Be Accurate (Workout C)

Grammatical errors in your writing will compromise the value of your ideas. A reader is unlikely to take your ideas seriously if they are poorly written. This workout covers some common errors in academic writing. If you really struggle with basic grammar, you might want to explore a wider range of support.

In this workout, you will practice three strategies for improving the accuracy of your writing:

  • Avoid sentence fragments, run-on sentences and common splices
  • Avoid errors with modifiers
  • Avoid mixed construction sentences

Let’s get started.

Avoid sentence fragments, run-on sentences and comma splices

Examples:

  1. Children often surprise their teachers. Having strong computer skills.
  2. Although they had not been taught the lesson. The children completed the assignment.
  1. Children with strong computer skills often surprise their teachers.
  2. The children completed the assignment although they had not been taught the lesson.
    OR
    Although they had not been taught the lesson, the children completed the assignment.

Problem:

Sentence fragments are very common in student writing. When the focus is on working out the ideas, we sometimes don’t pay enough attention to how they are expressed. Incomplete ideas can sometimes be presented as proper sentences.

Fix the problem:

To fix a sentence fragment, it is necessary to write a complete thought. Look for the main subject and the main verb as the basis of a good sentence. Sometimes you will need to rewrite the sentence, and other times a comma could be used.

Here’s another example:

Example:

Students spend a lot of time using social media the problem is they need to spend more time reading their course work.

OR

Students spend a lot of time using social media, the problem is they need to spend more time reading their course work.

Students spend a lot of time using social media. They need to spend more time reading their course work.

OR

Students spend a lot of time using social media, but they need to spend more time reading their course work.

OR

Students spend a lot of time using social media, and after they need to spend more time reading their course work.

OR

Students spend a lot of time using social media; however, they need to spend more time reading their course work.

Problem:

Sometimes our ideas can run away with us, creating run-on sentences where two full sentences are mashed together. But be careful; run-on sentences cannot be fixed with a simple comma – this leads to a comma splice, where two sentences are stuck together with only a comma.

Remember – commas don’t have enough “glue” in them to stick sentences together; they need help.

Fix the Problem:

The solutions in the example use different linking words to join the two ideas together. A period can be used to simply make two distinct sentences. However, remember that we use linking words to shape and refine our meaning. Look carefully at the way the small linking words can shift the meaning in each sentence. Note the different punctuation required for “however,” which is not a conjunction!

Avoid errors with modifiers

Example:

Changes to the course schedule recently affected the student’s plans.
Recent changes to the course schedule affected the student’s plans.

OR

The student’s plans were recently affected by changes to the course schedule.

Problem:

Modifiers are words or groups of words that describe something in the sentence. If they are in the wrong place, the sentence will not make sense. In the example, the modifier “recently” could refer to the changes in the schedule or to the verb “affected.”

Fix the Problem:

To reduce any confusion, restructure the sentence to ensure the use of the modifier is clear.

Avoid mixed construction sentences

Example:

By practicing our skills was how we developed strong writing techniques.
By practicing our skills, we developed strong writing techniques.

OR

Practicing our skills develops strong writing techniques.

Problem:

Mixed constructions happen when a sentence starts in one grammatical pattern, but ends in another. This happens when we start to say one thing but change our minds, or when we don’t think through what we really want to say.

In the example, “By practicing our skills” cannot be the subject of the verb “was.” This does not make sense.

Fix the Problem:

The key to solving mixed constructions is finding the logical subject of the sentence.

For example, we could keep the descriptive phrase “By practicing our skills,” and make “we” the subject. Or, we can fix this sentence by changing the opening phrase into a logical subject. “Practicing our skills” becomes the subject of the verb “to develop.”

Be Accurate (Sample Answers)
  1. Rewrite each sentence to remove any sentence fragments, run-on, or comma splices. Try re-writing each sentence in two or three different ways, exploring how the linking words can shape and refine the meaning of the sentence.
    • The cost of internet is still too high. Too many people cannot get high speed access.
      OR
      The cost of internet is still too high, and so too many people cannot get high speed access.
      The first fix is grammatically accurate, but leaves out a lot of meaning. The phrase “and so” helps to show the cause and effect relationship between the sentences
    • Fixing sentences is not very exciting even though students do need the practice.
      OR,
      Fixing sentences is not very exciting; however, students do need the practice.
      In each case, the relationship between the two ideas is made more clear.
  2. First, explain why the sentence does not make sentence. What is wrong with the reference for the modifier? Then, rewrite each sentence so that the reference for the modifier is clear.
    • First, note that “Your address and email” is the subject of the sentence. It is modified by the phrase “to qualify for a scholarship.” But “your address and email” cannot qualify for a scholarship … only you can do that!
      This makes more sense:
      To qualify for a scholarship, you must include your address and email.
    • How can we be released on the app store? We were not released, the game was.
      This makes more sense:
      We were excited to play the new game which was released this week on the app store!
  3. Finding the subject of each sentence, and rewrite so that the sentence is logical and grammatical.
    • “She” is the most logical subject of the sentence. So, revise:
      Having learned how to edit videos, she got a job in public relations.
    • In this case, the subject could be “the lesson” or “the purpose.” The remaining sentence must comply with the chosen subject. You can have the phrase “The purpose” or the phrase “was written,” but not both.
      Revise:
      The lesson was written to help students with their writing.
      Or
      The purpose of the lesson was to help students with their writing.

Download Sample Answers

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