Understanding Sentence Structure

Pages: 17 (2947 words) Published: March 24, 2013
Understanding sentence structure helps in identifying and correcting run-on sentences and sentence fragments. A computer’s spell checker does not typically catch these common mistakes, so do not rely on the spell checker to correct grammar for you. Be sure to carefully proofread all assignments for these issues.

This handout defines various sentence structures, presents sample sentences, and provides strategies for correcting run-ons, comma splices, and fragments. Practice activities are included to help build skills in sentence clarity and variety.

First, consider the parts of a complete sentence:

Complete Sentence (Independent Clause)

Table of Contents

Part I: Run-ons
• Strategies for avoiding run-ons (comma splices and fused sentences) (p. 2-3) • Sample sentences with explanations, practice activities (with answer key) (p. 4-7)

Part II: Fragments
• Strategies for avoiding sentence fragments (p. 8-11) • Sample sentences with explanations, practice activities (with answer key) (p. 12-13)

Part I: Run-On Sentences

Definition: A run-on sentence either has too many independent clauses or two independent clauses that are not linked correctly.

Two types of run-on sentences are fused sentences and comma splices.

Strategies for Correcting Fused Sentences:

1. Create a compound sentence.
Inserting a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) plus a comma correctly links these independent clauses. This sentence structure is called a compound sentence.

Correct compound sentence: She writes the music, and he plays the guitar.
independent clause + comma + coordinating conjunction + independent clause

2. Separate independent clauses with periods and capitalization, creating simple sentences.

Correct sentences: She writes the music. He plays the guitar.

3. Insert a semi-colon.
Semi-colons should be used sparingly and to connect independent clauses whose meanings are closely related.

Correct sentence: She writes the music for Coldplay; he plays the guitar for that band.

* Note: When more details are added to the above independent clauses, the meanings become much more closely related. Thus, a semi-colon can separate these clauses.

4. Link ideas using a subordinate clause (dependent clause). Correct Sentence:
While she writes the music for Coldplay, he plays the guitar for that band. subordinate clause + comma + independent clause

‘While’ is a subordinating conjunction, which makes ‘while she writes music for Coldplay,’ a dependent clause. That is, the clause depends on the rest of the sentence for

the overall meaning to be clear. A dependent clause cannot stand alone. Use a comma to separate a dependent clause that appears before an independent clause.

*Note: A sentence constructed of one independent clause and one or more dependent (or subordinate) clauses is called a complex sentence.

Strategies for Correcting Comma Splices:

1. Insert a coordinating conjunction to create a compound sentence.

Correct Sentences:
She writes the music for Coldplay, but he plays the guitar for that band. She writes the music for Coldplay, and he plays the guitar for that band.

Remember, the coordinating conjunction appears after the comma.

*Note: Again, consider meaning before joining sentences. If the sentences are not closely connected, it may be best to keep them separate. Think about these two independent clauses:

Today I was late for class....
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