Uploaded by Kelly Suda

30 Rules for the ACT

Writing Rules
Ms. Suda ALA 11
APPLYING these 30 rules will improve your English ACT score and your grade on
every paper you write!
(1) You must write complete sentences. It is wrong to punctuate a part of a sentence as if it were a complete
sentence. Usually a sentence fragment can be fixed by joining it to the sentence that comes either before or after
the fragment.
(2) Two sentences may not be fused together without punctuation (a run-on sentence). They also may not be
joined with just a comma (a comma splice run-on). You can fix fused sentences or comma splice errors in several
ways. These are 3 simple solutions:
 Put a period between the 2 sentences.
 Use a comma and a coordinating conjunction (and, or, nor, but, so, for, yet) to join the sentences.
 Join the sentences with a semicolon.
Tony is a teacher. Katie is a medical student.
Tony is a teacher, and Katie is a medical student.
Tony is a teacher; Katie is a medical student.
(3) Use a comma before and, or, nor, but, so, for, yet only when the word joins two complete sentences.
Nikki played varsity soccer in high school, and she hopes that she can play in college.
I wanted to play tennis, but Susie wanted to golf instead.
Sheila went to the Packer game and visited her aunt afterwards. (There is no comma
before and because the word is not joining two sentences.)
(4) Use a comma after an introductory word or group of words.
To get to the appointment on time, the man left early.
When the steaks were medium rare, we took them off the grill.
Cindy, could you come here a minute?
(5) Use pairs of commas to bracket words that are not essential to a sentence’s meaning.
Joe Smith, who is holding the book, won the contest.
Joanne, my sister, went to the University of Nevada.
The boy wearing the red tie is Nancy’s boyfriend. (Commas should NOT be placed around wearing the
red tie because the description is essential to the sentence’s meaning.)
(6) Use a comma between two or more adjectives which modify a noun equally.
I love that old, red jacket of mine.
The desperate, lonely, old man disappeared into the woods.
I saw two little boys in the road. (Do not place a comma between two and little because
the adjectives must be in this order.)
(7) Use a comma between words in a series when 3 or more elements are joined with a single conjunction.
He bought red, green, and blue popsicles.
I must stop at the bank, have the car washed, and leave my shirts at the laundry.
I bought gum and candy and soda at the store. (Because there are two conjunctions,
commas aren’t used in this series.)
(8) There are 3 occasions for using a semi-colon:
 to join sentences that are closely related in thought and are not joined by and, or, nor, but, so, for, yet
(the coordinating conjunctions)
The rain had stopped; a few rays of sunshine were pushing their way through
breaks in the clouds.
 to join sentences connected by transition words such as consequently, however, therefore, nonetheless,
furthermore, for example, otherwise, moreover, whereas.
I’d love to go to the mall; however, I have no transportation.
Note: The transition word is followed by a comma (See Rule #4 above)
 to avoid confusion when items in a series already contain commas.
On Brad’s trip he’ll visit Seattle, Washington; Vancouver, British Columbia; and
San Francisco, California.
(9) Use a colon before a list of items or an explanation that follows a complete sentence. Think of a colon as a gate
inviting the reader to go on. It substitutes for a phrase like for example, namely, that is.
Three sophomores made the varsity team: Sara, Keira, and Tanya.
I have only one thing left to do now: study.
We played volleyball, badminton, and tag. (There is no colon before this list because the
list doesn’t follow a complete sentence.)
(10) A dash (--) is used primarily in 2 situations:
 to set off parenthetical material in place of using parentheses
 or interchangeably with the colon to mean for example, namely, that is before an explanation.
The tools of his trade—probe, mirror, cotton swabs -- were neatly arranged on the
dentist’s tray.
These are the marks of a friend—patience, sensitivity, understanding, empathy.
Note: To type a dash, use two hyphens (--).
(11) A hyphen (-) is used to form compound words and to divide words at the end of a line.
brother-in-law, merry-go-round, seventy-six
(12) Use underlining (or italics) for titles of books, magazines, newspapers, TV programs, and movies. Use
quotation marks for short compositions such as stories, poems, songs, and parts of books such as chapters or
1984 (a book), The Green Bay Press-Gazette (a newspaper), Evita (a movie), “ The Star
Spangled Banner” (a song), “The Tell Tale Heart” (a short story), “Fire and Ice” (a poem).
