The last step in the editing process is ensuring your grammar and punctuation is accurate. Familiarize yourself with sentence structure, parallelism, punctuation, articles and prepositions if you are not sure. Proofread your writing for the smaller errors like spelling or typos that can trip your reader.
Complete the activities or read the text below to learn about the types of sentences.
Complete this activity to learn about the different types of sentences. opens in new window
Complete this activity to learn how to identify and correct run-on sentences in your essays.
There are three main types of grammatically correct sentences: simple sentences, compound sentences, and complex sentences. When a sentence is not constructed correctly, it can sometimes be known as a run-on sentence. Read more about each type of sentence below:
A simple sentence consists of one independent clause, which means that it normally has a single subject and a single verb (although it can have compound subjects or verbs), and expressing a complete thought.
Sentences fall into four types based on their functions or the jobs that they do.
You can combine simple sentences to create compound sentences.
A compound sentence consists of two simple sentences (independent clauses) that are joined by a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS= for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
Complex sentences consist of at least one independent clause and one dependent clause. A dependent clause contains a subject and a verb, but does not express a complete thought.
If the dependent clause appears first, it is followed by a comma. There is no comma when the independent clause is followed by a dependent clause.
Complex sentences show relationships between the independent clause and the dependent clause, such as time or cause and effect.
A run-on sentence is a sentence in which two or more independent clauses are joined without either a semi-colon or a comma with a coordinating conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). There are two types of run-on sentences fused sentences and comma splices.
A fused sentence happens when independent clauses are merged without any punctuation or coordinating conjunctions.
A comma splice occurs when two or more independent clauses are joined only by a comma.
There are several ways to correct a run-on sentence:
Learn about common punctuation marks in the activity or in the text below.
Complete this activity to learn about commas, semi-colons, and colons and when to use them. opens in new window
The type of punctuation mark you use will depend on the sentence you are writing. Use the guidelines below to help you determine when you should use a comma, a semi-colon, or a colon.
An independent clause is a group of words with at least one subject and one verb that can stand alone as its own sentence. A coordinating conjunction is a word (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so) that joins two independent clauses. When you are joining two independent clauses with a coordinating conjunction, use a comma, followed by the coordinating conjunction.
Memory tip for coordinating conjunctions: To help you remember all the coordinating conjunctions, use the mnemonic FANBOYS which stands for for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so
When there are two sentences, a comma alone cannot be used to connect the two sentences, for this would be a comma splice. One can instead use one of the following three options: 1) a period; 2) a comma followed by a coordinating conjunction; 3) a semicolon (if the two sentences/independent clauses are related in meaning).
When three or more items are listed in a series, a comma is placed between the items. Examples:
Remember, for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so are the coordinating conjunctions.
When two or more adjectives are used to describe a noun, put a comma between the adjectives.
Caution: Sometimes, using a comma to separate listed adjectives is not necessary. In order to find out if it is necessary, you should apply these two tests:
If these two tests prove to be successful, use a comma to separate the two adjectives.
Any material that can be left out of the sentence without changing the main idea is nonessential. This information is known as a non-restrictive adjective clause.
There are two ways to separate this non-essential material from the rest of the sentence:
When the non-restrictive adjective clause is in the middle of a sentence, commas should be placed before and after.
If you were to remove ‘who went to Seneca College’, the sentence would still be complete and clear.
When the non-restrictive adjective clause is at the end of a sentence, it should be preceded by a comma and followed by a period.
If you were to remove ‘which you can find in the closet’, the sentence would still be complete and clear.
Transitions are words or phrases that connect the ideas of one sentence to another or one paragraph to another.
When a transitional word (therefore, however, thus, first, second, etc.) or phrase is used, a comma is placed after it.
You can use commas to separate a word or group of words that interrupt the flow of the sentence. Examples:
Some expressions that are generally set off with commas include: however, in fact, at any rate, of course I think, therefore, by the way, finally.
