SENTENCE REVISION

 

Wordiness

Here is an example of a wordy sentence and possible revisions. Notice that the revised

sentences are clearer and more concise. Hint: eliminating forms of the verb to be often

resolves wordiness.

 

The Stanton house as it exists now in the present day still shows evidence of the

attempt of Cady Stanton to simplify her household duties.

 

Revision: The Stanton house still shows evidence of Cady Stanton's attempt to

simplify her household duties.

 

Fragments

A sentence fragment occurs when a writer presents a portion of a sentence as if it were a

complete sentence. The fragment in the following example are italicized.

 

Hamlet sees his father's ghost frequently. Which almost makes him insane.

 

Revision: Hamlet's frequent sightings of his father's ghost almost make him

insane.

 

 

Passive Voice

The passive voice is often misleading and wordy. When a writer uses passive voice

verbs, the reader is unable to determine who or what is the source of the action. Using

active voice makes a sentence clearer and livelier, because the sentence states the source

of the action. In the examples below, the passive constructions in the original sentences

are italicized. Note that the active voice verbs cuts down on wordiness.

 

The process of modernization in any society is seen as a positive change.

 

Revision: Most people see the modernization of a society as a positive change.

 

 

Subject-Verb Agreement

Placing subjects close to their verbs reduces subject-verb agreement errors. If the subject

of a sentence is singular, the verb must be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must

be plural. Subjects and verbs are italicized in the following sentence.

 

 Each of the female characters, as well as the male characters they interact with, seem

to have difficulty with the transition from traditional to modern values.

 

Revision: Each of the female characters, as well as the male characters they

interact with, seems to have difficulty with the transition from traditional to

modern values.

 

Unclear Pronoun Reference

Always make clear to whom or to what pronouns refer. In addition, be sure that

pronouns and their antecedents agree in number and gender. The unclear pronouns are

italicized in the following example.

 

 To keep the birds from eating seeds, soak them in blue food coloring.

 

Revision: Soak the seeds in blue food coloring to keep the birds from eating

them.

 

 

Dangling or Misplaced Modifiers

Dangling or misplaced modifiers refer to the wrong word in the sentence. To revise such

constructions, use the word to which the modifier refers as a subject of the main clause

(example 1), or move the modifier closer to the word it modifies (examples 2 and 3).

The problem modifiers in the following sentences are italicized.

 

After reading the original study, the article remains unconvincing.

 

Revision: After reading the original study, I remain unconvinced.

 

 

Subordination

Subordination allows a writer to combine ideas to demonstrate the relationship of one

idea to another. When using subordination, place the key idea of the sentence in the

independent clause and the less important idea in the subordinate clause. Notice how the

construction of complex sentences with subordination can eliminate short, choppy

sentences. The subordinate clauses are italicized in the revisions.

 

The novel is very powerful. It concerns the rights of women in the twentieth century.

 

Revision: The novel, which concerns the rights of women in the twentieth

century, is very powerful.

 

Parallel Structure

Parallel elements share the same grammatical form. The use of parallel structure creates

a symmetrical, graceful construction that is pleasing to the reader. The parallel structures

are italicized in the following revisions.

 

Three reasons why steel companies keep losing money are that their plants are

inefficient, high labor costs, and foreign competition is increasing.

 

Revision: Three reasons why steel companies keep losing money are inefficient

plants, high labor costs, and increasing foreign competition.

 

Comma, Semicolon, and Colon Usage Errors

Students frequently misuse commas, semicolons, and colons. A thorough discussion of

these and other errors can be found in any handbook of writing, including the Writing

Center handout “Punctuation Patterns,” the Hamilton College Style Sheet, and many other

handbooks available on-line and at the Writing Center. If you are uncertain about when

to use these marks of punctuation--or any other aspect of sentence construction--check

with your professor or a writing tutor.

 

Now, do it.