Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Their/There and Its/It’s

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I’ve been grading student papers for six years now, and I’ve seen just about everything.

Misspellings galore. Grammatically incorrect phrases. Sentences that don’t make a lick of sense.

But there are two errors in particular I see time and time again. Where it gets to the point I can’t point them out anymore, I’ve given up, I’m telling you! I give up!!!

But no, no, I don’t give up. If I can help just one student of mine learn the difference between their/there and its/it’s, I feel just a little bit better.

And it’s not only in student papers I see these errors. I saw it in the fiction of my friends all the time, especially when I was reading and responding to their stories for our creative writing workshops.

The truth is it doesn’t hurt anyone to get a brush up on these commonly misused words and understand their differences!


Their/There/They’re

One of the quotes from the TV series Friends that forever sticks in my mind is Ross yelling at Rachel about the long letter she wrote to him, and as she storms out of the room he screams at her, “Oh, and by the way, Y-O-U-’R-E means you are, Y-O-U-R means your!”

The thing about this tricky word is that there aren’t just two words to accidentally flip around if you’re not paying attention; there’s a third one you can possibly confuse the other ones with. These are three homophones — words that sound exactly like another common word — and we use them so often in speech and in writing that it’s easy to make a mistake.

Let’s start with THEIR. I probably use this one the most in my writing. This word always indicates possession, as in the following two examples…

Their hands were hurting from typing all day.

The men were yelling bloody murder because the advances on their novels were so low.

Notice the possession? The hands of two or more people. The novels of two or more men. If you’re not sure which use of the words to use, think to yourself, is there possession here? Whose hands? Whose novels?

Now let’s look at THERE. This version of the word often indicates a place, telling us where something is in terms of location.

Where is the book? It’s over there.

Another way to use the word is as an expletive, in which you introduce information that’s provided someplace later in the sentence.

There are three authors who want to read from their new books tonight.

If you’re not sure what to use, ask yourself whether the word indicates the existence of something or a location. If it does, go with THERE.

Lastly, we have THEY’RE. This one to ME is the most obvious — you’d think the apostrophe makes it so — but you have no idea how often I see this word used the wrong way in writing.

Imagine the voice of Ross Gellar: “T-H-E-Y-’R-E means they are!” The apostrophe is your clue that you have two words essentially formed into one.

I can’t believe they’re going to read that silly picture book.

When you see the apostrophe, break it up, or don’t.

Lastly, let’s put all three of these words in the same sentence and see how I do!

They’re writing their books over there.

I probably would never write a sentence like that in my fiction writing, but you get the idea.


Its/It’s

Now I’m thinking about Bill Hader’s brilliant idea to call the sequel to the 2017 horror movie It, ITS. I assume without the apostrophe.

Here’s the deal — I see this error all the time, a person meaning to write ITS and he/she writes IT’S instead. I’m talking, all the time. In my student papers. In fiction I’ve read for creative writing workshops.

Here’s the easy way to remember which one to use in a sentence. Its is the possessive form of it, and it’s is a contraction of it is, like they’re is a contraction of they are, and you’re is a contraction of you are.

When my Kindle fell to the floor, its screen broke, but luckily it’s still working.

Its = possessive. It’s = it is.

The world will be a better place as soon as everybody learns these rules!

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Shifts in Tense

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Staying in the same tense throughout a piece is a skill that improves with practice.

I’m currently writing my twentieth novel. Some of my novels have been written in present tense. Most of them have been written in past tense.

Whichever tense you choose to do in your writing, it’s super important to stay consistent. I can’t tell you how many stories I’ve read in creative writing workshops that were 90% past tense and 10% present tense, or vice versa. Where suddenly a whole paragraph is the wrong tense, and you’re completely thrown out of the story.

When it comes to fiction writing, for the most part you’re going to stay in one tense or another. Except for dialogue, of course. Dialogue is its own separate beast. And yes, you might have a flashback here and there that takes you away from present tense and pushes you into past tense.

No matter what kind of writing you do, there’s always a possibility of shifts in tense, sometimes even in the same sentence! How do you handle those shifts and make your sentences sound normal and not totally awkward?


When you’re talking to a friend, you probably never notice your shifts in tense.

You might go from present tense to past tense and back to present tense in the course of five seconds when chatting with a friend, and typically we never think twice about it.

