Grammar Review for Police Officer Exam Study Guide (page 3)
The basis of everything you read and everything you will be asked to write is a complete sentence. A paragraph is a collection of complete sentences. Although many portions of police reports require you only to fill in or check boxes, almost all reports require some narrative. Narrative means you will be asked to write about what happened, what others did or said, and what action(s) you took. All this information must be in standard, proper English, with no slang or jargon (police-talk that others will not understand), and in complete sentences. Poorly written reports will most likely be sent back to you by a supervisor for you to rewrite. If you concentrate on what you want to say and then on how you want to say it, you are less likely to make the kinds of grammar and spelling errors that will cost you points on the exam and that will later cause you to have rewrite your work.
You probably recall from high school or college English classes that the basis of a sentence is a subject and a verb that join together with other words to form one complete idea. A sentence fragment generally lacks a subject or a verb and does not contain a complete idea. Look at the following pairs of word groups. The first in each pair is a sentence fragment; the second is a complete sentence.
Many exams test your grasp of sentences by giving you four examples from which you will have to select the proper, complete sentence. To get you in the mindset for these questions, look at the word group pairs below and select the ones that are complete sentences.
- We saw the squad car approaching.
- When we saw the squad car approaching.
- Before the prison was built in 1972.
- The prison was built in 1972.
- Because we were on duty in the morning.
- We were on duty in the morning.
If you chose 1. a, 2. b, 3. b, you were correct. You might have noticed that the groups of words are the same, but the fragments have an extra word at the beginning. These words are called subordinating conjuctions. If a group of words that would normally be a complete sentence is preceded by a subordinating conjunction, something more is needed to complete the thought.
In the following three sentences, the thoughts have been completed.
- When we saw the squad car approaching, we flagged it down.
- Before the prison was built in 1972, the old jailhouse was demolished.
- Because we were on duty in the morning, we went to bed early.
Here is a list of words that are frequently used as subordinating conjunctions. Use each in a sentence to get a better idea of the rule. Be careful, though. Sometimes a group of words that begin with a subordinating conjunction can still be a complete sentence. You must read the entire sentence before deciding if it is correct or incorrect.
A run-on sentence is a sentence that contains more than one idea (usually meaning it has more than one subject and more than one verb) and lacks proper punctuation. To recognize a run-on sentence, look for two or more ideas run together (hence the phrase run-on) that are not separated by a comma or a semicolon. If a sentence is a true run-on, you should be able to find a place in the word grouping where you could add a period to make two correct sentences. If you can tell when a group of words is not a sentence, you can probably tell when two or more sentences have been run together. The types of questions that ask you to find a run-on sentence will be identical to those that ask you to find fragments. You will be given four choices—one will be a complete sentence and the others will be run-ons. You will be asked to indicate which one is correct. To get you in mindset for these questions, look at the word group pairs below and select the ones that are complete sentences.
- We went to the academy we had a good time.
- We went to the academy, where we had a good time.
- The rookies were all young and were male and female and some kept sloppy bunks.
- The rookies, both young men and women, kept sloppy bunks.
- Studying grammar is hard and more difficult than I thought and it reminds me too much of grade school.
- Studying grammar is hard; it is difficult and it reminds me too much of grade school.
You should have selected choice b in all three sets. In each case, choice a put too many ideas into one sentence and do not use any punctuation to separate those ideas. Remember, a good way to find run-on sentences is to look for a place where you can put a period to separate one part of the long string of words. If both halves of the original sentence can stand alone with a subject and verb and each conveys a complete idea, you have probably located a run-on sentence. Some run-on sentences can be fixed with a comma separating the two ideas; others require a semicolon.
Fragment and Run-On Sample Questions
These six questions provide examples of how fragment and run-on questions will appear on many police officer exams. Note that they may be phrased slightly differently; some may ask you to find the complete sentence, others may ask you to find the fragment or the run-on.
- Which of the following groups of words is a complete sentence?
- The contraband buried beneath the floorboards beside the fireplace.
- After we spent considerable time considering all the possibilities before making our decision.
- After considering all the evidence, the detective made a decision on who might have committed the crime.
- In addition to the methods the detective used to solve the crime.
- Which of the following groups of words is a complete sentence?
- Because he was a cop.
- This was fun to do.
- Whether we learned.
- If we ever see them again.
- Select the group of words that are NOT a complete sentence.
- The historical account of the incident bore the most resemblance to fact.
- The historical account was factual.
- When the historical account became known.
- The historical account shocked the professor.
- Which of the following groups of words is a run-on sentence?
- Jack and Jill went up a hill and Jack fell down and Jill picked him up and then Jack and Jill went home.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water but got lost along the way.
- Jack and Jill went up a hill to fetch a pail of water the day before yesterday.
- Which of the following group of word is NOT a run-on sentence?
- Whenever I put on my uniform, I am filled with a sense of pride.
- The special services unit completed its work and made a report and before going home asked the chief whether she wanted to read it.
- We slept soundly, and we never heard the alarm and we missed breakfast.
- Whenever I put on my uniform I am filled with a sense of pride and then I wonder what I would have done if I had not become a police officer and I don't have any idea.
