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In programming communicating effectively is more essential that is often assumes.  For non-native speakers English grammar represents formidable obstacle. To say that it's tricky will be an understatement. The best way to improve your grammar is to attend an community colledge class. Online links can help. but they are limited by definition.

MS Word 2007 and MS Word 2010 grammar checking capabilities are impressive and should be used first.

There is also Grammarly online service which provides some help for a pretty steep price of $20 per month. 

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[Jul 20, 2017]

Jul 20, 2017 |




BBC - Skillswise - Words - Grammar

BBC Skillwise Grammarly Blog

The Queen's English website.

Okay, maybe not just the Queen's, as there's that Oxford comma to worry about (which, being Canadian, I view as quite the nuisance). But it's British English, for sure.

The BBC Skillwise Words website is one that I use all across the board: ESL, EFL, learning disabilities, grammar-haters, and even people who suddenly have to pay attention to their writing. Somewhere on this website, everyone has found something which will be useful to them.

You can work on grammar, spelling, reading, writing, listening and vocabulary (just click on the tabs at the top of the page).

For each unit, there's a facts page which explains everything quite clearly and gives examples, worksheets that can be printed out, games and quizzes. The quizzes are usually enough to orient even the most stubborn of minds; they come in three levels (a, b, c) and are perfectly written to give a broad range of usage examples.

What's really great is the games. Yes, you, too, can procrastinate while learning. The only criticism is that most of the games are pretty much like quizzes, which may not entertain the very young crowd: no clowns, no pretty colours, nothing to shoot.

For the True Basics:

Now that I've written that heading, I'm not sure how you'd define "true basics". I have used the grammar and spelling pages for ESL and EFL students, for English students who require a little refresher course in the basics, and life-long English speakers who have been seriously traumatized by grammar. It's a very good grammar-whisperer site.

For the Intermediate Levels:

The reading and writing pages are good for those who just want to wrap their minds around the subject again. Even if you've been a student for most of your life, these two pages remind you of things which are commonly forgotten (like summarising and skimming).

The level C quizzes on the grammar and spelling pages would also be appropriate for anyone who already has a fair idea of what they're doing. When my fellow writers consistently make the same error, I often suggest this site to them. Of course, their errors generally involve commas, which results in an inordinately long debate as to whether commas are meant to be individualistic and free-range, or not. (Moral: if you're going to argue with writers, be sure to make a large pot of coffee first.)

For ESL and EFL:

As listening is always the big problem particularly for EFL there's the listening site. The accents are easy, clear London accents (nothing from the Hebrides or New Zealand that wouldn't be heard anywhere else). I highly recommend this page for anyone who is trying to learn English while living in a non-English-speaking country.

The vocabulary page focuses on job-specific vocabulary for nine different vocations.

For the Tutors:

Leaving no one out, BBC Skillwise has even created a page for tutors. If you live in the United Kingdom, the pages are all connected to the curriculum. If you're not in the UK, there are great links and resources, and you'll always find something good on the forum.

For Americans:

So, what do you do if you're American? It's alright: just adjust your mind for the spelling changes and revel in the normalcy of the Oxford comma. Everything else is the same.

BBC Skillwise, comma use, EFL, ESL, listening skills, Oxford Comma, the Queen's English, websites for tutors

[Jun 05, 2011] Common Errors in English Usage

What is an error in English?
The concept of language errors is a fuzzy one. I'll leave to linguists the technical definitions. Here we're concerned only with deviations from the standard use of English as judged by sophisticated users such as professional writers, editors, teachers, and literate executives and personnel officers. The aim of this site is to help you avoid low grades, lost employment opportunities, lost business, and titters of amusement at the way you write or speak.

But isn't one person's mistake another's standard usage?
Often enough, but if your standard usage causes other people to consider you stupid or ignorant, you may want to consider changing it. You have the right to express yourself in any manner you please, but if you wish to communicate effectively, you should use nonstandard English only when you intend to, rather than fall into it because you don't know any better.

Why don't you cover all important points of grammar?
Other sites do this; mine is dedicated to errors in usage. This is not a site dealing with grammar in general.

I'm learning English as a second language. Will this site help me improve my English?
Very likely, though it's really aimed at the most common errors of native speakers. The errors others make in English differ according to the characteristics of their first languages. Speakers of other languages tend to make some specific errors that are uncommon among native speakers, so you may also want to consult sites dealing specifically with English as a second language (see and There is also a Help Desk for ESL students at Washington State University at An outstanding book you may want to order is Ann Raimes' Keys for Writers.

Aren't some of these points awfully picky?
This is a relative matter. One person's gaffe is another's peccadillo. Some common complaints about usage strike me as too persnickety, but I'm just discussing mistakes in English that happen to bother me. Feel free to create your own page listing your own pet peeves, but I welcome suggestions for additions to these pages. First, read the Commonly Made Suggestions page, and if you still want to write me, please do so, after reading the instructions on that page.

What gives you the right to say what an error in English is?
I could take the easy way out and say I'm a professor of English and do this sort of thing for a living. True, but my Ph.D. is in comparative literature, not composition or linguistics, and I teach courses in the history of ideas rather than language as such. But I admire good writing and try to encourage it in my students.

I found a word you criticized in the dictionary!
You will find certain words or phrases criticized here listed in dictionaries. Note carefully labels like dial. (dialectical), nonstandard, and obsolete before assuming that the dictionary is endorsing them. The primary job of a dictionary is to track how people actually use language. Dictionaries differ among themselves on how much guidance to usage they provide; but the goal of a usage guide like this is substantially different: to protect you against patterns which are regarded by substantial numbers of well-educated people as nonstandard.

