Sunday, February 21, 2021

5 Capitalization Hints

A pineapple on yellow background

Capitalization is often a complex issue, and one's best friend is a good dictionary when trying to be correct. The five hints that follow are examples of frequent errors in capitalization. Learning them will make it easier to write correctly.

5 Capitalization Hints to Remember

1.  Don't capitalize seasons: summer, fall, autumn, winter, or spring

2.  Don't capitalize school subjects unless they are followed by a number or if they are a language.
        Correct:  biology, Biology II, French, history, math, Algebra I, algebra 

3.  Capitalize directions if they name a region of the country, but not when they indicate a direction of the compass. 
        Correct:  I love the food in the South.
                         Go two blocks north and then turn west and the stop sign.

4.  Do not capitalize earth, sun, or moon unless they appear in a list of other capitalized celestial bodies.
        Correct: I love the smell of the earth after a rain.
                        Today, we studied Earth, Jupiter, Mars, and Venus.

5.  Do not capitalize web, web page, or website but do capitalize World Wide Web and         Internet.
        Correct:  I am going to use the Internet today to create a new web page.
                         I cannot imagine how many websites exist on the World Wide Web.

I offer a FREE exercise to practice these five hints to anyone who subscribes to my newsletter. My newsletter will keep you informed about new lessons that I create and frequently includes FREE lessons and grammar tips and tricks. If you would like to subscribe click here.

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Sunday, January 17, 2021

How to Reduce Wordy Sentences

Email, text messaging, Twitter, Facebook, Zoom, and other forms of internet communities are the way people interact with each other.

Am I against using these new ways to communicate? Absolutely not. I use them, too, and find it quite enjoyable to interact with friends both old and new.

Am I tempted to shorten my messages and tweets with letters and numerals such as, "I want 2 C U 2 day?" Not really.

Because I am a writer and a grammar teacher, I try to condense my words into succinct phrases, clauses, and sentences that convey my exact meaning while using fewer words.

With practice, anyone can become a better writer. One of the best ways to improve one’s writing is to cut extraneous words from essays, emails, texts, or manuscripts.

It takes work to say what you mean, but anyone can do it well with practice.

Learn to:
  • repeat a word or phrase only when necessary.
  • avoid a careless or needless repetition of a thought in different words.
  • avoid clumsy, roundabout expressions.
  • eliminate needless words and choppy sentences.
  • avoid the double negative.
  • use adverbs sparingly.
  • choose the precise word to convey your meaning.
  • avoid clich├ęs.


It is quality, not quantity that counts in writing. Most good writing is not cluttered with superfluous words.

Here are three ways to improve your writing:

(1) Eliminate extra words and the unnecessary repetition of ideas. 

For example:

Wordy: The dog played with a small, little, round ball, which was made of rubber.

Better: The dog played with a little rubber ball.

(2) Reduce clauses to phrases and phrases to single words.

For example:

Wordy:  We decided that we would leave the meeting early.

Better: We decided to leave the meeting early.

Wordy: The illegal immigrants who had been captured were deported to Mexico.

Better: The captured illegal immigrants were deported to Mexico.

(3) Avoid trying to sound like Shakespeare. Write naturally. 

For example:

Wordy:  Illumination is required when the sun has sunk into the west and left the premises in darkness.

Better: Turn on the lights at dark.

What about you? Do you sometimes use more words that you really need? I know I do, so when I go back and proofread what I have written, I often find myself tapping the delete key.

Twitter is a great place for people to learn to practice reducing long, convoluted, rambling sentences into 280 characters.

Click here to download a FREE exercise to practice reducing longer sentences into shorter, concise statements.

Here are some related resources in my store that you might find useful for your students.

“It ain't whatcha write, it's the way atcha write it.”

                                                ------- Jack Kerouac

Thanks for reading,

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Sunday, December 20, 2020

Civility in the Classroom

Students working together in classroom.

