Writing Competency  
4. Ability to Use the Mechanics of the Language

Language mechanics guide meaning. Writings that conform to them help the reader understand what you're saying and grasp it more quickly. Spelling errors are usually perceived as reflecting the writer's careless attitude. All mechanical errors undermine writer credibility and can negate sage advice and persuasive argument.

Language is used properly including:
Grammar and usage, e.g.,
  - subject-verb agreement
  - pronoun references -- all pronouns clearly
    refer to definite nouns

• Punctuation
  - Commas are used to:
    * signal nonrestrictive or nonessential material,
    * prevent confusion, and
    * indicate relationships among ideas and
       sentence parts.

  - Unnecessary commas that make
    sentences difficult to read are absent.

  - Two independent clauses are linked with
     a comma when used with a coordinating
     conjunction: ("and," "or," "but," "for,"
     "nor," "so," "yet"). Otherwise, a period or
     semi-colon is used.

  - Apostrophes indicate possession for
     nouns ("Jeanne's hat," "several years'
     work") but not for personal pronouns
     ("its," "your," "their," and "whose").
     Apostrophes also indicate omissions in
     contractions ("it's" = "it is"). In general
     they are not used to indicate plurals.



Usage & Grammar

Subject-Verb Agreement

Pronoun References



Colons & Semi-Colons


Words that Sound Alike