Sentence Structure Deadliest Sins Indicate Weak Knowledge of How Sentences Work Grammar Range From Dangerous to Annoying Mechanics Includes Spelling, Punctuation and Proofing
Comma Splices Dangerous but not always deadly More than 5 can lower grade Run-on Sentences Deadlier than comma splices More than 5 can lower grade a couple of levels Fragments Deadliest of all More than 5 can result in a failing grade.
Two complete sentences joined by a comma You knew the two sentences belonged together. But you chose the wrong method to join them
I was hungry, I made lunch. Two independent clauses joined by a comma Commas generally join something that is a sentence to something that is not.
Find a comma Place finger over comma Read what comes before and after comma If both are complete sentences, you have a comma splice. Repeat the process Shouldn’t take more than 10 minutes.
Make two sentences Join with semicolon Join with semicolon and connecting word Coordination Subordination
I was hungry. I made lunch Structurally correct Simplest solution Use as fallback if nothing else works or comes to mind Not usually the best choice Can make your writing choppy Can give bad impression That your sentences lack sophistication. That your sentences lack variety.
I was hungry; I made lunch. Structurally correct Ideas must be closely related May not be the best choice Like periods, semicolons separate rather than join
I was hungry; therefore, I made lunch. Structurally correct Transitional word helps join the sentences. Better than semicolon alone
I was hungry, so I made lunch. Use a conjunction to join the two sentences. If there is a complete sentence on either side of a conjunction, you must use a comma before the conjunction. The conjunction coordinates between two equals (independent clauses)
Because I was hungry, I made lunch. I made lunch because I was hungry. One of the sentences has been turned into a dependent clause If the dependent clause comes first, you will need a comma.
I was hungry I made lunch. The fender-bender of writing Two sentences jammed together without any punctuation whatsoever Raises doubts about your understanding of how sentences work
Read out loud Gets ear involved Ear expects certain cues at end of sentence Changes in pitch Watch out for pauses If you have to stop to figure out what is going on, there is most likely a problem.
Same as fixing comma splices Two separate sentences Semicolon Semicolon with connecting word Coordination Subordination Throw away and write something completely different
Sentences that aren’t all there Missing subject Missing verb Missing complete verb Lacking auxiliary Missing subject and verb
Uses comma with conjunction that joins independent clauses For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, and So are the conjunctions. Think FANBOYS
I was hungry, so I made lunch. Use comma if there is a complete sentence on either side of the conjunction. I washed the dishes and took out the garbage. Complete sentence on only one side of the conjunction. Do not use a comma.
Adds conjunctive adverb to an independent clause Turns into dependent clause Dependent clause must be joined to an independent clause (complete sentence). If dependent clause is left to stand by itself, it will be a fragment
Because I was hungry, I made lunch. The word because turns “I was hungry” into a dependent clause. If the part that cannot stand alone (dependent clause in this case) comes first, it must be followed by a comma. Short prepositional phrases are an exception.
I made lunch because I was hungry. If the part that cannot stand alone (dependent clause in this case) comes last, do not use a comma.
Use commas to separate items in a series. I went fishing with Bob, Mary, and Ted. The comma before the last item is optional. But be consistent.
Is inserted into an otherwise perfectly good sentence. Test: If you remove the interrupter, you should have a complete sentence left over.
Mary, unfortunately, was drunk last night. Word unfortunately is inserted as a comment into the middle of a sentence. If you take out unfortunately, you will still have a complete sentence left: Mary was drunk last night. You must use a comma on both sides of the interrupter. Unless at beginning or end
Do you remember, Mary, how drunk you were last night? Interrupters are also used when you write or speak directly to someone. Again, take out the interrupter, and you still have a sentence left over: Do you remember how drunk you were last night?
Dates and addresses are also interrupters. On October 6, 1989, Mary Louise Smith was born. Living in Lillington, NC, has its benefits. His address is 123 Elm Street, Greensboro, NC, 28325. In every case, a complete sentence is left over after you remove the interrupter.
Parenthetical expressions contain extra, non-vital information. Also known as nonrestrictive clauses Parenthetical expressions must be set off by commas on both sides. Unless at the beginning or end of the sentence
Bob, who is 21, wrecked his car yesterday. Two-part test: If expression is removed, there must be a complete sentence left. Removing the expression must not change the fundamental meaning of the sentence.
The man who stole my car was arrested. Passes part one of the test. There is a complete sentence left over when you remove the expression: The man was arrested. Does not pass part two: Removing the expression changes the meaning of the sentence. Therefore, do not use commas.
