Grammar and punctuation

Until now we have not made a specific point of talking about grammar and punctuation in your written work. In our experience academic staff sometimes focus too much on these particular concepts when they are talking about problems with writing, and students themselves often panic about their own feelings of insecurity in this area and lack confidence writing in formal written English styles. Consequently, we have waited until later in the book to start talking about checking your work for grammatical difficulties and misleading punctuation. We hope that, if you have worked through the book, by this stage you will feel more confident about yourself as a university writer and are less likely to see that the problems you have with writing are primarily concerned with grammar and punctuation.

You may remember that in Chapter 1 we asked you to think about your own linguistic history and the dialects and languages that you had been more used to using before embarking upon university studies. This implicit knowledge about language is what you draw on when you are deciding how to write. Although you may think that you do not know about the rules of grammar, everybody who speaks or writes a language intuitively knows the rules of grammar of that language. You may, in fact, speak a number of different languages or dialects in addition to the formal English styles that you are most likely to use for your writing for university. In this case, you will be a competent user of a number of different grammars. What you may not know is how to describe the rules of these grammars explicitly, using the specific words that linguists and others use to describe the constituent parts of a sentence. What we hope to do in this section is to draw on your intuitive grammatical knowledge to help you to check your own work.

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