- Which of the following group of words is NOT a run-on sentence?
- I went home and went to sleep and Jimmy woke me up and came over and then we did homework.
- I went home, went to sleep, woke up, and then did homework.
- I went home and then I went to sleep and then Jimmy woke me up and then he came over and then we did homework.
- ALL are run-on sentences.
- c. Despite starting with the subordinate conjunction after, choice c contains a subject, verb, and complete thought. None of the other choices express complete thoughts.
- b. Choice b is the only group of words that contains a complete thought. If you read the others carefully, you should have asked yourself what, because something was missing. What was supposed to happen because he was a good cop; what would happen whether we learned; what happened if we ever see them again?
- c. Choice c is the only group of words that does not contain a complete thought. If you read it carefully, you would have asked yourself: What happened when the historical account became known? Once that question came into your mind, you should have recognized that the group of words did not contain a complete thought. Note also that this question did not ask which is; it asked which is not. You must read the question carefully to make sure that you know what you are being asked to look for.
- a. Choice a can be separated into difference sentences wherever the word and appears or by using commas to replace some of the ands. The other choices express single thoughts or are properly constructed to convey more than one idea.
- a. Choice a is the only one that is comprised of one complete thought with proper punctuation between the subordinate clause and the rest of the sentence.
- b. Although choice b includes a number of verbs, there is only one subject and there is continuous action by only one person.
You may encounter questions that test your ability to capitalize correctly. Here is a quick review of the most common capitalization rules.
- Capitalize the first word of a sentence. If the first word is a number, write it as a word.
- Capitalize the pronoun I.
- Capitalize the first word of a quotation: I said, "What's the name of your dog?" Do not capitalize the first word of a partial quotation: He called me "the most diligent officer" he had ever seen.
- Capitalize proper nouns and proper adjectives. See the table on the next page for more about proper nouns and adjectives.
The following passage contains no capitalized words. Circle those letters that should be capitalized.
when I first saw the black hills on January 2, 2010, i was shocked by their beauty. we had just spent new year's day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and had headed west toward our home in Denver, Colorado. as we traveled along interstate 90, i could see the black hills rising slightly in the distance. president Calvin Coolidge had called them "a wondrous sight to behold." i understood why. after driving through the badlands and stopping at wall drug in wall, South Dakota, we liked the way the evergreen-covered hills broke the barren monotony of the landscape. my oldest daughter said, "dad, look! there's something that's not all white." we could see why the Lakota regarded the black hills as a holy ground. we saw Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, the home of the largest herd of buffalo in North America. we also drove the treacherous Spearfish Canyon Road. fortunately, our jeep Cherokee had no trouble with the ice and snow on the winding road.
Check your circled version against the corrected version of the passage that follows.
When I first saw the Black Hills on January 2, 2010, I was shocked by their beauty. We had just spent New Year's Day in Sioux Falls, South Dakota and had headed west toward our home in Denver, Colorado. As we traveled along Interstate 90, I could see the Black Hills rising slightly in the distance. President Calvin Coolidge had called them "a wondrous sight to behold." I understood why. After driving through the Badlands and stopping at Wall Drug in Wall, South Dakota, we liked the way the evergreen covered hills broke the barren monotony of the landscape. My oldest daughter said, "Dad, look! There's something that's not all white. "We could see why the Lakota regarded the Black Hills as a holy ground. We saw Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park, the home of the largest herd of buffalo in North America. We also drove the treacherous Spearfish Canyon Road. Fortunately, our Jeep Cherokee had no trouble with the ice and snow on the winding road.
Now try these sample questions. Choose the option that is capitalized correctly.
- This year we will celebrate christmas on Tuesday, December 25 in Manchester, Ohio.
- This year we will celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 25 in manchester, Ohio.
- This year we will celebrate Christmas on Tuesday, December 25 in Manchester, Ohio.
- This year we will celebrate christmas on Tuesday, December 25 in manchester, Ohio.
- Abraham Adams made an appointment with Mayor Burns to discuss the building plans.
- Abraham Adams made an appointment with Mayor Burns to discuss the Building Plans.
- Abraham Adams made an appointment with mayor Burns to discuss the building plans.
- Abraham Adams made an appointment with mayor Burns to discuss the Building Plans.
- Abigail Dornburg, MD, was named head of the review board for Physicians Mutual.
- Abigail Dornburg, MD, was named Head of the Review Board for Physicians Mutual.
- Abigail Dornburg, MDWas named head of the review board for Physicians mutual.
- Abigail dornburg, MD, was named head of the review board for Physicians Mutual.
A section on the written exam may test your punctuation skills. Make sure you know how to use periods, commas, and apostrophes correctly.
Here is a quick review of the rules regarding the use of a period.
- Use a period at the end of a sentence that is not a question or an exclamation.
- Use a period after an initial in a name: Millard K. Furham.
- Use a period after an abbreviation, unless the abbreviation is an acronym.
- If a sentence ends with an abbreviation, use only one period: We brought food, tents, sleeping bags, etc.
Abbreviations: Mr., Ms., Dr., a.m., General
Motors Corp., Allied Inc.