Take a sentence like this one, for example:

Derek is super pissed because it turns out Sarah lost most of his money gambling.

The sentence kind of makes sense, I guess. If you were told this in person, you’d get the general vibe of what the speaker is going for.

But let’s look at the sentence closer. ‘Derek is super pissed’ is present tense, and ‘it turns out’ is present tense, and ‘Sarah lost most of his money gambling’ is past tense.

Now, Derek can be mad in the present about something that happened in the past. It’s a sentence you might be able to get away with.

But wouldn’t the sentence make way more sense like this?

Derek was super pissed because Sarah lost all his money gambling.

There. So much better, right?


There are some sentences where the tense isn’t what you might assume it to be.

And you should understand those areas in your writing to make sure you don’t make a mistake.

One place you need to look out for? When you’re discussing the work of another author. Let’s say you’re writing a research paper, and you just put in a quote from an article you discovered online. Now you want to write a sentence responding to that quote.

You might want to write,

Smith argued here that the characters in Shakespeare’s play were all morally corrupt.

I’ve seen sentences like these in my student’s papers all the time.

Actually, even though Smith did argue this point in the past, and even though Shakespeare’s play was written in the past, MLA format states you write a sentence like this in present tense, not past.

Smith argues here that the characters in Shakespeare’s play are all morally corrupt.

In fact, most academic and research papers written in MLA format use the present tense, rarely the past tense. Something to keep in mind.


But what about shifts in tense in the very same sentence?

This happens sometimes, too. It’s not common, but you should be aware when it’s needed and how it works.

In fiction, just because you’re writing your latest story or novel in present tense doesn’t mean everything is going to be present tense.

You might have a sentence like this one…

I hold no more animosity toward him, but I once wanted to kill him.

And in academic writing, there might be the occasional instance where the first part needs to be past tense, while the second part needs to be present tense.

Let’s take that example above Smith arguing about Shakespeare’s play, but we add a date that Smith actually argued the point.

Smith argued at the 2009 playwriting conference that the characters in Shakespeare’s play are all morally corrupt.

Because we have a specific date when Smith argued his point, we can’t use present at the beginning. Instead, we use past tense because a specific date is designated, while we keep the second part of the sentence in present tense because story elements from a work of literature is being discussed.


Whatever you do, make sure you pay attention to your tense.

At the very least, keep your tense consistent. Don’t write something in mostly present tense and then suddenly shift to past tense for a paragraph, unless you have a very good reason.

Your tense is often not something at the forefront of your mind as a writer, but I guarantee you it will be at the forefront of your reader’s mind if you make even one mistake in this arena. You have to stay consistent. And your sentences need to make sense.

Practice will help. So will not only revising your work but also editing it closely.

Your choice of tense plays a major role in your writing. Make sure you get it right every time!

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Subject-Verb Agreement

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What is Subject-Verb Agreement?

Asking this question is a good place to start. Here’s the deal — you need your verb to always agree with its subject in person and number.

Let’s look at a correct example of subject-verb agreement.

First the boss speaks, then her assistant speaks, and then the rest of the people speak.

Kind of a clunky sentence, but you get the idea. Notice that the verbs always agree with their subjects. ‘Boss’ and ‘the assistant’ are singular, so the correct verb is ‘speaks.’ On the other hand, ‘the rest of the people’ is plural, not singular, so in that case you would go with the verb ‘speak’ and not ‘speaks.’


Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, indefinite pronouns make this trickier.

What’s an indefinite pronoun? It’s a word that requires a singular or plural verb depending on its meaning and use in the sentence.

Let’s look at another example of subject-verb agreement, this time with an indefinite pronoun.

First the boss speaks, then her assistant speaks, and then each of the other employers speak.

Perfectly correct, right?

Wrong. Even though it looks right, and even though it sounds right.

‘Employers’ at the end of the sentence is plural, so naturally the correct verb should be ‘speak,’ right?

Actually, in the case of the above example, the subject at the end of the sentence isn’t ‘employers’ but ‘each,’ which is an indefinite pronoun.

First the boss speaks, then her assistant speaks, and then each of the other employers speaks.

This is the correct subject-verb agreement because, again, ‘each’ is the subject, and ‘of the other employees’ is merely additional information.

Now what if you changed the sentence to this…

First the boss speaks, then her assistant speaks, and then all of the other employers speak.

