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Writing Strategies and Grammar

Active vs. Passive Voice

Active vs. Passive Voice

In active voice sentences, the subject does the action, while in passive voice, the subject is “acted upon” by the verb. Active voice makes sentences stronger by putting the reader closer to the action and gives you the chance to choose stronger action verbs.

  • Passive Voice: “The essay was written by the student.”
  • Active Voice: “The student wrote the essay.”

Subject Verb Agreement

Subject verb agreement means pairing up singular nouns with singular verbs and plural nouns with plural verbs.


  • The boy runs after his dog.
  • The twins tried their best to look different from one another.
  • Lucas hates eating vegetables.

An easy check for subject verb agreement is to make sure your noun and verb don’t both end with “s” (unless it’s a proper noun like “Lucas”).

Parallel Structure

Parallel structure means using the same grammatical structure for closely related words, phrases, and ideas. A lack of parallelism leads to choppy sentences.

  • Not Parallel: “Joe enjoys reading, cooking, and to draw.”
  • Parallel: “Joe enjoys reading, cooking, and drawing.”

To test your sentence for parallelism, split each activity into individual sentences.

  • Not Parallel: “Joe enjoys reading. Joe enjoys cooking. Joe enjoys to draw.”
  • Parallel: “Joe enjoys reading. Joe enjoys cooking. Joe enjoys drawing.”

Personal Pronouns

Personal pronouns are words that you can substitute for nouns to prevent repetition. The noun that gets replaced is called an “antecedent.”

  • First Person Pronouns: I, Me, We, Us
  • Second Person Pronoun: You
  • Third Person Pronouns: She, Her, He, Him, It, They, Them

Make sure the pronoun and the swapped-out antecedent agree in number and person.

  • Example: “Marcus and I”
    • Replace: “We” or “Us"
  • Example: “Cidney”
    • Replace: “She” or “Her”
  • Example: “Eric and Sally”
    • Replace: “They” or “Them”

Possessive Nouns

An apostrophe (‘) before or after an “s” at the end of a noun indicates ownership.

  • The cat’s toy = the toy of the cat.
  • The siblings’ parents = the parents of the multiple siblings.

Commonly Confused Words

  •  Their/They're/There
    • They’re: a contraction for “they are”
    • Their: third person possessive pronoun
    • There: that place
  • Your/You're
    • Your: second person possessive pronoun
    • You’re: contraction for “you are”
  • To/Too/Two
    • To: a preposition
    • Too: very or also
    • Two: the number 2
  • Effect/Affect
    • Affect: verb meaning to “have an effect on” something
    • Effect: noun meaning “the result or consequence” of something
  • Than/Then
    • Then: indicates a time other than the present
    • Than: used to compare statements