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The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need: A One-Stop Source for Every Writing Assignment Kindle Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 390 customer reviews

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Length: 192 pages

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About the Author

Susan Thurman has taught English grammar from the junior high school level to the college level. She edits and publishes Class Act, a national magazine that features grammar, writing, and ideas for English teachers, and has written more than fifty articles on English instruction, as well as a number of study guides. She lives in Henderson, Kentucky, where she teaches at Henderson Community College.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

[CN]Chapter 7

[CT]Writing Better Sentences

Certain elements can either make or break a sentence. If a sentence contains a misplaced or dangling modifier or is essentially illogical, it becomes confusing at best and ludicrous at worst. Some brief sentences, called fragments, don’t contain a complete thought and are not really proper sentences at all. At the other extreme, a writer may sometimes string several thoughts together to create an endless—and grammatically incorrect—run-on sentence.

This chapter will give you some pointers for looking critically at your sentence construction as well as the tools to fix any problems you find. Knowing what makes a proper sentence will ensure that your writing (and your reputation!) remain solid.

[H1]Misplaced Modifiers

Simply put, misplaced modifiers are words or phrases that you’ve put in the wrong place. All of your words—whether they’re single words, phrases, or clauses—should be as close as possible to whatever they modify (the words they describe or give more information about). Take a look at this sentence, written with a single word in the wrong place:

After her wreck, Joanna could comprehend what the ambulance driver was barely saying.

The way the sentence is written, the ambulance driver is barely speaking—but surely that’s not what the writer meant. Barely is out of its correct place because it modifies the wrong word. It should be moved so that it modifies the verb could comprehend. The sentence should be written this way:

After her wreck, Joanna could barely comprehend what the ambulance driver was saying.

Misplaced modifiers can also be phrases, as in this example:

Witnesses reported that the woman was driving the getaway car with flowing black hair.

A car with flowing black hair? Really? With flowing black hair is in the wrong place in the sentence and should be placed after woman. That way, the sentence would read:

Witnesses reported that the woman with flowing black hair was driving the getaway car.

Clauses, too, can be put in the wrong place, as in the following sentence:

Mrs. Anderson could not stop thinking about her sick baby running in the six-mile road race.

That’s quite a baby who can run a six-mile road race (even while being sick). The clause running in the six-mile road race is out of place; it should be closer to the noun it modifies (Mrs. Anderson). The sentence should be reworded this way:

Running in the six-mile road race, Mrs. Anderson could not stop thinking about her sick baby.

One of the most common problems with misplaced modifiers comes with what are called limiting modifiers—words like almost, even, hardly, just, merely, nearly, only (only is the one misplaced most often), scarcely, and simply. To convey the correct meaning, limiting modifiers must be placed in front of the words they modify.

Take a look at these sentences:

Already, Mr. Goulooze has almost eaten four slabs of ribs!

How does a person almost eat something? Did he have great willpower four different times? More likely, the sentence should be reworded to say that Mr. Goulooze has eaten almost four slabs of ribs.

Richard has nearly wrecked every car he’s had.

Has Richard nearly wrecked the cars—in which case, he should be grateful for his luck—or has he wrecked nearly every car? Remember to always watch out for misplaced modifiers (as Richard should probably watch out for oncoming traffic). Otherwise, you may end up wrecking nearly every sentence you write.


Product Details

  • File Size: 725 KB
  • Print Length: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Adams Media; 2 edition (May 1, 2003)
  • Publication Date: May 1, 2003
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0047T748Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,983 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Being a native English speaker, my biggest concern about English grammar was during college when I was ensuring that my papers, exams, etc., were good enough to help me pull good grades. It wasn't until I began to pick up Spanish that English grammar grabbed more of my attention.

Learning a foreign language, ironically, can sometimes force you to better understand your native tongue; if for no other reason than comparison's sake. I've occasionally used English grammar guides and books, but found Susan Thurman's to be surprisingly approachable. Grammar books often scared me away, but not this one. Two of my favorite sections are, one, where Thurman compares/contrasts commonly confused words (then/than, etc.) and, two, her explanations about punctuation. Her examples are down-to-earth and drive each point home. Plus, it's small and easily portable. For these reasons, I rate this book 5 stars. If you are looking for a desktop reference for more professional needs, this MIGHT not be for you. However, I believe it to be sufficient for 90-95% of the time, depending on your needs.
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This truly may be The Only Grammar Book You'll Ever Need. I am a tutor and have found this book indispensable; it's especially useful when coaching students for the SAT-II Writing exam and the English section of the ACT. Any grammar question you can possibly have seems to be in here, and it's very easy to reference. I can't imagine being without this book.
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After reading The McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, I have to say, I'm quite disappointed with Susan Thurman's book. If you want a great grammar book with in depth analysis, explanations, and great tips on how to avoid the most common grammatical mistakes, then read Mark Lester and Larry Beason's book. If you want a quick reference with not much "meat", then get Susan's book. It just lists a lot of stuff, but doesn't really help you with avoiding the errors.

The book is very short and small: only 160 pages. "The Handbook of English Grammar and Usage" on the other hand has 300 pages.

I guess, it might still be a good read for many, but I didn't get much out of it.
5 Comments 156 of 178 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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This may not be the only grammar book you'll ever need, but it certainly is comprehensive and well written. I use it to teach high school and college students as well as adults who need grammar instruction. I recommend it.
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This is a no nonsense book that gets right down to business. No fancy frills or filler. Just useful information. I recommend this book to anyone writing literature.
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This well organized grammar is what it purports to be. Getting a high school student to use it is the trick. To my mind, it doesn't replace "Strunk and White," The Elements of Style: The Original Edition but it does the job.
5 Comments 49 of 57 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
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This book covers most everything you learned in high school and college. It's not too big to carry with you and has a lot of helpful examples. It works very well as a good review for those things you have "forgotten" since you went to school. I would buy it again...
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Good resource for writing! Easy to locate topics and easy to understand!
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