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The issue of "grammatical correctness" is a complex one, laden with problems of power, prestige and prejudice. Linguists point out that an emphasis on achieving "correct" Standard English has a gate-keeping effect, making it more difficult for those whose home dialect is not "Standard" to enter the American mainstream. Many scholars point out that linguistically speaking, "all dialects are created equal," and than none is more "correct" than another, just as French is no "better" than English or British English is no better than American English. In the U.S., Standard American English has become the expected means of communicating in most professional spheres, both nationally and internationally; however, the person who can "code switch" between different dialects or, better still, different languages, will be the more successful communicator in global and local communities.

The complexity regarding "correctness" and American English is compounded by the large number of handbooks or style sheets containing "rules" for achieving correctness in editing, spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Typically, academic writing situations and assignments rely on a handbook geared toward academic writing such as Andrea Lunsford's Easy Writer. On the other hand, many newspapers and magazines use the AP Style Manual or the Chicago Manual of Style; others, such as the New York Times, have their own style sheets. Students should know that no one style sheet or handbook will apply to every writing situation.

Regarding the Concentration, some courses (particularly journalism courses) may require students to use the AP Style Manual while others will rely on Andrea Lunsford's Easy Writer, the handbook of expository writing rules required in Villanova's Core courses. The WebCT Grammar, Punctuation and Style exam will be based on usage conventions delineated in Andrea Lunsford's Easy Writer, since such grammar conventions underlie all style formats and all students at Villanova should own Easy Writer.

Preparing for the Exam

Preparation for this exam will assure easy success. Passing it will guarantee that you know the basics of punctuation and grammar—the icing on the cake of good writing! You should obtain a copy of Lunsford for study if you do not already have one. Look at the chart below for the points covered on the exam and their corresponding sections in Lunsford. Read the Lunsford sections and then for practice, do the online exercises on the grammar points.

Punctuation (Total of 10 Exercises)

Read "Commas," pp. 102-110 Do Exercises 390 and 433
Read "Semi-Colons," pp. 110-112 Do Exercises 397 and 438
Read "Colon," pp. 124 (Note: You must have a complete sentence on the left side of the colon)

eg. I love cheeses: gruyere, brie and manchego.

Do Exercises 97 and 405
Read "Apostrophe," pp. 114-117 Do Exercises 100 and 401
Read "Quotation Marks," pp. 117-121 Do Exercises 98 and 402

Word Choice (Total of 8 Exercises)

Read Concise sentences, pp. 94-96 Do Exercises 113 and 374
Read Use Active Voice over passive in general p.96 Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Sentence Grammar" > Click on "Voice"
Do Exercises 308 and 231
Read Use inclusive language, pp. 141-143 Do Exercises 278 and 588
Read Cliches and misused metaphors, p. 150 Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Word Choice/Language" Click on "Exact Words"
Do Exercises 445 and 446

Sentence Style (Total of 11 Exercises)

Read Parallelism pp.96-98 Do Exercises 116 and 376
Read Misplaced Modifiers pp. 10 Do Exercises 367 and 575
Read Dangling Modifiers p. 76 Do Exercises 185 and 576
Read Shifts: person, number and voice p. 5,6, 09 Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Sentence Style" > Click on "Shifts"
Do Exercises 89 and 364
Read Using more sentence variety Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Sentence Style" > Click on "Sentence Variety"
Do Exercises 526, 529 and 537

Grammatical Sentence (Total of 8 Exercises)

Read Pronoun reference, pp 80-81 Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Basic Grammar" > Click on "Pronouns" >Then scroll down column
Do Exercises 86 and 235
Read Pronoun case, pp 76-79 Click Here > Click on Exercises (top of page) > Look under "Basic Grammar" > Click on "Pronouns" >Then scroll down column
Do Exercises 353 and 569
Read Sentence fragments, pp. 84-86 Do Exercises 234 and 366
Read Run-on sentences, pp. 82-85 Do Exercises 83 and 365

Mechanics (Total of 1 Exercise)

Read Italics, pp. 133-135  Do Exercises 106 and 409

Total Number of Exercises: 38 (But don't worry. They are quick!)

For More GPS Exam Preparation

Visit the Exercise Central web site where the online exercises are located. Click on the appropriate section to see the menu of exercises. Click on an exercise you wish to complete, log in and get to work. You may have to register and choose a username and password. Enter Dr. Hollis' email address:

To find out about your "grammar weak spots," you should consider taking a practice online grammar diagnostic exam. This quiz provides excellent practice for the GPS exam because the format is very similar. After you complete the diagnostic exam, be sure to print it out with your score. You will get excellent feedback on which grammar points you need to study more. Just go back to the diagnostic quiz page and click on any grammar point for more information and exercises.

If you feel you need more practice in sharpening your grammar skills, you can find additional online exercises in handbooks listed on the Exercise Central page. Click on a handbook title, log on as a student, find needed exercises and enter as your instructor's email address. And finally for still further online reinforcement, the Guide to Grammar page has many appropriate exercises. Just scroll down for the grammar points under "Word and Sentence Level," and "Paragraph Level."

Registering for the Concentration WebCT Grammar and Punctuation and Style Exam

When you feel you are ready for the "real thing," go to the WebCT GPS quiz.

  • Click on GPS quiz
  • Next, click on Quiz 1 and take it. You must score 90% or better to pass. If you don't pass Quiz 1 with 90%, try Quiz 2, etc., taking each quiz in turn until you pass with 90%. You may take the quizzes as many times as you wish.
  • Your score will be automatically registered on WebCT, but you must notify Dr. Hollis when you've passed the quiz.
  • Students should take the quiz either before enrolling or during the first semester they are enrolled in the Concentration.