Sentences, by J. Spence


Sentences are groups of words put together to express complete thoughts and ideas. Each sentence contains a subject (noun or pronoun) and a verb (action word). It can consist of multiple words or simply two; eg. Marsha painted.

Sentences with complete thoughts can stand on their own. Another name for them-independent main clauses.

When comprising sentences, ask the following:

1. Does it contain a subject?
2 Does it have a verb?
3. Does it express a complete thought?

If you can’t answer yes to all three, then you have a fragment. If you answer yes to all three, then you have and independent clause.

A clause is a group of words containing a subject and a verb. However, some clauses that contain a subject and a verb CANNOT stand on their own. They form only part of a sentence. These groupings are called dependent or subordinate clauses.

Eg. When Brittany left the pool, everyone clapped.

“When Brittany left the pool” cannot stand on its own. It is a subordinate clause. It does not express a complete thought.


Fragments are a piece of a sentence that is mistakenly punctuated as a complete sentence. A fragment cannot stand alone because it lacks either a subject or verb, or because it’s not a complete thought.

Fragments fall into two basic categories:

1. phrases punctuated as sentences; and,
2. clauses punctuated as sentences.

Both are easy to fix.


1. Caught up in the excitement of the music, Doug began to beat out the rhythm. On the table top first and on his little brother’s head next. Prepositional phrase written as a sentence.

2. Dave’s favorite game is tag. Because he likes to be “it” and chase everyone. Subordinate clause written as a sentence.


1. Caught up in the excitement of the music, Doug began to beat out the rhythm, on the table top first; and then, on his little brother’s head next.

2. Dave’s favorite game is tag because he likes to be “it” and chase everyone.


Unified sentences are built using sentences. First, you begin with a main, or topic, sentence that announces the primary idea of the paragraph. The middle part of the paragraph should have additional sentences to develop the idea expressed in the topic sentence. The last sentence in a paragraph should complete or summarize the main idea.

I’m not sure I agree with this completely, but it’s standard practice to keep paragraphs short. It’s believed that children do not like to see blocks of solid print. I’ve found in this day and age that this though is changing somewhat as children as learning earlier things that waited until past toddler years and then some. Schools are moving children into more challenging levels, governmental testing has changed its degree of difficulty… I believe, children are expecting more of a challenge in their reading as reading levels alter. For the very early years, I would follow the standard expectations for now. For middle-grades, do your research to see where reading stands.

I’ve a few pages throughout my Iggy Squiggles series that are full of only text. Spacing is clear, letters are large and the wording is fun.

Some paragraphs can even be single lines, depending on what you’re writing and for whom. Dialogue must always have its own paragraph. When the speaker changes, new paragraph.


This is a personal pet peeve of mine. Seeing submissions with improper or imperfect punctuation is tiresome. Sentences should flow; ideas should run unhindered. I can tell you, if your manuscript is not punctuated properly; if the usage of commas, periods, etc. are not proper–your manuscript will end its journey in the trash can. Publishers want to see a clear and precise use of punctuation.

Remember: The ultimate goal of all punctuation is to clarify for the reader exactly what the writer is saying.


-Go on the end of a sentence. Periods are also used after abbreviations.


-are used as separators for: word strings, phrases, and clauses. Word strings could include: red, white, and blue; or, Do your dishes, eat lunch, and go to the store. There is debate about using a comma before the “and” in a string. I prefer to use it there.

-are used following introductory phrases and clauses (those that begin a sentence).

Phrases: Down in the meadow, the tall grass waved at the passing farmer.

Clauses: Either Cathy can own up to her mistake, or she can live with a guilty conscience.

There is so much more to know about commas, that I urge you to find an English course to brush up on this topic.

Quotation Marks

There are two types used in the English language: double and single

Double Quotation Marks

They are primarily used to enclose dialogue (conversation). Not so well known are some of the other times when double quotation marks are used.

They are:

Song titles, short story titles, poem titles, book chapter titles, yes… titles

Titles that are either underlined or italicized include: books, periodicals, movies, television programs, and works of art.

Note: Publishers use to prefer you submit your manuscripts in Courier type font (I2 point) and that you underline your titles when appropriate, rather than use italics. I’ve been told that this too is changing, so make sure you research the requirements of individual publishers at submission time.

Single Quotation Marks

They are also used in two ways. One is to enclose a quotation within a quotation.

eg. Margaret boasted, “Angelina said to me, ‘Margaret, you’re the best friend I have.'”

“Didn’t you hear him say, ‘Last one out has to do the dishes’?”

The second:

The second use of single quotation marks is to enclose a title in dialogue: “My favorite short story,” said Laura, “is ‘Rip Van Winkle.'”


A colon is used to call attention to what follows, which is usually a list of items.

A common mistake is using a colon after a verb or preposition. This is not done.

Eg. “All students are expected to have: a pen, a book, a ruler, and a notebook.”

Eg. All students are expected to: have a pen, a book, a ruler, and a notebook.”

Both sentences above, are not correct.


Semicolons are used to separate independent clauses that are not separated by a conjunction (and, but, etc.) The way it was explained to me is if there are two sentences that are two separate ideas yet related. Eg. It was so cold out; therefore, Sandra needed her mittens.

Semicolons are used to keep a list of items containing many commas from becoming confusing.

Eg. On television, were movies about the books The Stranger and the Guest, I’d Come, But I’m Busy, and Matthew, the Dragon Slayer.”

Here’s how I’d fix this sentence: “On television, the following movies were based on the books: The Stranger and the Guest; I’d Come, But I’m Busy; and, Matthew, the Dragon Slayer.”

Exclamation Point

Usually, there are no problems with this punctuation. Most writers understand it is used to express intense emotions such as surprise, fright and astonishment. Do not overuse it in a sentence.

Question Mark

To use this punctuation, the writer must possess a clear understanding of what is a direct question and an implied question.

An interrogative statement asks a direct question and should end with a question mark.

Implied questions are not direct questions and do not end with a question mark. Eg. Heather wondered where the treasure was.



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