Free Online Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentence Diagramming Sites
Who Needs Grammar and Punctuation Review?
Students, and some teachers, often lament that they don't know much formal grammar. This is worth worrying about, especially for students of non-English modern languages, and for native-speakers whose sentences consistently malfunction. Linguists and students of language history warn that all living languages are constantly evolving, and over time usage will change, but in any one era, competent adult language users usually agree on conventions governing their sense of correctness. Those "rules" actually govern how our speech and writing will be judged by others. "Prescriptive" grammarians tend to promote "rules" for language use even when those rules contradict commonly accepted usage and clarity in communication, e.g., "don't split infinitives" ("to go boldly" not "to boldly go"?) and "don't put prepositions at the ends of sentences" ("to put up with" and "to be aware of" are common idiomatic ways to end sentences). For definitive comments about both of these "crochets," see the University of Chicago Manual of Style's FAQ page for their comments about split infinitives and terminal prepositions. Grammar and punctuation conventions can be learned, but only repeated practice will make learned rules operate as part of writers' composing process.
Non-Commercial Grammar Review Sites:
Kellee Weinhold, The Tongue Untied: A Guide to Grammar, Punctuation and Style. University of Oregon. 2000
University of Calgary English Department, The Basic Elements of English: An Interactive Guide to Grammar. 1998.
Professor Charles Darling, Guide to Grammar and Writing. Capital Community College, 1998.
The Capital Community College Power-Point-Based Sentence Diagramming Demonstration. There are a number of ways to navigate this presentation, but one easy way is to position your cursor near the bottom of the scroll bar and left-click your way through it. If you are too young to know what an IBM Selectric typewriter sounds like, that is the machine-gun-like sound being simulated to accompany the appearance of text on the diagram lines. Sentence diagramming is valuable for many writers who have trouble understanding grammatical functions without a visual illustration of words' relationships to one another.
The following list of grammar and punctuation basics most foreign language students and all college-level writers should know has been assembled by Goucher's Writing Program in consultation with members of the Modern Languages Department. If you are unsure what is meant by the following terms, consult one of the online grammar and punctuation review sites and begin to educate yourself:
the parts of speech; parsing sentences for phrase and clause structure; pronoun and verb "persons" (1st, 2nd, 3rd); pronoun and verb number (singular, plural); verb tense and mood (mainly subjunctive); regular and irregular verbs; transitive and intransitive verbs; passive vs. active voice; subject-object, noun-verb, and noun-pronoun reference; and the conventions for using commas, semi-colons, and colons.
If you are not satisfied with what you can learn using these sites' combinations of explanations, examples, and online quizzes, take your questions to the Goucher College Writing Center or to your writing instructor.