Saturday, February 11, 2006

Compound Modifiers

Compound Modifiers

A compound modifier requires a hyphen between two or more words modifying a noun.

small-business man

What are the following constructions called?

He suffered first- and second-degree burns.

5- and 6-year-old students showed up today for class.

suspensive hyphenation

In other words, this sentence suspends the use of degree.

He suffered first-degree and second-degree burns.

And this sentence suspends the use of year and old.

5- and 6-year-old students . . .

Notice with suspensive hyphenation:

There are only two hyphens

There is a space between the first hyphen and the “and”

There is only a space after the and

There are no spaces on either side of the second hyphen

He suffered first- and second-degree burns.


Possession Exorcises

the alumni + contributions

alumni’s contributions

women + rights.

women’s rights.

So, what’s the rule?

Add ’s to plural nouns not ending in S

the churches + needs

churches’ needs

the girls + toys

girls’ toys

So, what’s the rule?

Add only an apostrophe to plural nouns ending in S

the church + needs

church’s needs

the girl + toys

girl’s toys

the VIP + seat

VIP’s seat

Butz + policies

Butz’s policies

Marx + theories

Marx’s theories

So, what’s the rule?

Add ’s to singular nouns not ending in S

mathematics + rules

mathematics’ rules

measles + effects

measles’ effects

So, what’s the rule?

Add only an apostrophe to nouns plural in form but singular in meaning.

one corps + location

corps’ location

the two deer + tracks

deer’s tracks

the lone moose + antlers

moose’s antlers

So, what’s the rule?

With nouns the same in singular and plural, treat them the same as plurals, even if the meaning is singular.

the hostess + invitation

hostess’s invitation

the hostess + seat

hostess’ seat

the witness + answer

witness’s answer

the witness + story

witness’ story

So, what’s the rule?

With singular common nouns ending in S, add ’s unless the next word begins with S

Achilles + heel

Achilles’ heel

Agnes + book

Agnes’ book

Jesus + life

Jesus’ life

Kansas + schools

Kansas’ schools

So, what’s the rule?

With singular proper names ending in S, use only an apostrophe.

for appearance + sake

for appearance’ sake

for conscience + sake

for conscience’ sake

for goodness + sake

for goodness’ sake

So, what’s the rule?

With special expressions, the rule for words not ending in S apply to words that end in an S sound and are followed by a word that begins with S

the major general + decision

the major general’s decision

the major generals + decisions

the major generals’ decisions

the attorney general + request

the attorney general’s request

the attorneys general + request

the attorneys general’s request

So, what’s the rule?

With compound words, add an apostrophe or ’S to the word closest to the object possessed.


Fred and Sylvia + apartment

Fred and Sylvia’s apartment

Fred and Sylvia + stocks

Fred and Sylvia’s stocks

So, what’s the rule?

Use a possessive form after only the last word if ownership is joint.


Fred and Sylvia + books

Fred’s and Sylvia’s books

So, what’s the rule?

Use a possessive form after both words if the objects are individually owned.

Descriptive vs. Possessive

citizens + band radio

citizens band radio (a radio band for citizens)

a Cincinnati Reds + infielder

a Cincinnati Reds infielder (an infielder for …)

a teachers + college

a teachers college (a college for teachers)

a writers + guide

a writers guide (a guide for writers)

So, what’s the rule?

Do not add an apostrophe to a word ending in S when it is used primarily in a descriptive sense.

Other Examples:

Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likes to shoot. (Lakers ends in S)

Orland Magic's guard J.J. Redick likes to shoot. (Magic does not end in S)

The Beatles' drummer, Ringo Starr, hosted a childrens television show. (The "the" makes this possessive.)

The company name is Wendy's. And "Wendy's new menu features salads" is correct because you use only one apostrophe because the noun is actually expressing the possession of the noun that follows it. For a discussion on this see this link.


Actors + Equity

Actors’ Equity

Diners + Club

Diners Club

the Ladies + Home Journal

the Ladies’ Home Journal

the National Governors + Association

the National Governors Association

So, what’s the rule?

With descriptive names, follow the style of name.


a day + pay

a day’s pay

two weeks + vacation

two weeks’ vacation

three days + work

three days’ work

your money + worth

your money’s worth

So, what’s the rule?

