Gaetano T. Montelione Laboratory
CABM Protein NMR Laboratory

Lab Documents

Proofreading Guide

Sentence Grammar:


1. Subject-Verb Agreement: Singular subjects take singular verbs. Plural subjects take plural verbs. For compound subjects, follow examples.

The effectiveness of the new target functions and SA protocols are demonstrated using the high-resolution X-ray crystal structure of crambin as a benchmark system.

The thoughts or actions of an individual are not always understandable. (The verb must agree with the closest noun, usually the one that follows the or.)

2. Verb Tense Shift: Avoid unnecessary shifts from present to past, or past to present.

3. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement: Pronouns often refer back to something the writer has already named--an antecedent. The pronoun and its antecedent should agree in number and person.

Agreement in Number (Singular or Plural)

The word "valid" must be defined by the reader. He or she determines what an acceptable meaning is. (Not "They determine what an acceptable meaning is.")

Agreement in Person (First, Second, Third)

His theory was to avoid their rules by living his life under his own set of rules. (Not "His theory was to avoid their rules by living your life under your own set of rules.")

4. Vague Pronoun Reference: Often found in sentences beginning with this, these, it, she, or he. The writer has to decide what the vague pronoun refers to and rewrite to make the reference clearer.

A detailed statistical analysis of the generated structures is presented. (Not "This data is presented.")

Sentence Integrity:

Make sure that your thoughts do not fall apart into fragments or slide together into run-on sentences and comma splices.

1. Sentence Fragments: A fragment is an unattached dependent clause. Most fragments belong to the sentence that precedes or follows. The following example can be revised by simply changing the first period to a comma.

We see this through a scientist's point of view, a point of view that is different from that of a lay person's. (Not two separate sentences.)

2. Run-on or Fused Sentences: Run-on sentences contain two sentences brought together without punctuation. The writer must decide how he or she will revise the run-on, using a period or a conjunction.

There is no separation between public and private in American culture. Violation of privacy is always present. (Not "There is no separation between public and private in American culture violation of privacy is always present.")

3. Comma Splices: The writer uses a comma instead of a period. To revise, substitute a period for the comma or use a coordinating conjunction after the comma (and, or, nor, but, for, yet).

Poor scientists write about experiments, but they fail to cite their information. (Not "Bad scientists write about experiments, they fail to cite their information.")




1. Between the items in a series of words, phrases, or clauses:

We need to order test tubes, rubber gloves, and dry ice.

2. Between two independent clauses:

We conduct experiments thoroughly, and in doing so, we get the proper results.

3. On either side of a non-restrictive clause (the clause often begins with who, whose, which, when, or where):

The procedure offers results, which are shown in Table 3, that correspond with the standard values for this substance.

4. After an introductory dependent clause:

Although most internuclear distance constraints come from NOESY data, additional information in the form of scalar coupling constant data can be obtained from other types of NMR experiments.

Apostrophe to Show Possession


1. Add an 's to singular and to collective nouns to show ownership:

singular nouns: the experiment's results

collective nouns: the data's indications, the group's results

2. When the singular noun ends in an s, add the 's and then say the word aloud. If it sounds too awkward, drop the final s, but keep the apostrophe.

boss's, class's, Fuentes' story

3. To form the possessive of plural pronouns ending in s, add only an apostrophe.

students' work, doctors' office

4. Don't confuse personal pronouns (no apostrophe) with contractions (always an apostrophe).

its= possessive pronoun (Its properties are extensive.)

it's= a contraction of it is (It's confusing.)

your= possessive pronoun (your labcoat)

you're= a contraction of you are (You're correct.)

their= a possessive pronoun (Their experiment is innovative.)

they're= a contraction of they are (They're outside the lab.)

5. Some words sound the same but have different spellings (homonyms). The following homonyms are frequently confused:

there= an adverb (There are many solutions to the problem.)

their= a possessive pronoun (Their lab is secure.)

to= a preposition (I've moved to a new lab bench.)

too= an adverb (I'd like to move too, but the boxes would be too heavy.)

two= a number/ noun (I'll buy two.)