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English Notes » Effective Sentences
I. Classification of Sentences
A. Declarative sentence: states an idea and ends with a period
B. Interrogative sentence: asks a question and ends with a question mark
C. Imperative sentence: gives an order or a direction and ends with either a period or an exclamation mark. (Hint: Most imperative sentences start with a verb.)
D. Exclamatory sentence: conveys strong emotion and ends with an exclamation mark.
II. Combining Sentences
A. Sentences can be combined by using a compound subject, compound verb or a compound object.
B. Sentences can be combined by joining two independent clauses to create a compound sentence.
C. Two sentences can be combined by changing one of them into a subordinate clause.
D. Two sentences can be combined by changing one of them into a phrase.
III. Varying Sentences
A. Vary sentence length
B. Vary sentence beginnings
1. Start with an adverb
2. Start with a prepositional phrase
3. Start with an adverb clause
4. Start with an infinitive
5. Start with the subject
6. Reverse the traditional subject-verb order
IV. Avoiding Sentence Problems
A. Fragment: a group of words that does not express a complete thought
1. Phrase fragment: a phrase by itself is a fragment and should not be capitalized. To correct, one should add the phrase to a nearby sentence.
2. Clause fragment: a subordinate clause should not be capitalized and punctuated as thought it was a complete sentence. To correct it, one should add the clause to a nearby sentence.
B. Run-on: two or more complete sentences that are not properly joined or separated.
1. Use an end mark to separate a run-on into two sentences.
2. Form a compound sentence by using a comma and a coordinating conjunction to join two or more independent clauses.
3. Form a compound sentence by using a semicolon to join two closely related independent clauses.
C. Misplaced modifiers: A modifier should be placed as close as possible to the word it modifies.
D. Solving special problems
1. Avoiding double negatives
2. Common usage problems
a. accept/except: accept means "to agree to" while except means "other than"
b. advice/advise: advice is a noun which means "an opinion" while advise is a verb meaning "to give an opinion to."
c. affect/effect: affect is a verb meaning "to influence" or "to cause a change" while effect is a usually a noun meaning "result."
d. Do not use at after where.
e. Do not use because after the reason. Eliminate one or the other.
f. beside/besides: beside means "at the side of" while besides means "in addition to."
g. different from/different than: different from is generally preferred over different than."
h. farther/further: farther is used to refer to distance while further means "additional" or "to a greater degree or extent."
i. in/into: in refers to position while into suggests motion.
j. Do not use kind of or sort of to mean "rather" or "somewhat."
k. When like is a preposition, it means "similar to" or "in the same way" and it should be followed by an object. Like should never be used before a subject and a verb. Use as or that instead.
l. that/which/who: that and which refer to things while who should be used to refer only to people.
m. their/they're/there: there is a possessive adjective, there is an adverb while they're is a contraction for they are. (Note: It is grammatically correct to start a sentence with there is or there are, however, if you can revise the sentence to eliminate those words, it will make it more direct.
n. to/too/two: to begins a prepositional phrase or an infinitive, too is an adverb and two is a number.
o. Do not use when, where or why directly after a linking verb such as is. Reword the sentence.
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