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How do I improve my grammar?

Resources for improvement

There are a range of resources available to help you improve your grammar.

Accurate spelling can be seen as a related issue. The improve your spelling resource in Learning inspirations may be helpful.

Recognising problems

Those of us who have studied another language are often familiar with the language of grammar, which means you are more likely to recognise when a sentence is incomplete, for example.

It is worthwhile spending some time gaining familiarity with nouns, verbs, adjectives and clauses (and so on) if you are a native speaker of English. This will give you some insight into why good writing is good. A good revision book (not too heavy!) for the adult native speaker is David Crystal's (2004) paperback, Rediscover grammar ((3rd edn). London: Pearson Longman.)

You may find the 'read aloud' approach useful.

Pretend you are a newsreader - read your assignment aloud using the formal intonation used by newsreaders.

Can you 'hear' when your sentence is incomplete? There will be an abrupt or hanging ending.

Look at this example - can you 'hear' where the sentence is incomplete?

Extract from student essay

While the scenario does not stipulate the reason for the current admission and the other health conditions Miss Day possesses. An awareness that chronic health conditions diminish the well-being and threaten the independence of older adults particularly their activities of daily living (ADLs, which will be discussed later in this paper) is desireable (Burke &amop; Laramie, 2000).

Can you 'hear' when your sentences are too short? It will sound like you're reading a list out loud - as is the case in the sample below.

Do you 'hear' a natural pause in your reading? There should be a full stop. Is this pause a shorter one? There should be a comma.

Remember a complete sentence says something about something!

In this example, can you 'hear' where the sentences are incomplete? Does the first sentence say something about something??

Extract from student essay

Assessment of the client's physiological, psychological, social and cultural needs. Diagnosing the particular health concerns related to Miss Day's conditions. Care plan development, focusing on identifying and documenting discharge strategies as part of the integrated planning process (Dash, Zarle, O'Donnell & Vince Whitman,1996). Implementation of a plan by arranging for the provision of services, including client/family education and referrals and evaluation of the effectiveness of the discharge strategies which may include follow-up post-discharge (DHS, 2005) of Miss Day, are all components of the discharge plan incorporating the nursing process.

Potential solution

Those components of the discharge plan incorporating the nursing process include: an assessment of the client's physiological, psychological, social and cultural needs; the diagnosis of the particular health concerns related to Miss Day's conditions; care plan development focusing on identifying and documenting discharge strategies as part of the integrated planning process (Dash, Zarle, O'Donnell & Vince- Whitman,1996); and implementation of a plan by arranging for the provision of services, including client/family education and referrals and evaluation of the effectiveness of the discharge strategies which may include follow-up post-discharge (DHS, 2005).

The full stop should be removed here, and the two parts joined into the one sentence. Why? It's all about clauses and whether they're dependent or not.

(For a useful discussion on this issue, refer to Editing your work handout)

A potential solution

One option (among a few) is to rewrite this extract as a grammatical list
[see the next extract]

The intended point

You may notice that the student is actually attempting to give the reader an idea of the elements of the discharge plan which includes the nursing process.

Parallel structures

Notice, too, how this has changed to a noun? Go to a discussion on the convention of parallel structures in scholarly writing on Language and Learning Online.

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