Remember we suggested that “revision” was the process of looking again at the big-picture of your writing – your ideas, the logic, the sequence of paragraphs, what should be kept and what should be discarded, etc. This is different than (but inter-related to) “editing” which is the process of looking more closely at your sentences and making choices about how to craft those sentences.

Sentences are the fundamental building block of good writing. You may have good ideas but if the sentences used to express those ideas are faulty, the ideas are lost.

So, what is the basic structure of a sentence?

Subject Sentence + Predicate = The student wrote the essay
The thing or person that the sentence is about. + The action (verb) that the subject is doing.
This might include something that is being acted upon (object).
= subject+predicate
(verb & object)

So, at the very least, all your sentences must have this basic structure. Many novice writers and students for whom English is an additional language will struggle with this so it is important that you do what is necessary to acquire this understanding. Common errors will include:

  • Sentence fragments (the sentence is missing either a subject or a verb)
  • Run-on sentences (two or more sentences are joined without a proper connection)
  • Subject-Verb disagreement (the subject of the sentence and the verb that describes what the subject is doing do not match)

The first step in editing sentences then, is to check for the correctness of basic structure. The staff at Writing Support or English Language Support can help with this.

It also takes time and practice to get better at this if you struggle with writing so read a lot, write a lot and practice, practice, practice. The Online Writing Lab at Purdue University is a good place to learn about these common sentence errors you may be making.

To help you further, we have provided you with a list of on-line resources to help with grammar in the chapter called Grammar Guides and Help.


Tip Box

One important thing to remember when editing your sentences for proper structure is to evaluate each sentence individually without being influenced by the adjacent sentences.