To the Student

To the Teacher

How to use the Keables Guide website.

To the Student

The Keables Guide is designed for your convenience. It gives you short answers, not long chapters. It concentrates on common errors, not abstract rules. It will help you to identify errors, to understand why they are wrong, and to correct them. There are several things you should do to make the best use of it:

1. Use the book in advance. Do not wait until your teacher returns your paper. Start working on your paper early enough to allow time for editing. Keep the book on your desk, or log on to the online Keables Guide while you write. If you are composing an essay or story and realize you are uncertain of a point of grammar or usage, make a check in the margin (or highlight the passage on your computer screen) to remind yourself to consult the Keables Guide before you write the final draft. You can use the Keables Guide even between paper assignments. If you know, for instance, that you do not clearly understand the difference between who and whom, take a few minutes to read the relevant sections.

2. Use the book to do corrections. Teachers will direct you to chapters, but you must locate the specific section that pertains to the flaw in your writing. If your teacher writes the code for commas over one of your sentences, do not just add a comma; read the Keables Guide and write the rule for the kind of comma error that you made. Ask your teacher for help if you need it after you have read the Keables Guide carefully. Teachers are glad to help students who have made a genuine effort to understand.

3. Keep a record of your errors. Before completing your next paper, review your past corrections. Even better, keep a list of the rules you have violated, the words you have misspelled, and the undesirable phrases (like clichés and jargon) which you should eliminate from your vocabulary. Review the list from time to time. Have a friend drill you on your personal spelling list.

4. Supplement the Keables Guide with other reference books. Keep a collegiate dictionary and a thesaurus at your desk. Take the time to learn how to use them.


The effects of errors.

Not all errors are equal in importance, but all of them involve the primary responsibility of a writer: helping the reader.

1. Some errors make the writer's meaning unclear. If you read "After Bill spoke with Jim, they agreed to lend me his car," you do not know whose car they agreed to lend.

2. Errors that do not affect the meaning can still disrupt the reader's concentration on the subject. When you read "Once, I arrived here, my problems disappeared," you may have to do a double-take to realize that the comma after Once does not belong there. The meaning comes through, but good writers avoid even the brief distraction.

3. Errors can have a more harmful effect than brief distraction; they can undermine the reader's confidence in the writer. If you read "I thinks it is a good movie," you never doubt the meaning, but you have good reason to lose respect for the writer's authority.

4. Some flaws, such as clichés and pretentious language, cause even greater harm to the reader's judgment of the writer. When you read "My trip was enjoyable albeit brief," the word albeit seems so stilted (that is, awkwardly formal) that you may suspect the writer is more interested in impressing you than in communicating clearly. When you find trite phrases like "Unhand me, villain!" in a story, you may not want to read any further.

5. The most important error is the kind of hasty writing that disguises careless thinking. Suppose someone says, "Study time has a lot to do with success, which is why we should have year-round school." Before you agree to give up your vacations, you would be well justified in asking, "Exactly what is the reason we should have year-round school? What does have to do with mean? How much is a lot? How do you define success?"


Using the codes.

The Keables Guide uses codes to lead you to specific sections. Upon seeing a code, follow a simple sequence:

1. Access the Key from the menu bar at the top of each web page to learn what the code means and where to find it.
2. Find the alphabetized code and click it to find the section that applies to the error you made.

Suppose your teacher marks "SV" over a sentence in your paper. The alphabetized Key will tell you that "SV" means "Subject-verb agreement" and links you to the section. Read the subsection that applies to your error, and, depending on your teacher's instructions, write the number of the subsection, a short version of the rule ("SV6: each is a singular indefinite pronoun"), and a brief correction of the error, either on the paper itself, a separate sheet, or a new draft.

The online Keables Guide uses bold blue type to mark the part your teacher expects you to copy in your corrections. Occasionally it may be appropriate to write a more specific rule. Although the rule for "Irr" reads "use the correct form of irregular verbs," you may write "began is the past tense of begin." Brief sections called "grammar tips" appear at the end of some sections. You need not write the grammar tips; they are intended for students who wish to learn some of the grammatical terms and concepts behind the rules.

The codes are designed for easy reference, but because of the large number of rules there may be some confusion of codes. For instance, there are four separate sets of rules for titles: one under Mechanics (for situations when you write the title of a book, story or poem), one under Manuscript Form (for the typography of your own title), one under The Essay (for the language of your title), and one under Writing About Literature (for titles of your critical essays). Your teacher is as human as you and will probably write the wrong code on occasion; if a code seems wrong, try to determine what it should be, and if you cannot, ask your teacher.

On the next two pages you will see two ways of doing corrections. Other ways are possible. Ask your teacher how you should correct your work.

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To the Teacher

There is a time to be given all things for maturity; and that even your country-husbandman can teach, who to a young plant will not put the pruning knife[. . . .] No more would I tell a green writer all his faults, lest I should make him grieve and faint, and at last despair. For nothing doth more hurt, than to make him so afraid of all things, as he can endeavor nothing. Therefore youth ought to be instructed betimes, and in the best things: for we hold those longest, we take soonest. As the scent of a first vessel lasts: and that tinct the wool first receives. Therefore a master should temper his own powers, and descend to the other's infirmity. If you pour a glut of water upon a bottle, it receives little of it; but with a funnel, and by degrees, you shall fill many of them, and spill little of your own; to their capacity they will all receive, and be full.

Ben Jonson, Timber, or Discoveries (1640-41)

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How to use the Keables Guide website

The Keables Guide website is designed for students, teachers, and curious readers. Each page is designed for your convenience. The menu bar at the top of pages can direct you to the keys, contents, glossary, home, or the Iolani School website. Below the menu bar are contents outlining the particular page. Within each page are links to the top to prevent continuous scrolling.

To students:

The easiest method of searching for a specific code is through the Key to Codes, which can be accessed from the menu bar at the top of any page. There are different keys for different grade levels: grades 7, 8, and 9 have a concise version of the Key to Codes for grades 10 though 12. After you choose the correct key, an alphabetical search should display the code. If not, the code may be listed in Part Five at the end of the Key to Codes page. Clicking on the code will display the rule.

To teachers:

The Reverse Key to Codes is the easiest search method. The key can be accessed through the menu bar at the top of any page. The key alphabetically lists a description of a problem followed by its Keables Guide code. Part Five, located at the end of the key, is separated from the rest of the codes.

To curious readers:

The Table of Contents provides a detailed list of material covered in the Keables Guide. Each of the five parts is broken into smaller categories. Either clicking on the general or the specific headings will display the rules. A smaller list of contents is located at the top of each page of rules.

Exploring the online Keables Guide is the best way to familiarize yourself with the setup. If there are any questions or comments about the site, please e-mail us at

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