Follow the rules above.

a friend of John (1 of many)

He is a friend of John’s

He is a friend of the college (1 of many)

He is a friend of the college.

The friends of John Adams mourned his death. (All friends)

The friends of John Adams mourned his death.

So, what’s the rule for double possessives in which you would use an apostrophe?

1. The word after of must refer to an animate object

2. The word before of must involve only a portion of the animate object’s possessions.

Russell Baker's How to Punctuate

How to punctuate

By Russell Baker

The New York Times

When you write, you make a sound in the reader’s head. It can be a dull mumble — that’s why so much government prose makes you sleepy — or it can be a joyful noise, a sly whisper, a throb of passion.

Listen to a voice trembling in a haunted room:

"And the sulken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain thrilled me — filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before…"

That’s Edgar Allan Poe, a master. Few of us can make paper

speak as vividly as Poe could, but even beginners will write better once they start listening to the sound their writing makes.

One of the most important tools for making paper speak in your own voice is punctuation.

When speaking aloud, you punctuate constantly — with body language. Your listener hears commas, dashes, question marks, exclamation points, quotation marks as you shout, whisper, pause, wave your arms, roll your eyes, wrinkle your brow.

In writing, punctuation plays the role of body language. It helps readers hear the way you want to be heard.

Gee, Dad, have I got to learn all them rules?’

Don’t let rules scare you. For they aren’t hard and fast. Think of them as guidelines.

Am I saying, "Go ahead and punctuate as you please"?

Absolutely not. Use your own common sense, remembering that you can’t expect readers to work to decipher what you’re trying to say.

There are two basic systems of punctuation:

1. The loose or open system, which tries to capture the way

body language punctuates talk.

2. The tight, closed structural system, which hews closely to the sentence’s grammatical structure.

Most writers use a little of both. In any case, we use much less punctuation than they used 200 or even 50 years ago. (Glance into Edward Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, first published in 1776, for an example of the tight structure system at its most elegant.)

No matter which system you prefer, be warned: Punctuation marks cannot save a sentence that is badly put together. If you have to struggle over commas, semicolons, dashes, you’ve probably built a sentence that’s never going to fly, no matter how you tinker with it. Throw it away and build a new one to a simpler design. The better your sentence, the easier it is to punctuate.

Choosing the right tool

There are 30 main punctuation marks, but you’ll need fewer than a dozen for most writing.

I can’t show you in this small space how they all work, so I’ll stick to the most important — and even then can only hit the highlights. For more details, check your dictionary or a good grammar book.


This is the most widely used mark of all. It’s also the toughest and most controversial. I’ve seen aging editors almost come to blows over the comma. If you can do it without sweating, the others will be easy. Here’s my policy:

1. Use a comma after a long introductory phrase or clause: After stealing the crown jewels from the Tower of London, I went home for tea.

2. If the introductory material is short, forget the comma: After the theft I went home for tea.

3. But use it if the sentence would be confusing without it, like this: The day before I’d robbed the Bank of England.

4. Use a comma to separate elements in a series. I robbed the Denver Mint, the Bank of England, the Tower of London and my piggy bank. Notice there is not comma before and in the series. This is common style nowadays, but some publishers use a comma there, too.

5. Use a comma to separate independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction like and, but, for, or, nor, because or so: I shall return the crown jewels, for they are too heavy to wear.

6. Use a comma to set off a mildly parenthetical word or grouping that isn’t essential to the sentence: Girls, who have always interested me, usually differ from boys.

7. Do not use commas if the word grouping is essential to the sentence’s meaning: Girls who interested me know how to tango.

8. Use a comma in direct address: Your majesty, please hand over the crown.

9. And between proper names and titles: Montague Sneed, director of Scotland Yar, was assigned the case.

10. And to separate elements of geographical address: Director Sneed comes from Skokie, Ill., and now lives in London, England.

11. Generally speaking, use a comma where you’d pause briefly in speech. For a long pause or completion of thought, use a period. If you confuse the comma with the period, you’ll get a run-on sentence: The Bank of England is in London, I rushed right over to rob it.


