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Writing Terms Glossary Study Guide

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Updated on Oct 1, 2011

Writing Terms Glossary

action verb    a verb that expresses thought or activity

adjective    a word that modifies a noun or a pronoun; adjectives answer what kind? which one? how much? how many? about a noun

adverb    a word that modifies a verb, an adjective, or another adverb; adverbs answer where? when? how much? how many? about the verb, adjective, or other adverb

chronological order    an organizational structure that presents events in sequence, or in the time order in which they happened

colon (:)    the punctuation mark that comes before a series, a lengthy quotation, or an example, or after the salutation in a business letter

comma (,)    the punctuation mark that separates words, phrases, and items in a series; commas are also used in compound and complex sentences to separate clauses

compare    to look for ways in which things are alike

complex sentence    a sentence that is made up of an independent clause and a dependent (subordinate) clause

compound-complex sentence    a sentence that is made up of more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause

compound sentence    a sentence that contains at least two independent clauses with no dependent clauses

compound subject    two or more nouns that share the same verb in a sentence

compound word    two or more separate words put together to create a new word; compound words may be joined, separate, or hyphenated (see also portmanteau word)

conclusion    the final paragraph (or paragraphs) in an essay, which restates the main idea, summarizes the main points, and closes, sometimes with a call to action or an appeal to the reader's emotions

conjunction    a word or phrase (and, or, but) that connects words or groups of words

contrast    to show how things or ideas are different

dangling modifier    a word or phrase that is meant to modify a specific part of the sentence, but has been misplaced, often resulting in confusion

demonstrative pronoun    a word (such as this, that, these, and those) used to replace a noun in a sentence

dependent clause    a group of words that cannot stand alone as a complete thought; also known as a subordinate clause

direct object    the noun or pronoun that receives the action of the verb

direct quotation    a person's exact spoken or written words, which must be enclosed in quotation marks (see also indirect quotation)

effect    what happens as a result of something else

emoticon    the typed representation of a facial expression; often used in e-mails

emotional appeal    an argument that appeals to the reader's emotions

exclamation point (!)    the punctuation mark that indicates strong emotion

first person    writing in which the author (or a narrator in a short story) speaks in his or her own voice

freewriting    the practice of writing continuously without correcting spelling, grammar, or sentence structure to facilitate finding a topic or increase fluency; also called prewriting

future tense    a verb tense that indicates that something has not yet happened, but will

hyphen (-)    the punctuation mark that joins or separates numbers, letters, or syllables

indefinite pronoun    a word such as no one, anyone, anybody, or somebody that refers to a nonspecific noun

independent clause    a group of words that contains a subject and a predicate (verb) and can stand by itself as a sentence

indirect quotation    what someone said, retold in your own words

infinitive    a verb written in the form of to plus the verb (for example, to walk) that acts as a noun, an adjective, or an adverb in a sentence

interrogative pronouns    a pronoun that asks who, whom, whose, and so on

introduction    an essay's opening paragraph that hooks the reader and introduces the thesis statement

literature    a form of writing that includes poems, novels, short stories, and plays

main idea    what a selection is mostly about

misplaced modifier    a word or phrase that is placed too far from the noun or verb it is modifying, thus altering or confusing the meaning of the sentence

modifier    a word that describes or clarifies another word (see also adjective and adverb)

noun    a word that names a person, place, or thing (including ideas and feelings)

object of a preposition    the noun or pronoun that follows a prepositional phrase

order of importance    an organizational strategy that arranges ideas according to how important they are

parentheses [( )]    the punctuation marks that set off information that is not necessarily pertinent to the surrounding sentence or words

participle    a verb form that can be used as an adjective or a noun

past tense    a verb tense that indicates that something has already happened

period (.)    the punctuation mark found at the end of sentences and in abbreviations

personal pronoun    a word such as I, you, me, he, him, she, her, it, they, them, and we that refer to the speaker, the person, or the thing being spoken about

phrase    a group of words that does not have a subject and verb; phrases can act like various parts of speech (a noun, a verb, an adjective, an adverb, or a preposition)

point of view    the first-person, second-person, or third-person perspective from which something is written, or the opinion or position on a topic from which an author writes

portmanteau word    a new word formed by combining two words (for example, blog is formed from web and log)

predicate    the action that the subject performs in a sentence; a verb

present tense    a verb tense that indicates action happening in the present or an action that happens constantly

prewriting    the practice of writing continuously without correcting spelling, grammar, or sentence structure to facilitate finding a topic or increase fluency; also called freewriting

pronoun    a part of speech that takes the place of a noun in a sentence

proper noun    a specific noun that is capitalized

punctuation    a set of grammatical symbols used in written language to indicate the ends of clauses or sentences

question mark (?)    the punctuation mark that appears at the end of an interrogatory sentence (a question)

quotation marks ( " " )    the punctuation marks that indicate the exact words of a speaker being quoted; sometimes quotation marks are used to convey a satiric or ironic intent in the author's words

run-on sentence    sentence in which two or more complete sentences have been improperly joined together

second person   a point of view in which the reader is referred to as you

semicolon (;)    the punctuation mark that joins two independent clauses that share a similar idea and are not already joined by a conjunction

sentence    a group of words that has a subject and a predicate and expresses a complete thought

sentence fragment    an incomplete thought that has been punctuated as a complete sentence

sentence structure    the various kinds of sentences an author uses

simple sentence    an independent clause

subject    topic, or what the text is about; also, the grammatical term for the main noun in a sentence

subject-verb agreement    the rule that the subject and verb of a sentence must agree in number and in person

subordinate clause    a group of words that cannot stand alone as a complete thought; also known as a dependent clause

theme    the main message or messages that a piece of literature promotes; a story can have multiple themes

thesis    a statement in an essay that conveys the main idea

third person    a point of view in which the author speaks in an impersonal tone or in which the narrator of a short story is not a character in the story

tone    the writer's style that reveals the attitudes and point of view of the author toward the topic

topic    the subject or main idea of an essay or a paragraph

topic sentence    a sentence that expresses the main idea of a paragraph

verb   a part of speech that expresses action or state of being. The tense of a verb indicates the time in which the verb takes place.

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