The indefinite pronoun has been changed from ‘each’ to ‘all,’ and therefore, because ‘all’ is plural, not singular, you would change that final word to ‘speak.’

If you read your sentence out loud, and you’re still not sure, try removing the additional information and shorten the sentence to see how it sounds.

Each person speaks.

All people speak.

You wouldn’t say ‘each people’ or ‘all person,’ right? Sometimes all you need to do is take a minute to shorten the phrase to double-check.


There’s one more confusing item to look out for in your subject-verb agreements: noncount nouns.

Keep in mind that sometimes even a subject like ‘all’ doesn’t necessarily mean a plural verb.

Look at these two examples…

All of the speeches were efficient.

All of the working was efficient.

That second example offers what is known as a noncount noun, in that the word ‘working’ doesn’t necessarily translate to two or more things, yet you still would use ‘all’ as its subject and not ‘each.’

You wouldn’t say ‘Each of the working was efficient,’ and you wouldn’t say ‘all of the working were efficient.’

Noncount nouns offer strange cases where your subject is plural and your verb is effectively singular. Example of these nouns include sand, sugar, coffee, water, furniture, cash, learning, speaking, intelligence, and beauty, just to name a few.

Remember to read the sentence aloud if you’re not quite sure, and sometimes, you just have to go with your gut when need be.

You’ll get better at subject-verb agreements as long as you practice, practice, practice!

Keep writing often, and you’ll be able to master them each and every time.

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Pronoun Cases

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First, let’s make sure we remember what pronouns are.

Even if you’ve been writing your heart out for years, you might not remember exactly what pronouns are.

Pronouns are some of the smallest words in the English language. Words such as I, me, he, she, herself, you, it, that, they, each, few, many, and who. A pronoun is the word that takes the place of a noun. Pronouns are necessary in pretty much anything you write.

Imagine if you’re writing a novel in third person and every single sentence you referred to the name of your protagonist. Sarah did this, Sarah did that, Sarah said, Sarah asked, Sarah thought, Sarah knew. Oh my God, after two pages of this, your reader’s head would explode.

So you substitute a pronoun for Sarah, typically using ‘she’ or ‘her.’ It’s good to mix things up every other sentence or so. You don’t want to use any one word over and over.


So what are pronoun cases?

A pronoun case refers to the unique forms a pronoun takes in order to make clear how it functions in a sentence.

Here’s a typical example of a grammatically incorrect use of a pronoun case…

Me and Laura loved the movie.

This is the kind of sentence we say in life all the time. I’m kind of a grammar nerd so I always catch myself before doing it, but I notice friends and family saying it without even the slightest flinch. It’s OK to say it. And it’s even OK for a character in your fiction to say it in a line of dialogue, especially if it’s a younger character.

But still — it should be fixed whenever possible. That sentence sounds a little off, doesn’t it? It sounds weird. So how do you change it?

When it comes to examples like these, cover up everything in the phrase but the pronoun and read it out loud.

Me loved the movie.

I sincerely hope you wouldn’t say something like that in real life.

Since the correct way to say the sentence is “I loved the movie,” then the original sentence should read like this…

I and Laura loved the movie.

Although that sounds super awkward too, right? Which is exactly why many people might say “Me and Laura loved the movie.” The best option?

Laura and I loved the movie.

Phew! So much better, right?


What are other examples of pronoun cases?

Let’s look at two more to be sure we’re always on the lookout for misuses of pronoun cases in our fiction writing…

Us and the teacher are hoping to survive until summer.

Again, it seems like this example could work. And in real life, you would probably say a sentence like this without thinking twice about it.

But identify the pronoun in the sentence. Us is the pronoun, and it’s the subject, too. It doesn’t make sense and it needs to change. What if you take out “and the teacher?”

We are hoping to survive until summer.

There! Correct! So you would change it to…

We and the teacher are hoping to survive until summer.

Easy peasy! But there is another example of pronoun case that’s a touch more tricky…

Karen dated Philip longer than me.

Seems totally fine, right? But look carefully. There’s only one verb, dated, and its subject is Karen.

What’s the pronoun? Me.

So according to the example, Karen dated Philip and me. But what if you were trying to say that Karen dated Philip and you dated Philip also? This isn’t clear in the previous example.

If you’re trying to say that Karen dated Philip longer than Karen dated you, the example should read like this…

Karen dated Philip longer than she dated me.

