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Language Arts Non-negotiables
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Last Updated: Oct 27, 2015 URL: Print Guide RSS UpdatesEmail Alerts

Language Arts Non-negotiables Print Page


 Non-Negotiable Focal Correction Areas


1. Form plurals with s or es (No apostrophe!!!!!) (Grades 8-12).

            Examples: boy…boys


2. Form possessives with an apostrophe (nouns: singular or plural) (Grades 8-12).

Examples:  boy’s (The boy’s dog was lost.)

                   boys’ (The boys’ clubhouse was dirty.)

3. Do not confuse a possessive with a contraction (Grades 8-12).

Example: its for it’s         

4. Match pronouns with the nouns they replace: gender, number (Grades 8-12).

            Examples:  Jane…she…herself

       reader…he or she…himself or herself…


(“Everyone” is a singular pronoun.  You cannot use it to replace a plural noun!)

5. Do not confuse words that sound alike or look similar (Grades 8-12).

            Examples:  their, there, they’re        witch, which                loose, lose

6. Do not switch verb tense without good reason (Grades 11-12).

 (Be sure to write about literature in present tense.)

7. Use active, not passive, voice (Grades 11-12).

            Examples:  The boy threw the ball.  =active voice

                               The ball was thrown by the boy.  = passive voice

8. Do not end phrases, clauses, or sentences with a preposition (Grades 10-12).

9. Use semi-colon and colon correctly (Grades 11-12).

10. Avoid slang, dialect, colloquial, and trite language (Grades 8-12).

11. Apply the rules of capitalization (Grades 8-12).

12. Indicate titles of literature correctly (Grades 8-12).

            Examples: Use “quotation marks” for essays, short stories and poems.

                              Use italics or underlining for novels, plays, films, anthologies.

(Note: MLA prescribes underlining; our Research Guide calls for italics.)

19. Use MLA documentation format precisely (Grades 8-12).           

20/ Proofread (Grades 8-12)


The following are areas of focal correction that teachers will teach rules, provide practice, and assess in appropriate domains:

1. Use commas when required (Grades 8-12)             Conventions domain

  • series of adjectives or phrases
  • two independent clauses joined by conjunction
  • non-essential information
  • introductory material
  • addresses

2. Omit needless words (Grades 8-12).                                    Style domain

            Examples: “throughout the entire novel”

      in the year 1492”

3. Form sentences correctly and create a variety of sentence structures and lengths.

                                                                                          Style domain

  • Use parallel sentence structure (Grades 10-12).             
    • With and, but, or, nor, yet
    • With both…and, either…or
  • Do not use sentence fragments or run-on sentences (Grades 8-12).
  • Participial phrase at the beginning of a sentence must refer to the sentence subject (Grades 10-12).

            INCORRECT example:  Being in bad shape, I could buy the car inexpensively.

            CORRECT example:      Being in bad shape, the car was inexpensive.

  • Combine sentences (Grades 8-12).
  • Avoid expletive constructions (There is… or it is…) (Grades 8-12).
  • Use coordination for relationships and subordination or emphasis. (Grades 9-12).

4. Use who versus whom correctly (Grades 11-12).    Style domain

            Note: Here’s a quick test: If you can substitute “him,” use “whom.”

5. Use which, and that correctly (Grades 11-12).                     Style domain

6. Do not use misplaced or dangling modifiers (Grades 10-12).       Style domain

  • Example of misplaced modifier:  He served steak to the men on paper plates.

(Did he serve steak to the men who were on paper plates? Or, did he serve steak on paper plates to the men?)

  • Example of dangling modifier: Passing the building, the vandalism became visible. (Did the vandalism pass the building?  If not, who is passing the building?)  


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