A more sophisticated mark than the comma, the semicolon

separates two main clauses, but it keeps those two thoughts more

tightly linked than a period can: I steal crown jewels; she steals


Dash and parentheses

Warning! Use sparingly. The dash SHOUTS. Parenthesis whisper. Shout too often, people stop listening; whisper too much, people become suspicious of you.

The dash creates a dramatic pause to prepare for an expression needing strong emphasis: I’ll marry you — if you’ll rob Topkapi with me.

Parentheses help you pause quietly to drop in some chatty information not vital to your story: Despite Betty’s daring spirit ("I love robbing your piggy bank, " she often said) , she was a terrible dancer.

Quotation marks

These tell the reader you are reciting the exact words someone said or wrote: Betty said, “I can’t tango." Or: "I can’t tango," Bettysaid.

Notice the comma comes before the quote marks in the first example, but comes inside them in the second.

Not logical?

Never mind. Do it that way anyhow.


A colon is a tip-off to get ready for what’s next: a list, a long quotation or an explanation. This article is riddled with colons. Too many, maybe, but the message is: "Stay on your toes; it’s coming at you."


The big headache is with possessive nouns. If the noun is singular, add s: I hated Betty’s tango.

If the noun is plural, simply add an apostrophe after the s: Those are the girls’ coats.

The same applies for singular nouns ending in s, like boss: My boss’s favorite author is Dickens.

And in the plural: This is the Dickenses’ cottage


Keep Cool

You know about ending a sentence with a period or question mark. Do it. Sure, you can also end with an exclamation point, but must you? Usually it just makes you sound breathless and silly. Make your writing generate its own excitement.

Filling the newspaper with !!!! won’t make up for what your writing has failed to do.

Too many exclamation points make me think the writer is talking about the panic in his own head.

Don’t sound panicky. End with a period. I am serious. A period. Understand?

Well…sometimes a question mark is OK.

Common Errors

Most Commonly Occurring Errors


Would grammar seem more manageable to you if we told you that writers tend to make the same twenty mistakes over and over again? In fact, a study of error by Andrea Lunsford and Robert Connors shows that twenty different mistakes comprise 91.5 percent of all errors in student texts. If you can control these twenty errors, you will go a long way in creating prose that is correct and clear.

Below is an overview of these errors, listed according to the frequency with which they occur. Look for them in your own prose.

1. Missing comma after introductory phrases.

For example: After the devastation of the siege of Leningrad the Soviets were left with the task of rebuilding their population as well as their city. (A comma should be placed after "Leningrad.")

2. Vague pronoun reference.

For example: The boy and his father knew that he was in trouble. (Who is in trouble? The boy? His Father? Some other person?)

3. Missing comma in compound sentence.

For example: Wordsworth spent a good deal of time in the Lake District with his sister Dorothy and the two of them were rarely apart. (Comma should be placed before the "and.")

4. Wrong word.

This speaks for itself.

5. No comma in nonrestrictive relative clauses.

Here you need to distinguish between a restrictive relative clause and a nonrestrictive relative clause. Consider the sentence, "My brother in the red shirt likes ice cream." If you have TWO brothers, then the information about the shirt is restrictive, in that it is necessary to defining WHICH brother likes ice cream. Restrictive clauses, because they are essential to identifying the noun, use no commas. However, if you have ONE brother, then the information about the shirt is not necessary to identifying your brother. It is NON-RESTRICTIVE and, therefore, requires commas: "My brother, in the red shirt, likes ice cream."

6. Wrong/missing inflected ends.

"Inflected ends" refers to a category of grammatical errors that you might know individually by other names - subject-verb agreement, who/whom confusion, and so on. The term "inflected endings" refers to something you already understand: adding a letter or syllable to the end of a word changes its grammatical function in the sentence. For example, adding "ed" to a verb shifts that verb from present to past tense. Adding an "s" to a noun makes that noun plural. A common mistake involving wrong or missing inflected ends is in the usage of who/whom. "Who" is a pronoun with a subjective case; "whom" is a pronoun with an objective case. We say "Who is the speaker of the day?" because "who" in this case refers to the subject of the sentence. But we say, "To whom am I speaking?" because, here, the pronoun is an object of the preposition "to."

