CCHS Usage Handbook

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Pronoun Agreement of Number

Quotation Marks
Run-on Sentences and Comma Splices
Subject Verb Agreement

Verb Tense
"You" in Formal Writing
Works Cited Page 


Capitalize all proper nouns.  Proper nouns are words that refer to a specific person, place, or thing
. (All other nouns are called "common nouns" and are not capitalized.)

Carbondale High School
Doberman Pinscher
Aunt Mary

high school (any school)
my aunt

Capitalize the following:

Book, play, and album titles

Days of the week, months of the year

Official titles

Nouns or pronouns referring to a Supreme Being

Sacred books of all religions

Specific courses in school

Countries' names or words that come from a country's name

Catcher In The Rye
, Romeo and Juliet

Wednesday, Thursday, March, April

 President Clinton, Principal Skinner

God, Him, Krishna, Jehovah, Allah

Talmud, Bible, Koran

Geometry I, World History

America, American, Spanish

Do not capitalize the following:

Words indicating direction

A field of study

south, northeast, west

science, history, math



Commas are used to indicate a pause in reading, usually to make it easier to understand the sentence.

Commas are used:

1. In a series of three or more items.

:  I have red, yellow, and blue balloons.
               Sheila took the ball from the halfback, dribbled down the field, and scored the winning goal.

               Note:  Commas are not used with pairs of items.

               Incorrect:  We will go to the movies with Lamar, and Lisa.
                                Samantha has to take a shower, and get dressed for the dance.

2. To set off introductory phrases before the main part of a sentence.

:  Because of the incredible teamwork by the Terriers, they easily won the championship game.
               In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain shows the readers
what America was like in the 1850's.

               Note:  Do not put a comma when the phrase comes after the main part of sentence.

               Incorrect:  Mark Twain shows the readers what America was like in the 1850's, in The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

3.  To separate two sentences (independent clauses) that are joined by and, or, for, nor,
 yet, but, so.

:  Everyone knew how important the class was, so they all worked together to finish studying for the test.
               Jose seemed kind of mean on the field, but at school he was a perfect gentleman
4. To enclose words or phrases that explain the terms preceding them.

:  My mother, who works almost ten hours a day, is truly a hero to me.
               English, my favorite class in the world, is only 55 minutes long.
               My computer, an IBM laptop, is very easy to use.

               Note:  Commas are not used on explanatory material that is essential to the meaning of the sentence.

:  The writer Harper Lee was born and raised in Alabama.
               (In this case, Harper Lee's name is needed for the sentence to make sense. Do not use commas.)
                Harper Lee, the novelist, was born and raised in Alabama
               (In this case, the term "the novelist" in not needed for the sentence to make sense; therefore, the commas are needed.)



A fragment is a group of words that is written as a sentence, even though it may be missing parts.

Example:  Fragment:  Books with no covers. (This fragment is missing a verb.)  
               Sentence:  Books with no covers flew through the air.

               Fragment:  Running and laughing about the great prank they had just pulled.
                                (This fragment is missing a subject.)
                   Sentence:  The girls were running and laughing about the great prank had just pulled.

                   Fragment:  Because they had studied all night long without a break.
                                (This fragment is not a complete thought.)
                   Sentence:  Because they had studied all night long without a break, they fell asleep in the middle of the test.


Pronoun Agreement of Number

A pronoun takes the place of a noun. If the noun is singular, then the pronoun must be singular. If the noun is plural, the pronoun must be plural.

Example:  Incorrect: Any teacher is willing to help their students succeed.
               Correct: Any teacher is willing to help her/his students succeed.
                                   (This is technically correct but can become awkward.)
Correct: All teachers are willing to help their students succeed.
                            (Changing the nouns to plural is usually the best way to solve pronoun number problems.)
                   Correct:  The terrier took its bone back to its blanket.

All, any, most, none, and some are singular when they refer to singular words and plural when they refer to plural words.

