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Essay Grammar, Style and Punctuation

Punctuation: Semi-colons and Commas

It happens that the students learn the rules on punctuation, especially those which deal with commas and semi-colons, but they seem to be too challenging and confusing; so, mistakes are unavoidable. There is a small trick which can help you be good not only at essay grammar, but also at punctuation. Reading a sentence aloud, try to notice where you pause naturally to draw a breath. If the pause is short, it is likely a comma to be used. If the pause is longer, but it does not imply that the idea is conveyed fully, you need not a period but a semi-colon. Do not forget that the part of the sentence after a semi-colon is always capable of being on its own making up a full separate sentence.

Over-punctuation is a problem for the readers as it makes the text unreadable because of a large number of pauses they have to make. They will experience hyperventilation if you make them take frequent shallow breaths every time you have a comma or semi-colon in your sentence. On the other hand, if your sentences are excessively long but deprived of all kinds of punctuation, the readers will gasp for breath at the end of such sentences. Therefore, you are in charge of the punctuation and grammar check as well as your readers’ convenience and even feeling healthy.

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Double-check All the Hyphens and Dashes

Setting-off a clause, you are supposed to use the em dash or the longer dash. It is possible to use two hyphens (—) to indicate this kind of dash or apply your computer em dash function. Essay grammar check should include checking whether the preceding and following parts of the sentence related to that dash sound as complete and comprehensible even if the dashes and words inside are removed.

Dramatic emphasis of the following words is possible if the em dash is used instead of a colon: ‘The refrigerator had a lot of stuck pictures of his extreme adventures — white-water rafting, zorbing, mountaineering.’ One more function is adding the element of surprise into a sentence: ‘A lot of photos were stuck on the refrigerator; there were pictures of him playing soccer and tennis, and extreme sports—white-water rafting, zorbing, mountaineering.’

Therefore, setting the sentence parts off is done with the help of em dash, while the words are joined together with a hyphen (brother-in-law, three-fourths, broken-hearted, etc.)

When you do your essay check, you should make sure that every abbreviation is identified in the text; the only exception is if you are absolutely sure that every reader of yours knows the meaning of every acronym used. It happens only if the acronyms are used more frequently than the full forms, for instance AIDS, NATO, CEO, etc. It is crucial to remember about the peculiar features of the target group of your essay. For instance, if your readers are the experts in a certain field that the essay is related to, there is no need to identify the abbreviations for them.

Using split infinitives should be avoided as it is not an effective writing technique. Currently, it is not an unbreakable rule anymore; still, in most cases the split is awkward, although keeping infinitive together may occasionally be even more undesirable.

Each reference should be clear. As a result of spelling and grammar check, there should be no ambiguity or confusion in the text. Saying ‘that argument’, ‘this point of view’, ‘they’ or ‘it’, you have to be sure that it is understandable to which argument, point of view, person or notion you are referring to. The readers should never be confused with who this ‘she’ or ‘he’ is in your sentence.

No Vagueness or Confusion

Drawing the readers’ attention to a certain fact or opinion, it is common to use the word ‘this’ or ‘that’, like in the sentence, ‘there is a lot of information related to this question.’ However, it is crucial to make sure ‘this’ has a specific and clear reference, especially if the argument is complex. Vague sentences have little effect on the readers; therefore, checking the essay grammar and cohesion, find out whether everything is clear in the sentences. What does ‘this’ or ‘that’ refer to? Can the unclear words be replaced? It is much better to work out the ideas again than to lose the readers’ attention because of ambiguity. There is a rule: readers are always confused and bewildered when the writer does not understand the ideas clearly.


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 Frequently, the students refer to other people with a request, “Please, check my grammar!” It makes sense as another person can point out the errors omitted by the writers themselves. One of the common mistakes students commit is referring to a person using ‘that’; for example, the phrases like ‘the boy that broke the window’, ‘the poet that you have listened to’ are wrong and insulting. People unlike objects cannot be referred to with ‘that’. It is correct to use ‘whom’ or ‘who’ instead: ‘the boy who broke the window’, ‘the poet whom you have listened to.’ Are you hesitant whether to use ‘whom’ or ‘who’? It is high time to revise the grammar rules and get rid of all uncertainties and confusion.

It is important to take control over your writing and feel free in using structures. If you do not know the rules well, you try to simplify your writing avoiding a lot of effective structures or you just make a lot of mistakes. Take effort and learn the spelling and grammar rules once and for all to be sure in every action. If you cannot differentiate between ‘who’ ‘what’ ‘whom’, ask a question to yourself to clarify that ‘who’ is the subject or the doer of the action, ‘whom’ is the object of the sentence who gets something.

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Excessive passive voice usage makes the writing weak and deprived of energy. It is always more effective to write ‘Shakespeare’s sonnet’ than ‘the sonnet that was written by Shakespeare’. Please note that underlines and italics can never go together. Only italics or underlining are impressive; both are too much as they mean the same. Underlining italics is similar to a double negative; so, it should be eliminated.

Finally, check essay for grammar to make sure that every sentence has a parallel construction. It means that if any word in the list is taken out, the sentence should still make sense. For example, the sentence ‘He likes to jump, to run, and playing games’ is wrong as the parallel constructions is missing. The proper sentence is ‘He likes to jump, to run, and to play games’ or ‘He likes jumping, running, and playing games.’