Sentence Faults. The Unholy Trinity. A sentence is a group of words expressing a complete thought. Grade School Definition of a Sentence. A sentence is a group of words. The English Sentence.
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The Unholy Trinity
A sentence is a group of words . . .
The typical sentence is composed of a subject, a verb, and an object. We often speak of subject-verb-object word order, which is represented SVO.
S V O
Since some sentences don’t, in fact, require an object, some grammarians prefer to say that the English sentence consists of a subject and a predicate—a predicate being the verb and its object, or the verb and its modifiers:
Subject | Predicate
Michael | kickedthe ball.
Michael | slept.
Michael | sleptfitfully.
Michael | almost neversleeps.
A group of words that expresses a complete thought is always a sentence:
Maria bought a kettle.
Tara bought a fan.
Two complete thoughts linked by a conjunction are also a sentence:
Maria bought a kettle, butTara bought a fan.
The concept, then, is very simple:
A sentence contains one complete thought.
Compound sentences are made up of two or more complete thoughts linked by conjunctions.
Anything else is not a sentence.
Many people fail to recognize errors in sentence structure.
This failure creates serious problems in communication and leaves readers feeling confused, frustrated, and unwilling to read any further.
Sentence faults are major errors and should never occur in college-level writing.
Sentence errors are of three kinds:
3. Comma Splices
If any of these errors occur in your writing, you must strive to eliminate them.
The fragment sentence is essentially an incomplete thought. Some element of the typical sentence is missing—it is lacking a subject, or some vital part of its predicate.
John and Michael and their friend Rory.
She recently said.
And then when the grass was almost knee-high.
Perhaps we are to.
The above “sentences” fail to express a complete thought and are therefore fragments, or pieces, of an intended whole.
The run-on sentence consists of several thoughts that merge into each other without the use of proper punctuation. They are sentences which require commas or semi-colons to function correctly.
The above “sentences” run several complete thoughts together and are confusing to a reader.
The comma splice sentence is a variation of the run-on sentence. It consists of several complete thoughts linked together with commas where periods should be.
I went to Paris, it was beautiful, especially in the spring, that’s when we were there, I want to go again next year, the point is will I have the money.
I got an “A” on my last exam, I really don’t know how since I didn’t study for it at all, I think maybe I was just lucky, it was not a grade I actually deserved.
The policeman pulled me over, he said I was speeding.
If I won the lottery, I’d buy my mother a house, wouldn’t you?
The above “sentences” splice several complete thoughts together and are confusing to a reader.
Recognizing that sentence faults exist is a good first step towards eliminating them from your writing.
During the Editing stage of the Writing Process, examine each sentence individually and ask yourself if you have written a complete thought.
If there are several complete thoughts, they must be linked with conjunctions.
If the thought is incomplete, then it must be completed. If you have trouble recognizing sentence faults, make an appointment to see me or to visit the Writing Center. Sentence faults should not appear in essays presented for a grade.
Painting by Magritte