Writing - Sentence Structure for CBEST Exam Study Guide (page 3)
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.
There's a problem with the first sentence of that paragraph, too. Never start a sentence with "In my opinion" or "I think." If you didn't think it, you wouldn't be writing it. The first sentence of the first body paragraph should read simply:
A uniform policy will benefit parents.
Over and Over
Avoid redundancy. Try to keep your sentences as succinct as possible without losing meaning. Make every word and phrase count. Here's an example of a redundant sentence from the first body paragraph:
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.
The phrase will need to buy is in there twice. Get rid of it. Children, who are often demanding can be changed to Demanding children. The words for school can be left out, because that's a given. So now you have a shorter, more effective sentence:
Demanding children will have already agreed on what clothes their parents will need to buy, so there will be fewer arguments.
Make sure you have a quality eraser—unless you are perfect! Find an eraser that will erase pencil marks from newsprint without leaving smudges or tearing. Your essay paper will not be newsprint, but if an eraser can erase newsprint, it can erase anything. Avoid replacing a word with another by writing darker over the first word without erasing first. When you need to add a word, avoid "^" marks. Erase the words before and after the word you will put in, and put three words in place of two.
Sentence Stowaways and Sentence Order
Avoid writing sentences that are not on the same general topic as the rest of the paragraph. Did you notice the stowaway in the paragraph on parents? The sentence Children and teachers like it too does not belong in that paragraph.
The order of the sentences in your paragraph is just as important as the order of the paragraphs in your essay. If you are writing about money parents will save, put all the sentences on money together. Provide transitions for your sentences, just as you did with your paragraphs. You can join sentences with words such as besides, second, lastly, and so on, or you can add subtopic sentences.
Try rearranging the paragraph on parents in a logical order. You have two subtopics: money and peace in the family. So add a subtopic sentence to announce the first sub-idea:
First, uniforms would save parents money.
The fake survey you added at the end of the paragraph reports statistics on both money and peace, so that's a great way to tie the two topics together. The rest of the sentences should all fit under one of the two subtopics. If you have something that doesn't fit, just leave it out. Here's one way to provide a more logical organization:
A uniform policy will benefit parents. First, uniforms will save parents money. Parents will not have to provide their children with a different matched set of clothes for each day, so they will need to buy fewer school clothes for their children. Because uniforms are all the same style and shape and usually very well made, they can be passed down from an older child to a younger one, or even sold. On a recent survey, parents new to school uniforms reportedly saved a whopping $100–$200 on school clothes per child the first year. The survey also reported that 95% of parents attributed an increased feeling of peace to the adoption of the uniform policy. Children will have already agreed on what clothes their parents will need to buy, so there will be fewer arguments.
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