Analyze Your Sentences for these Three Errors

It’s easy to accidentally mix constructions so your sentence parts don’t fit together. These mistakes are often caused by mixed up sentence structures or faulty predication. They tend to cloud meaning and confuse readers.

Mixed up sentence structures occur when writers start a sentence one way and then change grammatical direction part way through. When you are editing, check your sentences for these three constructional errors:

1. Prepositional Errors

Here’s a sentence that begins with a prepositional phrase (a phrase introduced by at, by, for, in, or of), but then tries to make that phrase the subject.

Mixed up: For friends who enjoy one another’s company often go on campaigns together.

This is a simple edit. All we have to do here is eliminate the preposition, which makes it clear that friends is the subject.

Revised: Friends who enjoy one another’s company often go on campaigns together.

2. Dependent Clauses as Subjects

In this example, the dependent clause tries to serve as the subject.

Mixed up: In Dungeons & Dragons, when a Bardic Inspiration spell is cast can boost the group’s morale.

To fix this, change the dependent clause into an independent clause.

Revised: In Dungeons & Dragons, a Bardic Inspiration spell can be cast to boost the group’s morale.

3. Mismatched Predicates and Subjects

Predicates are complete verbs: the main verb and any words that modify it. Predicates must match the subject both grammatically and logically. If they don’t match, the result is faulty predication.

Faulty: The best kind of magic education for me would be a school that covers both wind and music spells.

This sentence sounds correct. But, a school is not a type of education, so the predicate and subject do not match logically.

To fix this example, we can change the subject so that it matches the predicate.

Revised: A school that covers both wind and music spells would provide the best magic education for me.

Sentences that include the phrases is when, is where, and is because also result in faulty predication, even though they sound logical.

Faulty: Priori Incantatem is a spell where the wand is forced to show the last spell it performed.

Again, this sentence sounds correct, even if it’s a bit clunky. However, Priori Incantatem is not a place, so the where is illogical.

Revised: Priori Incantatem is a spell that forces a wand to show the last spell it performed.

It’s easy to slip into mixed up sentence structures when you’re just trying to get ideas down. And faulty predication is tricky to detect because it often sounds correct. Keep these trouble spots and their fixes in mind when you’re self-editing to ensure that your work is as clear as possible.

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