Writing - Finishing Touches for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 5)
The scorers who read your essay will be on the lookout for precise wording and careful, accurate usage. This lesson will review some common errors.
A question mark goes at the end of a question. Use few, if any, exclamation points in your essay and always end your sentences with a period. There are many rules for using commas. Here are the most common places for a comma:
- at the end of long clauses
- to separate three or more words in a series
- between the clauses of a compound sentence
- around nonessential words and clauses
- wherever the meaning of the sentence would not be clear without one
If these rules aren't familiar, you can find more information in the same books listed at the end of this chapter.
As you proofread, check to see whether your essay flows well. If additional punctuation is necessary to get your point across, use it—but don't go overboard by throwing in commas where they are not necessary. Can you find the punctuation errors in the following paragraph?
Not only are parents happy to see a uniform policy in place, but their children benefit as well. If you were from a low-income home wouldn't you feel bad if you were not dressed as well as your peers. Children who dress differently are usually alienated from cliques at school and left to feel like outsiders. Often they are teased unmercifully. Dressing in uniform eliminates that problem. Instead you feel a sense of belonging. You are less distractd by cumparing your clothes to others so you are more apd to be relaxed and queiter in school. This enables them to learn more. Children might be happy with the school uniform policy but not as happy as their teachers and principals
Spend the last few minutes of exam time proofreading to see whether you included everything you had to say, used the same verb tense and person throughout, and whether your words are clear. There is no time for big revisions, but check for such details as periods after sentences and spelling.
The second sentence is a question; it should have a question mark. Because the question doesn't start until after a phrase, the phrase should be set off by a comma.
If you were from a low-income home, wouldn't you feel bad if you were not dressed as well as your peers?
There could be a comma after Instead at the beginning of the fifth sentence. This comma may not be necessary in some circumstances, but you are changing the flow of thought here, and you want the readers to know it.
Instead, you feel a sense of belonging.
The sixth sentence contains a compound sentence that should be set off with a comma. The last sentence could also use a comma to separate a long clause from the main sentence, particularly since you are once again switching gears. Lastly, don't let the fact that you're almost done make you forget to put a period at the end of the last sentence.
You are less distractd by cumparing your clothes to others, so you are more apd to be relaxed and queiter in school. This enables them to learn more. Children might be happy with the school uniform policy, but not as happy as their teachers and principals.
Keep the same person throughout the essay: I and me or you, or they and them. It is all right to address the reader as you to ask a question, but the facts and statements should match each other. In the following paragraph, the subject of the first and third sentences is "children." You need to continue to talk about children in the third person throughout the paragraph.
Not only are parents happy to see a uniform policy in place, but their children benefit as well. If you were from a low-income household, wouldn't you feel bad if you were not dressed as well as your peers? Children who dress differently are usually alienated from cliques at school and left to feel like outsiders. Often, they are teased unmercifully. Dressing in uniform eliminates that problem. Instead, they feel a sense of belonging. They are less distractd by cumparing their clothes to others, so they are more apd to be relaxed and queiter in school.
The second sentence is not talking about children, but is addressing the reader, so it's OK to use you and your. The last two sentences talk about children, not about the reader, so those sentences should use they and their, not you and your.
Spelling Abnormality Disorder
You have to write quickly during the exam, but you should save a couple of minutes at the end to check your work for spelling errors. Often, our minds go faster than our pencils, and left alone, our pencils make a lot of mistakes. Did you find the misspelled words in the second body paragraph on school uniforms?
They are less distractd by cumparing their clothes to others so they are more apd to be relaxed and queiter in school.
Let's fix it:
They are less distracted by comparing their clothes to others so they are more apt to be relaxed and quieter in school.
Forked Tongue Disease
Be on the lookout for words or even sentences that might have two different meanings. Now that we've fixed the spelling errors in the previous sentence, look again to see how it might be confusing. Does the sentence mean that comparing their clothes is less distracting? And what are they comparing their clothes to? To other people? There are too many meanings for this sentence. It needs to be revised.
Children do not need to compare their clothing with that of others, so they have fewer distractions.
Less Than Insufficient Mistreatment
Remember to use problem words correctly. Try to avoid double negatives, but if you must use them, make sure you are saying what you really mean. If you have time, you can brush up on other problem words such as lay and lie, all together and altogether, and so on. Discussions on these topics can be found in the grammar books listed at the end of this chapter. Check the problem words in the following sentences from the third body paragraph.
There is less competition in school so there is less fights. The reason is because there is less bullying and teasing and there is a lot less complaints.
