Rule 1. A complete sentence contains a complete thought.
When you begin to write a sentence, you should know where you are going with it. Start by choosing the single or complete thought that you are stating, describing, explaining or asking.
One sentence = one complete thought. Don’t cram too much into one sentence.
Your reader mustn’t be confused or even puzzled after reading your sentence. Before writing ask yourself: What do I want to express? What is the purpose of my sentence?
Look at the sentence:
Whenever I see a spider.
Don't you wonder, “What happens whenever you see a spider?” The thought is not complete. So we can’t even call it a sentence. It lacks some information and on the whole doesn’t make sense. In order to make it complete we need to add something.
Whenever I see a spider I scream.
As you put your thought in writing, remember:
- Good sentences do not waste words. They use only enough words to carry the thought. They make their point . . . and stop.
A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts.
WORDY: We flew by air to Cleveland and returned back by bus.
CONCISE: We flew to Cleveland and returned by bus.
Second sentence avoids repetition, therefore sounds more natural. Learn to make you sentences short but informative.
- Good sentences are clear. They express a thought precisely and directly.
Never make a thought more complicated than it really is. Express yourself as simply and directly as possible.
Here is an example of a powerful, simple sentence:
At the center of nonviolence stands the principle of love. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
How much less effective it would be if stated in this way:
People who believe in nonviolence and practice it are really showing that they love others.
Question: Why is the first sentence so much better?
Answer: The first sentence is direct, clear, concise.
Rule 2. Every sentence needs a subject and a predicate.
A predicate (присудок) expresses action or state of being. A subject (підмет) tells you who or what is acting or being. The subject/verb pair is the heart and soul of the sentence.
The subject is usually found at the beginning of the sentence, but it can also appear in other positions.
SUBJECT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SENTENCE:
An experienced pilot was at the controls at the time of the crash.
SUBJECT AT THE END OF THE SENTENCE:
At the controls at the time of the crash was an experienced pilot.
SUBJECT WITHIN THE SENTENCE:
At the time of the crash, an experienced pilot was at the controls.
The predicate is the part of the sentence that tells or asks something about the subject.
The temperature dropped suddenly.
Prices are higher.
The predicate usually comes after the subject, but it can also appear in other positions.
PREDICATE AFTER THE SUBJECT:
The parking lot is next to the stadium.
PREDICATE BEFORE THE SUBJECT:
Next to the stadium is the parking lot.
PREDICATE PARTLY BEFORE AND PARTLY AFTER THE SUBJECT:
Is the parking lot next to the stadium?
One more essential step: Check to see that the subject and verb match. They must go together and make sense. To make a good match, as every computer-dating service knows, you have to pair like with like. In Grammarworld, you have to link singular subjects with singular verbs and plural subjects with plural verbs. The good news is that most of the time English verbs have only one form for both singular and plural. “I smile” and “the dinosaurs smile” are both correct, even though I is singular and dinosaurs is plural. You have to worry only in some special circumstances. (I’ll tell you about them next time).
Rule 3. Two or more ideas in a sentence must be joined correctly.
Some sentences are short. Some are long. Joining them is good. Combined sentences make a narrative more interesting. To join sentences correctly, you need one of the following:
- A conjunction (сполучник): To connect two complete sentences more or less equally, use and, or, and but and put a comma before the conjunctions (на відміну від української мови).
Paul washed the dishes, and I loaded them into the dishwasher.
The boat overturned, but nobody was injured.
I will bring my basketball, or we can use yours.
To highlight one thought and make the other less important, use such conjunctions as because, since, when, where, if, although, who, which, that etc.
We are moving to the city where my husband was born.
Since (оскільки) the movie had just come out, the tickets were quite expensive.
- A semicolon: A semicolon (a little dot over a comma) is put between two complete sentences and glues them together nicely. The two complete thoughts need to be related in some way. For example: "A man chooses; a slave obeys."
Rule 4. Every sentence finishes up with an endmark.
When you’re speaking, the listener knows you’ve completed a sentence because the thought is complete and your tone says that the end has arrived. In writing, you must finish with a period (крапка), question mark (знак запитання), or exclamation point (знак оклику). Periods are for statements, question marks are for (surprise) questions, and exclamation points scream at the reader.
There are much more things that worry me when I’m checking my student’s works such as incorrect article usage or the absence of articles, attempts to translate Ukrainian or Russian fixed phrases and so on. But fighting them is what we do during the whole learning process. Be patient. Learning the rules takes both time and effort.
Task. Now I want you to consider all the rules just stated and correct all the errors in the following paragraph:
Sherlock holmes and watson camping in the forest. They gone to bed and were laying beneath the night sky. Holmes’ said Whatson look up what do you see”
“I see thosands of stars.”
“And what do that means to you? Holmes ask?
“I suppose it mean that of all the planets, in the universe, we are truly fortunate to be here on Earth. We are small in Gods eyes should struggle every day to be worthy of our blessings. In a meteorological sense it mean, well have a sunny day tomorow. What does it mean to you Holmes”
“To me it, means someone have stole our tent”
P.S: If you're really so uncomfortable with the act of writing, try so-called free writing (writing nonstop for a set period of time, 20 minutes, for example.) Keep writing, even if you have to write something like, "I don't know what to write." This definitely gives certain results and is a good tool to make your English more fluent. Or you can also try talking to this guy http://www.rong-chang.com/tutor.htm. It's fun:).