I believe that the process by which students learn is much more important than the actual content data they acquire. If an information base were all that was required to be successful in life, the library and the internet could satisfy that requirement, and students wouldn’t need teachers at all.

In my classroom, I wanted my students to read good books, write insightful compositions, and learn to correct grammar to be understood and respected when speaking or writing. Those concepts were important to me, but much more important was the climate of the classroom in which they spent so much time with me. 

Allowing students to work in small groups helps them learn to be civil to one another. I tried to mix up the groups in my classes so that students could work with people they did not know especially well. 

How we treat one another in our daily interactions is something for which we can all take responsibility. Not everyone is raised in a home where family members respect each other and speak to each other kindly. That’s one of the most important reasons for teachers to require that the students in their classes treat each other with civility. Teachers can model that behavior and expect students to do the same. When teachers observe students treating each other with respect, it is important to reward their behavior with a smile, a nod, or a compliment.

No one should be subjected to a learning environment in which they are subject to criticism, racism, misogyny, or any manner of hate-filled speech. Civility begins in the home and in the classroom. 

Click here to download a FREE Civility Worksheet to help your students recognize and understand what civility means.

Here's another resource your students might enjoy. I wrote an original short story, and students will give it a title while exploring its theme.

Thanks for reading. Here are some blog posts that my teacher friends wrote that you will enjoy reading. I hope you have a safe and happy holiday season.

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Sunday, November 15, 2020

Help with the Active and Passive Voice of Verbs

Here are tips on using the active and passive voice from Simple Steps to Sentence Sense.

Whenever possible, use verbs in the active voice. The passive voice is weak and uses unnecessary words. 

“A captain has been appointed by the team” 
is weaker than 
“The team has appointed a captain.”  

Sentences with verbs in the passive voice use "is, am, are, was, were, be, or been" as a helping verb with the past participle. Sentences in the passive voice often contain the preposition “by.”

To change a sentence into the active voice do the following:

  • Remove the form of the to be helping verb. Be sure to keep the tense of the verb the same as it was.
  • Remove the word by
  • Flip the ends of the sentence.

Step 2 in SimpleSteps to Sentence Sense is all about finding the verb and the verb phrase.

Click here to watch a video explaining Step 2.

Once your students master the use of the verb in a sentence, they will become better writers.

Click here for a complete unit on verbs that will make it easy for your students to use them correctly.

Click here to access a mini-lesson from pages from the All About Verbs exercise that you can assign in Google Drive. Click here to access the answers to the exercise.

Thanks for reading,

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Saturday, October 17, 2020

Tips for Knowing When to Use Who, That, and Which

Here are a few simple hints to help you decide whether to use “who,” “that,” or “which” in the sentences you write.

Use “who” when referring to people. For example, The man who answered the phone was very polite.

Use "that" for clauses that define specific people or things and provide necessary information. For example, The cake that I made yesterday was delicious. (You are talking about a specific cake.)

Use "which" in a nonessential clause that adds information but is not necessary to the meaning of the sentence. 
For example, The movie, which I saw yesterday, was about a war hero.

Nonrestrictive clauses that begin with “which” should be placed in between commas or in between parentheses. A nonrestrictive clause is one that can be omitted without changing the meaning of the sentence.

I hope you can use the tips above, and that you are doing well. Stay safe!

Thanks for reading,

Take a look at some interesting blog posts from my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative. 

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Sunday, September 20, 2020

Misplaced Modifiers Often Create Strange Mental Pictures

Misplaced modifiers can create mental pictures that are often humorous. Sometimes, it's possible to read a sentence that contains a misplaced or dangling modifier and not notice the error. As always, it is easier to detect the mistakes in other people's writing than it is in your own. You know what you are trying to say, but you will say it badly if the modifiers are out of place in the sentence.

A modifying phrase or clause must clearly modify a word in the sentence. If there is no word to which the modifier is attached, the modifier is misplaced.

For example, Carrying an armful of flowers, his foot caught on the steps.

