If you are learning English or want to improve your writing skills, it is important that you understand how to make sentences clear, effective and understandable. To structure them properly, start by indicating the subject, avoid passive voice and focus on clarity. Avoid writing sentences that express only partial thoughts or that link too many ideas.
Method 1 of 2: Create Effective Sentences
Step 1. Begin the sentence by writing the subject followed by the verb and the object
This structure is frequently used to make sentences in English and is abbreviated with the acronym “SVO”. Sentences written in a different word order often seem confusing or backwards. Therefore, instead of writing A jump was made by the cat onto the piano, write The cat jumped onto the piano.
- The subject is the person or thing that performs an action (in this case, the cat).
- The object is the person or thing on which the action falls (in this case, the piano).
- The structure "SVO" is used to create simple sentences. In the case of compound and complex sentences, you will need to add elements to this basic structure.
Step 2. Write using the active voice to clarify the action that is taking place
By writing in an active voice, you make it clear who or what is doing a specific action. In contrast, the passive voice produces weak and potentially ambiguous sentences in most situations. Passive voice sentences also tend to have a messy and confusing structure. Therefore, first indicate the subject of the sentence and clarify the action that the subject performs.
- Avoid writing sentences like The trash was taken out by my mother before my Little sister was dropped off by the school bus.
- Better write as follows: My mother took out the trash before the bus dropped off my little sister.
Step 3. Vary the length and structure of the sentence to avoid boring the readers
If each sentence in a paragraph begins with a similar phrase, is roughly the same length, or has a similar pattern of words, the sentences will start to look boring and repetitive. One way to avoid this is by changing sentence structures. Make some sentences longer, join others with conjunctions and semicolons, and create shorter and more direct ones.
- You can combine two short sentences, which are independent clauses, into a single longer one by adding a comma and a conjunction between them. If you want to remember conjunctions in English, you can use the acronym FANBOYS, which designates the conjunctions for, and, but, or, yet and so (for, and, but, or, even, then).
- If you have a complete sentence, and an incomplete or subordinate sentence, you can combine them into a complex sentence using a comma or adding a conjunction such as because, since, while, or although. The complete sentence is an independent clause, while the incomplete becomes a dependent or subordinate clause.
- Include transition words and phrases at the beginning of sentences to create flow between ideas. If you don't, they might appear choppy.
- Therefore, avoid writing sentences like “First, I went to the supermarket. Then, I went to the art-supply store. Then, I bought a sandwich for lunch”(I went to the supermarket first. Then, I went to the craft store. Then, I bought a sandwich for lunch).
- Rather, change the structure to something like “My first errand was a trip to the supermarket. After that I went to the art-supply store before buying a sandwich for lunch. "
Step 4. Maintain a consistent verb tense in your sentences
As sentences are spread out, it can be easy to lose sight of the verb tense (eg, past, present, or future) in which you are writing the sentence. In almost all cases, it is confusing and grammatically incorrect to change verb tense in the middle of a sentence.
- This is an example sentence where the verb tense is changed: “Jen drove to the mall and will buy a pair of jeans” (Jen drove to the mall and will buy a pair of jeans).
- The corrected sentence would be written as follows: “Jen drove to the mall and bought a pair of jeans” (Jen drove to the mall and bought a pair of jeans).
Step 5. Write in a parallel structure when making a list or sequence
If you create a sentence that describes two or more objects or actions, the different items must be described using the same grammatical terms. If the descriptions are not parallel, the sentence becomes confusing. Keeping the same tense is an important part of keeping the parallel structure.
- For example, this sentence does not have a parallel structure: "On my day off, I enjoy stopping at the bank, mow the lawn, and have a conversation with my neighbor." lawn and chat with my neighbor). Keep in mind that this problem only occurs in the structure of English, but not in Spanish.
- The corrected way would be the following: "On my day off, I enjoy stopping at the bank, mowing the lawn, and having a conversation with my neighbor." (On my day off, I love going to the bank, mowing the lawn, and chatting with my neighbor.)
Step 6. Use a semicolon to join two independent clauses
If you prefer not to use a period or conjunction to join two independent clauses, put a semicolon between them. This is a great way to turn two simple sentences into a compound one, and it allows you to connect sentences with closely related main ideas.
- For example, the following sentence includes a semicolon in the wrong location because it is not between the independent clauses: “If you get an opportunity; stop at the store on your drive home, I'd like a gallon of milk”.
