I gave my Introduction to Media Writing students a 60-question grammar diagnostic test at the start of the spring 2012 semester. Based on the results, here are the areas we need to cover most during our course, in descending order of the frequency of missed questions:
- Pronouns and pronoun agreement (especially the incorrect use of they to refer to a singular antecedent, despite debate; who/whom; us/we and I/me as objects)
- Comma splices, run-on sentences, and sentence fragments (oh, for the lost days of diagramming sentences!)
- Irregular verbs (lay/lie, of course, but also write, drag, and others)
- Parallel construction
- Subject-verb agreement
- The use of apostrophes to form possessives
- The use of commas with restrictive and nonrestrictive clauses
- (Four-way tie) The use of colons; verb tense consistency; modifiers; and precision in word order (e.g., the placement of only)
Here’s what the authors of the textbook Easy Writer say are the 20 most common grammatical errors. It looks like our class shares the same challenges. And I still double-check some of these issues when I write, so I certainly wouldn’t claim grammatical perfection!
I’m sure we aren’t the only class who will work on these topics this semester. I’ve developed games for teaching some of them, but don’t have fun strategies yet for all of them.
Do you have favorite exercises or activities for teaching and coaching grammar? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.