The word fewer refers to a quantity that can be counted.
There are fewer boys in the class.
There are fewer mistakes in this paragraph than in the last one.
Less refers to a quantity that cannot be counted, but might be able to be measured.
There is less water in that cup now that you drank from it.
In this sentence, competition cannot be counted, so less is the right word. But the number of fights can be counted, so fewer should replace less. In the second sentence, the bullying and teasing in general are hard to count, so less is the right word. If the sentence was worded to read "incidences of teasing," then fewer would be used because incidences can be counted. Complaints can be counted, so fewer should be used. Fewer takes the verb are and less takes the verb is.
You can also get rid of the redundant The reason is because. Maybe you can show off some parallelism here. And why not name the actors in this sentence?
Because there is less competition in school, teachers and administrators report that there are fewer fights, less bullying, and fewer complaints from the students.
Tense All Over
Unless there is a very good reason for doing otherwise, the same tense should be used throughout your essay. The tense of the sentence should change only if you are writing about actions or events that take place at different times. See whether you can find the tense mistakes in the following paragraph.
Uniforms cost no extra money for teachers and administrators yet the benefits are great. Because there is less competition in school, teachers and administrators report that there are fewer fights, less bullying, and fewer complaints from the students. Instead, principals and teachers were able to use uniforms to build school pride and loyalty. Administrators and teachers will be able to concentrate on what they love to do most, teach, instead of dealing with problems from children and parents.
The first part of the paragraph is in present tense. The past tense verb were able in the third sentence should be changed to the present are able. In the last sentence, the future tense will be able should be also be changed to the present are able.
Instead, principals and teachers are able to use uniforms to build school pride and loyalty. Administrators and teachers are able to concentrate on what they love to do most, teach, instead of dealing with problems from children and parents.
Sewing It Up
Notice how the few remaining problems with transitions have been cleaned up in this final version of the essay on school uniforms. The body paragraph on teachers and administrators ended with too strong a statement—no one will believe that school personnel will have no problems from children just because of uniforms—so that statement has been softened. This final version also has a title.
In Praise of School Uniforms
Imagine a school auditorium full of alert children, all dressed neatly in blue and white uniforms, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Imagine these same children happily running out to play in their blue shorts and white oxford shirts, playing tag and flying on swings. Whether or not to dress public school children alike has been the subject of much controversy in recent decades. Opponents suggest that requiring uniforms will stifle children's ability to choose, squash necessary individuality, and infringe on the rights of children and families. Although there is some justification for these arguments, the benefits of uniforms far outweigh the disadvantages. Adopting a uniform policy will benefit parents, children, and the school staff.
A uniform policy will benefit parents. Uniforms save parents money. Parents will not have to provide their children with a different matched set of clothes for each day, so fewer school clothes will be needed. Because uniforms are all the same style and shape and usually very well made, they can be passed down from an older child to a younger one, or even sold. On a recent survey, parents new to school uniforms estimated they saved up to $1,000 on school clothes per child the first year alone. The survey also reported that 95% of parents attributed an increased feeling of peace to the adoption of the uniform policy. Children will have already agreed on what clothes their parents will need to buy, so there will be fewer arguments on this often touchy subject.
Not only are parents happy to see a uniform policy in place, but their children benefit as well. If you were from a low-income home, wouldn't you feel badly if you were not dressed as well as your peers? Children who dress differently are usually alienated from cliques at school and left to feel like outsiders. Often they are teased unmercifully. Dressing in uniform eliminates that problem. Instead, uniformed children feel an increased sense of belonging that enables them to be more relaxed and quieter in school. Children do not need to compare their clothing with that of others, so they have fewer distractions during their learning time. Children like the policy because there is less nagging at home and dressing for school is much easier.
Parents and children are not the only ones who are better off with school uniforms. Teachers and administrators love them too. Uniforms cost the school no extra money, yet the benefits are great. Because there is less competition in school, teachers and administrators report that less time is spent mediating because there are fewer fights, less bullying, and fewer complaints from students. Administrators and teachers can use the time they save to do what they are paid to do—build school loyalty, form young minds, and teach basic skills. Teachers report a more peaceful classroom, and administrators report a more cooperative student body.
Adopting a uniform policy will lighten the burden of parents. It will promote cheerfulness and scholarship in children. Lastly, it will free the time and talents of teachers and administrators. What are we waiting for? We need to talk to our teachers, principals, and school boards, and give our children all the tools we can that will enhance their growth and development.
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