SB5: Preventing Mixed Constructions

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

  1. Recognize sentences with mixed construction problems.
  2. Correct sentences with mixed construction problems.

Switching grammatical direction midway through a sentence can result in writing mixed constructions, which make a sentence difficult to understand. Mixed constructions often take place when you start out a sentence with a thought, shift your thinking midway through it, and then fail to reread your completed or revised thought upon completing the sentence. Another common cause of mixed constructions is the revision process itself, especially as it occurs in word processing. When you are proofreading and making changes, it is easy to change a part of a sentence without realizing that the change does not mesh with the rest of the construction. Sometimes mixed construction sentences can be fixed by moving words around, adding words to the sentence, or both. Other times, the best repair is to turn the sentence into two or more sentences.

Look at the following examples of mixed constructions, and consider the confusion that could result.

Example 1

Stripping, sanding, and painting, I will turn this chest into a real treasure.

Correction

Stripping, sanding, and painting this chest will turn it into a real treasure.

OR

This chest will turn into a real treasure once I’ve stripped, sanded, and painted it.

Example 2

Although the swimmers practiced twice a day, lost their first six meets.

Correction

Although the swimmers practiced twice a day, the team still lost its first six meets.

OR

The swimmers practiced twice a day, but the team still lost its first six meets.


Adapted from “Sentence Building” in Writer’s Handbook, 2012, used according to Creative Commons  CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

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