Why do you discuss mainly American usage?
Because I'm an American, my readers are mostly American, and American English is quickly becoming an international standard. I often take note of American deviations from standard British practice. However, the job is complicated by the fact that Canadians, Australians, and many others often follow patterns somewhere between the two. If the standard usage where you are differs from what is described here, tell me about it, and if I think it's important to do so, I'll note that fact. Meanwhile, just assume that this site is primarily about American English. If you feel tempted to argue with me, click here first.

If you write mainly about American English, why do you so often cite the Oxford English Dictionary?
First of all, I do not write exclusively about American English. I address UK usage in many entries on this site. Second, the OED strives to cover both UK and US usage, and often notes words or expressions as having either originated in or being used mainly in the US. It is by no means an exclusively British dictionary. Third, the OED is the recognized authority among linguists for etymology. It's not always the last word in explanations of word origins and history, but it is the first source to turn to. That's the main purpose for which I use the OED. Fourth, because the OED tends to be more conservative than some popular American dictionaries, when it accepts a controversial usage, that's worth noting. If even the OED regards a usage as accepted in modern English, then one should hesitate to argue that such usage is an error. But because the OED is so conservative, and doesn't always note when a formerly obsolete word is revived or changes in usage, it's not a perfect guide to contemporary usage. It is particularly weak in noting changes in spoken rather than written English.

Does it oppress immigrants and subjugated minorities to insist on the use of standard English?
Language standards can certainly be used for oppressive purposes, but most speakers and writers of all races and classes want to use language in a way that will impress others. The fact is that the world is full of teachers, employers, and other authorities who may penalize you for your nonstandard use of the English language. Feel free to denounce these people if you wish; but if you need their good opinion to get ahead, you'd be wise to learn standard English. Note that I often suggest differing usages as appropriate depending on the setting: spoken vs. written, informal vs. formal; slang is often highly appropriate. In fact, most of the errors discussed on this site are common in the writing of privileged middle-class Americans, and some are characteristic of people with advanced degrees and considerable intellectual attainments. However you come down on this issue, note that the great advantage of an open Web-based educational site like this is that it's voluntary: take what you want and leave the rest. It's interesting that I have received hundreds of messages from non-native speakers thanking me for these pages and none from such people complaining that my pages discriminate against them.

But you made a mistake yourself!
We all do, from time to time. If you think you've found an error in my own writing, first read the "Commonly Made Suggestions" page, then follow the instructions on that page if you still think I need correcting. I've changed many aspects of these pages in response to such mail; even if I disagree with you, I try to do so politely. If you write me, please don't call me "Brian." My given name is Paul.

[Jun 05, 2011] 10 Tips to Improve Your Grammar [infographic] Grammar Newsletter

1. Apostrophes show when a word is possessive and also function as a place holder between conjunctions. For example, "it's" and "its," "theirs" and "there's" and many more.

2. Prepositional phrases and introductory clauses. Always use a comma after an introductory or prepositional phrase. For example, "After a hard day at work, Jean loves to relax in the backyard."

3. Homophones and endings. Sometimes there are too many variations to know whether it's "to," "too" or "two," "were" or "we're" and "-ible," or "-able." Some homophones need to be memorized but other words like those ending with "-ible" and "-able" are a little easier to remember. If the root word is whole, add "-able" like fashionable. If the word doesn't make sense without the ending, add "-ible" like divisible.

4. Definite and indefinite articles. Articles, such as "a," "an" and "the", tell the reader whether something is general or specific, indefinite or definite. For example, "Someone call a doctor." "Someone call the doctor."

5. Appositives. These dependent clauses modify the subject and often include non-essential information offset with commas. For example, "Mr. Walker, an international economist, is arriving this morning." (Non-essential) "The popular sitcom Brian O'Brien was cancelled after seven years." (Essential) "Brian O'Brien, the popular sitcom, was cancelled after seven years." (Non-essential)

6. That, who, and which. Comma rules vary for relative pronouns that tell readers specifics about people and things. For example, "No one trusts politicians who lie." (Essential) or "Mr. Trout, who is wearing the red shirt, announced his mayoral candidacy this week." (Non-essential)

7. The semicolon. This powerful punctuation mark can replace a period and effectively link two independent clauses. For example, "The family had never seen Mrs. Baker so mad; everyone thought the maid was going to have a heart attack."

8. Countable and non-countable nouns. Like collective nouns, non-countable nouns are inherently plural.

When used with adjectives, non-countable nouns are prone to confusion.

For example, "many" works with countable nouns that are pluralized with "-s" or "-es" endings. For non-countable nouns, including money, time and snow, "much" or "a lot" are used. Other adjectives like little and few are only used with uncountable nouns.

9. Vocabulary building. The secret to powerful writing is a strong vocabulary. Reading books, magazine articles and newspaper columns is one of the easiest ways to learn vocabulary and see examples of correct grammar and effective punctuation.

10. Proofreading and spellchecking. Last but not least, proofreading is the final step to grammatical perfection. Waiting to proofread often produces the best results. However, quietly reading aloud is another great way to catch more mistakes.

Building vocabulary and picking up tips to improve writing skills is an on going and rewarding process that has the power to open doors. You're welcome to share your favorite tips to improve grammar and vocabulary in the comments below.

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