Happy Independence Day!

We’re going to celebrate July 4 with a post about independent clauses.

This jargonish term (sigh) is beloved of English teachers. We (well, not me!) prattle endlessly about independent and dependent clauses and never notice that most students don’t have the faintest idea what’s going on.

Here’s an experiment I’ve always wanted to try (but never had the guts to actually carry out): distribute strips of paper to an entire class and ask them to write an independent clause and a dependent clause.

My hunch is that most students couldn’t do it.

So: let’s get real. I always use the terms sentence and extra idea.

A sentence usually begins with a person, place, or thing. An extra idea…doesn’t.

(How hard is that?)

Jane paints.  SENTENCE

Jane paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah.  SENTENCE

Paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah.  EXTRA IDEA

Which include exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah.  EXTRA IDEA

Although she paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah.  EXTRA IDEA

What’s next? I would wager that you’ve already figured it out. If you have an extra idea, fix it. You can add a person-place-or-thing to the beginning, like this:

Paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah.  EXTRA IDEA

Jane paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah. CORRECT

Or you can add the extra idea to the beginning or end of a real sentence:

Although she paints exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah, Jane is experimenting with abstract themes this year. CORRECT

Jane does beautiful paintings, which include exquisite pictures of gardens in Savannah. CORRECT

Start looking for examples of sentences and extra ideas in conversations, books, newspapers, and TV shows. Soon you’ll have the concepts down (they’re easy!). Once you’ve accomplished that, you can easily spot – and fix – most fragments and run-ons.

Happy Independence Day!

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