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Common Sentence Errors
Complete or Incomplete Sentence Quiz
1. Run-On Sentence: two ideas improperly joined by just a comma
eg. My mother likes my older brother better
my older brother remembers my mother’s birthday.
2. Sentence Fragment: an incomplete thought, missing an action or a subject
eg. If Robyn would leave the scrub lot a little earlier.
3. Usage: incorrect word choice when two words sound the same
eg. When your hungry, their are to many options at Chevron. Its hard too decide. (five errors)
4. Subject-Verb Agreement: subject does not agree with the verb
eg. The students loves grammar.
5. Spelling: tricky words such as recieve, percieve or made up words like alot or theirselves
6. Incorrect use of the Apostrophe: either the apostrophe is omitted when it should be their or included when it shouldn’t
eg. The one cars engine was’nt tuned properly like all the motorbike’s.
7. Parallel structure: When listing a series of clauses, are the clauses consistent in their structure?
eg. Yesterday I realized that going to the gym was futile, going to Noodle Box was expensive, going home was possible, and I went to Pagliaci’s.
8. Coma Splice: comma inserted into the wrong place in the sentence
eg. My mother loves, to tell me how much smarter my brother is.
9. Pronoun Agreement: pronoun does not agree with its subject
eg. The parents adore
potted plant collection.
10. Capitalization: capital letter is usually omitted
eg. In order to understand canada, you have to drive to the north. (two errors)
11. Dangling or Misplaced Modifier: the wrong bit of information is attached to the wrong thing because of how the sentence is constructed.
eg. The athlete grabbed the aggressive rebound.
12. Incorrect use of semi-colon or colon: a semi colon needs to be used as a period, not a comma. A colon needs to be used when listing a series of items
eg: A semi-colon needs to be used as a period; not a comma. The following items would be appropriate to list after a colon; spam, my mom, foot odor, aris, the yucatan peninsula, bling bling, sensible shoes, and a batman lunch box. (many errors)
The information below may also be seen on a Notebook presentation.
There are many ways of writing incomplete sentences. A correct sentence contains a subject and a verb. The subject is the “who or what” of a sentence. When trying to locate the subject of a particular sentence, ask yourself the question, “who or what is doing the action of the sentence?”
In the sentences below determine what the subject of each sentence is by asking “who” or “what” is doing the action in the sentence. Circle the subject in each sentence.
1. Pizza is my favorite food.
2. My favorite food is pizza.
3. The child ran quickly down the street.
4. The table by the door must be moved.
5. Pencils are usually located in the top drawer of the file cabinet.
Once you become more able to determine the subject of a sentence, it’s time to move on to verbs. Verbs are either action words like run, jump, scramble, or they can be simple links between two parts of a sentence to make it sound right. Words like – is, are, was, were, become, etc. are this type of non-action verb.
Identify the verbs in the sentences below. Underline them. (Remember that there can be more than one verb in a sentence.)
1. Michael scrambled up the loose shale of the mountain.
2. The accident was the result of drunk driving.
3. Susan is very ornery in the morning.
4. The trees on the trail scratched her arms.
5. The speedboat leapt into the air over the jump.
Identifying the subjects and verbs in the sentence is the first step to being able to recognize any type of sentence fragment. If a sentence is lacking a subject or a verb, then it cannot be a complete sentence.
Prepositional Phrase Fragments
There are many kinds of errors in sentence recognition. One of the most common is assuming a prepositional phrase is a proper sentence, e.g., “
From under the bushes
”. This sentence lacks a what or a who. This means there is no subject.
Identify and underline the fragments in each of the following sentences. They will be in the form of prepositional phrases which can be recognized because they begin with words from the following list:
at before by inside since out about behind concerning into through outside above down like in on over after beneath during until off past against beside except under of with along between for underneath near without among beyond from toward up within around but (meaning except) to upon
1. Under the outcropping of rocks, in the tidal pools. The sea life can be found.
2. The child was found wandering on the deserted road.Beside the stands of tall
3. Some people appeared at our door. During the hockey playoffs.
4. Throughout the entire house. The echoes of children’s voices could be heard.
5. Secrets are usually kept by people who respect one another. Between you and
me. This is very true.
Verbal Phrase Fragments
Assuming verbal phrases are sentences is another common error made by writers. Phrases that begin with –ing words are common culprits e.g., “
Driving happily down the road in the country
.” This example is a phrase because it doesn’t answer “who” or “what” is driving. There is no subject or doer of the action in this sentence fragment. Another common mistake involves the use of the word “to” followed by an action verb. e.g.,
She made a major decision. To run for the provincial party nomination
. The phrase “to run” starts this sentence fragment.
Identify the verbal phrase fragments in each of the following sentences. Rewrite the sentences to ensure they are proper sentences.
1. Mitchell finally agreed to see the guidance counselor. To ask about entering University in the fall.
2. The Olympic Plaza was a great accomplishment. Showing the enthusiasm of Calgarians.
3. Albertans blasted the new Federal tax. Being angry at having to tighten their belts once again.
Subordinate Clauses as Fragments
Subordinate clauses are simply less important ideas, and therefore cannot stand as sentences by themselves. e.g.,
After the sudden rain shower
. This subordinate clause is a definite fragment. It has left some needed information up in the air. For instance, “what happened after the rain?”
The list below contains subordinate conjunctions. Use them to identify this type of fragment.
after as as if though when where
because before in order that whenever why until
although unless if since how
as long as
Identify the fragments in each of the following. Circle the subordinate conjunctions.
1. Because we were very late last night. We didn’t wake the children.
2. My favorite salad must contain croutons and Caesar salad dressing. Although I
really like spinach salad too.
3. Before you even think of leaving this house. Please go and clean up that
There are basically three reasons for sentences that go on, and on, and on...
When two main ideas are joined by a comma (,) instead of a coordinating conjunction – and, but, or, for – then a major sentence error has happened.
e.g., “Michael went to the store, Susan went for a walk.” instead, write
“Michael went to the store and Susan went for a walk.” or
“Michael went to the store; Susan went for a walk.” Don’t let main ideas run together in your writing.
The second difficulty that causes a run-on sentence can be caused by
; words like
accordingly, also, consequently, furthermore, however, instead, likewise, nevertheless, otherwise, therefore, moreover....
or can be cause by
. Phrases such as
for example, in fact, on the other hand
, can lead a writer to use
just a comma (,) instead of the correct semi-colon (;).
e.g., “He disliked school, however he studied every day.” Should be
“He disliked school; however, he studied every day.”
A third common run-on error concerns forgetting about punctuation altogether. e.g., “He gazed upon her still face and his heart was ready to break.”
The two ideas in the sentence above run together and mess up the meaning of the sentence.
It should be corrected in one of the following ways:
a) He gazed upon her still face, and his heart was ready to break. b) He gazed upon her still face; his heart was ready to break. c) As he gazed upon her still face, his heart was ready to break.
Try the following exercise by correcting the run-on sentences.
1. The automobile crashed headlong into the wall then all was quiet.
2. The best way to publicize a movie is to say it’s “For Adults Only” then everyone will flock to see it.
3. After the blood transfusion, the patient was quiet the doctor left for coffee.
Some of the lines in the following exercise are correct; others have a word which should not be there. Which lines are correct? Which are wrong, and what is the unnecessary word.
01. Mr George Wilton, a schoolmaster of Epping, England, has been got in trouble.
02. It seems he told to his class of 9-year-old girls to write kidnap letters and demands for ransom.
03. One of the parents, a Mrs Virginia Waters, said, “We only discovered
04. this dreadful thing during an evening class then for some of the mothers in knitting.
05. The notes were pinned up to the classroom wall.”
06. Another parent, the Mrs Joan Dripper, said, “My child’s note read,
07. ‘I have kidnapped your daughter and demand for £25. As proof, I enclose her head.’”
08. Another note said that, “We have captured the board of school directors
09. and your head teacher, Mrs Stallworthy. Unless school dinners are the better,
10. they will be allowed to starve. From Beryl and Diana.”
11. A psychiatrist described the exercise as “not a very good idea”.
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