Typographical Conventions

Sentence Structure

ICAL TEFLThis page describes the typographical conventions we use in the Grammar Guide and generally on the ICAL TEFL site.


Examples are shown thus:

This is a grammar example.

Following common convention, ungrammatical sentences are marked with an asterisk:

* This is grammatical not.

Note that In some grammars‏‎ (although not ours) you can also see this shown as strikethrough:

This is grammatical not.

In cases where there is doubt over whether a sentence is grammatical or not, a question mark is used before the sentence:

? The car’s door.

Syntax & Form

For examples of structure or syntax‏‎, we use this format. The curly brackets show a grammatical term (e.g. a part of speech or sentence part, etc):

{subject} + {verb}

The three men + smiled
He was running

Note that sometimes we’ll use the + symbol, other times not; this depends on the circumstances and what we want to highlight. Likewise we will put in bold words or phrases to be noted.

If a word is shown normally (i.e. without brackets or other formatting) then it must be used as is; if there is a choice of words then they’re separated with a slash:

{pronoun} + have/had + {past participle}

He had gone
We have seen

To show the base form of a word which needs to be conjugated or declined or otherwise inflected, we put it in round brackets:

{noun phrase} + (be)

the doctor + is
the doctor + was
they + are

Note that this is the same as putting the full list of possibilities separated by a slash:

{noun phrase} + (be)

{noun phrase} + be/am/are/is/was/were/am being/are being/is being/was being/were being/will be…

If something is optional it’s in square brackets:

He said + [that] + clause

He said we must go.
He said that we must go.

To show a more general term, we use italics:

[person] + [reporting verb] + quote

He replied, “Never again!”
She said, “I will survive!”


The ICAL TEFL Resource Library in general uses American English‏‎ spelling.

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