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Core Handout for Writers, Part One

September 8, 2022

Core Handout for Writers

            At the onset of this fall semester of 2022, would you like to review some points to improve your writing?  In a few installments, I will share with you most of the CORE HANDOUT which I used when I was teaching English and Communication Skills during the final fourteen years of my teaching career. 

Part 1.  Phrases, Clauses, and Types of Sentences

A phrase is a group of related words; however, unlike a clause, a phrase does not contain a subject and a verb.  A phrase can never stand alone as a complete sentence.      

Prepositional phrases, infinitive phrases, gerund phrases, and participial phrases will be reviewed in later parts of this handout and will add variety to your writing. 

Unlike a phrase, a clause must contain both a subject and a verb.  In our English language, we have two types of clauses–independent and dependent.  An INDEPENDENT CLAUSE can stand alone as a sentence; a DEPENDENT CLAUSE cannot stand alone as a complete sentence.

            The three basic types of sentences in our English language are:  simple, complex, and compound.  A simple sentence consists of one independent clause.  A compound sentence includes at least two independent clauses.  A complex sentence is comprised of at least one dependent clause and one independent clause.  (Refer to Part  2 of this handout for more information about compound sentences; refer to Part 3 for more review  of complex sentences.)

Part 2.  Coordinating Conjunctions, Semicolons, and Patterns for Compound Sentences

            The clue phrase for remembering the seven coordinating conjunctions of our English language is FAN BOYS

F–for, A–and, N–nor

B–but, O–or, Y–yet, S–so

            Never begin a sentence with a coordinating conjunction!

To achieve greater variety in your writing, you will include some compound sentences.  A compound sentence is a sentence which consists of at least two independent clauses.  The two independent clauses may come together in one of the following ways:

Pattern 1:  Subject + verb + comma + coordinating conjunction + subject + verb.

E-1.  The capital of Missouri is Jefferson City, but the largest city in Missouri is

St. Louis.

Pattern 2:  When “Pattern 1” has at least one additional comma within at least one of the independent clauses, the comma before the coordinating conjunction must be changed to the stronger mark of punctuation–the semicolon.

E-2.  Fred’s descriptive essay incorporated the senses of sight, hearing, and touch; but

Mary’s essay described her subject through all of the senses.

Pattern 3:  Subject + verb; subject + verb.

            When two independent clauses come together without a coordinating conjunction or a transitional word to form one sentence, only a semicolon is placed at the end of the first independent clause.

E-3.  The title page will be the first page of your term paper; the Works Cited will be

the final page of your research paper.

Pattern 4:  Subject + verb; transitional word or phrase + comma + subject + verb.

            When bringing together two independent clauses with a transitional word (or transitional phrase), place a semicolon at the end of the first independent clause and a comma after the transitional word or phrase.

E-4.  Stanley knew the elements of a good essay; however, he had never written a

personal mission statement previously.

SPECIAL NOTE:  The semicolon is similar to the equal sign in mathematics:  the same grammatical structure must be on either side of the semicolon.  In patterns two, three, and four, an independent clause is both before and after each semicolon:  a subject and a verb are on either side of the semicolon.

** Pattern 5:  In this fifth sentence pattern, the example is NOT a compound sentence:  it is a simple sentence with compound predicate nouns.    While the semicolon is used to separate major parts of the series, the comma is used to separate minor parts of the series.

E-5.  In addition to Europe, Edgar A. Poe lived in Richmond, Virginia; Baltimore,

Maryland; and New York City, New York.

In the previous example, the semicolon still works as an equal sign to indicate that the items in the series are equal to or parallel with one another.

NOTE:  Additional parts of this CORE HANDOUT will be shared periodically in upcoming posts of my WORDWALK blog.  Please share these installments of the CORE HANDOUT with a student or students whom you know or with a budding writer.  I was always so very pleased each time a student or former student told me that he or she kept the complete CORE HANDOUT beside his or her computer as a quick reference.

Happy writing during this fall semester!

Alice and Leader Dog Willow

September 7, 2022, Wednesday


From → Uncategorized

  1. mfanyo permalink

    Hello, Alice, Thank you for reposting the first part of the Core Handout! I appreciate having your well-organized, informative reference for the writing that I do. Looking forward to future posts of the handout! Mary

    Sent from my iPad


    • Good evening, Mary–Thank you for your comment about the Core Handout!

      Enjoy the weekend and the soccer game!

      Alice and Willow

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