With so many weird quirks in the English language, we couldn’t just have one grammar refresher. In our first grammar refresher, we focused on commonly misused words, but now we want to look at sentence structure. From passive voice to semicolons, many writers struggle with knowing the proper way to form a sentence. With these helpful hints, you’ll be able to write clear sentences that flow in no time!
Many people use incomplete comparisons in their everyday speech, but they can cause a lot of confusion. Take this example for instance:
I like eating lunch outside because it’s nicer and more peaceful!
Outside is nicer and more peaceful than what? By leaving the sentence incomplete, readers can become lost or make a wrong assumption about the comparison you’re trying to make.
If your sentences seem confusing and cumbersome, then you might be writing in passive voice. Writers slip into passive voice when they use the object of the sentence as the subject. You can easily spot passive voice if the object is before the verb modifying it.
At the start of each club meeting, attendance is taken by the secretary.
At the start of each club meeting, the secretary takes attendance.
By using active voice, in the second example, it is clear who does the action and the sentence is more streamlined. Identifying passive voice in your writing may be hard at first but once you do, the focus of your sentences will be on the subject instead of the object.
Referring to a Brand or Entity as ‘They’
Another common mistake people make is referring to a brand as plural by using “they” or “their.”
Victoria’s Secret used their annual fashion show to debut their new line of athleticwear.
Apple always releases its newest iPhone in September.
While any business is made up of many people, the company itself is one entity. It may feel odd at first, but referring to a brand or entity as “it” is grammatically correct. Using “it” will feel more natural the more you use it.
Usually seen as a daunting punctuation mark that few people understand, using a semicolon really isn’t as difficult it seems. Most often, semicolons are used to connect two complete ideas as one thought.
Let me know when you can meet; I have a few openings this week.
Also, semicolons are used to separate items in a list that have commas in them.
When looking at colleges, Alex was torn between ASU, which offers in-state tuition; U of A, where most of her friends are going; and UCLA, which specializes in her major but is extremely expensive.
There are many different opinions about how to capitalize titles, but these are four rules to consider when writing a title.
1. More often than not, the first and last word are always capitalized.
2. Any nouns, pronouns, adjectives, verbs, and adverbs should also be capitalized.
3. Leave all articles (“a,” “an,” “the”), coordinating conjunctions, and prepositions lowercase.
4. Leave the ‘to’ in an infinitive lowercase.
Use of Commas
The comma is one of the most commonly overused punctuation symbols. To help you better understand when to use them, here are three common scenarios where a comma should be used.
To Separate Elements in a Series
Whenever you are listing things, each entity must be separated by a comma. The last comma, commonly known as the Oxford comma, is optional and left up to personal preference, unless your company or editor has an internal style guide. When writing your manuscript, Oxford commas are essential. When writing publicity materials, Oxford commas are only used if excluding them would hinder clarity.
Kasey brought a towel, extra sunscreen, and sunglasses with her to the pool.
It’s also important to remember to keep a parallel structure when listing things. This may seem like a minor thing to stress over, but not having consistent phrasing will stand out and make the sentence seem choppy and confusing.
Over the summer, Bridget likes to swim, to hike, and to go on trips.
Painting, running, and swimming are some of my favorite activities.
WRONG: When I am sick, all I want is to watch movies, eat soup, and sleeping.
CORRECT: When I am sick, all I want to do is to watch movies, eat soup, and sleep all day.
To Separate Independent Clauses
You can also use a comma to combine two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction. The coordinating conjunctions are “and,” “but,” “for,” “or,” “nor,” “so,” and “yet.”
Michael told Josh to meet him after class, but Josh stopped at his locker first and was late.
An independent clause has both a subject and a verb of its own. To test if something is an independent clause, see if the clause makes sense if it is separated from the rest of the sentence.
To Separate an Introductory Word or Phrase.
It is very common to use a prepositional phrase or an introductory word to begin a sentence. Whenever this happens, use a comma to separate them from the rest of the sentence. There are many common prepositions, but some of them are “after,” “although,” “when,” and “while.”
On the other side of the room, I could see my sister walking toward me.
However, she walked past me and started talking to her best friend.