Painless Grammar: Writing Made Easy

Ava Devine, Art's Editor

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When it comes to high school, writing is not something that can be avoided. As an IB student, the Extended Essay will play a crucial role in the achievement of an IB diploma; as a Dual Enrolled or AP student, essay writing becomes second-nature for any and all classes; for any working teenager, resumes become essential for getting the job; as an upcoming senior, college essays loom overhead, threatening to either make or break an application. Writing is everywhere, and it is certainly not always easy. That being said, High Tide has got your back, and today, we want to make your future writing as easy as pie with these painless grammar hacks.

The Semicolon Debunked

It is the dreaded piece of punctuation that makes students worldwide pull out their hair in frustration: the semicolon. Many people find they are simply easier to ignore than ever learn how to use, but semicolons can be oh-so-sweet when used correctly. To be brief, a semicolon is used to join two independent clauses without the use of a conjunction. Basically, use a semicolon when you want to connect two phrases that could be sentences on their own, but also relate to one another.

For example: On weekends, I like to go out to Malibu; I’m hoping to run into Cole Sprouse while there and seduce him.

Both the section before the semicolon and the section after the semicolon could stand alone as separate sentences, and the sentences are closely related. This is how you know you know that you have used a semicolon correctly. You also shouldn’t be using any conjunctions between the sentences, for example, no “if,” “and,” or “but.”

Here’s a few bad example:

  1. Every Friday night I go get fourteen spray tans; and I also like to spend an hour lying out by the pool on Saturday mornings.
  2. I finally got my boyfriend to stop Juuling; which is why I’ve been spending so much time with him.
  3. Bohemian Rhapsody should definitely win an Oscar; Jessica likes to eat nachos at the park.

Our first example is incorrect because of the use of the word “and.” The sentence could easily be corrected if it were taken out, as both of the sentences are related and are independent clauses. The second example does not work because the portion after the semicolon could not stand alone as a sentence, meaning it is not an independent clause. Finally, the third example is incorrect because, while the two sentences could stand on their own and there is no conjunction, the sentences are completely unrelated.


MLA: What’s the big deal?

If you take any college class over the course of your life, there’s a very good chance you will encounter MLA formatting at some point. MLA, or the Modern Language Association, is a specific style of formatting utilized in college-level and professional writing. That being said, it is widely used and, often times, horribly under-taught. Many college professors will simply expect you to know MLA and how to use it, others will give in-depth powerpoint presentations and wonderful examples on how to correctly format papers. Unfortunately for students, we can never be sure what we will encounter. To make things easier for you, here’s a breakdown of MLA basics, as well as the ultimate guide to all of your MLA needs.

MLA requires:

  • 1 inch margins
  • 12-point, Times New Roman font
  • Double spacing
  • A Works Cited page
  • A half-inch indent prior to the first line of all paragraphs
  • A header with both your last name and the page number in the upper right hand corner

Unlike APA, MLA does NOT require:

  • A Title page
  • An abstract
  • A running head
  • Headings throughout the paper

The best source for MLA writing requirements and examples, as well as guidelines for the Works Cited page, is the Purdue Online Writing Lab.


Affect vs Effect

Comparing affect to effect is the ACT question that trips up nearly every student, but have no fear, High Tide is here, and we’ve got your back. Prior to taking your next standardized test, make sure to brush up on all of your homophones, such as their, they’re, and there, which are bound to show up not only in questions, but also in every essay, resume, or application that you ever write. The difference between affect and effect is far more pronounced than you may think, and it’s definitely something you should commit to memory.

Affect is almost always a verb, and when you use it, it will mean to impact or influence something.

Example: His lack of deodorant affected me all day.

Alternatively, effect is usually a noun, and it means the result of a change.

Example: The effect of not studying was an F on my geometry test.


Formal Writing

In the later years of high school and all the way through college, most of the writing you will do will be formal, and it can be hard to know where the line is between casual and formal writing. As a general rule, you will want to avoid using words like I/me/my and you/us/we in formal writing. When writing about a group of people, mention them by name rather than including yourself in that group.

Correct: Americans love McDonald’s.

Incorrect: We love McDonald’s.

Even though you may be an American who loves McDonald’s, you want to try to write from an outsider’s point of view, and you do not want to include yourself within your subject unless the piece of writing is supposed to be personal.

Formal writing should also be free from slang and contractions. It should not necessarily sound the way you would naturally speak.

Correct: Dancing is a popular form of artistic expression because it has an enjoyable and simplistic nature.

Incorrect: Dancing is a super lit thing to do because it’s lots of fun and kinda easy to pick up.

The correct example utilizes more complex word choices, and refers to the topic in a very specific way. It is also free from the use of slang and any and all contractions. The second example is incorrect, as it is not specific, uses the contraction “it’s,” uses the slang word “lit,” and uses informal vocabulary such as “super” and “kinda.”

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