Building Better Sentences Help (page 2)

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 13, 2011

Creating Balance With Parallel Verb Forms

Look at a different kind of balancing error:

    Incorrect: For exercise, I like dancing and to in-line skate.

In this sentence there is an action verb, like, followed by words that express what exercises this person likes. Are they expressed in the same form? No, the first, dancing, ends in -ing while the second, in-line skate, is introduced by to. Choose either form but never both:

    Correct: I like to dance and to in-line skate.
    Correct: I like dancing and in-line skating.
    How would you correct the following sentence?
    Incorrect: I gave my old car to my nephew, my water skis to my father, and my tennis racket I gave away to a charity.

At the beginning of the sentence, you see two parallel constructions: my old car to my nephew and my water skis to my father. How can you change the wording of the last gift—the tennis racket—to the same form? Just revert to the form already used: car to my nephew, skis to my father, and tennis racket to a charity.

    Correct: I gave my old car to my nephew, my water skis to my father, and my tennis racket to a charity.
    Often, balancing errors occur when verbs are expressed in different forms:
    Incorrect: I enjoy writing poetry, reading biographies, and stamp collection is a favorite of mine.

There are three actions in the sentence, writing, reading, and collecting. They need to be expressed in the same way. If you start with writing, an -ing ending verb, continue with that form. Notice that collection is a noun, but, as you know, English words can do more than one job. In this case, change the noun, collection, into an action word:

    Correct: I enjoy writing poetry, reading biographies, and collecting stamps.

Creating Balance With Correlative Conjunctions

Another form of balancing a sentence involves correlative conjunctions.

Examples are either/or, neither/nor, both/and, not only/but also. These conjunction pairs need to be used correctly so that sentences are balanced:

    Incorrect: Nadia is not only a fine doctor but an accomplished artist also.

In this sentence, Nadia is two things—a fine doctor and an accomplished artist. Two phrases link doctor to artist. What are they? They are not only and but. However, you need to add the word also, which just happens to be misplaced. The corrected sentence follows:

    Correct: Nadia is not only a fine doctor but also an accomplished artist.

In the same way that not only comes before a fine doctor, but also must be placed before an accomplished artist.

Creating Well-Connected Sentences

Writers add meaning and emphasis to sentences by using connecting words. Now you will see how you use conjunctions to connect sentences or parts of sentences to each other. The conjunction you choose depends upon the relationship of the parts to each other.

For example, how would you combine these two equally important statements to make one stronger sentence?

    Our children are very good at sports. We've decided to send them to a sports day camp this summer.

First look at this list of coordinating conjunctions:

  • also
  • and
  • besides
  • but
  • consequently
  • for
  • further
  • furthermore
  • however
  • moreover
  • nor
  • or
  • so
  • then
  • therefore
  • thus
  • yet

A simple way to coordinate or connect these two equal thoughts would be to use the word so:

    Our children are unusually good at sports, so we've decided to send them to a sports day camp this summer.

Notice that a comma is inserted before so.

    Using the word therefore can make an even stronger connection. However, with any of the longer conjunctions, a semicolon precedes the word and a comma follows it:
    Our children are unusually good at sports; therefore, we've decided to send them to a sports day camp this summer.

Later you will learn much more about the role of punctuation in combining sentences. Now look for a connection between the following two thoughts:

    Eden gave us too many alternatives. It confused us.

If you simply add the word and, you successfully bring the two thoughts together.

    Eden gave us too many alternatives, and it confused us.

NOTE: Whenever you've written a sentence that begins with it (e.g., It confused us.), look again. That sentence can undoubtedly join the previous one.

    One more example:
    I paid for the car. Jan does nothing but complain about it.

Choose a conjunction that shows a contrast between the generosity of the person in the first sentence and the lack of appreciation of the person in the second sentence.

    I paid for the car, yet Jan does nothing but complain about it.

Using Conjunctions to Connect Ideas That Are Not Equal

Obviously, good writers use the appropriate words to bring ideas together. However, the writer also has to make decisions about the relative importance of the ideas in a sentence. For example, in the following sentence, which of the two clauses seems to be the less important one?

    If we train diligently, our team can win the title.

You might begin by reading the first clause (all of the words before the comma). Do you think that clause can stand alone as a sentence? The answer, of course, is no. The word If makes the clause dependent, that is, dependent upon the rest of the sentence to complete the thought.

    If we train diligently…

You read about such a clause in Chapter 1; it is a fragment. After reading it, you want to ask, "Then what?" The answer to the question is in the rest of the sentence (after the comma), rightfully named the independent clause. Our team can win the title is independent because it can stand alone as a sentence. The writer added the if clause to stress one idea over another.

    Now look for a connection between the following two thoughts:
    Although he likes to walk in the woods and photograph flowers, David loves to rest in an open field.

What did the writer want to emphasize in this sentence? The word although signals the dependent clause, the part of the sentence that cannot stand alone. It tells you that the writer wanted to emphasize the second (or independent) half of the sentence. The first part of the sentence is subordinated to the second half by the word although.

    Look at another example:
    Although you have driven for many more years than I have, I have experience in cross-country driving.

What is this sentence stressing, the years of driving or the cross-country driving experience? The latter is the stressed idea and the independent clause. How do you know? The clause can stand alone. The clause starting with although would be a fragment if it stood alone. What one word makes it a dependent clause? The word although does that.

To connect ideas that are not equal, choose from the following list of conjunctions:

  • after
  • although
  • as
  • because
  • if
  • since
  • though
  • unless
  • when
  • whenever
  • where
  • whereas

Using Conjunctive Adverbs to Show Relationship of Ideas

Another kind of sentence-building conjunction shows a particular relationship between independent clauses. Grammarians call these conjunctive adverbs. Conjunctive adverbs are adverbs that act as a transition between complete ideas. They normally show comparison, contrast, cause-effect, sequence, or other relationships. They usually occur between independent clauses or sentences. Because they are transition words, conjunctive adverbs can occur at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of either the second of the two clauses in a compound sentence or in the second of two related sentences. For example:

    You haven't shown any interest in the project; therefore, I will lead it. (Therefore = the logical conclusion.)

Notice that the conjunction therefore is preceded by a semicolon and followed by a comma.

    Look at more examples:
    My nephew is not a very good Ping-Pong player; nevertheless, he loves the game. (Nevertheless = a not-so-logical conclusion)
    We were experiencing the hottest day of the year; consequently, we kept the children in the baby pool for as long as possible. (Consequently = as a direct result.)

Following is a more complete list of conjunctions that are used to connect and show the relationship between two independent clauses. Conjunctive adverbs express time, contrast, result, condition, and addition. The list organizes the conjunctions according to these categories.

    Conjunctive Adverbs That Express Time

then               meanwhile       at one moment… at the next

afterward       later                sometimes… sometimes

henceforth      soon               now… then

    Conjunctive Adverbs That Express Addition

likewise           moreover       in addition

furthermore      besides         partly… partly

then too            also              for one thing… for another (thing)

    Conjunctive Adverbs That Express Contrast

however                     nevertheless       still

on the contrary           instead               rather

exactly the opposite    on (the) one hand… on the other hand

    Conjunctive Adverbs That Express Result

consequently       hence               then             therefore

thus                    accordingly       as a result

    Conjunctive Adverb That Expresses Condition

otherwise (= if not)

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