If you’re trying to say that Karen dated Philip longer than you dated Philip, the sentence needs to change to this…

Karen dated Philip longer than I.

Again, kind of awkward, but grammatically correct. This is the way the sentence should look on the page, although to make it less awkward, you could write,

Karen dated Philip longer than I did.

There! Feel better?


You have a lot to think about when it comes to grammar in your writing.

There are comma splices to look for, and fused sentences, and mixed constructions, and pronoun references, just to start.

Keep an eye out for wrong pronoun cases, too.

Remember that you can get away with incorrect pronoun cases in real life. And sometimes it’s actually the wrong pronoun case you should go with in your dialogue rather than the correct pronoun case. If your protagonist is a twelve-year-old, he or she probably will use the wrong pronoun case more often in dialogue than the correct one.

But be sure to use the correct pronoun cases in your writing as much as possible.

At the very least, be aware of pronoun cases with each new project you take on. You’ll be better off, I guarantee it!

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Pronoun References

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First, let’s define pronouns.

Even if you’ve been writing your heart out for years, you might not remember all the way back to middle school and high school exactly what pronouns are.

Pronouns are some of the smallest words in the English language. Words such as I, me, he, she, herself, you, it, that, they, each, few, many, and who. A pronoun is the word that takes the place of a noun. Pronouns are necessary in pretty much anything you write.

Imagine if you’re writing a novel in third person and every single sentence you referred to the name of your protagonist. Henry did this, Henry did that, Henry said, Henry asked, Henry thought, Henry knew. Oh my God, after two pages of this, your reader’s head would explode.

So you substitute a pronoun for Henry, typically using ‘he’ or ‘him.’ It’s good to mix things up every other sentence, or every three sentences. You don’t want to use any one word over and over.


So what is pronoun reference?

If ‘Henry’ is your noun, and ‘he’ is your pronoun, it’s important at all times to make sure the ‘he’ connects back to ‘Henry’ in your sentences in a way that makes sense to the reader.

In this case, ‘he’ is the pronoun, and ‘Henry’ is the antecedent to the pronoun. An antecedent is typically something or someone that has already been mentioned, and the pronoun helps guide the reader forward, at the same time signalling to readers what that antecedent is so they don’t get confused.

Here’s an example of pronoun reference that makes zero sense…

The writing group meets tomorrow night at 8, and she will announce at 8:15 the lucky person whose latest story is being workshopped.

Okay, so maybe it doesn’t make zero sense. You read a sentence like that, and you kind of understand what’s happening.

But the sentence is an example of poor pronoun reference because ‘she’ has no clear antecedent. There’s nothing ‘she’ calls back to in this sentence.

Now if the previous sentence made reference to a woman’s name, then sure, this sentence might make more sense. But if there’s no female name mentioned, then this sentence needs to be re-done.


Pronoun reference gets confusing when there are many possibilities in the same sentence for what the pronoun refers to.

It’s one thing if the reader has to look back a sentence or two for the antecedent. It’s another when the pronoun can refer to more than one possible antecedent in the same sentence.

The meanings of the words provide clues about what the pronoun refers to sometimes, but the bottom line is that your reader should never have to go hunting for these clues. The writing should be clear to the reader at all times.

Here’s an example of a sentence where the pronoun could have more than one antecedent…

My boyfriend took my dad out to a late lunch because he hadn’t eaten anything all day.

It’s easy to find the pronoun in this example, right? It’s ‘he.’ But who does ‘he’ refer to — the boyfriend or the dad? There might be clues in the previous sentences, but there also might not be.

I come across this confusion all the time when I’m writing fiction in third person. When I’m writing a long scene that features two people of the same gender, sentences like these can happen without even realizing it.


So how do you fix a sentence like this?

There are a few ways. If you want to keep the sentence mostly the same, you can write it like this…

My boyfriend took my dad out to a late lunch because my dad hadn’t eaten anything all day.

Kind of clunky. In a way it sounds worse than the previous example, but in the end it’s better because it makes the sentence totally clear for the reader.

If the narrator of the story ever refers to the dad’s name, you could also write it like this…

My boyfriend took my dad out to a late lunch because Earl hadn’t eaten anything all day.

Still kind of clunky, but at least you don’t say “my dad” twice in the same sentence.

