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Peer Review

Writing Skills for Tax Professionals - Punctuation



Overall Numeric Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Feb 17, 2009 by Business Editorial Board
Overview: Writing for Tax Professionals - Punctuation is a combination tutorial and interactive drill and practice module that helps future tax professionals develop the skill of using punctuation more correctly and effectively. Punctuation is the second segment on basic writing skills for tax professional located at the M. Tx. Writing Web Site ( developed for the Masters of Taxation (M.Tx.) program at Georgia State University. The module consists of an overview of major punctuation points and five self-tests. Ten printable pages of text are presented that review correct use of commas (10 rules), semicolons (3 rules), apostrophes (3 rules), and quotation marks (3 rules). The self-tests are constructed using an authoring product from Half-Baked Software. Employing a fill-in-the-blank format, users determine the correct punctuation for each sentence. Initial feedback has correct responses replaced in the sentence in bold font. Errors are returned as blanks to allow for additional attempts. A complete solution can be displayed and printed that provides links to the punctuation rules being applied.
Type of Material: Combination Tutorial and Drill and Practice
Recommended Uses: In class or as homework.
Technical Requirements: Netscape Navigator is the preferred internet browser
Identify Major Learning Goals: To review and practice using punctuation principles for commas, semicolons, apostrophes, and quotation marks correctly and effectively.
Target Student Population: Masters of Accountancy students in Taxation and tax professionals who must learn to author tax research typically found in the client files of CPA and law firms. However, this module could be useful for anyone in any field who would like to develop punctuation skills.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: Requisite skills include basic grammatical skills of the English language. Practically, however, some knowledge of federal tax authority is required in that all examples utilize tax illustrations.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The module discusses a topic that is not typically included to the extent necessary in graduate programs of taxation and is very relevant to the skill set required of these students. The discussion begins with a definition of terms (appositives, clauses, coordinating conjunctions, dependent clauses, essential clauses or phrases, independent clauses, introductory elements, nonessential clauses or phrases, phrases, and transitional expressions). Punctuation rules are effectively reviewed with multiple examples provided using a variety of taxation contexts. Since most practicing CPA's were not English majors, this site is valuable not only for formal students, but also for the practicing professional.
Concerns: The narrative portion seems overly devoted to commas and less devoted to apostrophes, quotation marks, and semicolons. Some rules overlap, have numerous exceptions, or are style choices not necessarily universally accepted. No references are cited as the basis for decision rules discussed. While some topics found in the narrative are tested via the quizzes, others are not. In addition, some test questions seem to be skewed to emphasize certain punctuation rules more so than others.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Overall the module provides an excellent review of punctuation usage. In addition, students get to practice lessons learned from the narrative discussion. With the quizzes, students are not only required to input various forms of possible punctuation, but also have to decide when no punctuation is required.
Concerns: The quizzes contain style preferences as opposed to universally adopted concepts. The rationale for each rule cited for feedback is not always clear. In addition to merely referencing punctuation rules, indicating specific examples would enhance the feedback provided, particularly when Comma Rule 6 is cited. Seventeen examples exist.

The last response for question #5 for self-test #1 does not accept the correct response. When help is requested, the system says the answer is a period followed by a question mark. However, a period followed by a quotation mark is the correct answer, which is verified when the answer key is consulted.

For Comma Rules 8-10 that provide examples of wrong comma usage, explanations would be clearer if incorrect and correct versions were shown as opposed to using just the NOT! notation.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: Overall, the site and supporting quiz software is relatively easy to use and navigate. Instructions are provided for each self-test. The self-tests are engaging, requiring users to fill-in-the-blanks to indicate the required punctuation. An answer key can be consulted that provides links to punctuation rules for feedback. Users can also try again to progressively improve performance.
Concerns: Wrong answers are not necessarily wrong because they may reflect style preferences of the authors. Thus, calculated percentages of right answers may be misleading.

In the quiz segment, buttons at the bottom of the page are placed too close to each other. Inadvertently pressing the wrong button moves a student out of the quiz. As a result, data must be re-entered.

More than one Internet resource link could not be found. These need to be re-linked or removed.

The use of frames can be limiting for printing and navigating. This might be better handled with buttons at the top or side. Navigation within the text part of the tutorial has forward-only links with the exception of reviewing the definition for a term.