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Writing: Sentences & Paragraphs

Top 10 Fluency Rules -- Avoiding Stop Signs


Today's Snack: What's a snack that, once you start eating them, it's hard to stop? There are a lot of sweets and other snacks that are bad for you that are that way. One that is pretty healthy, though, is peanuts. So tell yourself how many peanuts you can have as your snack, eat that many, and then . . . STOP! But not before you have GONE for a glass of milk.





Print out one stop sign and one green light (see below)

and this Treat for each student | pencil


OR display the 10-rule quiz, below,

on a big screen and do this quiz together



Imagine you're riding along in a car. All of a sudden, you notice that there are stop signs every 100 feet.


Stop! Stop! Stop! It would be incredible frustrating to try to get anywhere when you have to stop all those times.


It's the same thing with writing errors. They literally stop the progress of the communication.


When you make a spelling, grammar, punctuation or capitalization error in your writing, it's like a giant stop sign.


The reader has to stop, and look, and re-read, puzzle through the confusion, and try to guess what you meant. Only then can the reader move on.


We say that your writing lacks "fluency," or flow, because of all those stops.


If there's another error in the next few words, or the next sentence, the reader may become frustrated over having to stop once again.


See? You want to give your reader a straight shot at understanding your ideas - a clear road - with no unnecessary stops.


So call these the "Rules of the Fluency Road." Here are the Top 10 rules of writing that, if you follow these, will help your words really flow, right off the page and into your reader's heart and mind.


If you wish, print out one stop sign and one green light, shown below, and cut out for each student. Then, as you go over the 10 rules and "vote" on the two choices, each student can hold up either a green light (for the right answer) or a stop sign (for the wrong answer).


Or, if you print out this Treat, simply circle the sentence that is correct under each rule. Answers are below. Don't peek!






1.      Use clear and distinct sentence boundaries.


A: Writing is important to me, it makes me feel more alive.


B: Writing is important to me. It makes me feel more alive.



2.      Make verbs agree with their subjects in number.


A: The writers in our class works hard on their papers.


B: The writers in our class work hard on their papers.



3.      Choose pronouns correctly.


A: Just between you and me, writing is more important than many things.


B: Just between you and I, writing is more important than many things.



4.      Place modifiers near what they modify in a sentence.


A: My car was on the way to the mechanic with rear-end trouble when the joint gave way.


B: My car with rear-end trouble was on the way to the mechanic when the joint gave way.



5.      Use parallel grammatical forms when joining items in a series.


A: She's intelligent, unselfish, and thoughtful.


B: She's intelligent, unselfish, and always careful and totally ready to do the thoughtful thing.



6.      Use conventional spellings, especially for sound-alikes.


A: The committee work had it's affect on me.


B: The committee work had its effect on me.



7.      Use the single comma and the pair of commas appropriately.


A: When all is said and done a lot more is said than done.


B: When all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.



8.      Use quotation marks with other punctuation according to convention.


A: The poem highlighted the mind's way of "exchanging shape for shade."


B: The poem highlighted the minds' way of "exchanging shape for shade".



9.      Use apostrophes to show contracted form and for possession.


A: Originally, the cuffs' of mens pants were used for cigar ashes.


B: Originally, the cuffs of men's pants were used for cigar ashes.


10. Capitalize proper nouns and words derived from them.


A: Her Winter Schedule includes an Art class and english.


B: Her winter schedule includes an art class and English.


















(Answers: 1B, 2B, 3A, 4B, 5A, 6B, 7B, 8A, 9B, 10B)


By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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