If it were me, I would change the structure of the sentence a bit and do this…

My dad hadn’t eaten anything all day, so my boyfriend took him out to a late lunch.

So much better, am I right? In this case, the pronoun ‘he’ has been replaced with ‘him,’ but otherwise the sentence stays mostly the same, except now it makes perfect sense for the reader.


Keep an eye out for confusing pronoun references always.

They aren’t as easy to spot as, say, a misspelling, or a comma splice. You might read your work extremely closely, and your eyes will still pass over ten different sentences that have confusing examples of pronoun references.

This isn’t something you should be thinking about when you’re writing your first draft. It’s also not something you should pay much attention to in your second draft either.

But once your latest manuscript is reaching the end of the editing process, I would take a little extra time to look for any pronoun references that could be strengthened or made clearer for the reader.

Doing so will only help make your writing shine all the more!

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Mixed Constructions

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Mixed constructions are a lot more complicated than comma splices and fused sentences.

Recently I wrote about the need to avoid comma splices and why you should fix all your fused sentences.

Those are two areas in your writing that are easily noticeable as long as you’re paying attention.

Mixed constructions, on the other hand, might appear right to you even if you’re looking closely. You might read a sentence aloud that has mixed constructions and think it’s grammatically correct.

Unfortunately, such is not the case. And to make your writing sound its best, you need to learn what a mixed construction is and why it should be avoided at all costs.


So what exactly is a mixed construction?

At the most basic level, it’s a sentence that starts with one kind of structure… but then ends with another one. Usually a sentence with a mixed construction makes total sense to a reader, but it also has the ability to confuse a reader as well.

There isn’t one kind of mixed construction, and such is the reason why it can be hard at times to point them out.

But let’s look at some common examples and figure out ways to fix them…

Example One

Revising is when you go through your short story or novel and improve upon it in a variety of ways.

Sounds perfectly fine, right? If you were to see this sentence in the middle of a paragraph — hell, even at the beginning of a paragraph — you might not think anything of it.

But notice the awkwardness at the beginning. The word ‘when’ is our problem. ‘When’ refers to an event happening in time, and there’s no time associated with this example. The sentence is detailing a kind of writing process, so the use of ‘when’ is unjustified.

So how do you fix it? Pretty easy.

Revising is the process of going through your short story or novel and improving upon it in a variety of ways.

Way better, right? Notice that I added -ing to the words ‘go’ and ‘improve’ so that the sentence makes perfect sense.

Example Two

Most writers tend to agree about the necessity of short chapters in thriller novels and also quick, choppy sentences.

This isn’t a terrible sentence. You could probably get away with it.

But it still sounds kind of odd, right? What’s the problem, exactly?

The problem is the mixed construction. Everything before “and also” makes sense, but then things get confusing. The way the sentence is written now makes it sound like writers could be agreeing on the use of short chapters in thriller novels AND the use of short chapters in choppy sentences, which is confusing and bad.

Here are three ways you could potentially fix this sentence.

Most writers tend to agree about the necessity of short chapters in thriller novels and also on the necessity of quick, choppy sentences.

Not terrible, but let’s do better.

Most writers tend to agree about the necessity of short chapters in thriller novels. Writers also believe quick, choppy sentences are important in the genre.

Much better. But I still would go a step further and make the example less wordy, more to-the-point.

Most writers tend to agree about the necessity of short chapters and choppy sentences in thriller novels.

There! Oh my God, so much better. And so much easier to read.


Be aware of mixed constructions in your writing.

They happen to the best of us. I probably write one or two every day I’m drafting a new novel.

And that’s totally fine! Feel free to load up your first draft of a story or novel with dozens of mixed constructions.

The trick of course is to locate them and fix them pronto as you revise your work later. And one easy way to do this is to read your work aloud and recognize the sentences that don’t sound quite right.

Again, mixed constructions are often harder to find than comma splices and fused sentences.

But take the extra time to find as many as you can, and you’ll absolutely be rewarded in the long run.

Posted in Grammar, Writing

Why You Need to be Careful about Fused Sentences

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Just one example of a fused sentence can bring the quality of your writing down dramatically.

It’s not as common as comma splices, I’ll give you that. Comma splices happen all the time in your writing, which I talked about last week.

Comma splices happen in everything. Fiction. Non-fiction. Academic writing.