His foot is not carrying the flowers. There is no word in the sentence for the participial phrase to modify, so it contains a dangling modifier.

Corrected: Carrying an armful of flowers, he caught his foot on the steps.

Another way writers can confuse readers is by placing a modifier in a sentence that may be taken to modify two different words. As a result, the reader will not understand the writer's intended meaning. This error is called using a squinting modifier. (Sometimes it is called using a two-way modifier.)

For example, Todd said after the game Jack acted like a jerk.

Since the phrase after the game could modify said or acted, the meaning of this sentence is not clear. Did Todd say this after the game, or did Jack act like a jerk after the game?

Clear: After the game, Todd said Jack acted like a jerk.

Clear: Todd said Jack acted like a jerk after the game.

To avoid dangling modifiers, be sure to place the modifier close to the word it modifies. Sometimes you will have to add a word to the sentence, and sometimes you can just move the modifying phrase or clause closer to the word it modifies.

To avoid squinting modifiers, carefully construct your sentences to say what you mean, and make it clear which word is being modified.

How do you avoid errors such as these? Proofread what you write carefully and make sure to write sentences that are well constructed. The more you write, the better you will be at avoiding errors with misplaced and squinting modifiers.

For practice, here are a few examples for you to correct.

  • The bear was near the empty garbage can searching for food.
  • The dog ran into the room wiggling and jumping for joy.
  • He saw her at the meat counter talking to the butcher.
If you want more practice, here's a free exercise your students can use in Google Drive ™ for distance learning.

Here's a free exercise. You can print it or use in Google Drive.™ You will find the answers here.

I also have a self-grading deck of BOOM Cards™ that your students will love to play while reviewing misplaced modifiers. The resource comes with a mini-lesson. You can preview the deck before you buy it.

I hope you will find this information useful. Your students will become better writers if they can identify and correct errors with misplaced, dangling, and squinting modifiers.

Take a look at these helpful blog posts from my teacher friends at The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative.

Thanks for reading,


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Sunday, August 16, 2020

Tips for Sequencing When Reading and Writing

Yellow note cards for sequencing when writing

One good thing about using a computer when you're writing is that you can cut and paste sentences and paragraphs to move them to different locations in your manuscripts. 

Even though a writer may have outlined the plot of the story, the sequence of events can rearrange themselves when you least expect it. That usually happens to me when one of my characters takes over the novel and leads me down a path I did not expect to follow.

I have found that a stack of 3x5 cards comes in handy when I am writing fiction. I name the day and time that the action occurs at the top of the card and write a sentence describing the key action that occurs in each scene. 

Later, after I am well into the novel, if I need to rearrange the sequence of events, I can do so by shuffling the cards into the proper order. When I am sure that I have the sequence exactly as I want it to be, I can begin to cut and paste on the computer and move chapters or scenes around without the risk of becoming confused.

If your students need help with sequencing when they read or write, have them use 3x5 cards as an easy way to arrange the order of events. I found this method especially helpful while students are reading difficult material. 

While reading fiction, they could write the plot points on cards and then arrange them in order to see the exposition and rising action, and more easily determine the climax, the falling action, and the denouement.

When reading nonfiction, students could begin with the author and the title on the first 3x5 card. Then on separate cards, they can write the chapter titles and notes on the content of that chapter. Let them find a direct quotation in each chapter that they might choose to use later in a speech or report.

In my creative writing classes, I had students keep a stack of cards beside them while they were writing. Here's a FREE lesson that would help students when they are doing narrative writing. Click here to grab it.

A thumbnail image depicting a free creative writing resource.

Students may enjoy another creative writing lesson with which they'll have fun choosing a scenario to plot a mystery story. Click here to read the description in my store.

I spent the summer months creating new distance learning lessons and updating the Middle School and Elementary and ESL editions of Simple Steps to Sentence Sense. Now, they can be used in GOOGLE Drive™. I finished just in time for the back to school shopping.

