Grammar Mechanics Study Guide: Pre-Ged Language Arts, Writing
The practice quiz for this study guide can be found at:
In this article, you will learn to recognize errors in mechanics and correct errors in capitalization, punctuation, and spelling—essential skills for succeeding on the GED exam.
Understanding the mechanics of writing is an integral part of writing well. Using proper capitalization, punctuation, and spelling helps you to create a quality piece of work. On the GED, questions about mechanics comprise about 25 percent of the test. You will be expected to recognize errors in a passage and select the correct way to revise sentences. The skills that will be tested are all things that you likely have learned in the past; however, going over these basic rules of writing will ensure that they are fresh in your mind.
You already know some of the basics: every sentence begins with a capital letter, and the pronoun I is always capitalized. You probably capitalize these letters every day without even thinking about it. You also know to capitalize the first letter in your name. Let's review some of the other words that begin with a capital letter.
Proper names and initials are always capitalized, as well as titles if they refer to a specific person or piece of work. If a title or relationship simply refers to occupations or families in general, they are not capitalized. Consider the following examples:
- On Saturday, Aunt Judy took me to see Dr. Elena K. Diaz.
- On Saturday, my aunt took me to the doctor.
In the first sentence, Aunt is part of someone's name, so it is capitalized. The title Dr. also refers to a specific person. In the second sentence, aunt refers to a relationship in general and is not part of a name, so it is not capitalized. The word doctor is not capitalized because it refers to an occupation, and is not part of someone's name. Some titles that would be capitalized when used to name specific individuals include:
The names of specific groups, organizations, or teams are usually capitalized, as follows:
- We made a donation to the Salvation Army.
- After we watched the Tampa Bay Rays play the Toronto Blue Jays, we ate dinner at the Italian-American club.
- The teams played across the street from my dad's business.
Notice that in the first two sentences, the group/team names are capitalized. If you were to write a sentence about animals and discuss rays or blue jays, these words would not be capitalized. However, when they are part of a team's name, they begin with a capital letter. Notice that in the third sentence, team and business are not capitalized since they are not proper nouns.
Notice that in the previous sentences, the names of cities are capitalized. The names of specific places, including cities, states, countries, streets, schools, and landmarks, begin with a capital letter. Take a look at the following sentences:
- When we flew from New York City to Frankfurt, Germany, we saw the Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor.
- Mountain View Middle School is located at the corner of Kennedy Boulevard and Dogwood Street in Knoxville, Tennessee.
- Her street is next to a lake on the other side of our city.
Since the names of countries are always capitalized, so are words which are derived from these names. When north, south, east, and west are used as locations, they are capitalized. However, when they are used as directions, they do not begin with a capital letter. Consider the following examples:
- Logan wanted to learn to speak Chinese for his trip to the East.
- Jaleesa takes Irish dance lessons on the east side of town.
Let's practice what we've reviewed so far about capitalization. Choose the best answer to the following question.
- Aimee's dad is a doctor, and was asked by Judge Rubenstein to present his research to members of the U.S. house of Representatives.
- Which correction should be made to the sentence?
- change dad to Dad
- change doctor to Doctor
- change Judge to judge
- change house to House
- change Representatives to representatives
The U.S. House of Representatives is a specific group and should be capitalized. Since dad and doctor are not used as part of someone's name, they are not capitalized. Since Judge is used as part of someone's name, it begins with a capital letter. Therefore, choice d is correct.
Not only should names of people and places be capitalized, but also the titles of books, magazines, songs, plays, and television shows. Keep in mind that short prepositions or articles such as the, an, and of are not capitalized unless they are the first word of the title. Take a look at the following sentences:
- Our family subscribes to National Geographic and the New York Times.
- Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow" in The Wizard of Oz.
In the first sentence, the is not part of the newspaper's name, so it is not capitalized. In the second sentence, the is capitalized when it is part of the movie's title.
The names of months, days, holidays, and historic events are also capitalized, but the names of seasons are not, unless they are part of a title. Let's review a few examples:
The fall weather in November always makes Thanksgiving feel so cozy.
Will classes be cancelled for Memorial Day during the Spring 2010 semester?
On Tuesday, I will give a report on the causes of the Revolutionary War.