1. Complete Sentences
2. Sentence Variation
3. Special "Problems"
Before we begin, there are a few terms you need to know.
· Subject - Who the sentence is about. EX:
· plays the piano.
· Verb - Verbs give us action (run, jump, walk) or describe a state of being (am, is, was). EX: Mary
· the piano. Mary
· my friend.
· Object - Objects are nouns or pronouns that receive or are influenced/affected by the verb. EX: Mary plays the
To find the...
· Subject - ask yourself who or what is performing the action.
· Verb - ask yourself what is being done (OR look for state of being verbs like am, is, are, was, were, be, being, been)
· Object - ask yourself who or what after the verb (plays what?
Okay then. In English, complete sentences usually include all three (S, V, O). Sometimes, though, they may not! For example, these are all complete sentences:
She stood. (subject, verb)
Shut the door. (verb, object) *The subject in this sentence is implied. You know that the speaker means YOU.
Katie shut the door. (S, V, O)
Even though these are all very short sentences, they are all complete, because they express a complete thought. What did she do? She stood. What should I shut? The door. What did Katie do? She shut the door. A sentence can have many words and still be incomplete if you forget one of those basic building blocks (S, V, O). We call incomplete sentences fragments.
Quick & dirty: To avoid sentence fragments, always ask yourself the questions who and what both before and after the verb. This works in MOST cases. In English, there is almost always an exception to every rule.
The opposite problem of sentences with too little information is sentences that try to express too much--and we call those run-on sentences. A run-on sentence occurs when an author attaches two complete sentences without the proper "joiners" (conjunctions and punctuation). Take a look:
Eragon was really tired he had been running all day. (Run-on)
How do we fix this? Many of you try to fix it by inserting a comma. That doesn't work; a comma's not strong enough to join two sentences all by itself.
Eragon was really tired, he had been running all day.
Here are a few solutions that do work:
· Make them into two separate sentences.
Eragon was really tired. He had been running all day.
· If the sentences share a common topic, you can join them with stronger punctuation (a semi-colon).
Eragon was really tired; he had been running all day.
· Join them with a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
Eragon was really tired, for he had been running all day.
· Join them with a subordinating conjunction (after, although, as, because, ...)
Eragon was really tired, as he had been running all day.
· Join them with a semi-colon and a transition (however, moreover, as such, consequently...)
He had been running all day; consequently, Eragon was tired.
As you can see, some solutions work better than others. Use what works for you.
One problem you may hear reviewers mention is "sentence variation." This simply means that they want you to change things up a bit. Usually, complaints with sentence variation relate to beginning most of your sentences the same way:
Eragon did this. He did that. Eragon then did something else. He really does a lot. Eragon is busy.
When we simplify it this way, it's pretty obvious that we have a pattern. "But wait!" you say. "Didn't you tell me that sentences have to be S-V-O?" Not always! Consider:
Eragon climbed the tree.
We can also say
The tree was climbed by Eragon.
If that doesn't work for you, just try adding extra words and phrases to enrich your sentences.
Eragon climbed the tree. He looked at the horizon. Eragon didn't see anything. He climbed down. Eragon couldn't believe Saphira had left.
Eragon climbed the tree hurriedly. Lifting a hand to his eyes, he scanned the horizon. There was nothing there. He heaved a sigh and climbed down. I can't believe Saphira left, he thought dejectedly.
For more on varying your sentences, please read the Dialogue workshops.
We've all heard of them. "Never end a sentence with a preposition!" "Don't start a sentence with AND or BUT!" The fact is that there are a lot of grammar "laws" out there that have been on the books quite a while--and the English language has adapted and moved on without them. To dispel a few myths:
MYTH: Never end a sentence with a preposition.
There's a rather famous little saying attributed to Winston Churchill, who was annoyed at someone's revision of one of his sentences: "This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put." Churchill's right--there are times when following this rule makes your sentences sound incredibly awkward. However, there are a few cases where this rule still stands:
"Where you at?" (Boost slogan)
This one makes me cringe, primarily because they've forgotten something. Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? (Hint--it's the VERB.)
It is entirely correct to say "Where are you?" and leave off the offending preposition--so please do. Basically, with this rule, just check yourself. If you can reword the sentence to leave off the preposition, do so. If you can't without sounding stilted and falsely formal (like the Churchill quote), then don't.
MYTH: Don't ever begin a sentence with a conjunction like "AND" or "BUT."
English teachers everywhere (yes, including me) cringed when this "law" became optional. If you're anything like me, this has been ingrained in you practically since birth. However, in a nod to the more conversational tenor the English language has taken, this rule has been relaxed. It's still not appropriate for formal writing, and it won't hurt you to avoid it. But it's okay sometimes for emphasis.