via Tips for Writers 

Writing Sentences – Every writer needs to start with the basics, and that is writing good sentences. Here are some tips I used when I taught English as foreign language in Japan and English composition at an American university. I hope they prove useful.

Zeid’s Rules (I created these, they are not found in any textbook.)

Every sentence has four parts – subject, verb, predicate, and a complete idea.

Many mistakes with sentence construction come from it either being an incomplete sentence (sentence fragment) and a run-on sentence. The idea of each sentence focusing on a complete idea helps resolves these problems.

First, let’s look at sentence fragments. It’s easy to see a sentence fragment when we leave out the subject of the sentence, the verb, or the predicate. Look at these examples.

            Bought a bag of apples. I a bag of apples. I bought a bag of.

Here information was left out, usually due to carelessness. However, a more common mistake is to include all of the information, but not a complete idea. Look at this example.

            So, I bought a bag of apples.

Here the subject, I, the verb, bought, and the predicate, a bag of apples, are present, but the sentence does not express a complete idea. We know the result was the purchase of the apples, but don’t know why. In order for this to be a complete sentence, we need to know why the apples were purchased.

            I ran out of fruit for breakfast, so I bought a bag of apples.

Take note that this complete sentence has more than a singular subject, verb, and predicate. Many may remember from English grammar there are four basic types of sentence, this one being a complex sentence with one independent clause and one dependent clause. The key here is many times the writer makes the dependent clause (in this case – so I bought a bag of apples) a separate sentence, thus making it a sentence fragment.

Next, we need to look at run-on sentences. I had a lot of fun with these in college when we were tasked with making the longest, grammatically correct sentence possible. A run-on sentence is when two or more independent clauses are fused into a single sentence. In other words, we are putting too much information into one sentence. Here is an example.

            At the store, I bought apples, I was out of fruit, which I like for breakfast.

Most run-on sentences can be fixed with simply adding proper punctuation and conjunctions. For example, the above sentence can be written as:

            At the store, I bought apples, because I was out of fruit, which I like for breakfast.

Another common run-on sentence error is the combination of clauses with including all of the necessary parts, such as leaving out the subject of the clause or part of the predicate.

            At the store, bought apples, I was out, which I like for breakfast.

These errors are caused by carelessness and the solution is again to ensure all parts of the clause, as well as the necessary punctuation and conjunctions, are included.

Do not make the mistake of thinking long sentences are necessarily run-on sentences. With the proper punctuation and conjunctions, long sentences are okay. The key is the logic and keeping to the idea that a single idea is expressed. Take a look at this example.

Although scientific study has failed to produce any empirical evidence to neither confirm nor deny that any state of mental illness or psychological condition provides any advantage to improving work performance or the ability to function in this specific work environment, the general consensus is that a state of mental unbalance does prove to be advantageous for those who are employed within this particular facility. In other words, you don’t have to be crazy to work here, but it helps.

The true key to improving sentence construction is to proofread. When time is a factor, such as writing a report that is due by the end of the day, ask someone else to proofread what you have written. That person will find the mistakes that you missed.

Zeid’s Rules (I created these, they are not found in any textbook.)

Most sentences follow the pattern of:   __1__ subject __2__ verb __3__ predicate __4__ .

Space one – front of the sentence – adverbs, time markers

Space two – front of the verb – auxiliary verbs, frequency adverbs

Space three – behind the verb – verb ending, frequency adverbs for the verb “be”

Space four – back of the sentence – adverbs, time markers

I find this pattern useful for explaining grammar, especially changes in verb tense to non-native speakers of English. For example, I walk to school changes to I am walking to school. I point out that the auxiliary verb am goes in space two, before the verb, and ing goes in space three, after the verb, to change the verb tense from simple present to present progressive. This pattern is also helpful for figuring out where best to place certain adverbs. For some people, this pattern is helpful. At the same time, for many others, it is confusing. If it helps, then use it. If it doesn’t, then forget it. There is no need to master this pattern to become a good writer.

Four types of sentences. Here is a brief review of the four types of sentences. All grammar books carry a more detailed explanation of these sentence patterns for those who need additional information about them.

Simple – The windows rattled.

I took the cat to the vet.

Compound – The windows rattled and the doors shook.

I took the cat to the vet, and it cost me 300 dollars.

Complex – As the storm blew, the windows rattled.

Because it was sick, I took the cat to the vet.

Compound-complex – As the storm blew, the windows rattled and the doors shook.

Because it was sick, I took the cat to the vet; and it cost me 300 dollars, so I am now broke.

Clauses – a clause is a group of words with a subject, verb, and predicate.

Independent clause – it has a subject, verb, predicate and expresses a complete idea. An independent clause can be a sentence all by itself. All sentences have at least one independent clause.

Dependent clause – it has a subject, verb, and predicate; but it does not express a complete idea by itself.


About mzeid18https://zeidsmysteries.wordpress.comI spent seven years as a military police officer for the United States Marine Corps. During which time I earned an Associate's Degree in Criminal Justice. In addition, I have assisted several police departments with community policing programs and sometimes investigations. I also have a Bachelor of Arts in Literature, Graduate Certification in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, and a Master's in Human Relations with a focus on Criminal Justice. Furthermore, I taught criminal justice courses at a local college for ten years.

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