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English Writing Structures Every Student Should Use

February 15, 2016 - Posted toStudy and Education

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Writing Structures that is Fit For All Purposes

Formal English. That’s what instructors and professors will demand unless they tell you otherwise. There are several structural “rules” for writing well in formal English. Here are the 3 most important writing structures you must master.

Sentence Structure

  1. Fragments: Everyone knows that a sentence must have a subject and a verb. If it does not, it is consider a fragment. But there are other types of fragments as well. Consider this two-sentence example.

Bill came home early from the game. Because he was sick.

The first sentence is a fully complete and correct one. While the 2nd sentence has a definite subject and verb, it is not a complete sentence. It is due to that word “because.” “Because” is a connecter word and always introduces a phrase or clause that cannot stand on its own. Be very careful in your writing to check for these phrases and clauses (they may begin with such words as “when, while,” and “as.”)

  1. Run-Ons: Run-ons occur when two sentences are put together without connection. Here is an example:

 

Sally met Jill for lunch, they loved their shrimp salad and Kaiser rolls.

 

The comma does not act as a “connector. You have two complete sentences and they must have a connection word in between. In this case it should be “and.” The other fix for this is to put a semi-colon between the two.

  1. Types of Sentences: There are three types of sentences in the English language, and all are used in formal writing.
  1. Simple: One subject and one verb. “Paul fixed his own computer.”
  2. Complex: Either more than one subject and/or more than one verb. “Paul and Joe fixed their own computers and saved a bunch of money.”
  3. Compound: Two complete sentences joined by a conjunction. “Paul fixed his own computer, and he showed Joe how to fix his.”
  1. Misplaced Modifiers: These can cause some humorous mis-understandings, but no matter what, they should be avoided. “On the way home, she found a green women’s purse.” The purse was green not a woman. “Knowing that he needed more training, a video was watched.” The video was not doing any watching. Correction: “Knowing he needed more training, he watched a video.”
  2. Subject-Verb Agreement: Nothing grates more on a professor to read writing with mistakes in agreement. Example: “Bill and Jan was watching the movie.” If you have issues with this, get a good grammar guide and fix these before you ever turn something in.
  3. Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement: This can be a bit tricky, because in informal conversation and writing, we all make the same mistake. “Everyone has their money for the trip.” “Everyone” is a singular pronoun and has to have a singular pronoun that refers back to it. Correction: “Everyone has his/her money for the trip.” Formal writing demands that you get this right.

Note: In formal writing, it is a good idea to vary the types of sentences you use. This will make your writing more interesting. Use short simple sentence to make a strong point or emphasize an important or shocking piece of information.

Paragraph Structure

Students tend to have 3 common issues with paragraph writing. They ramble on, covering too much in a single paragraph; they fail to have a topic sentence, and the reader has to try to figure out the point of the paragraph; or they do not use good transitions from one paragraph to the next, an error that makes the whole piece seem disjointed.

  1. Topic Sentences: Each paragraph has a single point and that point is summarized in the topic sentence. It is usually at the beginning of the paragraph but not always. Thus, “All mammals give live birth” is a topic sentence for a paragraph that will provide detail, perhaps examples, for this topic.
  2. More Than One Topic: If you have a good topic sentence, then this problem is easy to avoid. Every sentence in your paragraph must relate to your topic. If you read over your paragraph and a sentence does not relate, dump it.
  3. Transitions: When you write an essay, there has to be a flow. This is accomplished by transition sentences from one paragraph to the next. You can either do this at the end of a paragraph or at the beginning of the next one, but it has to happen. If I were writing an essay on the common traits of all mammals, and I had just finished a paragraph on giving live birth, the end of that paragraph will need to have a sentence leading the reader into the next common trait of the next paragraph. I might say something like, “Those babies that have just been born have something else in common.” Then the next paragraph might deal with the fact that mammals have hair or that they are nursed by their mothers.

Essay/Paper Structure

Unless you are writing a narrative (a story), every piece of formal writing must have three parts – an introduction, a body, and a conclusion. Be sure that you understand the purpose of each part.

Introduction: Always introduces your topic and provides a thesis, or the major point you are making. That point can be an opinion you have formed, a reason why the topic is of importance, etc.

Body: This is your evidence to support that thesis. It is divided into paragraphs (or sections, in the case of a longer research paper). Each paragraphs or section is a sub-section of your topic.

Conclusion: You need to wrap up your essay or paper with final thoughts, a re-statement of your thesis or some recommendation. Here is my example conclusion of this post:

Formal writing requires that students lose the type of conversational and informal style that they use every day and focus on good English structure. This means that sentences must be grammatically correct, that paragraphs have the correct parts, and that essays and papers follow the established formal pattern. If you have issues with any of these things, you should get some help. Good structure will be a part of your grade on any piece of writing, even in a science course.

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