Five MORE Things to Check in Your Writing

By Petar Milošević (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Last week, we talked about five things to check in your writing, and I hope that was helpful for you. This week, I want to give you five more things to check. If you can correct all of these things, your writing will improve greatly!

  1. Are all of the verbs in the correct form for their subjects?
  2. Are all the words spelled correctly?
  3. Do you have adjectives and nouns in the correct order?
  4. Have you corrected all run-on sentences?
  5. Have you corrected all sentence fragments?

Let’s look at each one to learn more.

Subject-Verb Agreement

Sometimes, teachers talk about subjects and verbs “agreeing.” This means that the verb is in the correct form for the subject. Look at these two sentences:

  • He was born in Guatemala.
  • They was born in Guatemala.

In the first sentence, the subject (he) and the verb (was) agree because “was” is the correct past-tense form of the verb “to be” for the subject. In the second sentence, the subject and verb do not agree. “Was” is the wrong form of the verb for the subject “they.” The sentence should say, “They were born in Guatemala.”

It is especially important to check for subject-verb agreement with these verbs:

  • be (present and past)
  • all present simple verbs (-s or no -s at the end of the verb)

Spelling

Check the dictionary to make sure you have spelled all the words correctly in your writing, and be careful about homophones. Homophones are words that have the same pronunciation, but their meanings and spellings are different. In this video, you can see many examples of homophones. It is important to know about them because you might spell a word correctly, but it’s not the word you need.

Adjective-Noun Order

In English, we have two ways to put nouns and adjectives in order.

  1. We put the adjective(s) before the noun. – “She has long, red hair.” Long and red are adjectives.
  2. We put the adjectives after a verb like “be” or “seem.” – “Her hair is long and red.”

To learn more about adjectives and adjective order, check out this post.

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence is a sentence that is too long. The grammar is not correct, and it should be two or more separate sentences. Here is an example of a run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting he wanted to talk about the new park, it was a very boring meeting.

Here are some ways to correct this run-on sentence:

  • The mayor called a meeting because he wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting. He wanted to talk about the new park. It was a very boring meeting.
  • The mayor called a meeting, and he wanted to talk about the new park, so it was a very boring meeting.

There are more possible ways to correct the sentence, but you can see that you need to add periods or connecting words to make the grammar correct.

Sentence Fragments

Imagine that your teacher walks into class and says, “Because I don’t want to.” Do you know what she is talking about? What if your friend calls you and says, “While I was on vacation.” What does he mean? These are sentence fragments. A fragment is a piece of something. It is not a whole/complete thing. We use sentence fragments often in conversation because we are responding to a question.

  • Why don’t you eat dinner?
    Because I don’t want to.
  • When did you get your hair cut?
    While I was on vacation.

In a conversation, the meaning is clear, but in writing, these fragments are not complete sentences, and we cannot write them like they are. We must connect them to the rest of the sentence to make a whole sentence. Look at this:

  • I think that chocolate is delicious. Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

You understand the meaning, of course, but there is a problem here. “Because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods” is not a complete sentence, so we cannot write it as a sentence. We MUST connect it to the first part to make one complete sentence.

  • I think that chocolate is delicious because it is sweet, and I like sweet foods.

When you check your writing, imagine that each sentence is alone. Imagine that there are no sentences before or after, and see if the meaning is clear. If one sentence doesn’t make sense without the sentence before or after it, you might have a sentence fragment.

Your Turn

A few weeks ago, I told you how to write a good paragraph in English. At the end of that post, I gave you 5 prompts to practice writing paragraphs. Choose one of those prompts, write a paragraph, and then check your writing. Use these tips as well as the tips from last week. Then, ask your teacher to check your writing. How did you do? Was your writing improved?

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