Healthcare Writing

Colleen Shannon, Freelance Medical Writer


Good grammar - sentences

Many people are nervous about grammar. However, if you leave out the terrifying jargon it's easy to avoid common mistakes. Sentence structure is one of the most frequent offenders.

A proper sentence
A sentence fits a complete thought into a perfect package. Three main parts should always appear: a verb, a subject and a closing bit of punctuation such as a full stop or a question mark.

Fragments masquerade as sentences all the time, especially in marketing. A fragment is an incomplete sentence that's missing at least one of the three main elements. Like this sentence. (It is missing a verb).

The comma splice is another culprit. You can marry two ideas in one sentence but they need the right link. A comma is the wrong tool for this job. It should never be left on its own to join up two independent phrases, though it is often forced to do so. This is an example of a comma splice, it is two sentences posing as one.

Instead, use a conjunction like 'and' or 'but'. You can also use a semi-colon or a colon. For questions of punctuation, the Oxford Dictionaries Online is a very handy resource.