Avoiding common sentence mistakes: Tips for better writing


Understanding the nuances of sentence structure is essential for preparing clear and compelling writing. This article provides strategies to fix common sentence mistakes like run-on sentences and fragments, improving clarity and effectiveness.

Beyond basic word order, this guide delves into the art of punctuation and strategic word arrangement, necessary skills for effective communication. By learning how to address these sentence mistakes, you’ll improve the clarity and impact of your writing. Get ready to transform your approach to sentence construction, guaranteeing each word and phrase communicates your planned message with precision.

Identifying common sentence mistakes in writing

In this section, we address two critical types of sentence mistakes that often appear in writing:

  • Run-on sentences. These happen when parts of a sentence are joined incorrectly due to improper punctuation, leading to a lack of clarity.
  • Sentence fragments. Often a result of missing components, these incomplete sentences fail to get a complete thought.

Understanding sentence structure involves more than grammar; it’s about finding the right balance between style and rhythm. This guide will help you learn not just to avoid too long, complicated sentences, but also to steer clear of too many brief, short ones. We will provide insights into achieving a harmonious flow in your writing, improving readability and engagement.

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Mastering clarity and consistency in sentence construction

To build sentences that are clear and coherent, it’s essential to understand key principles beyond just identifying common sentence mistakes. This section offers practical advice and techniques to improve your sentence-building skills, focusing on:

  • Effective punctuation use. Learn how to use punctuation marks correctly to avoid sentence mistakes and clarify your meaning.
  • Sentence length variation. Understand the importance of mixing short and long sentences for stylistic effect, improving the flow of your writing.
  • Conjunctions and transitions. Discover how to use these tools effectively to create smooth transitions between ideas, making your writing more cohesive.

Our purpose is to help you not only avoid common sentence mistakes but also develop a writing style that boosts readability and impact. The strategies provided here apply to various forms of academic writing, from complex papers to simple narratives, ensuring that your ideas are communicated with maximum effectiveness.

Avoid run-on sentences

Run-on sentences appear when independent clauses, capable of standing alone, are incorrectly joined together. This problem is related to grammar rather than the length of the sentence, and it can affect even brief sentences. There are two main types of run-on sentences:

Comma splices

Comma splices happen when two independent clauses are joined only by a comma, without proper punctuation to separate them.

Example of incorrect usage:

  • “The seminar ended late, and everyone rushed to leave.” This structure leads to confusion, as it improperly combines two different thoughts.

To effectively correct a comma splice, consider the following approaches:

  • Divide into separate sentences. Split the clauses to improve clarity.
    • “The seminar ended late. Everyone rushed to leave.”
  • Use a semicolon or a colon. These punctuation marks appropriately separate related independent clauses.
    • “The seminar ended late; everyone rushed to leave.”
  • Link with a conjunction. A conjunction can smoothly connect the clauses, keeping their relationship.
    • “The seminar ended late, so everyone rushed to leave.”

Each method provides a different way to correct the comma splice, ensuring the sentence stays grammatically sound while getting the planned meaning clearly.

Missing comma in compound sentences

Run-on sentences often result from missing commas, particularly when using words like ‘for,’ ‘and,’ ‘nor,’ ‘but,’ ‘or,’ ‘yet,’ and ‘so’ to join independent clauses.

Example of incorrect usage:

  • “He studied all night he was still unprepared for the test.” This sentence combines two independent clauses without the necessary punctuation, leading to a grammatical error known as a run-on sentence.

To correct this issue, consider the following approach:

  • Add a comma before the conjunction. This method allows for a clear separation of the clauses while keeping their connected meaning.
    • “He studied all night, but he was still unprepared for the test.”

Addressing sentence mistakes like these is crucial for achieving clear and effective writing. The appropriate use of punctuation, be it commas, semicolons, or conjunctions, plays a key role in separating independent clauses. This guide is designed to assist you in identifying and correcting these common sentence mistakes, thereby improving the readability and coherence of your writing.


