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Modal verbs present ESL writers with a paradox. They are both easy and difficult to use. In this paper, we investigate how a college-bound L2 writer succeeds and fails in using the modal verb in an essay. Though the analysis is based only on one writer’s mistakes, those who have studied ESL writers’ usage of modal verbs concur that the mistakes made by this student are representative of the struggles that other L2 writers face when using . The writer also has issues with deleting the grapheme when it occurs in the coda of consonant clusters. We examine this orthographic issue quickly but spend most of the time on the erroneous uses of . Pedagogical implications are drawn that can help ESL students and their teachers tackle the pesky issue of .



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