please know the following terms: nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, conjunctions, sentences
I have been writing for almost eight years now, I’ve taken an English class at school (and did well enough that the teacher recommended that I apply for a tutoring job) and I have worked at the writing center editing students’ papers for a whole semester. So I have some clue about grammar.
The fact is that you don’t need to know everything in grammar. Who cares what a complex-complete sentence or a past perfect verb is? (Well, I do, but I don’t know off the top of my head. And honestly, very few people who came to me at the writing center cared to know either.)
However, there are some basic parts of grammar that you need to know in order to edit your paper.
Nouns: Simply, an noun is any visible object. A name is also a noun (properly called a noun of direct address). However, nouns can also be things like virtues and emotions. Nouns are what do the action in the sentance.
Two things to understand with nouns. Although not always, nouns can either function as subjects or objects in a basic sentence. In general, subjects come before the verb and objects come after the verb. (They also function quite commonly as objects of the preposition, but, because I don’t think you need to know what a preposition is, I won’t go there.)
Verbs: Verbs, simply, are action words, like jump, type, listen, talk, said. Other verbs, called passive verbs, are words like was, were, has, had, ect. A passive word means the action was not done by the subject. (“My comb was broken,” vs. “Someone broke my comb.”) Whenever I mention avoid passive words, I particularly mean you should delete “was/were” from your writing.
Verbs and nouns are the basic building blocks of sentences.
Adjective: Adjectives modify or describe nouns. Take a noun–girl–and put an adjective on it–tall girl, short girl, fat girl, skinny girl. Adjectives almost always go before the noun. Sometimes adjectives will come after the noun in a prepositional phrase, such as, dashboard of the car. These should be changed to read “car’s dashboard.”
Adverbs: The difference between adjectives and adverbs is that adjectives describe nouns while adverbs describe verbs. So if we take a verb–typed–and put an adverb on it–typed quickly. in general, the way to recognize an adverb is if it ends in -LY. Also, adverbs, unlike adjectives, can be found in a variety of locations, from the beginning to the end of a sentence. Examples:
Quickly, she ran to the store.
She quickly ran to the store.
She ran quickly to the store.
She ran to the store quickly.
Although adverbs can go anywhere, as seen above, most people agree that adverbs are better the closer they are to the verb.
Conjunction: These combine two similar thoughts or phrases together to form one unit. Coordinating conjunctions are simple: For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So. However, there are also subordinating conjunctions, which are much more common as you shall soon see.
Now, let’s put this all together. In order to be a reasonable proofreader, you need to be able to recognize a complete sentence.
Sentences: In a sentence, you need a noun and a verb. If you have more than one of either of those, you need a conjunction, a semi colon or a period. Confusing? Yeah, probably. Just hang with me.
You can have something called a very simple sentence which is five words long at most. An example would be:
She ate the cake.
She (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object)
Or you can have a very long sentence.
Sue ate the cake and Bob drank the soda while they walked to the park.
Sue (noun, subject) ate (verb) the cake (noun, object) and (conjunction) Bob (noun, subject) drank (verb) the soda (noun, object) while (conjunction) they (noun, subject) walked (verb) to the park (noun, either subject nor object. It’s actually an object of the proposition, like I mentioned earlier. To can be an preposition.)
Why is this important? Because say I have a sentence:
The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog, he ran across the field too.
You think it might look right but just to be on the safe side, you decide to check it.
The quick (adjective) brown (adjective) fox (noun, subject) jumped (verb) over the lazy (adjective) dog, (noun) he (noun, subject) ran (verb) across the field (noun) too.
When you analyze it like that, you find that you actually have two subjects, two verbs and no conjunction. You need to place a conjunction in the sentence, or a period, and make it two separate sentences or else you have a comma splice. (Two sentences joined with a comma.)
The other reason why you need to know these parts of speech is because once you realize that one word is an adjective, if you decide that you don’t like that particular adjective, you can replace it with any other adjective found in the dictionary. It’s very much like the mad lib idea. But, you can’t replace one type of word for another type of word.
So now perhaps you understand not only why your teacher cared so much about nouns and verbs but how to use them while writing.