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A sentence is a series of words usually containing a subject, verb, and object, and possibly further clauses. Well constructed sentences are the building blocks of good paragraphs and help to convey difficult academic ideas in a clear and coherent way. However, as we build more complex sentences with multiple clauses, they can become confusing and difficult to manage. Knowing the basic structure of sentences and avoiding common errors can make our academic writing easier to understand.
A simple sentence has a subject, a verb, and an object. If you are unsure about this, or have never explicitly been taught the parts of a sentence, have a look at this guide showing how sentences are constructed:
If you are getting feedback about awkward sentences, it may be they are not sentences at all, but fragments! They are punctuated to look like sentences but they are incomplete. Look at this explanation of what fragments are and how to turn them into complete sentences:
Maybe you are getting feedback comments with strange terms like ‘run on sentences’ or ‘comma splice’ or ‘agreement of tenses’. These are all common sentence errors that can be fixed with some understanding and practice. See this comprehensive list of sentence issues:
Printing out and reading your work aloud can help to pick up sentences that are too long or have too many clauses. Alternatively, use a screen reader to read it for you to gain some distance from the text.
Well-constructed sentences link to other areas of academic English such as grammar, paragraphing, and punctuation. See our other pages that may be of use: