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BYU Course Outcomes

Evaluating English Usage

Students will be able to identify and use multiple approaches to evaluating English usage.

Tools for Evaluating English Usage

Students will be able to identify and use the most appropriate tools for each approach.

Evaluating the Validity of Prescriptive Rules

Students will be able to evaluate the validity of prescriptive rules by using these approaches and tools.

Please carefully read the material under “What You Can Expect to Learn from ELANG 322.” It will give you an even clearer—and more specific—view of these outcomes and a great overview of the things you will be learning in this class.

Course Materials

Required Texts

Wilma R. Ebbitt and David R. Ebbitt, Index to English, New York: Oxford UP, 1990.

This text is one of the clearest and most easily accessible handbooks on usage issues. Not as big or expansive as Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, its entries are nonetheless succinct and in line with current usage (meaning it is neither too liberal nor too conservative, but right down the line). We suggest you begin any search on a usage item with this reference, then, once you understand the debate at hand, get more information, history, etc. from Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage.

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage, Springfield: Merriam-Webster, 1994.

This comprehensive usage resource (nearly a thousand pages) reflects decades of research into the history and current use of virtually all debated points of English usage. Probably more information than you need, but it has great historical background upon which to base your opinion and it is full of excellent examples. The concluding paragraph usually summarizes the issue.
When you look up a debated usage item in both of these texts, you get a pretty clear view of the debate and consensus, and you will need both of these texts to complete the exercises and to research usage questions in the lessons. These texts may be ordered through Independent Study.

Suggested Texts

In addition to the required texts, you should also have access to an up-to-date collegiate dictionary or an unabridged dictionary, one dated since 1990. (We particularly like Merriam-Webster’s 11th New Collegiate Dictionary because it has short usage notes on debated items, but any collegiate dictionary would work.)

We also recommend a good English handbook for additional explanations and examples of concepts we cover in the lessons. We particularly recommend the following handbook (2nd or 3rd edition) for its clearness of explanation, its excellent examples, and its readability—but any good recent English handbook would work.

Lester Faigley. The Brief Penguin Handbook, 3rd edition. New York: Longman, 2009.

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There will be 19 assignments to complete in this course, may be resubmitted once for a fee.

The lessons are arranged in three units:

Unit I: Getting Acquainted with Usage (Lessons 1–8)

This unit introduces you to the concept of usage (it is not grammar), gives you a feel for the forces that dictate appropriate language choices, delves into the different reference sources available when you have questions, and acquaints you with the nature of language change (including its impact on varieties of English—or dialects).

Unit II: Practice in Educated Usage (Lessons 9–13)

This unit deals with specific points of debated usage. You will read information about the status of such items of usage as ain’t, lay/lie, can/may and irregardless as well as learn the correct use of pronouns and how to avoid sexist language, and much more. This knowledge will allow you make informed, appropriate choices in these areas in both speech and writing. A number of exercises will help you learn the conservative conventions of these usage items.

Unit III: Punctuation, Sentence Style, and Mechanics (Lessons 14–19)

This unit covers the basic rules of punctuation, mechanics, and sentence style (sentence style includes things like parallel structure, shifts, dangling modifiers, etc.) so that you can increase your knowledge, and therefore your confidence, in the use of the written word.

Culminating Essay:

This course culminates with an essay that reflects on what you have learned overall in the course and how this knowledge might have changed your approach to language and language use.

How to Submit Assignments

You will submit your completed assignment to Independent Study electronically through BrainHoney. To make sure that I can open and read your paper, please save it as an RTF (rich text format) file. Here’s how to do it:

You may also submit the assignment as a .docx or .pdf file. For help submitting these files please contact our technical support team at 1-877-897-8085 or email istech@byu.edu.

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2 essay exams, 1 proctored midcourse exam, and one proctored final exam essay, may retake each once for a fee, must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Each unit will have an assessment or an exam at the end of the unit.

Unit I The Unit I Exam is part of the lesson 8 assignment which is an essay assessment of the material in that unit (4%)
Unit II The Unit II Exam is a proctored midcourse exam which focuses on the debated usage items (Proctored Exam) (12%)
Unit III The UNIT III Exam is an open-book mid-course review essay assessment on punctuation, mechanics, sentence style (12%)
Final A comprehensive essay exam that covers material from all three units and ideas that thread through these units. (Note: the final will not retest the specific usage items from Unit II nor specific punctuation/sentence style rules from Unit III. However, we do expect students to model what they have learned about punctuation and sentence style and to avoid major errors in their writing.) All assignments must be submitted and graded before requesting the final exam. (Proctored Exam) (12%)

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Self Check Exercises

Much of the work in this course will be exercises on different usage issues (particularly in Units I and II). Usually you will read the discussion material, take a self-check (or self-checks) where you can check your answers for understanding, then do an exercise that will count toward the final grade in that lesson. Many of the exercises are graded by the instructor, but a few are done by the computer as a Speed Back. All the exercises will be submitted as part of your lesson assignments.