Acronyms: NASA, AIDS, MTV
To prepare you for questions involving proper use of a period, look at the pairs of sentences and select the ones that are correct.
- General Motors Corp. makes Chevrolet cars.
- Mr Darcy reported his Chevrolet stolen.
- Jan. 1 falls on a Monday next year.
- January. 1 falls on a Monday next year.
- Our team is the best!
- Our team is the worst!.
You should have selected choice a in all three sets. In the first pair, the abbreviation Mr. requires a period. In the second pair, January does not require a period when it is spelled out rather than abbreviated. In the third pair, there is no need for two forms of punctuation at the end of the sentence.
Using commas correctly can make the difference between presenting information clearly and distorting the facts. The following chart demonstrates the necessity of commas in written language. How many people are listed in the sentence?
Here is a quick review of the most basic rules regarding the use of commas.
- Use a comma before and, but, so, or, for, nor, and yet when they separate two groups of words that could be complete sentences.
- Use a comma to separate items in a series.
- Use a comma to separate two or more adjectives modifying the same noun.
- Use a comma after introductory words, phrases, or clauses in a sentence.
- Use a comma after a name followed by Jr., Sr., or some other abbreviation.
- Use a comma to separate items in an address.
- Use a comma to separate a day and a year, as well as after the year.
- Use a comma after the greeting of a friendly letter and after the closing of any letter.
- Use a comma to separate contrasting elements in a sentence.
- Use commas to set off appositives (words or phrases that explain or identify a noun).
Example: The S.W.A.T. leader laid out the attack plan, and the team executed it to perfection.
Example: The student driver stopped, looked, and listened when she got to the railroad tracks.
Example: The hot, black, rich coffee tasted great after an hour in below-zero weather. (Notice that there is no comma between rich [an adjective] and coffee [the noun rich describes]).
Examples: Usually, the class begins with a short writing assignment. [introductory word] Racing down the street, the yellow car ran a stoplight. [introductory phrase] After we responded to the call, we returned to our normal patrol. [introductory clause]
Example: The class was inspired by the speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.
Example: The car stopped at 1433 West G Avenue, Orlando, Florida, 36890.
Example: I was born on July 21, 1954, during a thunderstorm.
Example: Dear Uncle Jon, Sincerely yours,
Example: Your essay needs strong arguments, not strong opinions, to convince me.
Example: My partner, a rookie, is named Ron.
The following passage contains no commas or periods. Add commas and periods as needed.
Dr Newton Brown Jr a renowned chemist has held research positions for OPEC Phillips Petroleum Inc Edward L Smith Chemical Designs and R J Reynolds Co His thorough exhaustive research is recognized in academic circles as well as in the business community as the most well-designed reliable data available Unfortunately on July 6 2000 he retired after a brief but serious illness He lives in a secluded retirement community at 2401 Beach Sarasota Springs Florida
Check your version against the following corrected version.
Dr. Newton Brown, Jr., a renowned chemist, has held research positions for OPEC, Phillips Petroleum Inc., Edward L. Smith Chemical Designs, and R.J.Reynolds Co. His thorough, exhaustive research is recognized in academic circles, as well as in the business community, as the most well-designed, reliable data available. Unfortunately, on July 6, 2000, he retired after a brief but serious illness. He lives in a secluded retirement community at 2401 Beach, Sarasota Springs, Florida.
Look at the pairs of sentences involving proper use of a period, and select the ones that are correct.
- Our team works well together, but so does the team from the other stationhouse.
- Our team did well on the test yet we were beaten by the team from the other stationhouse.
- The crime was reported by John Smith, Jr.
- John Smith Jr. reported the crime.
- My partner lives at 1234 West Grove Street, New Haven Connecticut.
- My partner lives at 1234 West Grove Street, New Haven, Connecticut.
You should have selected choice a in all three sets. In the first pair, the comma was omitted before "yet." In the second pair, the comma was omitted before "Smith." In the third pair, a comma should separate the name of the city from the state in which it is located.
Apostrophes communicate important information in written language. Here is a quick review of the two most important rules regarding the use of apostrophes.
- Use an apostrophe to show that letters have been omitted from a word to form a contraction.
- Use an apostrophe to show possession. See the table below for more examples.
Examples: do not = don't; national = nat'l; I will = I'll; it is = it's
Examples: Juan's dog; Nikia's house
To get you in the mindset for questions involving proper use of an apostrophe, look at each pair of sentences and select the version that is correct.
- Juan's dog chewed its bone.
- Juan's dog chewed it's bone.
- The men's locker room was always messier than the women's locker room.
- The mens' locker rooms were always messier than the women's locker rooms.
- Don't fingerprint a prisoner without first safeguarding you're weapon.
- Don't fingerprint a prisoner without first safeguarding your weapon.
In the first pair, you should have selected choice a. In choice b, "it's" is not the possessive, but is the contraction "it is." In the second pair, the correct choice is a because there is no need to add an s to the word men, which already indicates plural. Women's should follow the same format as men's. In the third pair, you should have selected choice b because "you're" is not possessive, but is the contraction for "you are."