Avoiding sentence fragments for clear communication

After addressing the issue of run-on sentences, a common sentence mistake involving improperly joined independent clauses, our next focus is on another crucial aspect of clear and effective writing: sentence fragments.

Understanding and correcting sentence fragments

Just as proper punctuation is crucial for separating independent clauses in run-on sentences, recognizing and fixing sentence fragments is essential for ensuring complete and coherent communication. Sentence fragments are incomplete segments of writing missing critical elements like a subject (the main actor or topic) and a predicate (the action or state of the subject). Although these fragments can provide stylistic effects in creative or journalistic writing, they tend to be unsuitable and potentially confusing in formal or academic contexts.

Exploring subjects and predicates with examples

In sentence construction, the subject and predicate play key roles. The subject typically is a noun or pronoun that means the person or thing acting or being discussed. The predicate, generally centered around a verb, explains what the subject is doing or its state.

A sentence can have multiple subject-predicate combinations, but each subject must be paired with its corresponding predicate, holding a one-to-one proportion. Here are some examples to illustrate the dynamics of subjects and predicates:

  • Simple example: “Ducks fly.”
  • More detailed: “Elderly ducks and geese fly with caution.”
  • Expanded further: “Elderly ducks and geese, burdened by age, fly cautiously.”
  • Combination sentence: “Ducks soar in the sky; dogs roam the ground.”
  • Complex description: “Ducks glide more swiftly than geese when chased by barking dogs.”
  • Descriptive: “The dog eagerly chases the ball.”
  • Adding detail: “The dog catches the ball, now wet with slobber.”
  • Another layer: “The dog grabs the ball we recently purchased.”
  • Passive construction: “The ball is caught.”
  • Describing characteristics: “The ball becomes slippery, smelly, and chewy.”
  • More specifically: “The ball’s surface is slippery and emits a distinct smell.”
  • Even more specific: “The ball, covered in slobber, turns slippery and odorous.”

In each example, the relationship between the subject and the predicate is important. They work together to form complete, coherent thoughts, providing clarity and depth to the sentence.

Addressing incomplete sentences lacking a predicate

One of the most basic types of sentence fragments lacks a main verb, making it incomplete. A group of words, even if it has a noun, cannot form a complete sentence without a predicate.

Consider this example:

  • “Following the long journey, a new beginning.”

This phrase leaves the reader expecting more information and can be corrected in a couple of ways:

  • Joining with the previous sentence using punctuation:
    • “Following the long journey, a new beginning emerged.”
  • Rewriting to include a predicate:
    • “Following the long journey, they found a new beginning.”

Both methods turn the fragment into a complete sentence by providing the necessary action or state, thus fulfilling the need for a predicate.

Handling dependent clauses

Dependent clauses, while having a subject and a predicate, don’t get a complete thought on their own. They need an independent clause for a complete sentence.

These clauses often start with subordinating conjunctions like ‘although,’ ‘since,’ ‘unless,’ or ‘because.’ Adding these words to an independent clause converts it into a dependent one.

Consider these examples:

  • Independent clause: ‘The sun set.’
  • Dependent clause transformation: ‘Although the sun set.’

In this case, ‘Although the sun set’ is a dependent clause and a sentence fragment, as it introduces a condition but doesn’t complete the thought.

To form a full sentence, the dependent clause must be combined with an independent clause:

  • Incomplete: ‘Although the sun set.’
  • Complete: ‘Although the sun set, the sky remained bright.’
  • Alternative: ‘The sky remained bright, although the sun set.’

It’s important to remember that a semicolon isn’t used to connect a dependent clause to an independent clause. Semicolons are reserved for linking two closely related independent clauses.

Correcting misuses of the present participle

The present participle, a verb form ending in -ing (such as ‘dancing,’ ‘thinking,’ or ‘singing’), is often misapplied in sentences. It should not stand alone as the main verb unless it’s part of a continuous verb tense. Misusing it can lead to sentence fragments, as it may only modify a sentence without providing the main action.

