Welcome to The Writer's Guide to the Galaxy
This site is intended for use by teachers when marking student writing, and by students who are correcting the writing. Teachers can put the number of an error in the margin and, when students get their papers back, they can look up the numbers on this site to learn about the mistake. By looking up the error each time, students will eventually learn the rules in context, and improve their writing -- learning by doing.
Generally, our reference points are The Chicago Manual of Style and Strunk & White. But, in creating these rules, I have had to walk a fine line between grammatical accuracy and what students can understand easily (for example, I have used the term "parenthetical" to refer to a range of specific situations that did not seem worthwhile to get into in detail). In other sections, though, I have tried to use accurate terminology and then explain it so that students can begin using the same terminology.
Some situations are judgment calls. For example, at my school we have chosen to use and enforce the Oxford comma. I know this is controversial, but I have found that with students it is better to be clear than fuzzy, and when leaving out the Oxford comma students are then called upon to decide every time whether a comma is needed or not. This seems unnecessarily confusing to me, while using the Oxford comma consistently is just simpler and usually ensures clarity. So we use it. I'm sorry if you disagree. I'm not going to change it. Please remember that the purpose of the site is to help students become better writers. Grammar fanatics love to engage in angels-dancing-on-the-head-of-a pin-arguments (come to think of it, so do I), but this site is not the place for that.
This is a work in progress; each year I add, change, and delete depending on the types of mistakes that I see my own students making. If you find things here with which you disagree or which are just flat-out wrong, I would appreciate
I hope you find this website useful, and I welcome your polite and constructive comments.