How to Write Better by Improving Your Sentence Structure
- 0:08 The Importance of Improving…
- 0:40 Why Sentence Structure Matters
- 3:48 How to Improve Your Sentence…
- 5:04 Lesson Summary
Often times in writing, we know what we want to say, but it doesn't seem to come out right. In this video we will learn the steps needed to improve your writing with better sentence structure.
The Importance of Improving Sentence Structure
Imagine seeing all the pieces for a house laid out in front of you. You know roughly where things should go, but putting the pieces in the wrong order won't have a very good final product. You can end up with something that looks like a house but has lots of problems in style and function.
This jumbled box often occurs in our writing as well. We have all the parts that we need, but the order in which they occur leaves us lacking the style we desired and leaves our writing not quite right for our reader.
Why Sentence Structure Matters
There are a number of reasons why sentence structure matters. Sentence structure matters in English because of our use of modifiers. A modifier is a word or phrase that provides description in a sentence. However, putting the modifier in the wrong place can add confusion instead of clarity to your sentence. We can see this with simple modifiers in the wrong place.
'Only I love you!'
I'm pretty sure our friend didn't mean to tell his sweetheart that he was the only person on the planet that loved her. Structure that sentence a bit better and he would have had a much more pleasant result.
'I love only you!'
Then we have those dangling modifiers.
'To improve his building skills, a video was watched.'
In order to not offend our conscientious observers, a better choice of sentence structure would be:
'In order to improve his building skills, our friend watched a video.'
Now our readers know exactly who we are talking about and they won't need to figure it out and guess.
Good sentence structure helps to eliminate the use of sentence fragments as well. A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. These sentences are often incomplete because they are no longer attached to their clauses.
'It is important to eat vegetables every day. Having a variety.'
A sentence should be able to stand on its own. If we separate the two sentences, we can easily see that the second sentence is a fragment. We don't really know what 'having a variety' is referring to.
'Having a variety of vegetables can help us consume more of them.'
However, be careful not to error on the side of a run-on sentence to avoid a sentence fragment. A run-on sentence is when two or more independent clauses are joined without the appropriate punctuation or conjunction.
The final of the big three causes of sentence structure problems is using passive voice. Passive voice isn't a grammatical error so much as it makes the sentence harder to follow. In passive voice, the target of an action is put in the subject position even though they aren't doing anything. For example:
'The doll was bathed by Sally.'
The doll is an inanimate object and isn't doing any action in the sentence - Sally is doing the work. So to make the sentence active we would write:
'Sally bathed the doll.'
We get to read about action, what's going on and a play-by-play, if you will. It keeps the reader engaged in the piece.
So now that we know the three most common culprits that harm our sentence structure, let's see what we can do to improve them and our overall writing.
How to Improve Your Sentence Structure
Now that we know what can go wrong in structuring a sentence, how do we improve our sentence structure?
- Ensure the information within the sentence is clear. This means ensuring that new information follows old, words are defined for the reader and context is clear.
- Make sure to use transitional words. Transitional words help the reader to easily follow along in your writing. These include words like 'in addition,' 'however,' 'but' and 'also.'
- Use care with subordinate clauses. The subordinate clauses should be at the beginning or the end of the sentence.
- Use active voice. Sentences using active voice are easier to read and understand.
- Use active verbs. Like active voice, active verbs are easier to read and understand.
- Follow traditional grammatical rules. Follow those rules that we all must follow in sentence structure, including using commas appropriately, using complete sentences and following appropriate spelling rules.
Good sentence structure makes your essay easier to read and understand. The first step is being able to identify the things that cause our sentence structure to suffer. This includes having sentence fragments, run-on sentences or putting modifiers in the wrong place. We then learned the six steps to improve our sentence structure.
- Ensure the information within the sentence is clear.
- Make sure to use transitional words.
- Use care with subordinate clauses.
- Use active voice.
- Use active verbs.
- Follow grammar rules.
Chapters in English 104: College Composition
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