Fillers

Having overly wordy sentences is a common issue for many writers. Wordiness can be problematic, as having too many words in your writing could distract your readers from understanding the main idea it is supposed to convey.

Below is an example of an overly wordy line that uses too many fillers, followed by an example of how it could be made better:

Too wordy: So, let me just tell you about my friend Jeanne, who was really very late to our meeting, which made our group leader to, like, scold her off.

Better: My friend Jeanne was tardy for our meeting, which made our group leader scold her.

The fillers in the above example are “so”, “just”, “really”, “very”, “like”, and “off”. These words are considered fillers, because they do not add meaning to the sentences they are in. Even if these words are removed, the original meaning that the sentence conveys is still kept intact.

While it is unlikely for all the fillers listed above to surface in a single sentence, it is common for some of these filler words to pepper a student’ writing, especially if one is scrambling to think of what to write. It is useful to always proofread a piece of work after it has been completed, and to subsequently remove any filler words that may have been written into the first draft.

Run on Sentences II – Fused Sentences

Another type of run-on sentence is called the fused sentence. A fused sentence contains two or more independent clauses that run together, with no punctuation or subordinate conjunctions separating the clauses. A fused sentence is often more difficult to correct compared to a comma splice, as it is even trickier to figure out where the first clause ends, and where the second one begins.

Below is an example of a fused sentence, and how to correct it with the addition of appropriate punctuation, as well as some rephrasing:

Incorrect: In his haste to leave the house for school Dylan accidentally took his sister’s bag looking for his science assignment to submit to the teacher he was surprised to find that the bag only contained Primary 2 worksheets and colour pencils instead of his own books and stationery.

Correct: In his haste to leave the house for school, Dylan accidentally took his sister’s bag. While he was looking for his science assignment to submit to the teacher, he was surprised to find that the bag only contained Primary 2 worksheets and colour pencils, instead of his own books and stationery.

In the example above, a period is added to separate the clause on Dylan accidentally taking his sister’s bag and the following clause on his looking for his science assignment – this is done because the first clause can stand on its own without being followed by another clause.

In addition to simply adding conjunction words or punctuation to correct the example of the run-on sentence above (as would be the case for a comma splice), the student may also need to do some rephrasing to make a fused sentence grammatically correct. In this case, the phrase “While he was” is added to the second clause on Dylan looking for his science assignment, to make this clause stand independently on its own.

When in doubt as to whether a sentence is run-on, it is best to keep writing simple sentences that have a clear subject, verb, and object relationship. While it is still possible for long, complex sentences to be grammatically correct, it is safer to stick to writing short-but-grammatically-correct sentences first, until one is certain that the long sentences they write are no longer run-on.

Using the Wrong Vowels II

Students also commonly misspell words that have two consecutive vowels. One of the most common spelling errors occurs when students are unsure if the word should contain ie or ei – for instance, if the word should be spelled “receive” or “recieve”. When one is unsure of how to spell words with ie or ei, an easy mnemonic that students could remember is “I before E, except after C”.

As the rhyme suggests, in most instances, ie is the correct order in which these vowels are spelled, as in: “believe”, “lie”, “shied”, “cries”, “grief”, and “pierce”.

However, when a c precedes the vowel-duo, they should be spelled as ei, as in: “receive”, “deceive”, “conceive”, “ceiling”, “receipt”, and “conceit”.

While the rule “I before E, except after C” generally applies to most words that involve the consecutive vowels i and e, it is important to note that there are some exceptions to this rule. Such exemptions include:

ie after c: “efficient”, “fancied”, “policies”, “species”, “science”, and “society”

ei not preceded by c: “either”, “beige”, “feisty”, “their”, “seize”, “sleigh”, “vein”, and “weird”

Thus, it is important not to follow this mnemonic blindly, as there are several exceptions involved to this rule. One way a student could double-check their spelling is to pronounce the word out loud before spelling it out, and to listen if it makes the ie or ei sound.

Using the Wrong Vowels

Another type of spelling error can occur due to the incorrect use of vowels in a word – “grammer” and “grammar”, for example. Such spelling errors can occur because the way a student verbally pronounces a word may not directly correspond with how the word is spelled – such spelling errors can be further exacerbated if the student has the habit of mispronouncing certain words.

Here is a list of common spelling errors with the wrong use of vowels, followed by the correct spelling:

Calender – Calendar

Cemetary –  Cemetery

Collegue – Colleague

Definately – Definatly – Definitely

Dependant – Dependent

Aspecially – Especially

Exaggarate – Exaggerate

Grammer – Grammar

Independance – Independence

Pharoah – Pharaoh

Pronounciation – Pronunciation

Rediculous – Ridiculous

Seperate – Separate

Supposably – Supposedly

Tounge – Tongue

Truely – Truly

Even though the reader can still generally infer what these misspelled words are supposed to mean, making such rudimentary spelling errors can make the writer seem sloppy and unpolished. It is best to proofread one’s writing well and avoid making these errors altogether.

