Sentence Structure

Sentence structure, a mechanical aspect of grammar, includes numerous elements, such as clauses, verbs, subjects, transitional words, nominals, and much more. By joining these elements into well-constructed sentences, your ideas will be more clear and coherent.

In their 2008 study, Lunsford and Lunsford identified three of the most common sentence structure errors: sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and faulty construction [1].

The following guidelines can help you avoid these errors.

Sentence fragments

A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence: It lacks a subject, verb, or complete idea. To correct a fragment, combine it with a main clause and use the appropriate punctuation: [2]:

Incorrect — I need to rethink the project. Because the timeline is too tight.
Correct — Because the timeline is too tight, I need to rethink the project.

Incorrect — Engineering includes diverse specialties. For instance, environmental, electrical, aerospace, and chemical.
Correct — Engineering includes diverse specialties; for instance, environmental, electrical, aerospace, and chemical.

Run-on sentences

A run-on sentence is two sentences combined into one with no separating punctuation. Adding the correct punctuation can correct a run-on sentence:

Incorrect — They worked from dawn until dusk they never took a break.
Correct — They worked from dawn until dusk. They never took a break.

Incorrect — I found a new job and I really like my co-workers.
Correct — I found a new job, and I really like my co-workers.

Faulty construction

Faulty construction most often happens when sentences or lists lack parallel structure. You can achieve parallel structure by “using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance” [4].

Incorrec — In his free time, Fred likes to read, hike, and bird watching.
Correct — In his free time, Fred likes to read, hike, and watch birds.

Incorrect — The supervisor told the team they should get started right away, finish by the end of the day, and to present their results tomorrow.
Correct — The supervisor told the team they should get started right away, finish by the end of the day, and present their results tomorrow.

References

[1] A.A. Lunsford and K.J. Lunsford, “Errors are a fact of life: A national comparative study,” College Comp. and Communic., vol. 59, no. 4, pp. 781-806. June 2008.

[2] Sentence fragments. Purdue Online Writing Lab. [Online]. Available: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/620/1

[3] R. Rambo. (2012, May 22). Identifying and eliminating common errors in writing. English Composition 1. [Online]. Available: http://www2.ivcc.edu/rambo/eng1001/eng1001_identifying_errors.htm

[4] D.L Driscoll. (2012, October 8). Parallel structure. Purdue Online Writing Lab. [Online]. Available: http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/623/01/