7. Wrong/missing preposition.

Occasionally prepositions will throw you. Consider, for example which is better: "different from," or "different than?" Though both are used widely, "different from" is considered grammatically correct. The same debate surrounds the words "toward" and "towards." Though both are used, "toward" is preferred in writing. When in doubt, check a handbook.

8. Comma splice.

A comma splice occurs when two independent clauses are joined only with a comma. For example: "Picasso was profoundly affected by the war in Spain, it led to the painting of great masterpieces like Guernica." A comma splice also occurs when a comma is used to divide a subject from its verb. For example: "The young Picasso felt stifled in art school in Spain, and wanted to leave." (The subject "Picasso" is separated from one of its verbs "wanted." There should be no comma in this sentence, unless you are playing with grammatical correctness for the sake of emphasis - a dangerous sport for unconfident or inexperienced writers.)

9. Possessive apostrophe error.

Sometimes apostrophes are incorrectly left out; other times, they are incorrectly put in (her's, their's, etc.)

10. Tense shift.

Be careful to stay in a consistent tense. Too often students move from past to present tense without good reason. The reader will find this annoying.

11. Unnecessary shift in person.

Don't shift from "I" to "we" or from "one" to "you" unless you have a rationale for doing so.

12. Sentence fragment.

Silly things, to be avoided. Unless, like here, you are using them to achieve a certain effect. Remember: sentences traditionally have both subjects and verbs. Don't violate this convention carelessly.

13. Wrong tense or verb form.

Though students generally understand how to build tenses, sometimes they use the wrong tense, saying, for example, "In the evenings, I like to lay on the couch and watch TV" "Lay" in this instance is the past tense of the verb, "to lie." The sentence should read: "In the evenings, I like to lie on the couch and watch TV." (Please note that "to lay" is a separate verb meaning "to place in a certain position.")

14. Subject-verb agreement.

This gets tricky when you are using collective nouns or pronouns and you think of them as plural nouns: "The committee wants [not want] a resolution to the problem." Mistakes like this also occur when your verb is far from your subject. For example, "The media, who has all the power in this nation and abuses it consistently, uses its influence for ill more often than good." (Note that media is an "it," not a "they." The verbs are chosen accordingly.)

15. Missing comma in a series.

Whenever you list things, use a comma. You'll find a difference of opinion as to whether the next-to-last noun (the noun before the "and") requires a comma. ("Apples, oranges, pears, and bananas...") Our advice is to use the comma because sometimes your list will include pairs of things: "For Christmas she wanted books and tapes, peace and love, and for all the world to be happy." If you are in the habit of using a comma before the "and," you'll avoid confusion in sentences like this one.

16. Pronoun agreement error.

Many students have a problem with pronoun agreement. They will write a sentence like "Everyone is entitled to their opinion." The problem is, "everyone" is a singular pronoun. You will have to use "his" or "her."

17. Unnecessary commas with restrictive clauses.

See the explanation for number five, above.

18. Run-on, fused sentence.

Run-on sentences are sentences that run on forever, they are sentences that ought to have been two or even three sentences but the writer didn't stop to sort them out, leaving the reader feeling exhausted by the sentence's end which is too long in coming. (Get the picture?) Fused sentences occur when two independent clauses are put together without a comma, semi-colon, or conjunction. For example: "Researchers investigated several possible vaccines for the virus then they settled on one"

19. Dangling, misplaced modifier.

Modifiers are any adjectives, adverbs, phrases, or clauses that a writer uses to elaborate on something. Modifiers, when used wisely, enhance your writing. But if they are not well-considered - or if they are put in the wrong places in your sentences - the results can be less than eloquent. Consider, for example, this sentence: "The professor wrote a paper on sexual harassment in his office." Is the sexual harassment going on in the professor's office? Or is his office the place where the professor is writing? One hopes that the latter is true. If it is, then the original sentence contains a misplaced modifier and should be re-written accordingly: "In his office, the professor wrote a paper on sexual harassment." Always put your modifiers next to the nouns they modify.