Whether you are in the classroom or teaching virtually, I know that you will be as awesome as ever because that's just what teachers are. Stay safe and well this year.

Thanks for reading,


Please read some great blog posts from my friends in  The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs Marketing Cooperative.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Back to School on TpT

Chalkboard and school supplies.

Tomorrow, August 4th and Wednesday, August 5th everything in my TpT store will be 20% off including bundles. If you add the code BTS20 at checkout, TpT will give you an additional 5% off. 

I have many distance learning resources that you can use in Google Drive. They include lessons, exercises, and the answers. You will find them here.

Have you tried BOOM Cards? They are self-grading digital task cards that your students will love. I have created several decks. You will find them here. Play the previews to see what you think.

My big news is that now all three editions of Simple Steps to Sentence Sense are now in Google Drive and students will type their work into text boxes on GOOGLE Slides.

Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for Elementary and ESL

Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for Middle School

Simple Steps to Sentence Sense for High School

BUNDLES are always a bargain, but during a TpT sale, they become a SUPER BARGAIN. I have some new bundles in my store. Click here to see them.

Please stay well and safe. If I can help you, please send me an email at

All the best,


Friday, June 19, 2020

Sun, Sand, and Savings Week is Coming Soon

This summer, a group of teachers who write lessons for will participate in a sale that will offer fantastic savings. A special selection of products will be priced at $1 and $2.

The sales will continue from June 22nd to July 27th. It is the perfect time to stock up on resources that you can use for the new school year. Each week there will be a $1 sale on digital resources that may be especially useful in the fall. These will include BOOM cards, Google Drive Digital Lessons, and Interactive PDF lessons.

I am in the process of choosing which of my resources will be in the sale. I plan to include some of my best selling products and put them on sale for the amazing price of $1 and $2. Don't miss your chance to get these now, as the price will go back up on July 28th.

You will also have an opportunity to enter a contest each week for exciting Giveaway Prizes.

Visit and follow my Facebook Page for the latest information on the sale and frequent updates.

I hope your summer is going great, and that you are safe and well!

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Teachers Helping Teachers with Distance Learning

In this stressful time, it is gratifying to know that many of the teacher-authors for are trying to do whatever they can to help teachers adjust to distance learning. Teachers who write for TpT are uploading quality resources daily that are helpful and easy to use. Many of the resources are FREE and most are low cost.

You will find resources that will make your job easier and make distance learning successful for your students. I am homeschooling my grandson, and I will be doing it while he is at his house, and I am at mine. It will be different, but we will make it work. He's a great kid!

We will be using Google Drive resources and BOOM cards. I am creating new ones whenever he needs to review a concept we have studied. He loves the instant feedback he gets from BOOM cards, and I love that they are self-grading.

You can use Boom Cards with an unlimited number of students by using the Fast Play option, which is available in all Boom memberships, including the free one. If you want/need to track the progress of more than 5 students, then you'd have to have a paid BOOM membership. Right now, BOOM is giving teachers their Ultimate membership free through June 2020 because of COVID. Here's the link:

Here are links to some of my resources that will work for distance learning. Whether you use these resources with your own children or the children in your virtual classroom, I hope you will find something useful.
Free resources on TpT

Free Simple Steps to Sentence Sense Videos on YouTube
Step 1: Prepositional Phrases
Step 2: The Verb
Step 3: the Subject
Step 4A: Action Verb Complements
Step 4L: Linking Verb Complements
Step 5: Modifiers (adjectives and adverbs)
Step 6: Phrases 
Step 7: Clauses
Step 8: Classifying Sentences
Resources under $5
Google Drive Digital Resources on TpT
Digital BOOM Cards
Link to My Store
I also send out a newsletter with tips and freebies.
If you would like to subscribe, click here and receive a free lesson.
Thanks for reading. I know we are experiencing frightening times, but I also know that we will make it through this and be stronger and wiser. If I can help you with any lessons, you can send me an email at
Best wishes,

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