Example:  All of the students are taking part in the class discussion.
                    All of the information is given in the program.

Use a singular verb to agree with the following singular indefinite pronouns: anybody, anyone, anything, each, either, everybody, everyone, everything, neither, nobody, no one, nothing, one, somebody, someone, and something.

Example:  These poems by Sandburg and Poe are more effective when read aloud since each of them uses striking sound patterns.

Use a plural verb to agree with the following plural indefinite pronouns: both, few, many, and several.

Example:  Many of the students have read several short stories by Poe.

A pronoun must agree with the word it replaces, or its antecedent. When the antecedent is a singular indefinite pronoun (words like each, none, somebody), use singular pronouns when referring back to it.

Example:  Incorrect: None of the boys had their homework finished.
                   Correct: None of the boys had his homework finished.

To avoid awkward his or her constructions, revise the sentence by making the antecedent plural.

Awkward:  Each of these poets composed his or her work carefully.

Revised: All of these poets composed their work carefully.


Quotation Marks

Use quotation marks to enclose a direct quotation--a person's exact words.

Example:  "I want to go to the game tonight," my little sister said.
                    "All students should be studying three hours per night," said the teacher.

Do not use quotation marks to enclose an indirect quotation--a rewording of a person's exact words.

Example:  My little sister said she wanted to go to the game tonight.

Begin a direct quotation with a capital letter.

Example:  The teacher announced, "Your essays are due on Friday."

When an expression identifying the speaker interrupts a quoted sentence, the second part of the quotation begins with a small letter.

Example:  "The assignment requires," Ms. Murphy continued, "a minimum of 1,000 words."

Commas and periods are always placed inside closing quotation marks.

Example:  "You may rely on me to finish my part of the project," said Bill.
                   Alicia said, "I'd rather do all my studying on Sunday."

When you write dialogue, begin a new paragraph every time the speaker changes, and enclose each speaker's words in quotation marks.

Example:  "Come inside," the lady said, "if you want to get out of the wind."  
               "Thank you," I replied.

When a quoted passage consists of more than one paragraph, place quotation marks at the beginning of each paragraph and at the end of only the last paragraph in the passage.


Run-on Sentences and Comma Splices

A run-on sentence is two sentences joined together without any punctuation.  A comma splice is two sentences joined together with a comma. Both are incorrect.  A period, a semi-colon, or a comma with a coordinating conjunction can only connect two sentences.

Example:  Run-on: The dance was not much fun, everybody left before midnight.
                   (This is a comma splice. A comma is too weak to separate two sentences.)
                    Sentence: The dance was not much fun. Everybody left before midnight.
               (Use a period to separate sentences.)
                The dance was not much fun; everybody left before midnight. 
               (Use a semi-colon to separate sentences.)
                The dance was not much fun, so everybody left before midnight.
               (Use one of the coordinating conjunctions--and, or, for, nor, yet, but, so-to separate sentences.)


Subject-Verb Agreement

A verb must agree with its subject in number--either singular or plural. The number of a subject is not changed by a phrase coming between the subject and the verb.

Example:  Mme. Loisel, along with her husband, attends the ball.

Compound subjects joined by and usually take a plural verb.

Example:  Athena and Odysseus almost seem like partners in Homer's epic.

Singular subjects joined by or or nor take a singular verb.

Example:  Either Nancy or Jack is going to win the award

When a singular-subject and a plural subject are joined by or or nor, the verb agrees with the subject nearer the verb.

Example:  Neither Cherise nor the other students seem to like the project.
               Neither the girls nor Ted seems to like the project.

When the subject follows the verb, as in questions and in sentences beginning with here and there, identify the subject and make sure that the verb agrees with it.

Example:  Here is a list of properties needed for the play.
                   Where are Verona and Mantua on this map of Italy?

The title of a creative work (such as a book, song, movie, or painting) and the name of a country (even if it is plural in from) take a singular verb.

Example:  "Cargoes" is a poem by John Masefield.