(13) There are two occasions to use an apostrophe.
 Use an apostrophe to show where letters have been omitted in a contraction.
would’ve (ha is left out)) she’d (woul is left out) might’ve (ha is left out)
 Use an apostrophe to show possession (ownership). Form the possessive of singular
nouns (ex: tiger), plural nouns that do not end in s (ex: men), and indefinite pronouns (ex: someone) by adding ‘s
(ex: tiger’s, men’s, somebody’s). Form the possessive of plural nouns by adding just the apostrophe (‘) if the plural
ends in s (ex: tigers’, cats’, dogs’). Never add an apostrophe to a word that is not possessive but simply plural.
Mr. Smith’s house is on the right. (singular possessive noun)
The Smiths’ house is on the right. (plural possessive noun ending in s)
The children’s toys were broken. (plural possessive noun not ending in s)
I saw the Smiths at Art Street this year. (Smiths is a plural word, but it’s not
possessive, so no apostrophe is needed.)
 DO NOT confuse the possessive pronouns its, their, whose, your with the contractions it’s, they’re, who’s,
(14) Use quotation marks to enclose a direction quotation -- a person’s exact words. When used with
quotation marks in dialogue, the other marks of punctuation are placed as follows:
 Commas and periods are placed inside the closing quotation marks.
“We really must go home,” said the girls.
That chapter in Never Cry Wolf is entitled “Souris a la creme.”
 Semicolons and colons are placed outside the closing quotation marks.
He said, “War is destructive”; she added, “Peace is constructive.”
 Question marks and exclamation points are placed inside the closing quotation marks if they belong with
the quotation; otherwise, they are placed outisde.
The sentry shouted, “Drop your gun!”
Save us from our “friends”!
(15) Maintain a consistent verb tense when writing unless the time scheme of the action dictates a change.
The winds blew sand in the bathers’ faces, so they gathered up their towels and left
the beach quickly. (All verbs are in simple past tense.)
(16) Make the subject and the verb agree with each other, not with a word that comes between them.
* The trickiest agreement problems involve indefinite pronouns. Remember that the following are
singular and take a singular verb: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither,
nobody, no one, nothing, one, somebody, someone, something. There are four plural indefinite pronouns which need
plural verbs: both, few, many, several. Five indefinite pronouns can be either singular or plural, depending on the
sense of the antecedent: all, any, most, none, some.
My allowance, together with my birthday money, is enough for this new TV.
The cart, as well as its contents, was gone.
Each of you is responsible for finishing the project.
(17) Use the active voice unless you specifically need to use the passive. (The subject should be the doer and not
the receiver of the action in the sentence.)
The girl’s boyfriend gave her a dozen roses. NOT A dozen roses was given to the girl by
her boyfriend.
The team achieved a good record. NOT A good record was achieved by the team.
(18) Use the subjunctive were in contrary-to-fact statements (after if or as though) and in statements expressing a
If I were you, I’d try for that scholarship, NOT If I was you ...
I wish she were not my roommate. NOT I wish she was ...
(19) Avoid unclear pronoun reference (especially the abiguous use of “you.”) A personal pronoun requires an
antecedent that is either clearly stated or clearly understood.
WRONG; In ancient Rome, emperors made you offer sacrifices as a sign of your loyalty.
CORRECT: In ancient Rome, emperors made citizens offer sacrifices as a sign of their
WRONG: In the army, they make you get up before dawn.
CORRECT: In the army, officers make soldiers get up before dawn.
(20) Use the relative pronoun who, not that, to refer to human beings.
Over there is the man who robbed the bank . (NOT that robbed the bank)
(21) A pronoun must agree with its antecedent in number and gender.
* See Rule #16 for the list of tricky indefinite pronouns.
Each of the girls gave her speech yesterday. (NOT their speeches)
Either Betty or Sue will give her gift to Mom first. (NOT their gift)
(22) Use the pronouns I, he, she, we, they, who, whoever as subjects. Use the pronouns me, him, her, us, them, whom,
whomever as objects (direct, indirect, or object of preposition).
To type as well as they is my ambition. (NOT them because “they type” is understood.)
