Common errors in structuring sentences

1. Fragments

Transcript:

Sentence fragments are basically incomplete sentences. They lack one or more necessary components of a sentence and/or do not express a complete idea.

So we’ll look at a couple of examples. Here I have the example “Showed no improvement in any vital signs.” So this is an incomplete sentence, a sentence fragment, because it’s missing the subject. Who showed no improvement in any vital signs?

So we have the predicate from a sentence, we’re missing the subject.

So to revise this, we could say: “The patient showed no improvement in any vital signs.” So here we have a subject, we have a predicate, we have a period, we have a complete sentence.

“Study skills that Alice uses.” Here we have a subject. So we have “study skills” and we describe study skills a little bit more by saying that they’re the ones that Alice uses. So we have subject but no predicate.

Here we just need to add a predicate: “Study skills that Alice uses include time management and note taking.”

So most problems with sentence fragments, however, are in more complicated sentences. So I showed a couple of maybe simple examples, and we’ll look at a couple of more complex examples.

“The manager announced a new job position; to work with the technical support staff.” So we have a semicolon here, indicating that we should have two independent clauses. But the second independent clause lacks a subject–It doesn’t say who or what will work with the technical support staff.

And so when it comes to some of these more complex sentences, we often have multiple options for how to revise them. In this case, we could make it a simple sentence just by eliminating the semicolon: “The manager announced a new job position to work with the technical support staff.” So that’s a perfectly good option for revising that sentence. We could also add a little more information and make it a compound sentence: “The manager announced a new job position; the new employee will work with the technical support staff.”

So just remember as you are revising sentences, it’s very rare that there’s only one way to fix something. Often you can adjust the wording, add or subtract words, change punctuation, and revise it in, in various ways.

“A task force to study potential causes for the rising rates of diabetes, and members will work with the community to seek a solution.” So we have possibly two clauses here, but right now we have it combined. And the first one lacks a verb associated with the subject. So we have “a task force”, we have more information explaining kind of what the task force is like, but we don’t really have a verb saying what the task force did.

So, again, we have options as to how to revise this. But here are a couple of correct options to follow the guidelines that we’ve been discussing.

In a compound sentence it could be, “A task force has convened to study the potential causes for rising rates of diabetes, and members will work with the community to seek a solution.” So we have “a task force has convened”, we added that verb there, and “members will work”, so again we have two subjects and then the verbs that start the predicate. Another option is to kind of rearrange the sentence so that it can be a simple sentence: “Members of a task force to study potential causes for the rising rates of diabetes will work with the community to seek a solution.”

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3491699 ]

2.  Run-On Sentences

Transcript:

Common error #2, and this is an error that I see quite a bit when working with students, is run-on sentences. So run-on sentences include more than one simple sentence joined together improperly. And so, that’s the main key here is, mostly it’s all about punctuation.

So here’s one example of a run-on sentence. “I attended the conference last July I also was at the symposium in October.” So we have two complete sentences here: “I attended the conference last July” and “I was also at the symposium in October”, but there’s no punctuation between them.

So some people may revise this by adding a comma: “I attended the conference last July” comma, “I also was at the symposium in October.” However, a comma is really insufficient to combine two independent clauses. A comma is really just not strong enough to stand alone by itself to bring together two independent clauses. This is also an example we would call a comma splice if that’s something you ever hear.

So options that you have for this to revise, to make this correct, would be to adjust the punctuation or possibly add a word. And so I have the three examples here of ways to revise this run-on sentence. So the first example is to just add a period between the two of them. You have two independent clauses they can be their own independent sentences. Another option is to add a semicolon between them. And then the third option is to do that comma and coordinating conjunction. So comma “and”, in this case, so the comma kind of needs to work along with one of those coordinating conjunction to really be strong enough to connect those two independent clauses.

So many run-on sentences can pretty easily be revised, either into two to simple sentences or two a complex or compound sentence.

Here’s an example: “Employee morale has a big impact on productivity, because job satisfaction plays an important role in turnover, managers should evaluate the employee’s emotional needs.”

So here we have an independent clause, a dependent clause, and independent clause all connected by commas. And this just– it’s kind of unclear mixture. So we’re going to need to adjust the punctuation here.

I have a few examples in the revision examples box. The first one is to include a period. So we have our independent clause and dependent clause, and because the independent clause comes first, we don’t need a comma there, and then period and then the rest of the sentence. If you notice when you read the sentence, the initial example sentence, it’s kind of unclear whether the “because” clause should be connected to the first independent clause or the ending independent clause. And so, this is where, as a writer, you get to make that decision and show the reader where the ideas are connected.

So for example, in number 2, “Employee morale has a big impact on productivity” semicolon (;), so kind of a pause in the idea, “because job satisfaction plays an important role in turnover, managers should value the employees’ emotional needs.”

And then the third example is to use those coordinating conjunctions to show how these ideas are connected: “Employee morale has a big impact on productivity, and job satisfaction place an important role in turnover, so managers should value the employees’ emotional needs.” So you can really make those decisions about the punctuation and how you want to connect sentences in order to really communicate the specific idea that you’re trying to communicate. Whereas, if you use incorrect punctuation, it can actually cause a lot of clarity issues within sentences.

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3491687 ]

3. Parallel Structure

Transcript:

All right. So common error #3 is parallel structure. And parallel structure means that in a list, all items must have the same grammatical form. For example, maybe I have a list where I need to begin each element of the list with the same verb tense or same part of speech. We’ll look at some examples.

So here’s an example of an error in parallel form. “Nora enjoys running, hike, and to camp.” So the verbs are in three different forms. We have the progressive, the “ING” form. We have the infinitive form, just “hike”, and then we have the two plus the base form or infinitive form. So we have three different forms of the verb. So in order to create parallel structure here, you need to revise this to say “Nora enjoys running, hiking and camping.” Or we can say “Nora likes to run, hike, and camp.” So we’d use that same structure, verb structure, throughout the list.

“I finished my paper and submit it to Blackboard.” So the issue here is that we have “finished” in the past tense, talking about something that I did in the past, and then “submit” is in the present tense. So that just gets a little bit confusing for the reader. Is it something that happened in the past? Are you talking about something that happens on a regular basis? It’s kind of unclear. So here we have a list with really only two items, “I finished and I submitted” in the same sentence, and so we want to make sure they agree, that they’re the same verb tense, word form.

And then this last one is a little bit, can be a little confusing: “I baked a cake, cookies, and made lasagna.” In this list, actually, we have two nouns and one verb. So, “I baked” and then the list includes “cake, cookies” and “made”. Here’s an example of how we could revise it: “I baked a cake and cookies and made lasagna.” So we can make this into a list with just two items: “I baked” and “I made,” and then the other information in the sentence is providing more information about what I baked and what I made. Another option might be to say “I made cake, cookies, and lasagna.” Or I, I could have baked all of them: “I baked cake, cookies, and lasagna.”

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3497220 ]

4. Subject-Verb Disagreement

Transcript:

So the next common error that we often see with simple sentences is with subject-verb disagreement. So this is where the subject and the verb disagree in terms of numbers. So if you — you might have a singular subject with a plural verb or a plural subject with a singular verb. These would be examples of subject-verb disagreement.

In the first example, we have “Twenty people has applied for the job.” So the first thing we want to do here is to determine the main subject, and then we want to determine the main verb.  We’ve got to find that main subject and find that main verb, and then we’re going to be able to make sure that our subject and verb agree with each other.  So in this sentence, we’ve got “Twenty people”, so “people” is our subject. And then our main verb here is “has,” right? So because “people” is our subject and “people” is plural, then we also have to make sure that “has” becomes plural.

And so to fix this one, I would say “Twenty people have applied for the job.” So “people” is plural, therefore “have” also needs to be plural. In this next example, this one gets a little bit more tricky because here we’ve got a complex subject, and we’ve got to be able to break it down and find the main part of that subject to figure out what part of that needs to agree with the verb. So here we have “Following pressure from peers often lead to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.”

So our subject here is “Following pressure from peers.” This entire thing is the subject. So we have a complex subject. And then we have the predicate “often lead to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.” That’s your predicate. But our main part of the subject is actually the word “following.” And because “following” is singular, then our verb needs to be singular as well.

So to fix this sentence, we’re going to want to say “Following pressure from peers often leads to teenagers engaging in risky behavior.” Again, our whole subject is “Following pressure from peers.” It’s a complex subject. But we’ve got to find the main part of that, and that’s “following.” So it’s singular.

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3492707 ]

5. Unclear Subjects

Transcript:

Unclear subjects. So this is where we have a sentence that includes a confusing or a redundant subject.

The first example we have is “Asking for help this can be difficult for many students.” Well, in this case, we’ve got the subject that’s repeated. We’ve got “asking for help” and we have “this,” and that’s where it becomes a little bit confusing.

So to clarify this, we could just say “Asking for help can be difficult for many students.” We can get rid of the “this” because we don’t need a redundant subject, or we don’t need to repeat the subject, and then it will make sense.

In the second example, we got “By conducting research it has enabled me to learn more about effective leadership strategies.” So here again, this gets confusing because we’ve got “by conducting research it,” and the grammar here isn’t really working.

So we can simplify it, and we can just say “Conducting research has enabled me to learn more about effective leadership strategies.”

[Source: Walden University. https://academicguides.waldenu.edu/c.php?g=465757&p=3491611 ]

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See also:

Types of Sentences
Simple Sentences
Compound Sentences
Complex Sentences
Combining Sentences

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