Writing - Sentence Structure for CBEST Exam Study Guide
Even more important than a logical structure is the content of your essay. Generalizations need to be supported with exact and specific details, which you are free to make up. Your choice of words needs to be precise, your sentences varied, and your paragraphs unified. Your paragraphs should have connections between them so that your whole essay flows from one thought to another. Let us look at some of the sentence elements that make up good paragraphs.
Varied Sentence Structure
Within your paragraph, your sentences should be varied. It makes your essay more interesting and shows the test evaluators that you have mastered different sentence structures.
There are two types of sentence variation: sentence length and sentence structure. Sentence length should not be a problem. Put in some long sentences and some short ones. For varying the structure of a sentence, you might need to brush up on parts of speech and different types of clauses and phrases. If this is the case, go to your local library and check out a book on grammar, or check out some of the books on writing listed at the end of this chapter. The idea is not to be able to name all the different types of clauses, but only to be able to add some variety to your writing. The following exercise provides a few examples of various sentence structures.
Practice with Varied Sentence Structures
Rewrite the sentences so that they begin with the part of speech indicated.
- The cat scurried away quickly. (adverb)
- The runner, muscular from weight-lifting, won the marathon. (adjective)
- One must be limber to be a good gymnast. (infinitive)
- I store my scrapbook under my bed. (prepositional phrase)
- I hit an ice patch skiing down the slope. (participle)
- The law will not be passed if enough people do not sign the petition. (adverb clause)
- Quickly, the cat scurried away.
- Muscular from weight-lifting, the runner won the marathon.
- To be a good gymnast, one must be limber.
- Under my bed I store my scrapbook.
- Skiing down the slope, I hit an ice patch.
- If enough people do not sign the petition, the law will not be passed.
For an additional exercise, try writing sentences that begin with these words:
When beginning your sentences with a clause, try to avoid dangling clauses. A dangling modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that doesn't logically modify any other word in the sentence.
Walking home from school, the wind blew over a rose bush.
It sounds as if the wind was walking home from school! Instead you should write:
Walking home from school, I saw the wind blow over a rose bush.
Now the phrase walking home from school logically modifies the noun I.
If you start off with a clause, make sure that the who or what referred to in the clause begins the next part of the sentence.
Look for dangling clauses in the first body paragraph from the last lesson. You should find two.
In my opinion, a uniform policy will benefit parents. Because they are all the same style and shape and usually very well made, children can use the hand-me-downs of older siblings or other children. Parents they were also able to save money by buying fewer school clothes for their children. Children, who are often demanding, will have already agreed on what clothes their parents will need to buy so there will be fewer arguments over clothes for school their parents will need to buy. Children and teachers like it too. Parents are generally in favor of uniforms because you do not have to provide your children with a different matched set of clothes for each day. After buying uniforms the first year, more peace was reportedly experienced by 95% of the parents interviewed and many surveys reported that it saved them an average of $100–$200 in clothing costs.
Did you find them? Look at the second sentence.
Because they are all the same style and shape and usually very well made, children can use the hand-me-downs of older siblings or other children.
What is the same style and shape? The sentence says the children are. Here is a corrected version:
Because they are all the same style and shape and usually very well made, uniforms can be passed down from an older child to a younger one, or even sold.
Now look at the last sentence of the paragraph.
After buying uniforms the first year, more peace was reportedly experienced by 95% of the parents interviewed and many surveys reported that it saved them an average of $100–$200 in clothing costs.
Was it the peace that was buying the uniforms? Let's correct it:
On a recent survey, 95% of parents new to school uniforms attributed an increased feeling of peace to the adoption of the uniform policy. Parents also reportedly saved an average of $100–$200 on school clothes per child the first year.
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