Five Sentence Structure Issues

Sentence Fragments

Generally, a complete sentence needs a subject and a verb. At the very least, a sentence needs to be a complete thought.

Examples:

  • Her inner feelings of joy. 
    • Add a subject: She expressed her inner feelings of joy. 
  • Three dogs and a goat.
    • Add a verb: Three dogs and a goat destroyed my garden.
  • Because she wasn’t on time.
    • Connect to independent clause: She got fired because she wasn’t on time.

Run-on Sentences

There are two different types of run-on sentences: fused sentences and commas splices.

In a fused sentence, two independent clauses (complete sentences) are joined together without punctuation.

Example:

  • The experiment failed it lacked sufficient data.

Solutions:

  • Use a period: The experiment failed. It lacked sufficient data.
  • Use a semi-colon: The experiment failed; it lacked sufficient data.
  • Use a conjunction: The experiment failed because it lacked sufficient data.
  • Use a dash (less preferred): The experiment failed—it lacked sufficient data.

A comma splice occurs when two complete sentences are joined incorrectly with a comma.

Example:

  • The experiment failed, it lacked sufficient evidence. (Resolve this issue using one of the above methods.)

Loose Sentences

These generally result if you use too many conjunctions or other connective words. A breathless quality tends to develop as the sentence becomes burdened with too many subordinate clauses.

Example:

  • In the event that we get the contract, we must be ready by June 1 with the necessary personnel and equipment to get the job done, so with this in mind, a staff meeting, which all group managers are expected to attend, is scheduled for February 21.

Solution:

  • Break the sentence into smaller sentences without creating “choppiness.”

Choppy Sentences

These generally result if a series of short sentences, without punctuation or proper transitions, are written back-to-back.

Example:

  • The results we recorded were inconsistent. The program obviously contains errors. We need to talk to Paul. We will ask him to review our methods.

Solution:

  • Appropriately link sentences together, and add transition words

Faulty Parallelism

Sentences can become confusing or awkward when you string together phrases or clauses that don’t have the same form or structure. Long items in a list can be especially troublesome.

Example:

  • The curriculum reform resulted in decreased class size, more multicultural courses, and being allowed to choose final exam options. (The last phrase in this sentence is not “parallel” to the others in the list.)

Solution:

  • Reword any phrase/clause so that all parts of the sentence have a similar structure.