Grammar Terms

I was cleaning up the website when I found this hidden with some abandoned pages. I’m not sure which of the past tutors put this together, but it’s worth sharing/reviewing. I hope you benefit from the information ūüôā


Technically, you don’t need to know grammar terms in order to be able to write, but it can be hard to learn how to utilize the full power of a language if you don’t know how to describe what you’re even talking about.¬† A lot of these grammar terms were created to make it easier to talk about languages.¬† And if you can talk about the language, it will be easier to learn it (imagine trying to learn to speak Spanish while trying to speak about Spanish in Spanish).¬† So if you’re a student learning something like why a comma is necessary in front of a coordinating conjunction in order to join two independent clauses just so you can get a better grade on a paper, it’s easier to know the terms than to say something like “that thing that goes before the word that fits between those other words.”¬† That would hardly sound like someone who knows any English at all.

In alphabetical order (almost):

Clause-a part of a sentence made up of a subject and a verb, which can stand on its own as an Independent Clause or be joined with other clauses or phrases to create a sentence.

Compound Sentence-a sentence made when independent clauses are joined together by a coordinating conjunction, a transitional expression, or a semi-colon.

Complex Sentence-a sentence that is created when two independent clauses are joined together by a subordinating conjunction, making one clause dependent as a subordinate of the other (so to speak).

Compound-Complex Sentence-a sentence that is made up of both independent and dependent clauses that have been joined by both subordinating conjunctions and coordinating conjunctions.  Much like the name itself implies, this type of sentence is pretty much a combination of the Compound and Complex sentence types.

Conjunction-a word that joins clauses and phrases.

Coordinating Conjunction-a type of clause that emphasizes a logical relationship between the clauses and/or phrases it is joining.  Examples:  and, but, or, so, for, yet, nor.

Dependent Clause-a clause that can only be a sentence when attached to an Independent Clause using a Subordinating Conjunction.  Conjunctions join clauses, and a subordinating conjunction joins the dependent clause, which cannot stand on its own, with an independent clause, which can stand on its own.  The Dependent Clause is DEPENDENT on the Independent Clause because it is the subordinate of the Independent clause.

Independent Clause-a clause (subject+verb) that can stand on its own as a sentence or be combined with other clauses or phrases to form more intricate sentences.

Phrase-similar to a clause, except that a phrase lacks either a subject or a verb or both.¬† A phrase cannot stand on it’s own because a sentence is not complete unless it has both a subject and a verb.¬† An Independent Clause is often attached to a phrase in order to make a complete sentence.

Object-the person/place/thing/whatever to which something is being done.

Simple Sentence-essentially, it the most basic sentence from.  It has to have a subject and a verb to be a sentence (subject+verb=Independent Clause).

Subject-the person/place/thing/whatever that is doing something.

Subordinating Conjunction-a type of clause that emphasizes a specific relationship between clauses or phrases, where we can’t grasp the full meaning of the sentence until we know how the subordinate part relates to the other.¬† Examples: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, unless, until, when, while (etc.)

Verb-an action (like “run,” “laugh,” “think,” “feel,” “be,” “exist”)

College Essay – Why Our School?

“Why did you choose our university?”

Is it just me or is this the most frustrating prompt a university can give us? Excuse me admissions, but you already work there; you should know the reasons people apply better than anyone. Allow me to construct a brief list in case you forgot:
1. It’s a school.
And I’m out of ideas…

It’s a trap of a question, even when they expand the prompt to include direction: “What about our clubs and activities…” “Making specific reference to the curriculum and classes…” “Knowing now that the manticore is weak to mage-fire…”
We end up writing an advertisement for the university that we already decided to apply to, and struggling to include as much information from the website as possible without outright plagiarizing:

“Ocean University is unique among the sea-faring schools, because it is one of the only schools in the nation to offer a full-time Atlantean exchange program to sophomore students. Additionally, the marine horticulture courses (MHOT 165 and MHOT 167) stand at the forefront of seaweed harvest technology. The university is top in the field in Delphinidae¬†Linguistic analysis, and the work of Dr. Tursiops makes new strides each year.”

But enough about the frustrations, you’re here for actual advice. Effectively answering this question means recognizing and avoiding the trick. The first thing to remember is the purpose of essays in an application. The answer may seem like it’s just extra work, or to weed out the people who don’t want to write fifteen papers in addition to schoolwork, but the kinder answer is to give you (the applicant) a chance to introduce yourself outside of grades and test scores. Your GPA isn’t going to tell an admissions officer how you think, or how you were raised, or that your passion for film has influenced every decision since fourth grade–but your essay can. A quality essay is nearly always going to be you writing about yourself.

I’ll say that again, because it’s important:

A quality essay is nearly always going to be you writing about yourself.

With this in mind, we can go back to the prompt.

“Why did you choose our university?”

This isn’t a question about the school, this is a question about you: What about you made you decide to apply to our school? The response might still be an advertisement, but you are the product, not the university. The “reason” you give can be almost anything – the classes, the clubs, the staff, the location, the air quality – what matters is what you say about yourself:

“My whole life¬†I have dreamed of being an explorer, and I have always been obsessed with being first – first in line, and first to finish. This drive is what attracted me most to Ocean University. Though nearly every university has a study abroad program, OU is unique in that it partners with the newly discovered kingdom of Atlantis. OU students are first to enjoy that experience, and the fact that students as young as sophomores have been granted access is unprecedented – a fact that I intend to take full advantage of. More than anything I want to explore a new world before anyone else can, and OU is the best place for me to achieve that lifelong dream.”

The difference between this example and the first one is the focus. In the second example, there is reference to the school, but we learn more about me and my personality than the program I mention. In this sort of essay it is safe to assume that the reader knows about the school, and they know the reasons that “someone” would want to go there. What they don’t know – what they give you the chance to tell them – is why YOU want to go there.