Comma splices are the cause of a million red circles on students’ high school essays.

But fused sentences happen a lot too, and they are even more problematic than comma splices. At least in a work of fiction, you can make the case for comma splices in terms of the rhythm of your sentences, the pacing of your current paragraph.


There is, however, no excuse for a fused sentence.

Unless you have a character shouting dialogue that comes in the form of stream of consciousness — “Mom I don’t want to go to the party I don’t want to go don’t you hear me!” — I don’t really see a place for fused sentences even in your most fantastical of fiction.

A fused sentence is easy to miss when you’re reading through your work again. It often looks like a perfectly fine, grammatically correct sentence that begins with a capital letter and ends with a punctuation mark.

The big problem with a fused sentence is that it smashes two independent clauses up against each other in a way that won’t make sense to most of your readers. The connection might make sense to you, but that’s not enough.

Here’s a typical fused sentence in a work of fiction…

Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway the six-foot-tall gargoyle was chasing after her.

When you’re reading through your sentences fast, that sentence might seem okay. This is a moment of suspense, after all. What reader is going to notice that this sentence is comprised of two independent clauses unnecessarily smashing up against one another?

The sentence ultimately looks weird because there’s no ending to the first independent clause and no beginning to the second one.

It’s sort of like a run-on sentence, although run-on sentences are slightly different because they typically have a coordinating conjunction in the middle of independent clauses, a sentence more like “Karen ran as fast as she could and the gargoyle was chasing after her and her friend was waiting for her outside and Karen was screaming at the top of her lungs,” something like that.

A fused sentence happens when you’re not paying full attention. When you’re flying through that first draft so fast you don’t catch these occasional mistakes that might read all right to some but confuse many of your readers looking a bit more closely.


So how do you fix fused sentences?

There’s not just one way to fix a fused sentence, but keep this in mind: you do need to fix each and every one of them!

The simplest: add a period.

Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway. The six-foot-tall gargoyle was chasing after her.

This is the most obvious way to fix the problem. Separate the two independent clauses with a period, and you have two decent sentences. When you have absolutely no idea what to do, this method is probably the one you should go with.

But sometimes this method does make your sentences a little too dry, a little too blah. You don’t want your fiction to read like a report, am I right?

The problematic: insert a semi-colon.

Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway; the six-foot-tall gargoyle was chasing after her.

Like with comma splices, this isn’t necessarily terrible. Semi-colons are used to link two independent clauses closely related in thought, and this example about Karen running away from the gargoyle certainly fits under that rule.

The problem is that in fiction writing, semi-colons often look weird on the page. They’re certainly allowed in fiction, but sparingly, I would say.

You could go a step further and write,

Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway; she was trying to outrun the six-foot-tall gargoyle chasing after her.

But again, this still looks awkward. There’s too much telling in the example too, so it’s probably best to look for another way to link the two sentences.

The alternate: add a coordinating conjunction.

Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway, as the six-foot-tall gargoyle was chasing after her.

Adding a coordinating conjunction basically means adding a single word in the middle of the two independent clauses, such as and, but, or, nor, so, for, as, or yet.

In the case of these two independent clauses, this is an example you could potentially go with, although you shouldn’t in this example use most of those coordinating conjunctions because they wouldn’t make sense.

Using as definitely makes sense, though, and could work just fine, although it’s still not great.

The ideal: add a subordinating word.

When Karen ran as fast as she could down the school hallway, the six-foot-tall gargoyle chased after her.

In many cases, adding a subordinating word will be the ideal fix to fused sentences, the same way they’re the ideal fix for comma splices. That example above is, in my mind, the best version of that particular sentence from everything I’ve featured in this article. .

Notice all I did was add a new subordinating word to the beginning, add a comma after the first independent clause, and changed “was chasing” to “chased.” So much better! (You should always try to eliminate most of your -ing verbs in your writing, but that’s another post for another time.)


Overall, be smart when it comes to fused sentences.

And being smart means recognizing them in the first place. It’s easy to spot comma splices in your fiction but much more difficult to find fused sentences if you’re not looking closely enough.

So read through your work slowly. Read it out loud if that helps, too.

If occasionally a fused sentence rolls off your fingertips when you’re speeding your way through your first draft, fine, don’t worry about it, you can fix it in the second or third draft.

But do try to avoid fused sentences whenever possible. Your fiction writing will absolutely be better for it!