A common error involves the misuse of the verb ‘to be,’ particularly in its ‘being’ form, instead of the simple present or past forms (‘is’ or ‘was’).

Example of misuse:

  • “She kept talking, her ideas flowing freely.” In this instance, ‘her ideas flowing freely’ is a fragment and lacks a main verb.

To correct such misuses, the fragment needs to be integrated into the sentence with a proper verb form:

  • Corrected: “She kept talking, and her ideas flowed freely.”
  • Alternative correction: “She kept talking, her ideas were flowing freely.”

In both corrected sentences, the ideas are now clearly expressed as complete thoughts, fixing the initial misuse of the present participle.


Managing the length of sentences for better clarity

After learning how to avoid sentence mistakes such as run-on sentences and sentence fragments, it’s equally important to pay attention to the overall length of sentences for clear communication. Even though long sentences may be grammatically correct, their complexity can cover the intended message, leading to potential misunderstandings.

Streamlining sentence length

While a long sentence can be grammatically correct, its complexity may obstruct readability. The key to clear writing often lies in keeping an optimal sentence length, ideally between 15 to 25 words. Sentences exceeding 30-40 words should generally be reviewed and possibly broken down for clarity.

To improve readability and effectively communicate your message, employing specific strategies to shorten sentences is required. These strategies focus on refining and focusing your writing, making it more accessible and understandable for the reader. Here are some key methods to consider:

  • Eliminating sameness. This means removing words or phrases that don’t add significant value or meaning to your sentence.
  • Separating complex thoughts. Focus on breaking down lengthy sentences into shorter, more direct segments that concentrate on a single idea or concept.

Now, let’s apply these strategies practically:

  • Lengthy sentence: “The exploration of Mars has yielded significant insights into the planet’s climate and geology, revealing potential signs of past water flow and offering clues about Mars’ capacity to support life.”
  • Streamlined revision: “Mars exploration has revealed key insights into its climate and geology. Evidence suggests past water flow, hinting at the planet’s ability to support life.”

This example shows how using these strategies can turn a lengthy sentence into more understandable, clear segments, thereby improving the overall readability of your writing.

Addressing long introductions

It’s essential to avoid overly detailed introductory phrases in your writing. A concise introduction guarantees that the main message isn’t overshadowed by extreme details.

For example:

  • Overly detailed: “With the advancements in artificial intelligence shaping numerous industries, from healthcare to finance, it’s evident that this technology will continue to have a profound impact.”
  • Concise revision: “Advancements in artificial intelligence are reshaping industries like healthcare and finance, indicating its ongoing impact.”

This concise approach to introductions helps keep focus on the main message, making your writing clearer and more engaging for the reader.


While shorter sentences often improve clarity and readability, overusing them can lead to a choppy, disjointed, or repetitive style. Balancing sentence lengths and employing transition words can help in weaving your ideas more cohesively. This approach addresses a common sentence mistake in writing – the excessive use of brief sentences.

Example of combining short sentences:

  • “The experiment began early. Observations were made hourly. Results were recorded meticulously. Each step was crucial.”

Although each sentence is correct, the narrative might feel fragmented. A more integrated approach could be:

  • “The experiment began early, with observations made hourly and results recorded meticulously, highlighting the crucial nature of each step.”

By linking these short sentences, the text becomes smoother and the flow of information more natural, improving the overall readability and coherence of your writing.


This article provides you with vital strategies to correct common sentence mistakes, improving your writing’s clarity and effectiveness. From tackling run-on sentences and fragments to balancing sentence length and structure, these insights are important for clear communication. Embracing these techniques will not only fix sentence mistakes but also improve the style of writing, ensuring your ideas are shared with accuracy and impact. Remember, clear and effective writing is within your reach through the mindful application of these principles.

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