Dangling modifiers are a different kind of problem. They intend to modify something that isn't in the sentence. Consider this: "As a young girl, my father baked bread and gardened." The writer means to say, "When I was a young girl, my father baked bread and gardened." The modifying phrase "as a young girl" refers to some noun not in the sentence. It is, therefore, a dangling modifier. Other dangling modifiers are more difficult to spot, however. Consider this sentence: "Walking through the woods, my heart ached." Is it your heart that is walking through the woods? It is more accurate (and more grammatical) to say, "Walking through the woods, I felt an ache in my heart." Here you avoid the dangling modifier.

20. Its/it's error.

"Its" is a possessive pronoun. "It's" is a contraction for "it is."

Who & Whom

This is from the New York Times
Read the full post at:
July 20, 2010, 8:00 am

Who? Whom? Whatever

Notes from the newsroom on grammar, usage and style. (Some frequently asked questions are here.)
Why oh why can’t we get this right?
Use “who” when it’s the subject of the verb in a relative clause, “whom” when it’s the object. Don’t be fooled by an intervening phrase of attribution.
The latest slips:
Dr. Margaret D. Smith, 70, a physician and licensed pilot, was at the plane’s controls when it crashed, The Associated Press reported. Also killed were Michael Ferguson, 44, and his wife, Theresa, whom officials believe were related to Dr. Smith.
Make it “who … were related,” not “whom.” If you’re confused by “officials believe,” turn the sentence around to test it: “Officials believe they [not them] were related …”
Then again, there’s something undeniably dramatic about a man in a cage surrounded by six lions. He is Brian McMillan, whom the program reports was discovered by the legendary lion tamer Gunther Gebel-Williams, and he lavishes special, tender attention on one with a white mane and regal gait.
Same problem. Make it “who … was discovered.”

Who or Whom? Hmmmmm?
The He/Him Method*
Use the he/him method to decide which word is correct.
he = who (this is in the subjective case)
him = whom (this is in the objective case)
Who/Whom wrote the letter? He wrote the letter. Therefore, who is correct.
For who/whom should I vote? Should I vote for him? Therefore, whom is correct.

The Two-Clause Trick
We all know who/whom pulled that prank.
This sentence contains two clauses:
We all know and who/whom pulled that prank.
We are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom.
He pulled that prank.
Therefore who is correct.

We want to know on who/whom the prank was pulled.
This sentence contains two clauses:
We want to know and the prank was pulled on who/whom.
Again, we are interested in the second clause because it contains the who/whom.
The prank was pulled on him.
Therefore whom is correct.
*This summary is adapted from the The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation

Who & Whom Quiz: Choose the correct word for each sentence.
1. We intend to notify ____________ ranks highest on the list.
2. These are the sign language interpreters ____________ I feel you should acknowledge.
3. ____________ can we trust in a crisis?
4. Ms. Cohen, ________________ has a way with words, will be the valedictorian.
5. The person ____________ produces the most work will receive a bonus.
6. ____________ are you dancing with next?
7. ____________ would you say is the best person for this position?
8. The therapist will talk with ____________ needs her help.
9. We are not sure ____________ set off the alarm.
10. Don't talk with anyone ____________ you think might be connected with the competition.
11. ____________ had my job before me?
12. It was she ____________ they selected for the Cabinet post.
13. Sometimes it is the one ____________ does the most work who is the least tired.
14. We plan to hire an assistant ____________ is a good proofreader.
15. The prize will be given to ____________ writes the best essay.
16. The bookkeeper is the one to __________the figures should be mailed.
17. Give the recipe for the vegetarian chili to ____________ calls for it.
18. ____________ did you really want to be there?
19. She is the contestant ____________ they sent to us.
20. This vacation spot will refresh ____________ seeks refuge here.

Concision = Precision: Two Worksheets

Concision = Precision

One element of concise writing is eliminating redundancies. Cut away.

