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How to Write Better by Improving Your Sentence Structure

Lesson Transcript
Doresa Jennings

Doresa holds a Ph.D. in Communication Studies.

Expert Contributor
Kaitlyn Danahy

Kate has a bachelor's degree in literature & creative writing from Gordon College. She taught high school literature, philosophy, and writing in India and has tutored for the same subjects in the US.

Proper sentence structure is important for strong reading and writing comprehension. Discover how to successfully identify and avoid misplaced modifiers, sentence fragments, and the passive voice to improve sentence structure. Updated: 08/20/2021

The Importance of Improving Sentence Structure

Imagine seeing all the pieces for a house laid out in front of you. You know roughly where things should go, but putting the pieces in the wrong order won't have a very good final product. You can end up with something that looks like a house but has lots of problems in style and function.

This jumbled box often occurs in our writing as well. We have all the parts that we need, but the order in which they occur leaves us lacking the style we desired and leaves our writing not quite right for our reader.

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Why Sentence Structure Matters

There are a number of reasons why sentence structure matters. Sentence structure matters in English because of our use of modifiers. A modifier is a word or phrase that provides description in a sentence. However, putting the modifier in the wrong place can add confusion instead of clarity to your sentence. We can see this with simple modifiers in the wrong place.

'Only I love you!'

I'm pretty sure our friend didn't mean to tell his sweetheart that he was the only person on the planet that loved her. Structure that sentence a bit better and he would have had a much more pleasant result.

'I love only you!'

Then we have those dangling modifiers.

'To improve his building skills, a video was watched.'

In order to not offend our conscientious observers, a better choice of sentence structure would be:

'In order to improve his building skills, our friend watched a video.'

Now our readers know exactly who we are talking about and they won't need to figure it out and guess.

Good sentence structure helps to eliminate the use of sentence fragments as well. A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence. These sentences are often incomplete because they are no longer attached to their clauses.

'It is important to eat vegetables every day. Having a variety.'

A sentence should be able to stand on its own. If we separate the two sentences, we can easily see that the second sentence is a fragment. We don't really know what 'having a variety' is referring to.

'Having a variety of vegetables can help us consume more of them.'

However, be careful not to err on the side of a run-on sentence to avoid a sentence fragment. A run-on sentence is when two or more independent clauses are joined without the appropriate punctuation or conjunction.

The final of the big three causes of sentence structure problems is using passive voice. Passive voice isn't a grammatical error so much as it makes the sentence harder to follow. In passive voice, the target of an action is put in the subject position even though they aren't doing anything. For example:

'The doll was bathed by Sally.'

The doll is an inanimate object and isn't doing any action in the sentence - Sally is doing the work. So to make the sentence active we would write:

'Sally bathed the doll.'

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Additional Activities

Sentences Under Construction:

In this exercise, you will revise sentences with various structural problems.


Identify three misplaced modifiers in the following sentences. Rearrange them to make the sentence easier to understand.

Saahil fast ran towards his house. His teacher had kept late his class. Now, for his gymnastics lesson he did not want to be late.

Fragments and Run-On Sentences:

Break the run-on sentence into multiple sentences. Identify fragments and make them into complete sentences. Some sentences will not need correcting.

Saahil's gymnastics competition was next weekend. He was particularly skilled on high bar and pommel horse and his coach thought he might be able to win a gold medal on one of those events, he was also good at vault but vault scared him. He like the feeling of flying. Not falling. The other events were fine. Floor, rings, and parallel bars.

Transitional Words:

Insert two transitional words within the following sentences.

The day of the competition came. Saahil was nervous. He caught all his releases on high bar; he fell on parallel bars.

Passive Voice and Active Voice:

The following sentences are in passive voice. Translate them into active voice.

The vault was not fallen on by Saahil. In the end, the bronze medal in the all-around was won by Saahil. The gold medal for high bar and silver medal for pommel horse were accepted by Saahil also.

Answer Key:


"Fast ran" should be "ran fast;" "late" should be after "class;" "for his gymnastics lesson" should be after "late."

Fragments and Run-On Sentences:

Answers will vary. The second sentence should be separated by either a period or a semicolon after "events." "Not falling" could be combined with the previous sentence with a comma after "flying," or made into its own sentence ("He did not like falling") The last sentence can be combined with the previous ("the other events—floor, rings, and parallel bars—were fine) or made into its own.

Transitional Words:

Answers will vary; they might include "Hence/Thus Saahil was nervous," "however/whereas, he fell on parallel bars."

Passive and Active Voice:

There might be slight variations, but the answer should be: "Saahil did not fall on vault. In the end, Saahil won the bronze medal in the all-around. Saahil also accept the gold medal for high bar and silver medal for pommel horse."

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