Grammar Notes – Structural Errors

Grammar Notes – Structural Errors

Sentence Fragments
Fragments are incomplete sentences. Usually, fragments are pieces of sentences that have become disconnected from the main clause. One of the easiest ways to correct them is to remove the period between the fragment and the main clause. Other kinds of punctuation may be needed for the newly combined sentence.
Below are some examples with the fragments shown in red. Punctuation and/or words added to make corrections are highlighted in blue. Notice that the fragment is frequently a dependent clause or long phrase that follows the main clause.
• Fragment:Purdue offers many majors in engineering. Such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.
Possible Revision: Purdue offers many majors in engineering, such as electrical, chemical, and industrial engineering.

• Fragment: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game. Leaving her team at a time when we needed her.
Possible Revision: Coach Dietz exemplified this behavior by walking off the field in the middle of a game, leaving her team at a time when we needed her.

• Fragment: I need to find a new roommate. Because the one I have now isn't working out too well.
Possible Revision: I need to find a new roommate because the one I have now isn't working out too well.

• Fragment: The current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands. Which is why we believe the proposed amendments should be passed.
Possible Revision: Because the current city policy on housing is incomplete as it stands, we believe the proposed ammendments should be passed.


You may have noticed that newspaper and magazine journalists often use a dependent clause as a separate sentence when it follows clearly from the preceding main clause, as in the last example above. This is a conventional journalistic practice, often used for emphasis. For academic writing and other more formal writing situations, however, you should avoid such journalistic fragment sentences.


Some fragments are not clearly pieces of sentences that have been left unattached to the main clause; they are written as main clauses but lack a subject or main verb.
No main verb
• Fragment: A story with deep thoughts and emotions.
Possible Revisions:
o Direct object: She told a story with deep thoughts and emotions.
o Appositive: Gilman's "The Yellow Wallpaper," a story with deep thoughts and emotions, has impressed critics for decades.
• Fragment: Toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
Possible Revisions:
o Complete verb: Toys of all kinds were thrown everywhere.
o Direct object: They found toys of all kinds thrown everywhere.
• Fragment: A record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired.
Possible Revisions:
o Direct object: I've noticed a record of accomplishment beginning when you were first hired
o Main verb: A record of accomplishment began when you were first hired.

No Subject
• Fragment: With the ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
Possible Revisions:
o Remove preposition: The ultimate effect of all advertising is to sell the product.
• Fragment: By paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
Possible Revisions:
o Remove preposition: Paying too much attention to polls can make a political leader unwilling to propose innovative policies.
• Fragment: For doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
Possible Revisions:
o Remove preposition: Doing freelance work for a competitor got Phil fired.
o Rearrange: Phil got fired for doing freelance work for a competitor.
These last three examples of fragments with no subjects are also known as mixed constructions, that is, sentences constructed out of mixed parts. They start one way (often with a long prepositional phrase) but end with a regular predicate. Usually the object of the preposition (often a gerund, as in the last two examples) is intended as the subject of the sentence, so removing the preposition at the beginning is usually the easiest way to edit such errors.

(http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/620/01/)




Dangling Modifiers and How To Correct Them
A dangling modifier is a word or phrase that modifies a word not clearly stated in the sentence. A modifier describes, clarifies, or gives more detail about a concept.
Having finished the assignment, Jill turned on the TV.
"Having finished" states an action but does not name the doer of that action. In English sentences, the doer must be the subject of the main clause that follows. In this sentence, it is Jill. She seems logically to be the one doing the action ("having finished"), and this sentence therefore does not have a dangling modifier.
The following sentence has an incorrect usage:
Having finished the assignment, the TV was turned on.
"Having finished" is a participle expressing action, but the doer is not the TV set (the subject of the main clause): TV sets don't finish assignments. Since the doer of the action expressed in the participle has not been clearly stated, the participial phrase is said to be a dangling modifier.
Strategies for revising dangling modifiers:
1. Name the appropriate or logical doer of the action as the subject of the main clause:
Having arrived late for practice, a written excuse was needed.
Who arrived late? This sentence says that the written excuse arrived late. To revise, decide who actually arrived late. The possible revision might look like this:
Having arrived late for practice, the team captain needed a written excuse.
The main clause now names the person (the captain) who did the action in the modifying phrase (arrived late).
2. Change the phrase that dangles into a complete introductory clause by naming the doer of the action in that clause:
Without knowing his name, it was difficult to introduce him.
Who didn't know his name? This sentence says that "it" didn't know his name. To revise, decide who was trying to introduce him. The revision might look something like this:
Because Maria did not know his name, it was difficult to introduce him.
The phrase is now a complete introductory clause; it does not modify any other part of the sentence, so is not considered "dangling."
3. Combine the phrase and main clause into one:
To improve his results, the experiment was done again.
Who wanted to improve results? This sentence says that the experiment was trying to improve its own results. To revise, combine the phrase and the main clause into one sentence. The revision might look something like this:
He improved his results by doing the experiment again.
More examples of dangling modifiers and their revisions:
Incorrect: After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.
Revised: After reading the original study, I find the article unconvincing.

Incorrect: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, your home should be a place to relax.
Revised: Relieved of your responsibilities at your job, you should be able to relax at home.