1. a distance of ten yards

2. a myriad of sources

3. absolute guarantee

4. absolutely essential

5. absolutely sure

6. actual experience, past experience

7. added bonus

8. add an additional

9. advance planning, advance notice, advance warning, advance reservations

10. all meet together

11. all-time record

12. alongside of

13. already existing

14. and moreover

15. as for example

16. ask a question

17. as to whether

18. as yet

19. at a later date

20. at the present time

21. at some time to come

22. any and all

23. ATM machine, PIN number, etc.

24. baby boy was born

25. basic fundamentals

26. best ever

27. brief moment

28. came at a time when

29. cancel out

30. close scrutiny

31. collaborate together

32. completely demolished, completely destroyed completely opposite, completely surrounded, complete monopoly

33. consensus of opinion, general consensus

34. controversial issue

35. cooperate together

36. costs a total of, costs the sum of

37. continue on

38. current trend, current status

39. direct confrontation

40. each and every

41. estimated roughly at

42. every now and then

43. exact opposites

44. exact same

45. eye witness

46. fall down, rise up

47. fellow classmates

48. few in number

49. filled to capacity

50. final outcome

51. finally ended

52. first and foremost

53. first began

54. first of all

55. follow after

56. foot pedal

57. free gift

58. for the price of $3

59. gather together

60. had gone previously

61. hard facts

62. hollow tube

63. in the state of Virginia

64. in the month of October

65. initial introduction

66. integral part

67. irregardless

68. join together

69. LCD Display

70. last of all

71. local residents

72. many different reasons

73. many in number

74. major breakthrough

75. mean it sincerely

76. midway between

77. might possibly

78. old cliché

79. old proverb

80. past history

81. past experience

82. personal opinion

83. protest against

84. refer back

85. serious crisis

86. small in size

87. specific example

88. summer months

89. surrounded on all sides

90. true facts

91. the color brown

92. the final conclusion

93. 10 a.m. in the morning

94. ten different people

95. ugly in appearance

96. unintentional mistake

97. Up to, maybe more

98. visible to the eye

99. written down

100. whether or not

Concision = Precision: Edit the extra verbiage out of the following sentencess.
  1. More and more students are riding bicycles these days.
  2. Marge cannot help but wonder how different life would have been without Homer.
  3. Use the ATM machine in the Reitz Union.
  4. She wrote her own autobiography.
  5. He falsely misrepresented the situation.
  6. She was part of a small clique of insiders that met after class.
  7. The dog circled around the cat.
  8. The college depends on grant funds to equip computer labs.
  9. These sentences have to be exactly right.
  10. The Steve Miller Band is an added bonus.
  11. The church is a safe haven for illegal immigrants.
  12. Are you absolutely sure that dress is in fashion?
  13. With a little advance planning, we can get good tickets.
  14. The consensus of opinion is that a military draft is off the table.
  15. No weed killer will completely eradicate nuisance plants.
  16. If 125 students were in this class, the room would be filled to capacity.
  17. Foreign imports of oil have been growing steadily.
  18. Sign up now and get a free gift.
  19. Let’s join together in singing our national anthem.
  20. Upon seeing an alligator, my natural instinct is to flee.
  21. Sororities depend on the mutual cooperation of their members.
  22. Never at any time have I seen so many bright students in one room.
  23. The Tampa Bay Rays set a new record for scoring runs in the playoffs.
  24. Past experience teaches us never to wear white after Labor Day.
  25. The reason he loves surgery is because of its complexity.
  26. The class settled into a regular routine of quizzes and exercises.
  27. A few transfer students will arrive when school resumes again in January.
  28. All was quiet until a bomb suddenly exploded outside Baghdad.
  29. An orange is round in shape.
  30. The end result was an increase in drunken driving arrests.
  31. Study until such time as you can recite the rules from memory.
  32. That cilantro was just exactly what the salsa needed.
  33. First and foremost, the story must be newsworthy.
  34. After the test, students may revert back to bad writing habits.
  35. Sarah urged Jews to schlep to the state of Florida.

Affect v. Effect

Affect & Effect

Rule 1. Use effect when you mean bring about or brought about, cause or caused.

Example: He effected a commotion in the crowd. Meaning He caused a commotion in the crowd.

Rule 2. Use effect when you mean result.

Example: What effect did that speech have?

Rule 3. Also use effect whenever any of these words precede it:
a an any the take into no

Note: These words may be separated from effect by an adjective.

Example: That book had a long-lasting effect on my thinking.
Has the medicine produced any noticeable effects?

Rule 4. Use the verb affect when you mean to influence rather than to cause.