When a direct quotation is used, a comma is placed after the word that declares the direct quotation.
When a direct quotation is before the declaring word, a comma is placed at the end of the quotation within the quotation marks.
A dependent clause is a phrase that cannot stand alone – it needs an independent clause to make sense. Dependent clauses often contain words that indicate time (e.g. From, After, While, When, etc.).
When you write out a date, use a comma to separate the day from the month, and to separate the date from the year.
When you write out an address, use a comma between the street address and the city, and between the city and the province or territory.
The semicolon marks the dividing point in a compound sentence (a sentence made up of two independent clauses that are not joined by a coordinating conjunction).
The semicolon is useful in punctuating major sentence elements which themselves contain commas.
The colon is principally used to introduce a list in conjunction with such words as following or as follows. The colon may only be used after an independent clause.
Learn about prepositions in the activity or in the text below.
Complete this activity to learn how to use prepositions. opens in new window
A preposition connects a noun or a pronoun with other parts of a sentence. It usually indicates direction, location or time.
about, before, down, of, toward, above, below, during, off, under, across, beneath, for, on, until, after, beside, from, onto, up, against, between, in, over, upon, along, beyond, inside, since, with, among, by, into, through, within, around, concerning, like, throughout, without, at, despite, near, to
according to, by way of, in spite of, ahead of, contrary to, in view of, apart from, due to, instead of, as for, in addition to, by means of, as well as, in case of, out of, because of, in place of
A prepositional phrase occurs when a preposition is followed by a noun, with or without an article or a possessive pronoun in between. Prepositional phrases can have three functions: adjectival, adverbial, nominal.
An adjectival prepositional phrase functions as an adjective. It appears after the noun it modifies.
An adverbial propositional phrase functions as an adverb. It has three possible positions in a sentence:
A nominal prepositional phrase functions as a noun. Like a noun, it can be the subject of a sentence (1), the object of the verb (2), or the subject complement (3). Nominal phrases can appear on either side of a verb.
Articles are words that appear before nouns and give us information about the noun that they appear with, such as whether the noun is specific or non-specific. There are three articles that you can choose from: ‘the’, ‘an’, and ‘a’. Most nouns will be accompanied by one of these articles, although some types of nouns do not have an article.
Use the boxes below to determine which article you should use in various situations. You can also download the Tip sheet for Article Use opens in new window for future reference.
Use ‘the’ before proper nouns that are plural and that don’t express a nationality or membership.
Use ‘the’ before the name of a river, ocean, or historical period.
Use ‘the’ before proper nouns that express a nationality or membership and that are specific.
Use ‘the’ before countable common nouns that are specific.
Use ‘the’ before uncountable common nouns that are specific.
Use ‘a’ before proper nouns that express a nationality or membership, are singular, non-specific, and begin with a consonant sound.
Use ‘an’ before proper nouns that express a nationality or membership, are singular, non-specific, and begin with a vowel sound.
Use ‘a’ before countable common nouns that are singular, non-specific, and begin with a consonant sound.
Use ‘an’ before countable common nouns that are singular, non-specific, and begin with a vowel sound.
Do not use an article before proper nouns that don’t express a nationality or membership, that are singular, and that are not the name of a river, ocean, or historical period.
Do not use an article before proper nouns that express a nationality or membership, and that are plural and nonspecific.
Do not use an article before countable common nouns that are plural and non-specific.
Do not use an article before uncountable common nouns that are non-specific.
Learn about the parallelism principle in the activity or in the text below.
Complete this activity to learn how to use prepositions. opens in new window
When writing items in a series, you must be sure that all of the items are parallel; that is, the items must be written in the same grammatical form. For example, if the first two verbs in a sentence end in '–ing', the third verb should also end in '–ing'.
Rule: Correct faulty parallelism by giving the same grammatical form to all of the items in a series.