Run-On Sentences

Comma Splices

In contrast to sentence fragments, run-on sentences contain two or more clauses that could be separated to stand independently on their own, rather than being crammed into a single sentence.

One of the common ways in which run-on sentences find themselves into students’ writing is through the comma splice. The comma splice happens when there are two independent clauses that are merely separated by a comma, and this results in the ideas in the sentence being expressed in a somewhat awkward and abrupt manner. This could be corrected either by linking the two independent clauses together with a conjunction, or separating them with a semi-colon or a period, as shown in the example below:

Incorrect: The weather was nice and windy, she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 1: The weather was nice and windy, so she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 2: The weather was nice and windy; she decided to go cycling at ECP.

Correct 3: The weather was nice and windy. She decided to go cycling at ECP.

In the first correct example, the two clauses are linked together with the conjunction “so”. Other ways to correct the comma splice can be through using the semi-colon or the period, as seen in examples 2 and 3.

Again, it is important to note that what makes sentence fragments and run-on sentences incorrect are not their length, but whether they are grammatically and structurally sound or not.

Sentence Fragments II

Let’s refer back to the sentence we looked at last week:

Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

In addition, the line “as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off” is also a fragment because it begins with the subordinate conjunction “as”.

Subordinate conjunctions are words like as, although, even though, because, since, though, and whereas. If a clause begins with words such as these, it then becomes a subsidiary clause that functions to simply explain a main clause, but is unable to independently stand on its own. It also results in the clause ending on an abrupt and incomplete note.

Incorrect: As he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Correct: He believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Rather than adding a main clause to complete the fragment, the above incorrect example could also stand on its own as a proper sentence if “as” were to be removed instead, as shown in the example above.

It is useful to note that the sheer length of words is not what determines what makes a sentence, but the presence of a subject and a verb, and a complete thought being formed as a result.

Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a string of words that may appear to be a complete sentence, but lacks either a subject or a verb, or even both, and thus fails to stand on its own as a full sentence. Sometimes, lengthily descriptive sentence fragments can deceivingly appear like sentences, but students need to ensure that there is a subject-verb relationship in the strings of words that they write, in order for it to be considered as a proper sentence.

For example:

Incorrect: Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off.

Correct: Tirelessly toiling on his project, as he believes that hard work ultimately pays off, Philip had little sleep for a week, but felt relieved when he finally completed his work and submitted it to his teacher.

The above incorrect example is a sentence fragment, as it is merely descriptive, but is not a complete thought on its own – it needs the main subject to be present. In the correct version, the main subject “Philip”, and the verbs “had” and “felt”, are added in order to complete the fragment.

Word Choice

Students may also use similar-looking words interchangeably, due to these words containing the same root words. Examples of such words include oversight and foresight, as well as careless and carefree. However, they should be careful in assuming the meaning of words that they are unsure of, especially since using some of these seemingly similar words might significantly alter what is being implied in the sentence.

For example:

Incorrect: Denise wished that she had the oversight to prepare for her examinations earlier.

Correct: Denise wished that she had the foresight to prepare for her examinations earlier.

In this context, oversight means making a mistake due to carelessness or negligence, while foresight refers to the ability to predict and plan ahead for the future. It would be more likely for the Denise in our example to have hoped to plan ahead in preparing for her exams, rather than wishing that she had made a mistake in doing so.

Even though both these words might appear to have similar meanings at the first reading, they actually have wildly different connotations. When in doubt, it is always useful to consult a dictionary to be certain of the definitions of words before using them in any piece of writing.

Homophones

Sometimes, spelling mistakes occur when a student uses homophones incorrectly in a sentence. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation but different spelling and meaning. Examples of homophones include words such as there, they’re, and their, or see and sea. Due to their similar sounds, it can be tricky for students to choose the correct homophone to use in a sentence.

For example:

Incorrect: Their having lunch at the restaurant again.

Correct: They’re having lunch at the restaurant again.

The use of their in the example above is incorrect, as their is a personal possessive pronoun. This means that their is always used to describe a noun in order to indicate ownership; examples include “their cat” or “their house.”

However, they’re is a contraction of they are. When unsure of when to use they’re, students can replace they’re with the words they are in order to check if this works grammatically in their sentence. In the context of the example above, “They are having lunch at the restaurant again” is grammatically correct.