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Grammar deals with how words go together.  It’s knowing that a plural subject requires a plural verb,  that a feminine noun requires a feminine pronoun, and that what you write generally makes sense.  It really is easy to sound picky when speaking about grammar, and often it is.  And that's why here, at the Incomplete Guide, we offer you the following:

 

Things You Don't Have to Worry About

 

Aside from that, though, there are things you need to worry about.  Imagine that writing an essay is like writing music. Each word is like a note. If you throw in random notes in your music composition, or put discordant notes together, you more than likely would come up with something that sounds awful. Even if you could make out a melody, would anybody really want to listen to it twice? The true goal in writing – the Holy Grail, if you will – is for every word, every comma, every space, to be so carefully thought out for its exact meaning that no other meaning is possible. It is for your intended audience to receive your intended message exactly as you intended them to receive it. That includes the overall message as well as the tone you intended that message to be received in. Poor grammar, bad word choice, or inaccurate usage may not necessarily totally erode your message, but it could very well add an additional message to your composition: “I’m too busy to proofread” or “I don’t know any better” or “I don’t care enough to make this exact.” Which do you think your reader is going to choose? Will it matter? And, if that is a secondary (or sometimes the primary) message that you are sending, good luck in convincing anybody that any of your ideas are worth listening to.

That said, it’s all but impossible to be error-free on anything.  But the goal is to try.  Because, as Eldridge was fond of saying before we locked him in the break room, “Bad grammar in a paper is like showing up to a job interview wearing a dirty Van Halen T-shirt. It really doesn’t matter if you would’ve been the best applicant at that point.”

The following files are designed to help you better understand grammar.  Whereas any of the files can be read independently of the others, the best place to start would probably be "Complete Sentences," because understanding what makes sentences complete is at the core of understanding pretty much all grammar.  Understanding fragments, run-ons, commas, quotes – yeah, pretty much everything – depends on first understanding what a complete sentence is.  Once you understand what a complete sentence is, then fragments and run-ons are easy.  Comprehending parentheses without comprehending complete sentences... good luck with that.  Unless you understand what a complete sentence is, trying to understand commas is a bit pointless.  And unless you understand that whole comma thing, then quotes are going to be really hard to get.

As stated above, writing is a lot like playing music.  But you should never be afraid to pick up your guitar and just play.  See what notes go together.  See which cords you like.  Experiment.  What happens if you loosen a string while you’re playing it?  And if you hit a sour note... who cares?  You just keep playing.