Use pronoun who to refer to people. Who is used for both parenthetical and nonparenthetical expressions. Use that or which to refer to nonpersons. Use that for nonparentheticals Use which for parentheticals
Semicolons Colons Question Marks Quotation Marks
When in doubt, cut it out No rule that requires them Correct usage is simple Only use where you would otherwise use a period. Ideas in two sentences must be closely related. Correct: I was hungry; I made lunch. Incorrect: I was hungry; I bought a new pair of shoes.
Also used in complex series Where one or more of the items contains a comma I went fishing with Bob, who is 21; Mary, who is 18; and Fred, who is 30. In this case you must use a comma before the last item in the series.
Do not capitalize the first word that follows the semicolon. Proper nouns are an exception Bob was hungry; he made lunch.
Introduces something to follow Could be series But does not have to be Could be a single item Must have complete sentence before the colon
I went fishing with: Ted, Mary and Bill. This use of the colon is incorrect. There is not a complete sentence before the colon I went fishing with the following people: Ted, Mary and Bill. Correct usage Complete sentence before the colon
Capitalization depends on what follows the colon If what follows is a complete sentence, capitalize the first word. I found the source of the leak: A pipe was broken.
If what follows is not a complete sentence, do not capitalize the first word. With the exception of proper nouns I found the source of the problem: a broken pipe.
Go at the end of questions Sin of omission Proofread out loud! Two types of questions Direct: What time is it? Requires a question mark Indirect: I wonder what time it is. This is a statement, not a question Should be followed by a period
In American English, periods and commas always go inside quotation marks “I’m hungry,” Bob remarked. “I’m not going to wait for dinner.” “I just read Poe’s ‘Annabelle Lee.’”
Colons and semicolons always go outside of quotation marks. Mary said she was “too tired”; I think she was making excuses. There are two reasons I like the poem “love is”: It captures the essence of love, and it does so by using words we would never associate with love.
Location of question marks depends on where the question is located If quoted material is a question, question mark goes inside. “Where is the restroom?” Bob asked.
If question is part of a larger sentence that contains the quote, question mark goes outside. Who said, “It’s hot in here”? Same rule applies to exclamation points
Vague pronouns Pronoun too far from antecedent Pronoun itself is vague Pronoun–antecedent agreement Pronoun must agree in number with its antecedent
A substitute noun. He, She, It, They, Them, Their, I, Me, Mine, You, Yours, etc. Otherwise, you would find yourself saying, “David woke up and put on David’s slippers, went to David’s bathroom, and brushed David’s teeth.” Antecedent is noun pronoun refers to Relationship must be clear
Pronoun-antecedent relationship unclear Pronoun could refer to more than one person Mary told her mother that she hated her hair. Pronoun could be too far from antecedent Use a noun form every second or third sentence
Watch out for this. A demonstrative pronoun Used when you can point to an object. This is a pencil. Don’t use this to refer to an abstract concept. Welfare fraud is a growing problem. Something must be done about this.
Pronoun, antecedent must agree in number. Each student should turn their work in on time. Antecedent (student) is singular Pronoun (their) is plural Make both singular or both plural Students should turn their work in on time. Each student should turn his or her work in on time.
Subject and verb must agree in number. One of the boys are going to bed. Subject (one) is singular. Verb (are) is plural.
One of the boys are going to bed. Prepositional phrase gets in the way Noun in prepositional phrase is often right next to the verb. Subject and verb are never in a prepositional phrase. Say sentence without prepositional phrases. One is going to bed.
Refers back to a noun Cannot be used by itself Myself is the biggest culprit The tickets were given to Dana and myself. Usage is incorrect because myself does not refer back to a noun. I hurt myself. Usage is correct because myself refers back to a proper pronoun I.
Taking long way around Subject of sentence becomes object. Active Voice: I read the book. Subject is I Verb is read Object is the book Passive Voice: The book was read by me. Object has become subject Sentence picks up two extra words
Not necessarily bad—unless overused Watch for excess numbers of present participles Was going, is going, am going, were going, etc. Avoid using too many prepositional phrases in a single sentence. Prepositional phrases start with preposition and end with noun In the car, under the table
Items in a series must have same grammatical structure. Incorrect: When I grow up I want to be a doctor, lawyer or teach English. Correct: When I grow up I want to be a doctor, lawyer or teacher.
Trick is to become familiar with the words you misspell Then you can look them up If a dictionary is not available, substitute a word you can spell. Keep a list of misspellings Probably won’t be more than 20 words Read over list frequently.