                The Commonwealth of Independent States consists of parts of the former Soviet Union.



Underlining is used to tell printers to use italics when they set the type.  Usually complete, longer works of art are underlined.  So, the title of a book of poetry is underlined, but the title of an individual poem is put in quotes.  The title of a record album is underlined, but the title of an individual song is in quotes.

Underline the following:

The titles of magazines                                                    



television shows                                           



Use quotation marks with the following:            

, Rolling Stone

Catcher in the Rye,  Fallen Angels

Star Wars, Pulp Fiction

The Facts of Life

Romeo and Juliet, Medea

Southern Illinoisian

The tiles of articles                                                     

short stories                                             



"Terriers Win South Seven Title"

"The Lady of the Tiger," "The Lottery"

"Casey at the Bat"

"The Star Spangled Banner"


Verb Tense

When the verbs in a sentence or group of sentences shift from past or present or from present to past without reason, the reader may not be able to follow the intended meaning.  Correct the shift by using consistent tenses for all verbs.

            Example:  Incorrect:  The president makes a speech but he refused to answer questions.
                                  Correct:  The president made a speech but refused to answer questions.

Use present tense to describe the actions in a book.

Example:  Incorrect: In the novel, Huckleberry Finn, Huck floated down the river on a raft with Jim and met many odd characters.
                   Correct:  In the novel, Huckleberry Finn, Huck floats down the river on a raft with Jim and meets many odd characters.


“You” in Formal Writing

In formal writing the pronoun you should be used only to mean "you the reader."  In most cases a noun should be substituted for you.

Example:  Incorrect: You control a marionette by strings or wires hat are attached to the puppet.
                   Correct:  Puppeteers control a marionette by strings or wires that are attached to the puppet.                        

                Incorrect:  After a little practice, you will really enjoy working with the puppets.
                   Correct:  After a little practice, almost everyone enjoys working with the puppets.



Plagiarism is literally a form of theft.  It is claiming someone else's words and/or ideas as your own.  If you copy someone else's words and/or ideas into an essay without giving credit to the writer or paraphrase someone else's words and/or ideas without giving credit, you are plagiarizing.  If plagiarism can be proven the following sequence will be considered:

1. For the first offense, the student will receive an "F" or zero on the essay, and the student's quarter grade will be lowered by one grade.  A conference with the student and parents is mandatory.

2. For the second and subsequent offenses, the student will receive an “F" for the quarter, and parents will be again contacted.

It is simple to avoid plagiarism.  Writers must give the source of their materials by using in-line citations and Works Cited pages for quotations or when using other's ideas.

Referencing Other's Work

A quotation is using someone else's words in your text.  It does not matter if a character is speaking or if the narrator is merely telling the story.  Either is considered a quotation and requires in-line citations and a Works Cited page.

In-line citations tell the reader who wrote the quoted work and what page the quote can be found on. The author's last name and the page number are put in parenthesis usually placed after the sentence.

For Example:  Holden says, "I can't stand all those phonies at the party" (Salinger 15).
                      "Little by little life returned to normal. The barbed wire which fenced us in did not cause us any real fear," says Elie (Weisel 9).

Note: If you give the author's or name in your essay, you only need to write the page number after the quote.

For Example: Salinger writes that Holden "can't stand all those phonies at the party" (15).

Note: When writing about a single work of literature, it is usually necessary only to put the author's name in the first reference; thereafter, use only the page number.

Introducing and Explaining Quotes

When you use quotes from a work of literature, usually introduce the quote by giving the context in which the quote was used and who said it.  You should also explain the point you are trying to make by using the quote.

For Example: When explaining to his children about the Ewell family, Atticus tells them they must "learn to walk a mile their shoes" (Lee 48).  Atticus is a man who knows his children must learn to accept diversity in the world.

For Example: When he arrives in Salem, a lot of people are curious about why his books are so heavy.  Hale says, "The must be, they are weighted with authority" (Miller 1191).  At this point, he is very confident that his books will give him the knowledge to solve Salem's witchcraft problems.

