There’s no question that you’ll do a lot of writing in your college classrooms. Nearly all professors assign at least a basic essay over the course of the semester. Additionally, you may have essay questions on exams. Of course, you can fully expect that your grammar will count toward your final grade. Because there are so many grammar rules to remember and keep in mind, it’s a good idea to know the best of them. Not only will this improve your writing skills, but it could just give your grade a boost too. Here are the top grammar tips for college students to keep in mind.

Referring to Yourself

Because you’ll probably write a good number of personal essays during college, it’s a good idea to know how to refer to yourself. That could be “I,” “my,” or “me.” The best way to determine if you’ve got it right is to remove other people from the sentence. For example, you wouldn’t say “Maria and myself ate fish for dinner.” The correct grammar would be, “Maria and I ate fish for dinner.” By removing Maria from the sentence, you can see that “myself” doesn’t work.

Common Word Mix Ups

Nothing makes you look less than literate than using the wrong form of a word. The biggest offenders are “their,” “they’re,” and “there.” Their is a possessive form that refers to an item or items that belong to several people. For example, “those are their college textbooks.” They’re is to replace any instance in which you would normally write, “they are.” For example, “they’re going to the coast for a vacation.” There is always used to refer to a place. For example, “we are going there for dinner tomorrow night.”

Another common mix up is “you’re” and “your.” You’’re is used to replace “you are.” For example, “you’re going to be late for class.” Your is in reference to something that belongs to you. For example, “your papers are blowing away.”

Finally, “it’s” and “its” are very commonly confused. It’s makes you think it’s possessive, but it actually replaces “it is.” For example, “it’s very windy and cold outside today.” Any other instance uses “its.” For example, “its winter coat is very thick and coarse.”

Using Passive Voice

Passive voice is almost always the exception and not the norm. It’s not necessarily incorrect grammar, but usually makes for more difficult and boring reading. Passive voice would be something like, “salad was being eaten.” This sentence isn’t grammatically incorrect but sounds far less appealing than “we are eating salad.” Anytime you have a paper assigned, ask the instructor how he or she feels about passive voice. Chances are that 9 times out of 10, your professor won’t like it, even it won’t dramatically reduce your grade. Being a good writer involves avoiding passive voice as much as you can.

Commas and Semicolons

Commas are a great way to break up a sentence, but you’ve got to be careful that you aren’t using too many of them. Most writing experts will say, “when in doubt, leave it out.” However, there are some rules to know about using commas the right way. Don’t use a comma between a noun and a verb but do use a comma to break up dates (i.e. June 5, 2003). A good grammar website template can help you get into the habit of only using commas when needed.

Semicolons are generally used to link two sentences without using a conjunction like “but” or “and.” They essentially allow you to combine two sentences into one. For example, “we’re going to the museum; it’s the perfect day for it” instead of “we’re going to the museum and it’s a perfect for it.” The best rule of thumb here is that if you are unsure of how or where to use semicolons, just start a new sentence instead.

Specific Styles

Depending on the class or subject, there is likely a certain style that your tutor might ask for. That could be Chicago, APA or MLA. There are a variety of differences among the different styles so it’s important to become familiar with the nuances of each so that you can turn in the proper style for every assignment.

If you’re unsure about which style is best for the paper, ask your instructor. Some will have a set style they always want to see and some of them may allow you to choose the one you’re most comfortable with.

Grammar is something you might think too much about now that you’ve finished high school and aren’t sitting in a language class each day. However, if you truly want to turn in top-notch quality writing, staying familiar with grammar is something you need to do each day and with each class.

There are plenty of websites that can guide you. If you’re ever in doubt, simply look it up. It’s better to have to spend that extra few minutes than to get counted off for using improper grammar. There are simple grammar and spellcheckers, but also those that will check for issues such as passive voice. If you’re really out of practice, consider taking a refresher course, either on campus or online. This is something you’ll never regret because poor grammar really can make or break your grade on any university or college paper.
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