Questions about "Grammar" (Syntax, Usage, Punctuation, . . .  the whole kit-and-caboodle)

Syntax--the arrangement and linkage of words to form sentences:

1)  Is it really always problematic to end a sentence with a preposition?   I sometimes go through such untoward circumlocutions in order to avoid doing so that what I say or write just ends up looking/sounding silly.;  --Is ending a sentence with a preposition now something we are okay with?  

Usage--the selection and juxtaposition of words in phrases:

1)  e.g. vs. i.e. (abbreviated Latin phrases)

2)  -how does one differentiate between the use of "which" and "that"; who vs. whom, that vs. which;  - The difference between the use of "that" and "which" because I have always thought they were basically interchangeable. But I fear it isn't so. For example: "I found a squid that was on the sand" vs "I found a squid which was on the sand." These read exactly the same to me in meaning.

3)  - I know there is a difference between "much" and "many" but I was unable to explain the instances in which one was appropriate and one was not.

4)  - I also know there is a difference between "when" and "while" and I know what 'when' signifies, but not precisely 'while', and I don't know what the difference is between the two.

5)  affect/effect

6)  "The answer to this question lies within the fact that..." This section of this sentence too was red-flagged as an error. I recognize that it sounds a bit awkward, but I cannot find a specific name or explanation.

7)  --I'm sure everyone will ask this, but what's your personal opinion on the gender-neutral 3rd-person pronoun issue? I think that the use of "they" and "them" has already been assimilated into mainstream spoken English and it's only a matter of time before it's officially "accepted" by whoever the overseeing community of grammarians are (William Safire's dead now, right?). I don't think I'd correct someone for using it on a paper, but neither would I change a "his" or a "his/her" to "they." ("S/he" I would change.)

Kirsch, Gesa.  “The Politics of I-Dropping.”  College Composition and Communication. 45:3 (October 1994) 381-3.  10/22/09

Myers, Miriam Watkins.  “Current Generic Pronoun Usage: An Empirical Study.”  American Speech 65:3 (Autumn 1990) 228-237.  10/22/09

Stotko, Elaine M. and Margaret Troyer, “A New Gender-Neutral Pronoun in Baltimore, Maryland:  A Preliminary Study.”  American Speech.  82:3 (Fall 2007) 262-79.  10/22/09

8)  --Have we given up on the English subjunctive? Do we still say, "I wish I were taller," "I'd advise that he go to Kmart for that," etc, or are we now meant to say, "I wish I was taller," "I'd advise that he goes to Kmart," and so on? Is one now considered more correct than the other?; I've just been informed that the English language as a subjunctive tense (the example used was "I wish I were an oscar myer weiner") and I had not the slightest idea it existed our language, or how to use it. I am not sure I even fully believe in it

Punctuation--"pointing" the sentence to help readers parse its structure:

1)  So, I am a big fan of the dash—have been for some time—but I don’t really have a precise sense of when they should be used as opposed to commas.;  --Is the dash still considered low and common--or is it okay to use it now too in academic papers?;  Dash usage, different kinds of dashes;  for dashes. I don't even know when to use dashes.

2)  -when should you separate the components of a list with semi-colons instead of commas--is there a specific rule?; colon, semicolon, commas, serial commas – is there a comma before the and?;  I would love to review comma usage. I personally enjoy using commas, but maybe a little too much. I find often that when I read other people’s work I am compelled to add more punctuation, especially in the form of commas, and sometimes semi-colons.;  - What are the proper and improper uses for semi-colons! People use them very creatively. I know I'm guilty of this. It's just a very pretty punctuation mark, but that doesn't mean I should go tossing it about everywhere to make things look more glamourous, yes? So I think it would be nice if we went over this.

3)  -do i always follow the American style placement of punctuation inside quotation marks, even if they are marking the name of a story or poem or song?  (that always feels funny to me, for some reason) -i am right to think that you always treat "couple" or "pair" or even "group" as singular, right?

4)  "Harry Potter," by J.K. Rowling, is a remarkable book. "Harry Potter," by J.K. Rowling is a remarkable book." Comma before the author's name? Comma after the author's name? Both? None? I've been told many different things by many teachers.

5)  Double vs. single quotation marks

6)  When you make an omission in a quoted passage with ellipses, do you have to put brackets around the ellipses? When you capitalize a word or change its tense, do you bracket off the entire word or just the part you modified?

Style--the "kit-and-caboodle" of compositional form, that which is not required or prohibited, but which transmits aesthetic values

1)  When does artful clarification become redundant? For example: If I describe something as "fiscally expensive" it sounds redundant, but perhaps within context it makes sense. Grueling exercise could be descried as physically "expensive," a grave crime as morally "expensive," etc. 

2)  Words like "thus," "whence," and "hence" sound archaic and are not commonly used. Does this mean we all-together avoid them in writing?

3)  "If such appeals are unsuccessful and it comes down to the point where armies must engage..." This sentence was red-flagged in a paper I wrote in Eng 211 and, while I understand the clumsiness and run-on-sounding nature of "it comes down to the point where," I cannot find a name or explanation for such a mistake in an MLA handbook.

4)  --Is it okay to use British past participles for words like "burnt," "learnt," etc? (Is that actually a specifically British thing? Or is it that the "-ed" versions are the actual past participles, while the "-t" versions signify that the word's being used as an adjective?)

5)  --What do you think about old-fashioned and fun, but potentially-confusing-to-a-modern-audience things like, "They stood in front of the old stone house, which venerable old piece of architecture had weathered many a canicular storm"? Still okay or pretentious and silly?

6)  --And what is your opinion, being not only an instructor of modern tutoring but also a teacher of older literature in which this was the custom, of very long sentences employed by students who, though they have been instructed to follow Hemingway's lead in constructing short, concise missives of meaning, are attracted to the beauty of a long sentence whose ideas are unfurled like a long carpet as the sentence continues?

Free Online Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentence Diagramming Sites

Updated MLA Style for Works Cited Format (2009)