Example: How do the budget cuts affect your staffing?

Rule 5. Affect is used as a noun to mean emotional expression.

Example: She showed little affect when told she had won the lottery.

Affect & Effect Quiz

The _______ of the antibiotic on her infection was surprising.

I did not know that antibiotics could _______ people so quickly.

Plastic surgery had an ______, not only on her appearance, but on her self-esteem.

If the chemotherapy has no _______ , should she get surgery for the tumor?

When will we know if the chemotherapy has taken _______?

Losing her hair from chemotherapy did not _______ her as much as her friends had expected.

We cannot _______ a new policy without the board of directors voting on it first.

To be an _______ leader, you should know both your strengths as well as your weaknesses.

The movie Winged Migration had two _______ on him: He became an environmental advocate and a bird lover.

The net _______ of blowing the whistle on her boss was that she was eventually given his position.

What was the _______ of his promotion?

His decision _______ everyone here.

We had to _______ a reduction in costs.

The critics greatly _______ his thinking.


Kinds of Sentences


A simple sentence, also called an independent clause, contains a subject and a verb, and it expresses a complete thought.

  1. Some students like to stay out late the night before a 7:30 a.m. class.
  2. John and Joan play chess every evening.
  3. All my students go to the library on Friday night.


A compound sentence contains two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. What are coordinators? They are for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. Except for very short sentences, coordinators are always preceded by a comma.

  1. I tried to play tennis, and she tried to bowl.
  2. The entire class arrived late, so I cancelled class.
  3. Alex went to the zoo, but it was closed.


A complex sentence has an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. A complex sentence always has a subordinator such as because, since, after, although, or when or a relative pronoun such as that, who, or which.

  1. When he handed in his homework, he forgot to give the teacher 10 bucks for a god grade.
  2. I took a long nap after I ate the big Thanksgiving dinner.
  3. All of you are studying hard because you have a test tomorrow.
  4. After you finished studying, you aced the test.
  5. I went to the movies because I had some free time.
  6. Because I had some free time, I went to the movies.


Finally, sentences containing adjective clauses (or dependent clauses) are also complex because they contain an independent clause and a dependent clause.

  1. The student whom I talked to will play the violin in class.
  2. The grammar book that I suggested you read is gathering dust.
  3. Exxon, which had a profit of more than $40 billion, does all it can to avoid taxes.
  4. Wesley Snipes, who was acquitted, has more to fear from the IRS than vampires.

Yes, we like simple sentences. But sometimes it makes sense to weave an orphaned statement in a simple sentence and create a complex sentence.

For example: Wilbers is trying to portray himself as a nonpolitician outsider. Wilbers was elected to the Assembly last year.

Becomes: Wilbers, who was elected to the Assembly last year, is trying to portray himself as a nonpolitician outsider.
Problem Sentences

Fused Sentence

A fused sentence is an error caused by running two independent clauses together with no separation at all.

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous she was often asked for her autograph.

There are five ways to correct a fused sentence:

1. Separate the clauses with a period.

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous. She was often asked for her autograph.

2. Join the clauses with a semicolon.

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous; she was often asked for her autograph.

3. Connect the clauses with a semicolon and a conjunctive adverb followed by a comma: therefore, consequently, however, moreover, in addition, additionally

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous; therefore she was often asked for her autograph.

4. Connect the clauses with a comma and coordinating conjunction: and, but, or, nor, for, yet, so

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous, and she was often asked for her autograph.

5. Use a subordinator to make one clause dependent upon another: after, before, although, as, before, since, provided that, unless, though

Example: Since the local newscaster enjoyed being famous, she was often asked for her autograph.

Comma Splice

A comma splice is when two independent clauses are joined with only a comma.

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous, she was often asked for her autograph.

See fixes above

Run-On Sentence

A run-on sentence is an error caused by joining two or more independent clauses with only a coordinating conjunction such as and or but

Example: The local newscaster enjoyed being famous and she was often asked for her autograph.

