One of the most common writing errors is the use of incomplete sentences. I work with my college students on this very frequently, and here’s what I tell them (and you don’t even have to pay tuition to get this!):
A grammatically complete sentence needs to contain a subject (the actor, a noun), a verb (action word), and an object (the thing acted upon, also a noun). Simple example:
John (subject) walked (verb) the dog (object).
Of course, most sentences are more complicated than the example above, but they all need to contain a subject, a verb, and an object. Slightly more complicated example:
John (subject), who was home from college during the month of January, and who had determined to go to three concerts while he was home, walked (verb) the dog (object) from his house to the playground and back, meeting Susan while he was there.
Now of course there are several nouns in this sentence, and there are several verbs as well. But what writers refer to as the core sentence (the basic sentence once we’ve removed the extraneous information) is still ‘John walked the dog‘. Look for the core sentence in even the most complex sentence you write, and make certain that it contains a subject, a verb, and an object–then you’ve got a complete sentence grammatically.
There is one other quality that a complete sentence needs besides a correct grammatical structure, though, and this one has to do with the meaning of the sentence. It needs to be a complete and sensible thought. This one is a little trickier, because it refers to the sentence having to make sense–that is, having to be clear and meaningful as it stands, by itself. Example:
John walked the airplane.
This sentence contains a subject, a verb, and an object, but it’s a nonsensical thought; people don’t walk airplanes, do they?
Similarly, the following sentence, although grammatically correct, doesn’t contain a complete, coherent thought. Example:
John, although he liked to skydive and was a trained spelunker, walked the dog to the moon.
One more time–this time with a clearly incomplete thought:
And he walked the dog.
Do you see where we’re going with this? Grammatical correctness and a complete thought are both qualities that a complete sentence must possess to be really complete. Check out www.linkedineditor.com or email me with questions or comments.
More to come; film at 11:00.