The Walden University Writing Center Staff. Engaging Sentence Structure. Webinar Overview. In the following slides, we will cover Syntax Parts of a Sentence and Sentence Types Punctuation Sentence Variation Strategies 10 Tips for Sound (and Exciting!) Sentences.
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In the following slides, we will cover
Mix it up!Understanding Syntax
The subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. The subjects then had to seal the test in an envelope. The subjects did this to protect their anonymity. The subjects then handed the envelope to the moderator.
The subjects had 15 minutes to take the test. Once completed, the subjects sealed their test in an envelope to protect their anonymity and then handed the envelope to the moderator.
It’s all about the variation:
Avoid several consecutive sentences that are about the same length and structured in the same way.
For a sentence to be complete, it must have a subject (what or whom the sentence is about) and a verb (an action, or what the subject does).
Jones = the subject Wrote = the verb
Most sentences also have a direct object (what receives the action).
Jones wrote an article.
an article = direct object
In academic writing, we also often have a modifier (a clause that modifies a noun or a verb).
Because of a gap in the literature, Jones (2010) wrote an article.
We might also add an appositive (a clause that defines a noun).
Jones (2010), the famed social scientist, wrote an article.
Finally, sentences often have prepositions (clauses that indicate the relationship of a noun or pronoun).
Jones (2010) wrote an article about Mexican culture.
Common dependent clause markers: after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, if, in order to, since, though, unless, until, whatever, when, whenever, whether, and while.
Although Jones was a brilliant scientist
Independent clause: a group of words that contains a subject and verb and expresses a complete thought (can stand alone as a complete sentence).
Jones did not consider his own biases when conducting the study.Parts of a Sentence
Jones was a brilliant scientist.
Jones was a brilliant scientist, but he did not consider his own biases when conducting the study.
Although Jones was a brilliant scientist, he did not consider his own biases when conducting the study.
Although Jones was a brilliant scientist, he did not consider his own biases when conducting the study, and this oversight showed in his skewed results.
According to APA (2010), use a comma “between elements (including before and and or) in a series of three or more items” (p. 88).
In the forest, there are lions, tigers, and bears.
You can make the pie with apples, pears,or bananas.
At practice today, the players will work on catching the ball, shooting with accuracy, and defending set plays.
Also use commas to
Jamie has a date with John, who is the nicest guy she has ever met, and she wants to make him dinner.
Jamie went to the grocery store, and she bought dinner.
When Jamie went to the grocery store, she bought dinner.
Jamie went to the grocery store, which was three blocks away.
Use semicolons to
Jamie went to the grocery store; she bought dinner.
Jamie went to the store; however, she forgot to buy candles.
Jamie went to the store to buy lettuce, tomatoes, and croutons for a salad; pasta, chicken, and sauce for an entrée; and ice cream and brownies for dessert.
Use colons to
Jamie had everything she needed to make the perfect dinner: a salad, an entrée, and a dessert.
Jamie knew there were just two things she needed to complete her meal: candlelight and romantic music.
Do not use a colon immediately after a verb
Jamie went to the store to get: a salad, an entrée, and a dessert.
Build a successful paragraph with this knowledge.
Mix it up!
Varying Sentence Length
The company reported that profit growth stabilized in 2009, though it had steadily increased by more than 7% since 1989. (20) In 2010, the year the company launched the OWN project, profit growth decreased from the previous year. (17) This announcement stunned Wall Street analysts. (6) According to Smith, however, this decrease is indicative of a trend across profit growth worldwide; it also supports future predictions for the industry. (23)
Varying Sentence Type and Syntax
Although Jones was a brilliant scientist, he did not consider his own biases when conducting the study. (complex) This oversight showed in his skewed results. (simple w/ prep phrase) When he analyzed the findings, Jones determined that the fifth graders needed more mathematics and less art instruction. (complex) Being a math teacher caused him to favor that subject. (simple) Therefore, the study is not valid, and I cannot use it to support my own research. (compound w/ trans. word)
2. Avoid redundancy
3. Use pronouns sparingly
4. Employ transitional words and phrases
5. Use the active voice
6. Be consistent with point of view
7. Avoid casual language
8. Avoid unnecessary adverbs (very, really)
Use economy of expression
10. Avoid circumlocutionTen Tips for Sound Sentences
Sometimes the best means of expression is also the simplest.
Instead of ThisUse This
Based on the fact that Because
At the present time Now
For the purpose of For or To
There were several Several people stated
people who stated
* These and the following suggestions adapted from the APA manual.
Instead of ThisUse This
They were both alike They were alike
One and the same The same
A total of 68 participants 68 participants
In close proximity In proximity
Four different groups Four groups
Has been previously found Has been found
Summarize briefly Summarize
While pronouns are useful to help writers avoid repetition, pronouns should be used sparingly to keep the meaning of the sentence clear.
When Jeff and Brian joined the team members, they were scared.
Effective teachers create plans for their lessons while they teach them so that students can benefit from them and develop their minds.
Use transitions to guide the reader from one sentence to the next.
On the other hand, using the passive voice puts the emphasis on the object. Too much of the passive voice can weaken your scholarly voice.
There is no set subject or “doer” of the action in passive voice, leading to ambiguity.5. Use the Active Voice
Passive Voice: The apple was eaten.
Active Voice: Snow White ate the apple.
Passive Voice: The survey was conducted after school.
Active Voice: The researchers conducted the survey after school.5. Use the Active Voice
“To avoid ambiguity, use a personal pronoun rather than the third person when describing steps taken in your experiment” (APA, 2010, p. 69).
Therefore, instead of This researcher or This author, use I
I completed a meta-analysis of infectious disease trends in Thailand. I found…
The researchers discussed the outcomes of their study…
First Person Plural
(used only for yourself & coauthor[s] of a paper)
We concluded that …
Do not use the second person “you.”
Clichés and colloquialisms cannot be universally translated and might confuse some readers.
Instead of ThisUse This
The doors were closed to advancement There was no way to advance
In light of recent research Based on recent research
It was a slippery slope to failure Failure occurred easily
The researchers were getting results The researchers collected results
My journey through the literature has led to Based on the articles I read
Adverbs like very and really often give a sentence an informal, embellished tone.
Instead of This Use This
The research was very thorough The research was thorough
The participants were really responsive The participants were responsive
In other words, write in clear, concise statements and aim for logical communication: the simpler the better.9. Use Economy of Expression
Instead of This
The participants in the study were six young people who have completed 3 years of elementary education and are not living in an urban area.
The study included 6 fourth grade students from a rural elementary school.10. Avoid Circumlocution
Questions?You can email us anytime!For questions about course papers: email@example.comFor questions about dissertations and doctoral studies: firstname.lastname@example.org