Incorrect: The experiment was a failure, not having studied the lab manual carefully.
Revised: They failed the experiment, not having studied the lab manual carefully.

(http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/597/01/)






Misplaced Modifiers
"To modify" is to qualify or limit the meaning of a word, phrase, or clause. Thus, in grammar, a modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that qualifies or limits other words, phrases, or clauses. Misplaced modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that cause confusion because they are not placed close enough to the words they are supposed to modify. The following sections examine different kinds of misplaced modifiers and offer suggestions for dealing with this trouble.
Misplaced Word Modifiers
A misplaced word falls in the wrong place in a sentence. It may cause confusion and needless ambiguity. Such confusion may be avoided by placing the modifying word close to the word or words it qualifies.
Wrong: Harold almost ate the whole steak.
(In this sentence, "almost" suggests that Harold did not eat but almost ate the steak.)
Corrected: Harold ate almost the whole steak.
Be careful with the placement of limiting modifiers ("almost," "even," "hardly," "just," "merely," "nearly," "scarcely," and "simply"). These modifiers must be placed right next to the words they modify; otherwise, their placement may produce a completely different meaning.
Consider how the different positions of the limiting modifier only change the meaning of the following sentence:

Composition teachers claim that good grammar skills improve students’ writing.
Only composition teachers claim that good grammar skills improve students’ writing.
(No one else makes this claim.)
Composition teachers only claim that good grammar skills improve students’ writing.
(The composition teachers do not mean what they say.)
Composition teachers claim only that good grammar skills improve students’ writing.
(The composition teachers claim nothing else.)
Composition teachers claim that only good grammar skills improve students’ writing.
(Nothing except good grammar skills improves students’ writing.)
Composition teachers claim that good grammar skills only improve students’ writing.
(Good grammar skills can do nothing but improve students’ writing.)
Composition teachers claim that good grammar skills improve only students’ writing.
(No other aspects of students’ education, such as thinking, reading, or speaking, are improved by good grammar skills.)



Misplaced Phrase Modifiers
The most common type of phrase modifier, the prepositional phrase, usually appears right beside the words it modifies. But when a phrase is misplaced, it may cause confusion and needless ambiguity. Such confusion may be avoided by placing the modifying phrase close to the word or words that it qualifies.
Wrong: The goalie stood ignoring the jeering fans in his net.
(The sentence suggests that the fans were in the net.)
Corrected: The goalie stood in his net ignoring the jeering fans.

Misplaced Clause Modifiers
Even though you have more flexibility in the placement of dependent or subordinate clauses than in the placement of modifying words and phrases, you should still try to position them next to whatever you want to modify.
Wrong: The man carrying a dog who was whistling a Beatles’ tune refused to give up his spot in the line.
(The dog was not whistling.)
Corrected: The man who was carrying a dog and whistling a Beatles’ tune refused to give up his spot in the line.
(http://www.nipissingu.ca/english/hornbook/MISPLACE.HTM)














Parallel Structure
Parallel structure means using the same pattern of words to show that two or more ideas have the same level of importance. This can happen at the word, phrase, or clause level. The usual way to join parallel structures is with the use of coordinating conjunctions such as "and" or "or."
Words and Phrases
With the -ing form (gerund) of words:
Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and bicycling.
With infinitive phrases:
Parallel: Mary likes to hike, to swim, and to ride a bicycle.
OR
Mary likes to hike, swim, and ride a bicycle.
(Note: You can use "to" before all the verbs in a sentence or only before the first one.)
Do not mix forms.
Example 1
Not Parallel:
Mary likes hiking, swimming, and to ride a bicycle.
Parallel:
Mary likes hiking, swimming, and riding a bicycle.
Example 2
Not Parallel:
The production manager was asked to write his report quickly, accurate ly, and in a detailed manner.
Parallel:
The production manager was asked to write his report quickly, accurately, and thoroughly.
Example 3
Not Parallel:
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.
Parallel:
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 lacked motivation.
Clauses
A parallel structure that begins with clauses must keep on with clauses. Changing to another pattern or changing the voice of the verb (from active to passive or vice versa) will break the parallelism.
Example 1
Not Parallel:
The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and to do some warm-up exercises before the game.
Parallel:
The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, that they should not eat too much, and that they should do some warm-up exercises before the game.
— or —
Parallel:
The coach told the players that they should get a lot of sleep, not eat too much, and do some warm-up exercises before the game.
Example 2
Not Parallel:
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. (passive)
Parallel:
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 prospective buyers would ask him questions.


Lists After a Colon
Be sure to keep all the elements in a list in the same form.
Example 1
Not Parallel:
The dictionary can be used for these purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings, and looking up irregular verbs.
Parallel:
The dictionary can be used for these purposes: to find word meanings, pronunciations, correct spellings, and irregular verbs.
Proofreading Strategies to Try:
• Skim your paper, 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.
• If you have several items in a list, put them in a column to see if they are parallel.
• Listen to the sound of the items in a list or the items being compared. Do you hear the same kinds of sounds? For example, is there a series of "-ing" words beginning each item? Or do your hear a rhythm being repeated? If something is breaking that rhythm or repetition of sound, check to see if it needs to be made parallel.

(http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/623/01/)

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