Punctuation and Sentence Building Help

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Sep 14, 2011

Punctuation in Sentence Building

Sentence building has everything to do with punctuation. Punctuation is not the only issue, but it is an important one. For example, with the help of punctuation, simple sentences can be combined to produce compound, complex, and compound-complex ones. For example:

    Doreen could finish the task. Lily knew she wouldn't.

When you read the two preceding simple sentences, you can easily understand what they mean. The question, however, is this: How can you express this idea using an interesting style that clarifies the idea even more? The answer is to add a small word that allows you to bring the two sentences together to form a compound one:

    Doreen could finish the task, yet Lily knew she wouldn't.

The small connecting word yet establishes a contrast between what Doreen could do and what Lily, by contrast, knows Doreen will do. Clearly, a connecting word can pack a meaningful wallop!

By the time you finish studying this chapter, you will know the differences among the four types of sentences covered: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Obviously, sentence variety will make your writing more interesting. For example, read the following paragraph containing five simple sentences. No variety there! You will learn how to use combining words and punctuation to add variety to this paragraph and to your writing.

    A solitary mouse lived in the Timothy house. He crept about late at night. He looked for food. His enemy was always waiting for him. His enemy was the family cat.

Sentence building begins by reviewing the different kinds of English sentences.

Simple Sentences

A simple sentence is an independent clause containing a subject, a verb, and a complete thought. For example:

    Visualization prepares athletes for success.

No punctuation, other than a period, is necessary in this simple sentence. You can even add a compound subject, and the sentence remains a simple one:

    Visualization and practice prepare athletes for success.

In the second sentence, two nouns, visualization and practice, form the subject, but no comma is used to separate the two.

    Visualization and practice prepare athletes for peak performance and success.

In the preceding sentence, not only is there a compound subject but also a compound object of the preposition for.

    Visualization and practice prepare athletes for peak performance and success.

Still, no comma is necessary to separate the compound elements of this simple sentence.

Compound Sentences

Move on now to compound sentences, and you need to add punctuation. A compound sentence is composed of two independent clauses brought together by a comma and conjunction or just a semicolon.

Using Coordinating Conjunctions

As you will learn, there are two ways to connect these complete thoughts, but a comma alone is not one of them. Do you remember studying these coordinating conjunctions in Chapter 2?

    for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so

You can easily remember these coordinating conjunctions by using the acronym FANBOYS. The letters are the first letter of each conjunction

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