One way to determine whether all the items in a list are parallel is to picture (or actually write) the items in list form, one below the other. That way, you can make sure that all the elements are in the same grammatical form – they are all words, or phrases, or clauses.
Note: Sentences that are not in parallel form sound awkward, and sometimes the meaning is unclear. By making sure that your sentences are in parallel form, your writing will flow better, and your ideas will be clearer.
Consider the following sentence: “Sharon is kind, considerate, and likes to help.” Write the items in list form:
- Likes to help
The last item is not in the same grammatical form as the first two items; therefore, the sentence is not parallel.
Hint: If you read the third item in place of the first item, it does not work – “Sharon is likes to help” is not grammatically correct. However, you can reword the sentence: “Sharon is kind, considerate, and helpful.”
Write the items in list form:
All three items are in the same grammatical form; therefore, the sentence is parallel.
|I support myself by tending bar, playing piano, and shoot pool.||I support myself by tending bar, playing piano, and shooting pool.|
|Her upbringing made her neat, polite, and an obnoxious person.||Her upbringing made her neat, polite, and obnoxious.|
|Gordon tried to do what is right, different things, and make a profit.||Gordon tries to do what is right, what is different, and what is profitable.|
|With his mind sharp, by having the boss as his uncle, and few enemies, he’ll go far.||With his sharp mind, the boss as his uncle, and few enemies, he’ll go far.|
Prefixes and suffixes are groups of letters that can be added to the root of many words to modify the meaning of those words. Learn prefixes and suffixes to quickly improve your vocabulary.
Here are some examples of prefixes and suffixes that you can use in your writing.
A prefix is added to beginning of a word.
Meaning: Over, more than
Example: Hypersonic, hypersensitive
Meaning: Under, less than
Example: Hypodermic, hypoglycemia
Meaning: Between, connecting
Example: Intervene, international
Meaning: Enlarge, large
Example: micrometer, microscopic
Meaning: Recent, new
Example: Neologism, neophyte
Example: Postwar, postscript
Example: Previous, prepublication
Meaning: Before, onward
Example: Project, propel
Meaning: Again, back
Example: Review, recreate
Meaning: Under, beneath
Example: Subhuman, submarine
Meaning: Over, above
Example: Supercargo, superimpose
Meaning: At the same time
Example: Synonym, synchronize
Meaning: Across, over
Example: Transport, transition
A suffix is added to the end of a word.
Meaning: State or quality
Example: Democracy, privacy
Meaning: Act of
Example: Rebuttal, refusal
Meaning: State or quality of
Example: Maintenance, eminence
Meaning: Place or state of being
Example: Freedom, thralldom
Meaning: One who
Example: Trainer, investor
Meaning: doctrine or belief
Example: Liberalism, Taoism
Meaning: Characteristic of one who
Example: Organist, physicist
Meaning: Quality of
Example: Veracity, opacity
Meaning: State of being
Example: Watchfulness, cleanliness
Meaning: Position held
Example: Professorship, fellowship
Meaning: State of being or action
Example: Digression, transition
Verb suffixes are added to the end of word roots to create verbs.
Meaning: Cause to be
Example: Concentrate, regulate
Meaning: Cause to be or become
Example: Enliven, blacken
Meaning: Make or cause to become
Example: Unify, terrify, amplify
Meaning: Cause to become
Example: Magnetize, civilize
Adjective suffixes are added to the end of word roots to create adjectives.
Meaning: Capable of being
Example: Assumable, edible
Meaning: Pertaining to
Example: Regional, political
Meaning: Reminiscent of
Example: Picturesque, statuesque
Meaning: Having a notable quality
Example: Colourful, sorrowful
Meaning: Pertaining to
Example: Poetic, mythic
Meaning: Having the quality of
Example: Prudish, clownish
Meaning: Of or characterized by
Example: Famous, nutritious
Meaning: Having the nature of
Example: Active, aggressive