See fixes above

Kinds of Sentence Problems: Identify the sentences as Correct = C or Wrong = W

1. Mary Beth wants to get married, she is tired of living alone.

2. Mary Beth wants to get married she is tired of living alone.

3. The sunset was a beautiful shade of pink, it was very romantic.

4. The sunset was a beautiful shade of pink, so it was very romantic.

5. The sunset was a beautiful shade of pink it was very romantic.

6. He didn't want to talk about it, he wanted to be alone.

7. He didn't want to talk about it. He wanted to be alone.

8. He didn't want to talk about it he wanted to be alone.

9. At three o'clock, Paula called; her brother answered.

10. At three o'clock, Paula called, her brother answered.

11. At three o'clock, Paula called her brother answered.

12. Miriam has changed her lifestyle is now quite glamorous.

13. Miriam has changed; her lifestyle is now quite glamorous.

14. Miriam has changed, her lifestyle is now quite glamorous.

15. Juan always washes his car on Friday he likes to impress his friends.

16. Juan always washes his car on Friday because he likes to impress his friends.

17. Juan always washes his car on Friday, he likes to impress his friends.

18. The wooden chair in the kitchen broke when he sat down it was very old.

19. The wooden chair in the kitchen broke when he sat down, it was very old.

20. The wooden chair in the kitchen broke when he sat down, for it was very old.

21. The sound of that melody is vaguely familiar I'm certain I've heard it before.

22. The sound of that melody is vaguely familiar, I'm certain I've heard it before.

23. The sound of that melody is vaguely familiar; I'm certain I've heard it before.

24. Patience is not one of Kim's virtues, she always gets angry when she has to repeat herself.

25. Patience is not one of Kim's virtues, for she always gets angry when she has to repeat herself.

26. Patience is not one of Kim's virtues she always gets angry when she has to repeat herself.

27. Computers have always fascinated her, someday she hopes to be an engineer.

28. Computers have always fascinated her someday she hopes to be an engineer.

29. Computers have always fascinated her, and someday she hopes to be an engineer.

30. The results of the experiment were confusing because they could be interpreted in several ways.

31. The results of the experiment were confusing, they could be interpreted in several ways.

32. The results of the experiment were confusing they could be interpreted in several ways.

33. Anetta has been living in New York for the past two years she has missed her family desperately.

34. While living in New York for the past two years, Anetta has missed her family desperately.

35. Anetta has been living in New York for the past two years, she has missed her family desperately.

36. Michael missed class yesterday, for he had to take his mother to the hospital. 37. Michael missed class yesterday he had to take his mother to the hospital.

38. Michael missed class yesterday, he had to take his mother to the hospital.

39. May stood on the porch and watched the first light of morning approach slowly across the fields, it was a new day.

40. May stood on the porch and watched the first light of morning approach slowly across the fields it was a new day.

41. May stood on the porch and watched the first light of morning approach slowly across the fields; it was a new day.

42. Sam walked down the gravel road, he looked back only once to nod good-bye.

43. As Sam walked down the gravel road, he looked back only once to nod good-bye.

44. Sam walked down the gravel road he looked back only once to nod good-bye.

45. I bought a new pair of sneakers, my old ones were worn out.

46. I bought a new pair of sneakers, for my old ones were worn out.

Adapted from:


Fix these if they need fixing

1. Federal officials demanded that more water be added to streams which benefits salmon by keeping water cool, allowing passage upstream, and preserves spawning areas.

2. Mary likes hiking, swimming, and to ride a bicycle.

3. The production manager was asked to write his report quickly, accurately, and in a detailed manner.

4. The teacher said that he was a poor student because he waited until the last minute to study for the exam, completed his lab problems in a careless manner, and his motivation was low.

5. The salesman expected that he would present his product at the meeting, that there would be time for him to show his slide presentation, and that questions would be asked by prospective buyers.

6. The dictionary can be used for these purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings, and looking up irregular verbs.

Some tips

  1. Skim your text, pausing at the words "and" and "or." Check on each side of these words to see whether the items joined are parallel. If not, make them parallel.
  2. If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to see if they are parallel.
  3. Listen to the sound of the items in a list or the items being compared.
  4. Do you hear the same kinds of sounds?
  5. For example, is there a series of "-ing" words beginning each item?
  6. Or do your hear a rhythm being repeated?
  7. If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel.

Adapted from: