Sentence Structure

Add more detail by expanding:

  • use prepositional phrases
  • use participial phrases
  • use appositive phrases
  • use adverb clauses
  • use adjective clauses

Before                                                           After

  • The girl walked home.
  • The game was canceled.
  • The class went to the zoo.
  • Wearing a red hat and coat, the girl walked home during a thunderstorm after the soccer game had ended.
  • Because of the pouring rain, the game was canceled until tomorrow.
  • The class, which had completed a science experiment, went to the zoo in order to test their hypothesis.

Eliminate short, choppy sentences by combining them into one sophisticated sentence:

  • use prepositional phrases
  • use participial phrases
  • use appositive phrases
  • use adverb clauses
  • use adjective clauses

    Before                                                               After

  • The fire truck roared down the street.  It smashed into two parked cars.
  • We found the book.  It was in the kitchen.
  • My father works for Kodak.  He is an engineer.
  • Roaring down the street, the fire truck smashed into two parked cars.
  • We found the book in the kitchen.
  • My father, an engineer, works for Kodak.

Improve a wordy or repetitious sentence by reducing:

  • use prepositional phrases
  • use participial phrases
  • use appositive phrases
  • use adverb clauses
  • use adjective clauses

   Before                                                               After

  • Harriet Tubman was a remarkable woman, and she led many slaves to freedom in Canada.
  • The girls had a pajama party and made ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce and enjoyed them at the party.
  • Harriet Tubman, a remarkable woman, led many slaves to freedom in Canada.
  • When the girls were at the pajama party, they enjoyed ice cream sundaes with whipped cream and chocolate sauce.

Vary a sentence by relocating words within it.

  • use prepositional phrases
  • use participial phrases
  • use appositive phrases
  • use adverb clauses
  • use adjective clauses

Before                                                               After

  • The girl walked home during the thunderstorm.
  • I was locked in the closet and was scared and alone.
  • John was a great man with many virtues.
  • During the thunderstorm, the girl walked home.
  • Scared and alone, I was locked in the closet.
  • A man of many virtues, John was a great man.

 


A fragment is not quite a whole sentence because it is missing either the subject or the main verb.  Even if the group of words begins with a capital letter and has a punctuation mark at the end, it is still a fragment if either the subject or the main verb is missing.

Fragments                                                        How to fix fragments:

  • Slipping down the muddy bank and plopping into the river.

Who is slipping and plopping?  The subject is missing.                                               example

 

  • Katie who came all the way from South Africa by plane.

What about her?  What did she do?  The predicate is missing.

Put in the missing subject or predicate so that that the sentence makes complete sense, or take out a word that is keeping it from being a complete sentence.

 

  • A hippo in a tutu was slipping on the muddy bank and plopping into the river.
  • Katie, who came all the way from South Africa by plane, had never seen snow before.

Tip:  Try reading your writing out loud to catch fragments.  It sometimes helps to use the phrase “Is it true that….”  (insert the sentence that could be a fragment).


A run-on sentence is rally two or more sentences (or independent clauses) that run together without proper punctuation to join them.

  • It may rain today take your umbrella.

At first, that may look like one sentence, but it’s really two independent clauses with no punctuation to join them together.

 

First, decide what the separate sentences are.  Where does the first sentence end, and where does the second sentence begin? Then fix the run-on sentence in one of three ways:

1. Join the two sentences with a comma and a conjunction:

  • It may rain today, so take your umbrella.
(A comma by itself creates a comma splice; You must use both a comma and a conjunction.)

2. Join the sentences with a  semicolon:

  •   It may rain today; take your umbrella.

 

 

3. Make two separate sentences:

  • It may rain today. Take your umbrella.

 

 

Tip: Try reading your writing out loud to catch run-ons. When your voice stops, it is probably the end of a complete thought.