I wonder who will be in charge. (NOT whom)
Sue is the employee whom I just hired. (NOT who)
(23) Use a possessive pronoun or noun before a gerund.
We never listen to their boasting. (NOT them boasting)
Is there any criticism of Arthur’s going? (NOT Arthur going)
(24) Use adjectives to modify nouns and adverbs to modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs.
The boy screeched loudly enough to wake the dead. (NOT loud)
I felt bad for her when I heard of her grandmother’s death. (NOT badly)
(25) Be sure that a participial phrase, an infinitive phrase, or an appositive refers clearly to the proper subject.
WRONG: Its hump decorated in strings of flowers, the programmer rode the camel
the food court.
RIGHT: The man rode the camel, its hump decorated in strings of flowers, through the
food court.
WRONG: Filled with bad gas, he drove his car to Tucson despite the knocking.
RIGHT: He drove his car, which was filled with bad gas, to Tucson.
(26) Use parallel construction to make a strong point and create a smooth flow.
WRONG: The class analyzed, discussed, and we raised questions about the new rules.
RIGHT: The class analyzed, discussed, and questioned the new rules.
WRONG: I love to walk, to cross-country ski, and reading.
RIGHT: I love to walk, to cross-country ski, and to read. OR
skiing, and reading.
I love walking, cross-
(27) Avoid double negatives. Hardly, barely, scarcely, only, and but (when it means only) are negative words. Do
NOT use another negative in conjunction with any of these words.
WRONG: He didn’t have but one hat.
RIGHT: He had but one hat. OR He had only one hat.
WRONG: I can’t hardly read the small print.
RIGHT: I can hardly read the small print. OR
I can’t read the small print.
(28) Like is a preposition. Do not use it in place of the conjunction as to introduce a clause with a subject and a
verb or an implied verb.
He looks like a freak in that outfit.
The air smells like roses.
Do as I said.
She copies him all the time and wants to act just as he does.
(29) Correct spelling is essential! In particular, learn these frequently confused words:
 accept
Accept is a verb meaning “to receive.” Except is a preposition meaning “but.”
We accept your offer to mediate the dispute.
All the singers attended except the tenor.
 affect
Affect is a verb meaning “to influence.” Effect is nearly always used as a noun meaning “result.”
I was deeply affected by her tribute.
The seniors were warned about the effects of their actions on the freshmen.
 already
all ready
Already means “even now” or “by or before this time.” All ready means “ready.”
We have already finished the dishes.
I am all ready; let’s get going!
 between
Both of these words are prepositions. Among always implies three or more.
Between is used with two things only.
The work was divided among the four members.
The business was divided between the two sons.
 brake
A brake is a device for stopping or slowing down. Brake can be used as a verb meaning to apply
the brakes.
Break means to shatter or crush.
An automobile brake will overheat if used too often.
Borrow my mirror, but don’t break it.
 fewer
 its
 of
Fewer is used with objects that can be counted. Less is used with qualities or quantities that
cannot be counted.
fewer ships, fewer students, fewer calories
less sunshine, less excitement, less supervision
Its is used to show ownership. It’s is a contraction meaning “it is or it has”
The dog is shedding its coat.
I wonder if it’s going to rain today.
Do not use the preposition of in place of the verb have.
WRONG: I would of been happy with that grade. CORRECT: I would have been happy.
 principal
Principal as a noun means “leader.” As an adjective, it means “chief or main.”
Principle is a noun meaning “rule or standard.”
Dr. Wagner is the principal.
My principal concern is your welfare.
Humility was the guiding principle of Buddha’s life.
 than
Than is a conjunction, used mainly in comparisons. Then is an adverb meaning at that time or
soon afterward.
Luke is taller than I am.
We lived on Garden Street until July, and then we moved to our new house.
 their
Their is used to show ownership as in “their computer.” They’re is a contraction
meaning “they are” as in “They’re going, aren’t they?” There has several different
uses. Most commonly it means “a place” as in “over there, “ or it is used to
introduce a phrase or clause as in “There are two correct answers.”
 to
To is a preposition that indicates direction, degree, connection, etc.; it is also part of the infinitive
form of a verb. Too is an adverb with two different meanings: more than enough and also. Two
is a number.
Let’s go to the movies. Suddenly a bird began to sing.
