Course 1: Lesson 1
Capitalization and Periods
Since it is the goal of this course to clean up the overall writing style of the average student, we begin with a very simple lesson.
There is nothing more disturbing to a high school teacher or college professor than reading a document devoid of capital letters in their appropriate places. Unfortunately, capitalization is one of the most violated grammar concepts frequently encountered in the American school system.
Years ago, students began the process of memorization of grammar rules in the first grade. Needless to say, children prone to memorizing rules succeeded easily, while those who favored different learning styles such as visual learning had a great deal of difficulty grasping simple concepts like capitalization. There are many rules dealing with capitals and many of them have subsections and exceptions. Since this is the Uncomplicated Writing Tutor, we will review only two of the main rules, which happen to be the ones most often violated.
Rule #1: Capitalize the first word of a sentence. After many years of reading and grading student papers, I can tell you with confidence that my students have told me countless times that they "don't like to," or "they don't want to," or they are "simply used to texting regularly," which doesn't require capitalization. What students do not realize is that beginning a sentence in an essay or term paper without a capital letter is like scraping one's fingernails on a chalkboard to a teacher. Writing "my sister just bought a copy of Gulliver's Travels" in a research paper is like throwing five points of your grade out the window. The sentence should read, "My sister just bought a copy of Gulliver's Travels." Isn't that worth five points?
Rule #2: Always capitalize names and proper nouns. A proper noun is a specific name for a particular person, place, or thing. For example, James, Boston, and South America are all proper nouns. Once again, this rule is one of the most frequently violated in academic writing. Academic writing is quite different from text messaging friends. As a result, writing south america in a term paper or essay never gets passed a teacher, even if there is no mention of it in constructive criticisms. Students routinely throw away another five points for lack of attention to one of the easiest and most basic rules of writing. Look at it this way; if the first line of your paper reads,"i would like to explain why certain countries in south america suffer economically," you have started with a grade 0f 90% instead of the 100% earned by "I would like to explain why certain countries in South America suffer economically."
Using periods is even easier than capitalizing the first word or a proper noun in a sentence, yet writers violate the grammar rules in nearly every school paper. There are several rules, but we will cover only one.
Rule# 1: Always place a period at the end of a declaratory sentence. A declaratory sentence is one that makes a statement. If the writer asks a question, most of the time he or she properly places a question mark at the end of the sentence. Students all seem to know that rule. However, with periods, many students end their sentences with commas. There goes another five points off their grades. Do not end sentences with a comma. End sentences with a period. It is one of the simplest grammar rules all writers face, but one which is constantly violated. "Mary lost the ball yesterday, Bill lost his dog last week," The writer lost five points today.