Sentence Problems

“My grammar is terrible.”

Most native speakers of English actually have great grammar–when they talk. But a lot of the time, something glitches when it comes to writing. And in fact, your problem may not be grammar but something else. Nonnative speakers have a different set of problems, but we know how to handle those, too. We’ll work with you to identify the problems and help you recognize how to fix them.

“My teacher says I have too many run-ons and/or fragments.”

The first thing we need to do is to learn to recognize what a run-on sentence is, and what a sentence fragment is. Then you need to understand how to fix the problems when you recognize them. We’ll work with you, using both your own writing and drills/worksheets, so you can find and fix the errors with confidence.

“My writing doesn’t sound professional enough.”

Writers need to understand the expectations of their “audience,” what kind of language and approach will be considered appropriate for any particular situation. But one of the biggest mistakes people make is to strain for a kind of language that isn’t natural to them. But “I write how I talk” can also backfire. It’s a fine balance, but we’ll help you develop your own voice so you know how to use it for any kind of writing.

“I don’t know how/where/when/why to use commas (or other forms of punctuation).”

Rules about punctuation aren’t developed just to drive writers crazy and to give teachers (or other evaluators of our writing) something to beat us up about. Punctuation actually structures meaning–but there are a lot of rules, and they’re hard to keep track of. We’ll help you recognize the most important rules and give you tools, including handouts, that will help you use exactly what you need in the correct way.

“My spelling is … atroshus? … Attrochus?” (Atrocious.)

We love spell check, and love that all word processing programs come with some form of it. But spell check is limited: it doesn’t know what word you mean, so it can’t correct all your mistakes–or may “correct” something so it becomes a mistake. We’ll talk with you about strategies for learning to recognize your most common mistakes so you can fix them–and give you some of the basic rules for spelling in English, so you have at least a chance of getting something right.

“I don’t know what the problem is: I just know my papers come back with low grades on them.”

We’ll look at the assignments you’ve gotten and clarify what’s going wrong. You may not understand the feedback you’re getting from your teacher, or your teacher may not be giving much feedback. We’ll talk with you about what your teacher wants—and give you strategies to fix the problems.