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Sentence Coherence

Coherence means the quality of sticking together. a sentence has coherence when the sentence elements are so arranged as to show their relationship. Clarity in the sentence depends largely on proper word order A.

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Achieving coherence through proper placement of modifiers A modifier is a word, phrase, or clause that describes, strengthens, or clarifies another word (or group of words) in a sentence. When a modifier is placed in its proper position in a sentence, a sense of clarity is established for the reader. Example: Confusion: He barely kicked that ball twenty yards. Repair Work: He kicked that ball barely twenty yards.

The issue of the proper placement of “only” has long been argued among grammarians. Many careful writers will insist that “only” be placed immediately before the word or phrase it modifies. Thus “I only gave him three dollars” would be rewritten as “I gave him only three dollars. ” Some grammarians, however, have argued that such precision is not really necessary, that there is no danger of misreading “I only gave him three dollars” and that “only” can safely and naturally be placed between the subject and the verb. The argument has been going on for two hundred years.

Other examples: (boardwork) 1. Mother loves the bungalow which she inherited from her grandfather. (Spanish- style, maternal) 2. The bride walked down the aisle on the arm of her father. (slowly) A. 1. Avoiding Misplaced modifiers Misplaced modifiers-a word, phrase, or clause that is improperly separated from the word it modifies How to correct a misplaced modifier: Place the modifier close to the word it modifies Error: I brought the dress from that store that I really wanted. Correction: I brought the dress that I really wanted from that store. A. 2. Avoiding Squinting Modifiers

Squinting Modifiers -a phrase or clause that seems to modify two words at a time Example: Students who miss classes frequently fail the course. We can’t tell which part of the sentence the word frequently is supposed to modify. Look at these two possible meanings: Students who miss class frequently or frequently fail the course. Correct a squinting modifier error by repositioning the modifier to place it next to the word it modifies. Example 2: Cycling up hills quickly strengthens your quadriceps. (In this example, the word “quickly” is a squinting modifier. It is not clear whether “quickly” pertains to “Cycling up hills” or “strengthens”. B. Achieving coherence by Avoiding Dangling Modifiers Dangling modifiers- It is a phrase or clause that is not clearly and logically related to the word or words it modifies How to correct a Dangling Modifier 1. Change the main clause of the sentence so that it begins with the word actually modified Example 1. Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, the car seemed to run better. Correction: Changing the oil every 3,000 miles, Fred found he could get much better gas mileage. Example 2: To keep the young recruits interested in getting in shape, an exercise program was set up for the summer months.

Correction:To keep the young recruits interested in getting in shape, the coaching staff set up an exercise program for the summer months. 2. Change the dangling modifier phrase to a subordinate clause, creating a subject and a verb Example 1: Raised in Nova Scotia, it is natural to miss the smell of the sea. Correction For a person raised in Nova Scotia, it is natural to miss the smell of the sea. The introductory phrase in the above sentence looks as if it is meant to modify a person or persons, but no one is mentioned in the sentence.

Such introductory adjective phrases, because of their position, automatically modify the first noun or pronoun that follows the phrase — in this case, “it. ” The connection in this case is illogical because “it” was not raised in Nova Scotia. You could revise the sentence in a number of ways: In correction: (the phrase functions as an adjective but now automatically modifies “I,” a logical connection) Example 2: Although nearly finished, we left the play early because we were worried about our sick cat. Correction: Although the play was nearly finished, we left early because we were worried about our sick cat.

A dangling modifier can also appear when you place an elliptical clause improperly: Although nearly finished, we left the play early because we were worried about our sick cat. The way this sentence is structured, the clause “Although nearly finished” illogically modifies “we,” the pronoun directly following the clause. An easy way to rectify the problem is to re-insert the subject and verb that are understood in the elliptical clause: Although the play was nearly finished, we left early because we were worried about our sick cat. C. Achieving Coherence by Clear Reference of pronouns

A pronoun refers to or replaces a noun, a noun phrase, or a pronoun already mentioned. The word the pronoun replaces is known as the pronoun’s antecedent. A pronoun should always refer to a clear and definite antecedent. C. 1. Wrong reference Make sure that a pronoun refers to a specific noun, not a possessive noun or a noun within a prepositional phrase. | Faulty | In George Orwell’s essay “Shooting an Elephant, ” he reports an incident that shows the evil effects of imperialism. [The pronoun he cannot refer to the possessive noun Orwell’s. ] | Revised | In his essay “Shooting an Elephant,” George Orwell reports an incident that shows the evil effects of imperialism. [The possessive pronoun his can refer to the subject noun Orwell. ]| Avoid using a pronoun such as they or it without an explicit antecedent. | Faulty | When Rivera applied for a resident alien card, they put him through many bureaucratic procedures. [The sentence does not have a clear antecedent for the pronoun they. ] | | Revised | When Rivera applied for a resident alien card, government officials put him through many manybureaucratic procedures.

Before government officials issued Rivera a resident alien card, they put him through many bureaucratic procedures. | C. 2 Ambiguous References Your readers should never be left wondering which this, they, or it is being discussed. Faulty | My husband told my father that he should choose the baby’s name. [Does he refer to husband or to father ? ] | Revised | My husband told my father to choose the baby’s name. My husband wanted to choose the baby’s name and told my father so. | Example 2:Ted told Hanz that he was hungry.

Ted told Hanz that the former was hungry or Ted told Hanz, ” I am hungry. ” Example 3: Sylvia told her mother, “I need a new wardrobe. ” Sylvia told her mother that she needed a new wardrobe C. 3. No Reference Examples 1. When we went to the motor vehicle division to register our car, they kept us waiting for nearly an hour. Correction: When we went to the motor vehicle division to register our car, the clerk kept us waiting for nearly an hour. 2. Elizabeth’s mother and father are both pilots; however, Elizabeth is not interested in it.

Correction: Elizabeth’s mother and father are both pilots; however, Elizabeth is not interested in flying. 3. It says in the recipe that one must use butter, not margarine. Correction: According to the recipe, one must use butter, not margarine. 4. We prefer the kind of gas stations where hot food is sold. Correction: We prefer the kind of gas stations where they sell hot food. 5, Tammy applied for a scholarship, but her advisor told her that her parents make too much money. Correction: Tammy applied for a scholarship, but they told her that her parents made too much money.