- The corrected way would be the following: “If you get an opportunity, stop at the store on your drive home; I'd like a gallon of milk. "
Step 7. Place a colon in sentences that introduce a list or a noun phrase
You can also use a colon to indicate a quote in the sentence. The colons separate the words that follow and draw attention to them. If you omit them in a sentence, there will be an uncomfortable feeling and it will confuse the readers.
- For example, it is correct to write “I had three classes on campus today: Chemistry, Physics, and American Literature”.
- You can also write “As they made their getaway, the bank robbers forgot something important: the loot from the safe.”
Step 8. Use commas to join two clauses or to highlight a descriptive clause
If you want to combine two independent clauses, which are complete sentences, put a comma and one of the conjunctions (remember the acronym FANBOYS) between them. Another option is to use a comma to highlight a dependent or subordinate conjunction. Similarly, you should place commas on each side of a descriptive clause to differentiate it from the rest of the sentence.
- For example, you could join two independent clauses as follows: "I finished my homework early today, so my best friend came over to hang out."
- You could join a dependent and independent clause as follows: "Since my grades are good this semester, my parents said I can have a party this weekend" Since my grades are good this semester, my parents told me that I can organize a party this weekend.
- If you have a descriptive clause, you can include it in the sentence as follows: "I want to try that new pizza place, the one with pepperoni on its sign, when we go out on Friday" I want to try that new pizzeria, the one with That pepperoni pizza on your sign when we go out on Friday.
Method 2 of 2: Fix Problems in Sentence Structures
Step 1. Arrange sentence fragments by adding a subject or an object
Sentence fragments are incomplete sentences that lack either a subject, verb, or object. To fix this problem, include the missing part of the speech. For example, the phrase “The fluorescent bulb in the overhead light” is a sentence fragment because it has no verb. The corrected form would be as follows: “The fluorescent bulb in the overhead light burned out”.
Dependent clauses that are not joined to an independent clause are also considered sentence fragments
Step 2. Correct the merged sentences by including a conjunction
You can also include a period to divide a merged sentence into two separate sentences. Merged sentences occur when two or more complete sentences are put together without including any punctuation between them. The most effective way to correct it is by placing a period (or other final punctuation mark) between the two merged sentences. Correct the grammar as necessary so that both sentences make sense.
- Generally, fused sentences are also called "continuous sentences."
- For example, a fused sentence would be: "Many of Shakespeare's sonnets are about love they compare the speaker's lover to various objects found in nature." In nature).
- The corrected manner would be as follows: “Many of Shakespeare’s sonnets are about love. The poems compare the speaker's lover to various objects found in nature”.
Step 3. Include a conjunction between the clauses to fix comma splices
A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined by just a comma. To work around this problem, place a period (or other final punctuation mark) in place of the comma to separate the sentences previously joined by it. You can also place a conjunction between both clauses.
- For example, this sentence contains a comma splice: "The condition of the economy has been improving, many factors have caused this change."
- The corrected sentence would be the following: “The condition of the economy has been improving. Many factors have caused this change”.
- Another sentence that is also correct is the following: "The condition of the economy has been improving, and many factors have caused this change."
Step 4. Avoid the excessive use of subordinate clauses
Subordinate clauses begin with words such as because and although, and provide useful (but not necessary) information to the reader. Sentences with too much subordination generally feel oversized and contain more information than the reader is able to process. To fix this problem, divide the sentence into 2-3 smaller, clearer sentences.
- For example, this sentence contains too many subordinate clauses: "Steve wanted to go out for lunch because he hadn't eaten for 8 hours, although one look at his wallet made him change his mind since he had no money." having lunch because he hadn't eaten in 8 hours, although a glance at his wallet made him change his mind because he had no money).
- A corrected version would be the following: “Steve wanted to go out for lunch because he hadn't eaten for 8 hours. However, one look at his wallet made him change his mind. He had no money.
- Sentences are made up of clauses (groups of words). There are two types of clauses: dependent and independent, the latter being those that contain a subject, verb and object, and that make sense by themselves. For example: "Please bring the pencils to class" is a separate clause.
- Dependent clauses are not autonomous and must be linked to another independent clause to form a sentence. For example: "Because she wanted to watch TV" is a dependent clause.
- Sentences are divided into 3 broad categories: simple sentences (1 independent clause), complex sentences (1 independent and 1 dependent clause), and compound sentences (2 independent clauses).