither of the interns at work was injured trying to open the door.
Plural: Both of the interns at work were injured trying to open the door.
The singular pronoun neither refers to the singular verb was. The plural pronoun both refers to the plural verb were.
Singular: Anybody is able to help with the project.


For a sentence to be complete, it needs two things: a subject – predicate unit and a complete thought.
Sentence fragments usually happen when the writer is writing down multiple ideas down, but doesn’t fully develop them. Fragments Quiz #1
Fragments Quiz #2

Avoiding Comma Splices and Fused Sentences

Two simple sentences joined together can form another kind of sentence: a compound sentence.
When building compound sentences there are two errors that can occur.
Error #1: Comma splice Error #2: Fused sentences  
There are three ways to fix a fused sentence and a comma splice:
  1. Add a comma and a coordinating conjunction that fits well.
Example: Jessica went to the mall her mom went to get her hair done.  
  1. Place a semicolon between the two simple sentences.
Example: Jessica went to the mall, her mom went to get her hair done.  
  1. Add the necessary punctuation and conjunctive adverb.
Example: Jessica went to the mall her mom went to get her hair done.


What is a comma? When to use a comma?
  1. Use commas after introductory phrase.
  2. Use commas to set off nonrestrictive clauses.
  3. Use commas before or after quotation marks.
  4. Use commas to separate a series of words
  5. Separate a series of phrases
  6. Connect two independent clauses
  7. Avoid confusion
  8. Separate dates, years, and addresses
  1. Still excited from last night, Molly didn’t sleep well.
  2. Jon, a famous painter, decided to teach the night class.
  3. “Don’t go,” yelled Bobby.
  4. Mark is in a math class with Alex, Lisa, Thalia, and Tyler.
  5. They needed to make sure they: got on the bus, sat nicely next to each other, and didn’t argue the rest of the way.
  6. There is always help in these situations, but you just need to seek it out.
  7. Shawn took his sister, but not his brother, to the ballet recital.
  8. She was born in Madison April 14, 2000.
When is it not appropriate to use a comma?
To help identify these, try reading you sentence out loud and give each comma an exaggerated pause to test if it works well or not. If the comma doesn’t seem to help with the flow of the sentence, then the comma is unnecessary and can be removed.  


A semicolon is used to join to simple sentences together the sentence can be more detailed.
When to use a semicolon:
  1. Between independent clauses that aren’t united by coordinating conjunctions.
  1. Between independent clauses that aren’t united by a conjunctive verb.
  1. Between items in a series that have internal punctuation.
  1. Between simple sentences that have internal punctuation—even if the sentences are joined by coordinating conjunctions.


A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that is not clearly stated in the sentence. The modifier clarifies a subject or thought in the sentence.
Example #1:
Incorrect: “Having examined the research, it was declared the vaccine helped.”
The action: having examined the research does not have the “doer” next to it, making it unclear.
Correct: “Having examined the research, scientists declared the vaccine helped.”
The action: having examined the research is followed by the “doer:” scientists
Example #2:
Incorrect: “Looking at the textbook, it was clear the lesson was difficult.”
The action: looking at the textbook does not have the “doer” next to it.
Correct: “Looking at the textbook, the students knew the lesson was difficult.”
The action: looking at the textbook, is followed by the “doer:” students


A misplaced modifier incorrectly modifies a phrase in the sentence. Moving the subject or modifier around can clarify the sentence.
Incorrect: Dressed in a lab coat, the medical students watched the doctor rush down the hall.
The action dressed in a lab coat, is incorrectly followed by medical students, rather than the doctor.
Correct: The medical students watched the doctor, dressed in a lab coat, rush down the hall.
The action dressed in a lab coat, is next to the subject, the doctor, it modifies.
Incorrect: Screaming at the neighbors, the officers arrested the woman.
This implies the officers were at the neighbors while arresting the woman.
Correct: The officers arrested the woman screaming at the neighbors.