Is it too far to walk? You, too, are invited to the party.
There are two flavors: vanilla and chocolate.
 waist
Waist means the middle part of the body. Waste means useless spending, unused or useless
material, or to spend idly or unnecessarily.
These shorts are too tight in the waist.
The movie was simply a waste of time. Don’t waste your money on books like that. Throw your
waste paper in this basket.
 weather
Weather refers to atmospheric conditions. Whether expresses an alternative.
We had great weather for the picnic.
I don’t know whether he’s been delayed or whether he isn’t coming at al
 whose
Whose is used to show ownership. Who’s is a contraction meaning “who is or
who has.”
Whose jacket is this hanging on the hook?
Who’s responsible for locking the door?
 your
Your is used to show ownership. You’re is a contraction meaning “you are.”
This is your essay.
You’re in charge, aren’t you?
30) The most important capitalization rules follow:
(1) Capitalize people’s names and titles used with people’s names. Also capitalize initials or abbreviations that stand for the
names of titles.
Mrs. Cruz
Jerome W. Wilson, Jr.
William M. Madson, M.D.
(2) Do not capitalize titles used without names as common nouns. Do capitalize titles of VERY high importance, even when
they are used without names. (Note that articles and short prepositions are
not capitalized.)
He is a general.
the President of the United States
the Secretary of State
(3) Capitalize such words as mother, father, aunt, and uncle when they are used as names. If the noun is preceded by a
possessive word or by a or the, it is not capitalized.
Uncle Bob is my father’s brother.
I see Mom coming home now.
(4) Capitalize the pronoun I.
Did you hear what I did?
(5) Capitalize all words referring to God, to the Holy Family, and to religious scripture.
the Old Testament
the Holy Spirit
the Koran
(6) In a geographical name, capitalize the first letter of each word except articles and prepositions.
Cities, Towns
Bodies of water
Land forms
Political units
Public areas
Roads and highways
North America, Asia, Europe
Mexico, the United States of America
Green Bay, De Pere, Chicago, New York
the Pacific Ocean, Lake Michigan, the Nile
Mount Whitney, Great Salt Lake, Mammoth Caves
the Republic of Iraq, Arizona, Atlanta, Third Precinct
Lincoln Memorial, Fort Laramie, Muir Woods, Central Park
Route 84, Pacific Avenue, Mott Boulevard
(7) Capitalize names of sections of the country.
The Old West was often lawless.
Hurricane Belle hit the East Coast.
(8) Capitalize proper adjectives that come from names of sections of the country.
a West Coast fad
a Southern tradition
the North woods
(9) Do not capitalize directions of the compass or adjectives that come from words showing direction.
We drove north for twenty miles, then east for three miles.
Tom lives in the southwest corner of the city.
(10) Capitalize the names of organizations and institutions, including political parties, governmental bodies or agencies,
schools, colleges, churches, hospitals, clubs, businesses, teams, and abbreviations of these names.
Department of Energy
Bellin Hospital
Preble High School
League of Women Voters
I.B.M. (or IBM)
Language Arts Academic Team
(11) Capitalize the names of historical events, documents, and periods of time.
the Vietnam War
the Declaration of Independence
the Renaissance
(12) Capitalize the names of months, days, and holidays but NOT the names of seasons.
the Fourth of July
(13) Capitalize the names of races, languages, nationalities, and religions. Also capitalize any adjectives that come from
these names.
Chinese Navajo
Judaism Christianity
(14) Do not capitalize the names of school subjects, except course titles followed by a number and courses which are
physical science
social studies
Algebra II
(15) Capitalize the names of ships, trains, airplanes, and automobiles.
the Faerie Queen
Boeing 727
Dodge Omni
Honda Civic
(16) Capitalize the names of planets, stars, constellations EXCEPT earth, moon, and sun unless they are being used along
with other astronomical names that are capitalized.
Big Dipper
Ursa Major
(17) Capitalize brand names.
Levi jeans
Kraft cheese
(18) Capitalize the first and last words and all important words in titles of books, magazines, poems, stories, plays, historical
documents, movies, radio and TV programs, works of art, and musical compositions.
Green Bay Press-Gazette
“Mending Wall”
Lean on Me
A Raisin in the Sun