Lesson % of Grade
Unit 1
Lesson 1 3%
Lesson 2 3%
Lesson 3 3%
Lesson 4 3%
Lesson 5 3%
Lesson 6 3%
Lesson 7 2%
Lesson 8 (Unit 1 Exam) 12%
Unit II
Lesson 9 2%
Lesson 10 3%
Lesson 11 3%
Lesson 12 3%
Lesson 13 3%
Unit II Exam 12%
Unit III
Lesson 14 3%
Lesson 15 3%
Lesson 16 3%
Lesson 17 3%
Lesson 18 3%
Lesson 19 3%
Unit III Exam 12%
Final Exam 12%
Grading Scale
A 94—100
A− 90—93
B+ 87—89
B 83—86
B− 80—82
C+ 77—79
C 73—76
C− 70—72
D+ 67—69
D 63—66
D− 60—62
E (fail) 59 or below

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Getting Help

Tutors are available for this course.

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Copyright Notice

The materials used in connection with this online course are only for the use of students enrolled in this course for purposes associated with this course and may not be retained or further disseminated. Any copying or further dissemination of these materials may be subject to applicable U.S. Copyright Laws. For questions or more information, please visit the BYU Copyright Licensing Office website.

“Members of the BYU community who willfully disregard this Copyright Policy or the BYU Copyright Guidelines place themselves individually at risk of legal action and may incur personal liability for their conduct. The unauthorized use or distribution of copyrighted material, including unauthorized peer-to-peer file sharing, may subject individuals to civil and criminal liabilities, including actual and statutory damages, costs and fees of litigation, fines, and imprisonment

Violations of the Copyright Policy may result in university disciplinary action including termination of university enrollment or employment.” (Emphasis added. Excerpt taken from the BYU Copyright Policy)

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University Policy - Title IX Statement

Preventing & Responding to Sexual Misconduct

In accordance with Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, Brigham Young University prohibits unlawful sex discrimination against any participant in its education programs or activities. The university also prohibits sexual harassment—including sexual violence—committed by or against students, university employees, and visitors to campus. As outlined in university policy, sexual harassment, dating violence, domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking are considered forms of "Sexual Misconduct" prohibited by the university.

University policy requires all university employees in a teaching, managerial, or supervisory role to report all incidents of Sexual Misconduct that come to their attention in any way, including but not limited to face-to-face conversations, a written class assignment or paper, class discussion, email, text, or social media post. Incidents of Sexual Misconduct should be reported to the Title IX Coordinator at t9coordinator@byu.edu or (801) 422-8692. Reports may also be submitted through EthicsPoint at https://titleix.byu.edu/report or 1-888-238-1062 (24-hours a day).

BYU offers confidential resources for those affected by Sexual Misconduct, including the university’s Victim Advocate, as well as a number of non-confidential resources and services that may be helpful. Additional information about Title IX, the university’s Sexual Misconduct Policy, reporting requirements, and resources can be found at http://titleix.byu.edu or by contacting the university’s Title IX Coordinator.

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Accessibility Notice

BYU is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates persons with disabilities who are otherwise qualified to participate in BYU's programs and activities. In this spirit, BYU Independent Study aspires to improve web accessibility for users. While not required by law, the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 Levels A and AA provide a wide range of helpful recommendations to make Web content more accessible. BYU Independent Study strives to apply WCAG 2.0 recommendations where feasible, but may deviate from any recommendations that would result in an undue hardship to BYU Independent Study or alterations to program and course content and objectives. If you have questions about accessibility, or if you need to report problems with any accessibility features please see our Accessibilities and Accommodations Web Page.

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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


There will be 19 assignments to complete in this course, may be resubmitted once for a fee.

Resubmit an assignment for a fee.


2 essay exams, 1 proctored midcourse exam, and one proctored final exam essay, may retake each once for a fee, must pass the final exam to earn credit for the course.

Retake an exam for a fee.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

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Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514