A split infinitive is a specific type of split infinitive. An infinitive is a verb such as to preceded by the word (to think, to complain, to admire, to purchase). When an adverb is placed in the middle of the infinitive and the word, a split infinitive occurs.
Split Infinitive: The researcher was to instantly purchase the materials.
Correct: The researcher was to purchase the materials instantly.
Split infinitive: Students worked to really try to spread the message.
Correct: Students worked hard to spread the message.
            Avoid using the word “really” in formal writing.
Ambiguity: Make sure by avoiding a split infinitive you aren’t creating a sentence that is ambiguous.
Split Infinitive: The students were told to occasionally monitor their grades online.
Awkward sentence: The students were told to monitor their grades online occasionally.
            What does “occasionally” refer to in this case? Their grades or monitor? It’s unclear the way it’s
Correct: The students were told occasionally to monitor their grades online.


Generally using active voice is better for formal writing. It decreases the amount of vague words and also lessens the amount of words in a sentence.
In active voice the subject of the sentence performs the action. In passive voice, the subject receives the action.
PASSIVE VOICE: It is believed by the majority of the student body that all grades should be weighted.
ACTIVE VOICE: The majority of the student body believes that all grades should be weighted.
PASSIVE VOICE: It was earlier believed that smoking wouldn’t harm a lot of people.
ACTIVE VOICE: People used to believe that smoking wouldn’t be that harmful.
PASSIVE VOICE: The dog was bitten by the squirrel.
ACTIVE VOICE: The squirrel bit the dog.
Tip: Start the sentence with the subject to avoid writing in passive voice.

Active Voice Quiz #1
Active Voice Quiz #2 
Active Voice Quiz #3


Parallel structure means using the same pattern throughout the sentence. Usually, words, clauses or phrases using parallel structure are joined by coordinating conjunctions.
EXAMPLE: Words ending in -ing (gerund) form:
Incorrect: She went skiing, sledding, and snowboarded this weekend.
Do not mix forms: skiing, sledding, snowboarded
Correct: She went skiing, sledding, and snowboarding this weekend.
All words ended in -ing: skiing, sledding, and snowboarding
EXAMPLE: Infinitives:
Harley likes to read, to write, and to draw illustrations.
Harley likes to read, write, and draw illustrations.
Use to before all the words, or before the first word in the list.
EXAMPLE: Clauses
Not parallel: The students were told that they would present their presentation during class, that they would be able to use their notes, and had to answer questions asked by their peers. (Note: the last clause is also passive voice)
Parallel: The students were told that they would present their presentation during class, that they would be able to use their notes, and that peers would ask questions after the presentation.


Literature reviews are an examination of primary research. Unlike a research paper where you write about the topic, in a literature review you write about what the sources said about the topic. The literature review may be a self-contained unit (a piece on its own) or part of a bigger unit (inside a paper).
The literature review gives the reader a:
            Summary of the sources and the topic
            Classification by themes in the topic
            Comparison of the different research
            Review of the literature
            The introduction of the literature review should define the topic and give an explanation of the topic. It may point out the main trends, themes, conflicts, timeline of the topic or gaps in the research.
            The body of the literature review should be grouped by similar items like qualitative or quantitative research, timelines, themes, conclusions by authors, or purpose.
            Summarize these groups together by paraphrasing the larger things above and then bring in details about these groups depending on the length of the literature review.
            Throughout the literature you can add discussion sentences that refer back to the sources, but help the reader understand what the big picture is.
            In the conclusion of the literature review summarize the major contributions or major themes that you mentioned in the body. Explore any large gaps in the information as well.

Avoiding Colloquial Writing

Colloquial writing means writing informally.
Understanding the steps:  
What to avoid:
Cliches: Avoid typing commonly used expressions used in everyday speech. Idioms: Are everyday expressions that don’t fit into academic writing. Fillers: Filler words are used to add emphasis in speech, but for academic writing they can be unnecessary and can detract the effectiveness of the sentence. Stage directions and casual intro phrases: “To me,” “They say,” “I agree” “Then they” “If we all” “We should try” “This paper will talk about” “In conclusion”
Contractions: They reduce the formality of your paper Colloquial Sentences Quiz
Panoramic View of campus