Sentence Structure and Punctuation

Hi, everyone. Today, I’d like to discuss proper sentence construction and punctuation. Pretty boring, right? But, it’s also a very important skill to have, whether you’re an author, a businessperson, or both.  So, I’ll briefly go over what makes up a sentence, common errors in punctuation, and how to easily correct them.

What is a Sentence?

  • A sentence is a group of words which expresses a complete thought.
  • It contains a subject and a verb.

Two common errors are Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences.

To understand how to correct Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences, you must first be able to recognize a Clause.

Santa

No, not that clause.

  • An Independent Clause, which is the main clause of a sentence.  It can stand alone as a complete sentence. It makes sense by itself, and therefore expresses a complete thought.
  • A Comma Splice is the use of a comma to incorrectly join two independent clauses, without the proper conjunction.
  • A Run-On sentence is where two or more independent clauses are joined without the appropriate punctuation or conjunction.

To reiterate: A Comma Splice uses only a comma to join the independent clauses. The Run-On Sentence uses no punctuation at all.

They are both incorrect. I will talk about how to correct them a little bit later.

There Are Four Sentence Types

A Declarative Sentence: States a fact and ends with a period;

An Imperative Sentence: A command or a polite request. It ends with an exclamation mark or a period;

An Interrogative Sentence: Asks a question and ends with a question mark, and

An Exclamatory Sentence: Expresses excitement or emotion. It ends with an exclamation mark.

Now We’ll Break Down Our Sentence Components.

  • A Simple Sentence has ‘one’ independent clause and no dependent clauses.
    dog

Example: -“I enjoyed the movie last night.”

“I” is the subject – “enjoyed’ is the verb.

  • A Dependent Clause is a group of words with a subject and a verb. But it does ‘not’ express a complete thought, so it is not a sentence and it cannot stand-alone. It is Dependent on the Independent Clause to complete the sentence.

To refresh, earlier I talked about an Independent Clause, which can stand alone as a complete sentence. It makes sense by itself, and therefore expresses a complete thought.

A Dependent Clause on the other hand, does ‘not’ express a complete thought.  It is not a sentence, and it cannot stand-alone.

  • A Compound Sentence has at least two independent clauses joined by a comma, semicolon, or a conjunction.

Example: I am counting my calories, yet I really want that dessert.

Fan Boy
We all know what a conjunction is, but here’s a quick refresher.

A Conjunction is the glue that holds words together.

A little hint…FANBOYS. For; And; Nor; But; Or; Yet; or So.

A comma is used to separate two independent clauses connected by a coordinating conjunction.


A Complex Sentence
contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

Example: While she appreciated the tasty lobster in garlic sauce, Cheryl thought the real highlight of the meal was the garlic-mashed potatoes.

  • Compound-Complex sentence contains multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Example: Although I like books, I do not like romance novels, but my daughter loves them.
HeartThe phrase “Although I like books” forms an introductory clause, a type of dependent clause that does not complete a thought.

A comma is needed to offset the introductory clause. The phrase “I do not like romance novels,” makes up the independent clause, a clause that completes a full thought and gives a complete sentence.

The compound structure of this sentence stems from combining the independent clauses “I do not like romance novels” and “my daughter loves them” with the coordinating conjunction “but.”

How To Correct Comma Splices and Run-on Sentences?

Teacher

  • You can join two independent clauses with a semicolon. I wouldn’t construct a lot of sentence this way, however, because it stands out, and you want your sentences to flow. But it can be used on occasion, with care.

Example: Cheryl reads romance novels; her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Better, would be to break out each independent clause into a separate sentence.

For Example: Cheryl reads romance novels. Her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Or, make one of the independent clauses a dependent clause.

Example – While Cheryl reads romance novels, her husband reads muscle car magazines.

  • Alternatively, you could connect two independent clauses with a comma, plus a coordinating conjunction.

Example – Cheryl reads romance novels, but her husband reads muscle car magazines.

While it’s not mandatory that you recognize all of these sentence types; it can be very useful to understand your options and know how to construct your sentences.

Many times, sentences may sound clunky and awkward. If you take a closer look you may find that your sentence contains incorrectly connected dependent and independent clauses.

Break out clunky sentences into separate sentences – if they are independent clauses. Or, make sure you have dependent and independent clauses joined correctly with the proper punctuation and conjunction.

Or, reversely, for more sophisticated writing, you can take a few simple sentences and combine them into a compound or complex sentence, adding a dependent clause for variety.

You don’t want all of your sentences to look alike…mix it.Sentence

I hope this little refresher has helped you become more familiar with sentence construction, using proper punctuation and conjunctions when connecting clauses, for creating seamless and beautiful sentences.

-Cheryl

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About Cheryl Yeko

My writing career began when my wonderful husband bought me a Kindle for Christmas and changed my world. I started reading romance novels, and fell in love with them. I decided to write one myself, and disappeared into my room over a long Wisconsin winter and wrote my debut novel, PROTECTING ROSE. I submitted to a few publishing houses and was offered a contract with Soul Mate Publishing, which I quickly accepted. PROTECTING ROSE went on to win the 2012 Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence in the romantic suspense category. Well, I was hooked. Today, I'm a multi-published, award-winning author, and live in Wisconsin with my husband Patrick. I love to read, play piano, and spend time with family and friends. I enjoy novels with fast-paced action and steamy romance, protective alpha men and strong heroines. I belong to several writing groups, including Romance Writers of America (RWA) and Sisters in Crime. I can also be found under the pen name of CiCi Cordelia, with my writing partner and BFF, Char Chaffin.
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9 Responses to Sentence Structure and Punctuation

  1. kathybryson says:

    nice, concise explanation! If you’re ever in Florida, you can come guest lecture to my class! 😉

    • Cheryl Yeko says:

      Thanks, Kathy. I actually used this for one of my Toastmaster speeches, and walked away with the Best Speaker Ribbon. Who knew sentence structure and punctuation was so exciting…lol.

  2. aliceakemp says:

    Very nice. It’s amazing how many writers don’t understand or think the rules shouldn’t apply to them.

    • Cheryl Yeko says:

      Hi, Alice. We all learn this at a very early age, but it’s something that kinda gets lost as we move on in life. So, I’m hoping my refresher is helpful to everyone. I’m glad you enjoyed it!

  3. Larynn Ford says:

    This is so worth printing and posting by my desk as a reference guide or reminder. Thanks Cheryl !!!

  4. I’m amazed at the number of published writers who do not understand grammar. I taught eighth graders who knew more about correct comma usage. Unfortunately, many writers believe a pause means it needs a comma. Thanks for this well-written reminder on grammar.

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