Warnings of possible sentence problems often show up at the beginning of a sentence. Here are four tips you’ll use again and again:
1. Anything that begins with a person, place, or thing is probably a real sentence and should end with a period.
Donna had questions about my report. SENTENCE
If it doesn’t begin with a person, place, or thing, it’s probably an extra idea and should a) end with a comma and b) be attached to a real sentence.
Because Donna had questions about my report, EXTRA IDEA
Because Donna had questions about my report, I decided to revise it. SENTENCE
(Click here to learn about Comma Rule 1.)
2. Remember that it is a thing. Here’s a handy rule of thumb: If it starts with it, it’s a sentence.
I pushed on the door, it wouldn’t open. INCORRECT
I pushed on the door. It wouldn’t open. CORRECT
3. The beginning of the sentence usually tells you who or what the sentence is about. That information will make you more likely to get the rest of the sentence right.
Use of illegal substances (has/have) increased in this county.
Focus on the word use, and you’ll know immediately that the verb should be has. [Use…has]
Use of illegal substances has increased in this county. CORRECT
(Click here to read about Subject-Verb Agreement Rule 4.)
4. Be especially careful about starting sentences with -ing words. Of course it’s correct to start a sentence with a word ending in -ing: But you risk writing a sentence fragment or a dangling modifier.
Buttoning his jacket as he ran to his car. FRAGMENT
He was buttoning his jacket as he ran to his car. CORRECT
Buttoning his jacket, his cell phone fell out of the pocket. DANGLING MODIFIER
While he was buttoning his jacket, his cell phone fell out of the pocket. CORRECT
Here’s a suggestion that will pay off again and again: Look at the beginning of a sentence and think about possible problems. Try it!
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