In the last few issues of the Little Leaf Newsletter, we’ve reviewed basic sentence patterns, those related to the “be” verb and linking verbs and those related to action verbs (intransitive and transitive). If you’ve missed these issues, you can find links to them by scanning through the news feed on my Facebook page (and don’t forget to subscribe to the newsletter so you won’t miss out on upcoming issues 😉).
Understanding sentence patterns can help writers determine how to connect sentences and phrases and how to punctuate them. When you know the basic elements of sentence structure, you’ll more easily be able to avoid fragments and run-on sentences. Similarly, you’ll know why introductory phrases, those that begin with conjunctions that tell when, where, and why (“because” or “during,” for instance), should be set off with a comma and why nonessential phrases, like this one, should have a comma before and after them to set them off from the main sentence.
Writers also must be mindful of where to place modifying phrases. In a recent article in Entrepreneur, Joan Oleck discusses dangling and misplaced modifiers. These errors can cause havoc with sentence clarity and meaning. Take, for instance, one of her examples: “Walking down Fifth Avenue, the library lions looked particularly regal.” You see the issue, right? How would you fix this error? Share your answers in the comments below.
In her article, Oleck also identifies three sentence structure errors that business writers (or any writer, for that matter) should avoid. Two I’ve already mentioned, fragments and run-on sentences. The third, nonparallel structure, is just as important. As Oleck explains, “Taken one by one, these errors may seem minor; but a document with numerous instances of nonparallel construction, run-ons, etc., will seem ‘off’ to the reader.” This couldn’t be more accurate. Even if a reader doesn’t know how to identify specific grammar and syntax errors, he or she likely can determine when writing doesn’t flow as clearly or as smoothly as it could.
In the world of content marketing, conciseness and clarity are essential. Understanding sentence structure is the key.