Common Mistakes in Sentence Structure

Common Mistakes in Sentence Structure

The way different components of a sentence are put together, from punctuation to word order, is determined by sentence structure. There are many additional factors to consider in creating correctly and clearly constructed sentences and following fundamental word order principles.

Common Errors Made by Students in Their Writing

Here are the common errors students make during writing.

Fragments of sentences

An unfinished sentence is referred to as a sentence fragment. Sentence fragments occur for two reasons: the sentence’s content is incomplete and lacks a subject or verb.

Sentence’s content is incomplete

When a writer believes that a dependent component of a sentence (dependent phrase) is a whole sentence, he or she is making a typical fragment error. Although the dependent clause has a subject and a verb, its meaning is incomplete. Often, the linking word at the start of a sentence fragment can only be used to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause in order to form a complete sentence.

Subordinators are connecting words like because, although, and others that introduce only the dependent part of the sentence, not the entire sentence.

Because the governing party refused to hand over power, an example of a sentence fragment (just a dependent clause):

Because we have the reason for something (introduced by ‘because’), but not the “something,” the provided example is a sentence fragment.

Another clause, the independent clause, will be appended to the dependent clause to repair the sentence fragment. The meaning of the phrase will then be full.

Because the incumbent party refused to relinquish power, the election was called off.


The election failed because the ruling party refused to hand up power.

The independent clause might be at the beginning or conclusion of the sentence. A comma is required if it is at the end.

A subject or a verb is lacking from the sentence fragments:

When a writer fails to provide a subject, a verb, or both, another typical fragment error arises.

A sentence fragment with no subject or verb (Example)

In voting places that are well-secured.

We don’t know who or what is doing the activity (the sentence’s subject), nor do we know what the action or process is in this case (the verb).

Only the “where” half of the statement is revealed by the fragment.

To form a full sentence, we need another portion containing a subject (who or what) and a verb (action/process), for example:

Voter turnout was strong in polling places with sufficient security.

Excessive use of adverbs

Adverbs are words that modify verbs and usually finish in -ly. They’re fine once in a while, but they’re a sign of poor verb selections in large quantities. The adverb “very quickly” modifies the verb “run” in our case. On the other hand, is “really fast,” a more vivid word picture for the reader? Instead, use a more enticing word like “sprinted.”

Incorrect: The youngster dashed to grab the errant ball

Correct: The youngster dashed to collect the errant ball.

Using many prepositional phrases

Prepositions are words that are used to indicate direction, place, or time before nouns and pronouns. We have two prepositional phrases in the first sentence: “over the top” and “of the hill.” Your writing will become wordy if you use too many prepositional phrases. Simplify wherever feasible.

Incorrect: The caravan arrived at the top of the slope.

Correctly: The caravan ascended the slope.

Modifiers that are ambiguous (“squinting”)

A squinting modifier is a misdirected modifier that might change either the phrase before it or the one after it, depending on where it sits in the sentence. To fix an ambiguous modifier, relocate it to a different spot in the phrase, so the reader knows which word you’re going to change.

Wrong: Slowly listening to loud music causes me a headache.

Correct: I gradually acquire a headache when I listen to loud music.

Misuse of the words lie and lay

When you wish to arrange or place an item, like a dish on a table, use the word “lay.” If you wish to stretch out on a bed and take asleep, use the word “lie.” “Lying” is an intransitive verb, which means it doesn’t require the existence of an object. The presence of an object is required by the transitive word “laid.”

It may take some time to get used to this “lay” or “lie” business; after all, these verbs are frequently misused. If you remember to lay down your fork before you’re full, you won’t have to lie down later from overeating.

Incorrect: She was laying on the bed

Correct: She was lying on the bed

Pronoun allusions that are ambiguous

Readers need to know who you’re referring to when you employ the pronouns “she” or “him.” Uncertainty exists when a pronoun lacks a clear antecedent.

The reader is uncertain who the second “he” is in our example phrase displaying an ambiguous pronoun. Was John the one who got in the way, or was it another “he”? The pronoun “he” refers to Tim, who is card-blocking Helga, as stated in the revised example. Make sure your pronouns are referring to a particular antecedent at all times.

Incorrect: John had a card for Helga, but he couldn’t give it to her since he was in her way.

Correct: John had a card for Helga, but he couldn’t give it to her since Tim stood in her way.

Splices using a comma

To splice is to link or connect. A comma splice happens when an author uses a comma rather than a period or coordinating conjunction to connect two different phrases.

The commas serve several purposes, one of which is to separate two different sentences. Periods and commas both have a purpose, but they should never be used together unless in the form of a semicolon. Semicolons are also used for coordinating conjunctions such as “and,” “but,” and “so.”

Incorrect: She was very hungry; she ate a whole pizza

Correct: She was very hungry. She ate a whole pizza

Correct: She was very hungry, so she ate a whole pizza

Run-on sentences

Run-on sentences, also known as fused sentences, are created when two whole phrases are mashed together without connecting conjunction or grammatical punctuation, such as a period or a semicolon. Short or long run-on phrases are allowed. A lengthy sentence may not usually imply a run-on sentence.

