Writing great essays is a craft that cannot be mastered overnight. It requires constant practice in the right direction. Given the high weight age provided to Essay writing in the selection process of various top MBA colleges including the IIMs, it is important for an aspirant to master this craft. In this article, we provide you certain grammar rules that you should keep in mind while writing essays.
A. Subject-Verb Agreement
The verb and subject has to agree. When the subject is singular, the verb has to be singular. If the subject is plural, the verb must be plural.
1. When a singular subject is divided by a comma from an accompanying phrase, it stays singular:
The kid, together with his grandmother and his parents, is going to the beach.
Wrong: David, accompanied by his student, were at the studio.
Right: David, accompanied by his student, was at the studio.
2. Collective nouns, like family, majority, audience, and committee are considered singular when they act in a collective manner or represent one group. They are plural when they act as individuals.
Collective nouns are ideally singular in sentence
A majority of the stakeholders wants the merger.
Here the "majority" acts as a singular, and therefore has a singular verb: "wants."
The jury were in disagreement.
3. Phrases divided by and are plural; phrases divided by or are singular. Neither/nor and either/or are also singular.
Ted, John, and I are going.
Because they are divided by and the plural form is used
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4. Be careful, you choose the right subject in sentences in which the verb precedes the subject.
Wrong: There is many reasons why I can't help you.
Right: There are many reasons why I can't help you.
Here 'reasons' is the subject.
Beware of confusing singular/plural words:
Singular / Plural
Medium / Media
Datum / Data
1. Errors while using Adjectives and Adverbs.
Check if a word modifier is an ADJECTIVE or an ADVERB. Make sure the correct form is used.
• An ADJECTIVE describes a noun. It also answers the questions of: how many, which one, what kind?
• She is a talented tennis player. (Answers: What kind of tennis player?)
• An ADVERB shows either a verb or an adjective and answers the questions: when, where, why, in what manner, and to what extent?
She plays tennis well. (She plays tennis. how?)
This exercise is relatively easy. (How easy?)
Most adverbs are formed by adding-ly to the adjective, such as he worked quickly.
Wrong: She is a real talented dancer.
Right: She is a really talented dancer.
"Really" here acts as an adverb, modifying the adjective "talented"
Wrong: The new student speaks bad.
Right: The new student speaks badly.
"Badly" modifies how the student speaks.
2. Errors of Adjectives with Verbs of Sense.
The following verbs of sense are described by ADJECTIVES:
Be / look / Smell / taste / feel / seem
Wrong: After the three-week vacation, she looked very well.
Right: After the three-week vacation, she looked very good.
NOTE: "She is well" is also correct in the meaning of "She is healthy" or in describing a person's well-being.
Wrong: The strawberry shortcake tastes deliciously.
Right: The strawberry shortcake tastes delicious.
3. Location of Modification
A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes another part of the sentence.
You should place a modifier as close as possible to what it is modifying. Modifiers sometimes appear to modify words that they don't actually modify.
1. On reaching the train station, his friends met him and took him immediately to his speaking engagement in Springfield.
This sounds as if the friends reached at the train station. It
should say... "When Jay reached at the train station, his friends met him…
Tricks: note that 'its' is a possessive of 'it', and 'it's' is the contraction of 'it' and 'is'.
At times, it's difficult to say which noun a pronoun replaces and which case - subjective or objective - should be used.
The pronoun you use depends on if the pronoun is being used as the subject (or the object) of a sentence.
Subject / Objective
He / Him
She / Her
Who / Whom
I / Me
they / Them
We / Us
1. Pronoun Subject-Object.
Figure out whether a pronoun is the SUBJECT or the OBJECT of a verb or a preposition.
Wrong: How could he blame you and her for the accident?
Right: How could he blame you and her for the accident?
(He/him) is better equipped.
Here, pronoun is the subject of the verb suited, meaning "he" acts as the subject.
WHO vs. WHOM
When the pronoun is acting as a subject, it should be 'who'. If the pronoun acts as an object, it should be 'whom'.
I don't know (who/whom) David meant.
'Whom' is in the object form because it is the object of meant
(with Steve as the subject).
2. Whether the pronoun and its verb agree in quantity
Remember that the following are singular:
Each / Either / Anyone / anything / everyone / everything /Neither / no one / nothing / What / whatever / whoever
These are plural:
Several / Others / few / Both / many
1) Wrong: Everyone in the team have to come to the meeting.
Right: Everyone in the team has to come to the meeting.
The forms "either... or" and "neither.. .nor" are singular, taking a singular verb. However, if the noun closest to the verb in the "neither..nor or either...or" is plural, then the verb is plural.
2) Wrong: Neither his bodyguards nor he was there.
Right: Neither he nor his bodyguards were there.
3. Whether possessive pronouns agree in number and person.
1) Wrong: Some of you will have to carry their own food.
Right: Some of you will have to carry your own food.
Some is singular.
2) Wrong: If anyone comes over, take their name.
Right: If anyone comes over, take his name.
The subject is anyone, which is singular, which requires a singular pronoun (his).
4. "Objects" of to be verbs stay in the subject form.
1) Wrong: It should have been her who called.
Right: It should have been she who called.
5. A relative pronoun (which, that or who) refers to the word preceding it. If the meaning is not clear, the pronoun is in the incorrect position.
The word 'which' introduces non-essential clauses, 'That' introduces essential clauses. 'Who' refers to individuals, 'that' refers to a group of people, class, type, or species.
1) Wrong: The queue at the bank was very slow, which made me late.
Right: I was late because of the queue at the bank.
OR The queue at the bank made me late.
6. In forms that use impersonal pronouns, use either "one..one's", his or her" or "you.. your."
1) Wrong: One should get their teeth checked twice a year.
Right: One should get one's/his or her teeth checked twice a year.
OR: You should get your teeth checked twice a year..
2) Wrong: One should take your responsibilities seriously.
Right: One should take one's/his or her responsibilities seriously.
OR: You should take your responsibilities seriously.
Similar types of elements in a list should be in a similar form.
Matching constructions must be expressed in parallel form. It is often rhetorically effective to use a particular construction several times in succession, in order to provide emphasis. Here is an example.
As a naturalist, Teddy Roosevelt made many exploration discoveries, as a military leader he helped to inspire victory in Cuba, and as a statesman he established America as a superpower.
Writers often use a parallel structure for dissimilar items.
Wrong: They are strong, attractive, and cost only a dollar each.
(The adjectives are 'strong' and 'attractive', but cannot be understood before 'cost only a dollar each'.)
Right: They are strong and attractive, and they cost only a dollar each.
Parallel constructions is expressed in parallel grammatical form: all nouns, all infinitives, all gerunds, all prepositional phrases, or all clauses must agree.
Wrong: All MBA students should learn word processing, accounting, and how to coding.
Right: All MBA students should learn word processing, accounting, and coding.
This principle is applicable to any word that begins with each item in a series: prepositions (in, on, by, with), articles (the, a, an), helping verbs (had, has, would) and possessives (his, her, our).
Repeat the word before every element in a series. If not, include it only before the first item. Anything else simply violates the rules of parallelism.
In effect, your treatment of the second element of the series determines the form of all subsequent elements:
Wrong: He put his money in stocks, in real estate, and a home for retired performers.
Right: He put his money in stocks, in real estate, and in a home for retired performers.
When proofreading, check that each item in the series agrees with the word or phrase that begins the series.