ACT English Test Prep: Sentence Structure Rules

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Sentence Structure Rules

Sentence Structure: The grammatical arrangement of words and phrases in sentences.

It is important that a sentence be arranged so that the idea is expressed completely and clearly. The ACT will test your ability to recognize and correct errors involving the following:

Run-on Sentences

Sentence Fragments

Misplaced Modifiers

Parallelism

Run-on Sentences

A run-on sentence is a sentence that is composed of more than one main idea and that does not use proper punctuation or connectors. The ACT requires you to recognize run-on sentences, as well as avoid creating run-on sentences. The following are examples of run-on sentences along with suggested corrections:

Run-on Sentence—Jill is an actress she often appears in major network television shows.

Correct Sentence—Jill is an actress who often appears in major network television shows.

Run-on Sentence—My nephew loves to play football you can find him on the practice field almost every day.

Correct Sentences—My nephew loves to play football. You can find him on the practice field almost every day.

Run-on sentences are often created by substituting a comma for a semicolon or a period. This is called a comma splice, and it is incorrect. Following are examples of comma splices along with suggested corrections:

Comma Splice—Yesterday my mother prepared my favorite dinner, she even baked a cake.

Correct Sentence—Yesterday my mother prepared my favorite dinner; she even baked a cake.

Comma Splice—History is my favorite subject in school, I always get the highest grade.

Correct Sentences—History is my favorite subject in school. I always get the highest grade.

Sentence Fragments

A sentence fragment is a dependent clause, which must function as part of a complete sentence and cannot stand alone. (Fragments often lack a subject or a verb with tense. Sentence fragments are incorrectly punctuated as if they were complete sentences.) The following are examples of sentence fragments along with suggested corrections:

Sentence Fragment—My car is difficult to start in the winter. Because of the cold weather.

Correct Sentence—Because of the cold weather, my car is difficult to start in the winter.

Sentence Fragment—Michigan State University offers a variety of courses. Such as Psychology, Biology, Physics, and Music.

Correct Sentence—Michigan State University offers a variety of courses, such as Psychology, Biology, Physics, and Music.

Misplaced Modifiers

Modifiers are words, phrases, or clauses that provide description in sentences. Typically, a modifier is placed near the word or phrase that it modifies. A misplaced modifier creates confusion because it appears to modify some word or phrase other than the word or phrase it was intended to modify. The following are examples of misplaced modifiers along with suggested corrections:

1. Misplaced Modifier—Josh had trouble deciding which college to attend at first. (Does he plan to attend more than one college?)

2. Correct Sentence—At first, Josh had trouble deciding which college to attend.

3. Misplaced Modifier—The young girl was walking her dog in a raincoat. (Was her dog in a raincoat?)

4. Correct Sentence—The young girl in a raincoat was walking her dog.

Parallelism

Parallelism, or parallel construction, enables you to show order and clarity in a sentence or a paragraph by putting grammatical elements that have the same function in the same form. For example, when two adjectives modify the same noun, the adjectives should have similar forms. When providing a list, each element of the list should have the same form. Also, when the first half of a sentence has a certain structure, the second half should maintain that structure. Following are examples of faulty parallel construction along with suggested corrections:

1. Faulty Parallel Construction—Amy enjoyed running and to ride horses.

2. Correct Sentence—Amy enjoyed running and horseback riding.

3. Faulty Parallel Construction—Our field trip included a visit to the art museum, talking to a local artist, and a workshop on oil-painting techniques.

4. Correct Sentence—Our field trip included visiting the art museum, talking to a local artist, and attending a workshop on oil-painting techniques.

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