Wrong: Lila liked the tulip bouquet John gave her on prom night, but she loves roses

Correct: Lila liked the tulips John gave her on prom night, but she loves roses.

Using a lot of words (wordiness)

If you’ve got anything to say to the readers, say it (figuratively, not literally). Filling sentences with extra words or filler simply confuses what you’re trying to express. Readers are irritated by long sentences, so keep it short and sweet. Use powerful verbs and nouns instead of cliched adjectives and adverbs to simplify your phrases.

Brevity, according to William Shakespeare, is the spirit of wit. Never use 10 sentences when two would serve as the Bard did. Use terms like “that,” “just,” and “quite” sparingly. To maintain your sentences crisp and toned, proofread your work!

Wrong: We’ve noticed that your tax returns are beyond due, and we encourage you to file them as soon as possible.

Correct: You haven’t filed your tax taxes in a long time. Please file them now.

Using “could of” instead of “could have”

The phrase “could have” is always accurate; “could of” is never. Writers are likely to commit this grammatical error because the contraction “could’ve” sounds a lot like “could of” when spoken.

Incorrect: Sam could have gotten an A on his essay if he hadn’t committed so many grammatical errors.

Correct: Sam’s essay could have gotten an A if he hadn’t committed so many grammatical errors.


Tautologies are a type of idiom in which the same idea is expressed twice with different words. In this case, the term “made” suggests that Jack made the pail with his own two hands. Redundancy is created by the prepositional phrase “with his own hands.” It’s interesting to find tautologies once you know what they are: crumbling ruins, near vicinity, extra bonus, big crowd… The list may go on forever!

Incorrect: Jane made a water pail with his own hands for Gladys.

Correct: Jane made a water pail for Gladys.

Modifiers in the Wrong Place

You should position a modifier exactly next to the term it is meant to alter to effectively convey your views. The modifier should clearly refer to one of the sentence’s words. Misplaced modifiers can lead to ambiguity and misunderstanding.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “At age six, my mother gave me a pony for the festive season.”

Correct: “When I was aged six, my mother gave me a pony for the festive season.”

A Compound Sentence with a Missing Comma

A compound phrase communicates two distinct but connected concepts, and it generally contains conjunction to link the two sections together. To demonstrate that the two thoughts are connected, a comma should be included before the conjunction. If that information is absent, readers will notice.

Consider the following scenario:

Incorrect: “James went to the shop and Dennis went with him.”

Correct: “James went to the shop, and Dennis went with him.”

There is no clear antecedent

An antecedent is a term that comes before a pronoun and explains what the pronoun signifies to the reader. In most cases, changing the language will clear up the ambiguity.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “The mother found the girl and was overjoyed.”

Right: “The mother was happy when he found the girl.”

Using a Preposition to End a Sentence

The use of a preposition at the conclusion of a sentence is another typical grammatical error. By definition, a preposition signifies that another word will come after it. This sort of inaccuracy isn’t a major issue in casual conversation, but it’s something you should avoid in your work.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “What reason did she come here for?”

Right: “For what reason did she come here?”

Unnecessary Commas

While commas are necessary for clarity and to allow the reader to stop in the sentence, they can also be used when they aren’t required. These extra commas might be difficult to understand and make your writing appear less professional. Consider why you’re using a comma before you use one. If you’re not sure if it’s necessary, go over the comma rules again.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “He had a stomach ache because he ate too much rice.”

Correct: “He had a stomach ache because he ate too much ice cream.”

Using Possessives and Plurals in the Same Sentence

Many people are perplexed when a “s” is added to the end of a word. When do you have to use an apostrophe? An apostrophe is commonly used before a “s” to signify possession or as a contraction, as in “that’s” for “that is.” If you’re only trying to express something plural, you don’t need the apostrophe. This, like other English language standards, is susceptible to change. The great majority of the time, though, if you follow the general guidelines, you’ll be correct.

Consider the following scenario:

Incorrect: “The dog’s dish was full of bones.”

Correct: “The dog’s dish was full of bones.”

Mistakes using the words “well” and “good”

Mixing up the words “well” and “good” is one of the most prevalent grammatical mistakes. “Well” is an adverb in general, but “good” is an adjective. If you’re unsure, simply ask yourself if an adjective or an adverb is more suitable in the scenario.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “I am doing good in math.”

Right: “I am doing well in math.”

Incomplete Comparisons

When you employ a comparative term, you must make a comparison with something else. These typical grammar mistakes may exist in commercials or marketing slogans, but they do not work in papers or other written materials. You should always give a comparison of the term demands one.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “My hair is smoother and softer.”

Right: “My hair is smoother and softer than it was a month ago.”

Confusion between Fewer and Less

Many individuals confuse the terms “fewer” and “less.” When discussing the quantity of anything, you must first determine if the object is all one thing or a collection of several things. If you’re referring to a collection of numerous smaller items, you should use the word “fewer.” You should use the word “less” if it’s only one thing.

Consider the following scenario:

Wrong: “The shop was virtually out of cat meal. There were fewer cans on the shelves than there was yesterday.”

Right: “The shop was almost out of cat meal. There were fewer cans on the shelves than there was yesterday.”