Below is a sample paragraph that uses appropriate in-line citations and introduces and explains the quotes.

     The satire of Huckleberry Finn is very obvious in the chapter where Twain describes Pokeville and the goings on in this horrible Arkansas town.  In this chapter, Twain mocks the "country life" that many saw as ideal.  "Pokeville is the exact opposite of what the romantics thought village life in 1850's American should be like," writes critic Johnson Gregory (237).  Country life is shown as filthy, mean, and ugly.  Huck says the "streets was filled with mud, thick as tar, and as sticky too. You couldn't hardly walk for all the pigs layin about" (Twain 163).  This is not a romantic view of small town life.  Pokeville is clearly meant to show how ugly parts of America were at this time.  The people in the town are no better than the town's streets.  They are described as "shiftless loafers, standin around, looking for something to do besides spitting tobacco" (161).  Their primary source of entertainment seems to be "dossin a dog with turpentine, (and) settin it afire" (162). Obviously Twain is showing the ugliest side of American country life.  He "shows a genuine dislike for all that was rural in America at this time" (Rolyat 76).   Twain is obviously appalled by what America's small towns could be like, and he lays it on thick to show how horrible country life could be.


Works Cited Page

The Works Cited page, formerly called the "Bibliography," is a listing of all the print and media materials used in writing a paper.  Write or type the words "Works Cited" centered one inch from the top of the page.  Skip a line. Then list your sources in alphabetical order by author's last name.  Use the reverse indentation system with the first line of the entry against the right hand margin, and the following lines of the entry indented five spaces.

When no author is given, alphabetize by the first word of the title. If the first word is a, and, or the, alphabetize the second word.  If two works by the same author are listed, insert three hyphens and a period (---.) in place of the author's name at the start of the second and last references.

Key points:

1. Alphabetize sources by last name of the author. Where there is no author, list by the first word of the work's title.

2. Use the reverse indentation system.

3. Put the author's last name first.

4. Write any co-authors' first names first.

5. Underline book, magazine, newspaper, and film titles.

6. Put quotation marks around titles of articles, short stories, and poems.

7. Abbreviate the names of publishers.

8. Put a period at the end of each entry.

9. Do not number entries.

10. With web sites, two dates are usually given. The first is the date the entry was put on the web, and the second is the date you accessed that site. (See Neandertal, Larry in the example below.)

Example Works Cited page:

                                                                                      Works Cited

Bates, Norman. Golden Times with Mom. New York: Jose-Bass Press, 1964. (book)

Calhoun, John C. and Sam Thunnan. Old Times in the South. Midway, Alabama: Hushpuppy Press, Inc., 1992.
(book  with two authors)

Dinosaurus, Rex. "Memories of the Good Old Days: When We Ruled the Earth." Time 20 July 1946: 56-59. (newspaper, magazine)

Doody, H., et al. "Strings and Things." Southern Illinoisan 31 Mar. 1997: A6, AlO-11.  (text with more than three authors)

---. "A Puppet in His Hands." The New York Times 14 July 1987: 8. (second title by the same author)

Gates, Bill. "Dreams of World Power." Computers in the Future. Eds. Samuel Burbridge and F. Goedel. New York: 
     Bite Me Press, 2000. 247-301. (article or chapter in a book)

Leamsalot, Mary. "A Study of Schools." Journal of Thinking 62.4 (1948): 71-79. (Scholarly journal article: 62.4 refers  to the volume and issue number.)

"The Neatest Way to Write a Works Cited Page." Rolling Stone Magazine 13 Apr. 1984: 23. (Unsigned article)

Neandertal, Larry. "How Do You Work These Things?" Stone Home Page. Dec. 1986. 23 Jan. 2000 http://RockUniversity/fac/neanderl/  (www site)

Rolyat, Robert. Personal Interview. 31 Jan. 2000. 
(Personal Interview)