Allen’s personal comments

Fourth Grade Errors

One of the assumptions I make (and Ashland University makes) about college freshmen is that you have completed the equivalent of an American high school diploma. That diploma implies a certain amount of education. We assume, for example, that you can do basic arithmetic and that you have a notion of who fought in the American Civil War (and which side won).

That’s probably assuming a lot, and if you go to YouTube and search for “Jay Leno JayWalking,” you discover that many people didn’t seem to pick up much in high school. Some of my favorite responses:

Anyhow, I get a lot of students who seem to have missed many of their junior high and high school English classes. If that’s you, and if you constantly find yourself receiving poor grades because of your grammar (and teachers in other courses will also grade you!), you need to take some action to bring yourself up to speed. You have three powerful resources: The course grammar handbook, the grammar checker on Microsoft Word, and the college writing center.

Why I said “Fourth Grade”

Many of my students say, “I’m just not good with English, and that’s why I make these errors.” The items I am listing here are really basic—things you should have learned eight years ago. (This is like a person saying, “I’m not good at driving, and that’s why I don’t know what to do when the light turns red” or “I’m not good at cooking, so I don’t know whether I should wash my hands before I begin.”)

4th Grade Grammar: Key Skills lists the English language competencies that a fourth-grade student should have mastered by the end of the year. (I’m only listing the ones that seem to cause trouble in my classes, but there are more, and if you go to the website, they also have links with examples to show you what they are talking about.)

What I am doing about it

When I receive your paper, I will print it out and run the Microsoft Word grammar checker. Then I will do a quick “Fourth Grade Reading” for the sort of errors listed above. Items I catch with these two scans will be marked in a stand-out color (probably red) and will count strongly against you. (After all, if MS Word saw that you misspelled freind or put they’re where you needed their, fixing it was a no-brainer. You just had to click the mouse. And if you are the king of sentence fragments or the queen of run-ons, that’s something which should have been fixed eight years ago.)

After that first reading, I will change pens (probably writing in a calmer color such as green or purple) and mark more advanced items such as structure, content, and less basic grammar issues.

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The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Ashland University.

Revised 8/31/21 • Page author: Curtis Allen • e-mail: