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.


via Tips for Writers

That vs. Which (from

Just a reminder, who should always be used when referring to people.

The boy who threw the ball.
This is the woman who won the pie-eating contest.

When referring to objects, the rule for using that and which is simple.
That should be used to introduce a restrictive clause.
Which should be used to introduce a non-restrictive or parenthetical clause.

A restrictive clause is one which is essential to the meaning of the sentence – if it is removed, the meaning of the sentence with change.

Examples: Chairs that don’t have cushions are uncomfortable to sit on.
Card games that involve betting money should not be played in school.

A non-restrictive clause can be left out without changing the meaning of the sentence. Non-restrictive clauses are either in brackets or have a comma before and after them.

Examples: Chairs, which are found in many places or work, are often uncomfortable to sit on.
I sat on an uncomfortable chair, which was in my office.

Changing that to which or vice versa can completely change the meaning of a sentence.

My car that is blue goes very fast. (It is the blue car, not the green one or the white one that is fast.)
My car, which is blue, goes very fast. (My car is fast, and the color is blue.)



via War Stories That Won’t Get Me Free Beer

A humorous look at experiences and life in the military. How true are these stories – it depends on how much you’ve had to drink. (tag line)Toiger on couch 2
If you’re telling war stories, you’re buying the beer. If not, then I’m staying right here on the couch.

Marine Corps School of Ski Instruction

We were standing in line, shivering in the cold on a bright sunny morning, with the temperature barely in the teens. But then, this was the Marine Corps Winter Combat Training Course and I was excited because I was going to have my first skiing lesson. Our instructor glided to a spot about twenty feet in front of the group.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” he bellowed. “Welcome to the United States Marine Corps School of Ski Instruction. Those big things on your feet are skis. The long things in your hands are ski poles. The white stuff on the ground is snow. That thing over there is a tree. Don’t hit the tree. Congratulations, you have completed the United States Marine Corps Schools of Ski Instruction. Now, everyone turn to your right.”
This may seem harsh, but the Marine Corps is not known for warm fuzzies and gentle instruction. But here we were learning to ski after a minute and a half of instruction. Still, I felt ready and eager for the challenge.
We all turned to the right, and the instructor showed us how to walk with our skis. We were shown how to walk sideways and how to walk with a “V” by turning the front of our skis outward. For the next hour, we worked to master these two skills. Instead, we managed to master the skill of going downhill backwards and getting tangled as our skis crossed each other. Then the instructor showed us how to glide over the snow for cross-country skiing. A skill we managed to turn into the ability to run into each other with great frequency. The final skill our instructor attempted to impart to us was how to point the toes of our skis in so that we could slow down or stop when going down a hill. I was unaware that our feet could actually cross and somehow we managed to go faster downhill. I did notice our instructor did not show us how to fall down. It seems we mastered that skill all on our own. Our major accomplishment was no one had managed to stab any one with the ski poles.

We migrated to a field where we practiced gliding for cross-country skiing. Our first attempt resulted in Marines running into each other. At one point we looked like a platoon of Marines in a giant pile of pick-up sticks. Someone pointed out we were really bad at skiing. Someone else pointed out the snow was cold and wet. A third person pointed out it was time for lunch.
Before long, we were able to make it around the field without any serious problems or injuries; so the instructor felt it was time for something more challenging. We took off on a trail through the woods. For the most part, the terrain was flat and we were able to make some progress. Then we came to the hill. We were to practice the techniques we had been taught earlier to make it to the top of the hill. This meant for us, we spent more time going downhill backwards than we did going uphill. Our instructor showed us how to use a zigzag pattern of skiing to one side of the trail, stopping, turning 180 degrees by hopping on the skis, then skiing to the other side of the trail. After an hour of being pin-ball Marines, bouncing from one side of the trail to the other, we finally made it to the top. The fact that it would have taken us only ten minutes to walk up to the top of the hill was irrelevant.

After we conquered this monument to Mother Nature, our instructor had another brilliant idea; either that or he relished the idea of us living life dangerously. He wanted us to ski down the hill. I do not know why this came as a surprise to me. After all, there is only way to get off a hill, and that is to go down it. One by one, we started down the slope. Soon it was my turn and I was celebrating my accomplishment of swooshing down the hill. I was proud of skill and ability until the trail curved and there stood a tree in my way. I started to will the tree to move. In my mind I kept repeating move the tree, move the tree, move the tree. Soon I was actually yelling out loud. The tree was not moving. Someone yelled back for me to shift my weight so I could turn the skis. I bent to the left, shifting my weight to my left side, I was actually starting to turn. I would be okay. I would miss the tree.

The tree moved. Honestly, the tree moved right into my path. I did everything I could to avoid it, but I ran smack into it, knocking me off my feet. I’m not sure how one of my skis ended up in the tree. The worst part, I was still attached to the ski. I think the lower branches pushed it up there just so I couldn’t get down without some help. I do know that while I was battling the tree for my survival, I had this sudden overwhelming desire to give up skiing.
Someone came up and asked if I was okay. At least I think that was what he was saying. Hanging upside down in a tree made it really hard for me to answer coherently. Before I could answer, the tree spat me out onto the ground. The instructor informed me I would have to go back to the medical clinic where they could check me out and maybe take some x-rays. I was really disappointed that he hadn’t made this suggestion before I had gone up the hill.
Turns out I was just banged up, no serious injuries, except to my pride and ego. I do know that the next time they asked for volunteers for winter combat training, I signed up for desert survival school.