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Correcting Mixed Constructions

A mixed construction is a a sentence that has incompatible elements; the sentence begins one way, with one kind of structure, and then shifts to a different structure.

In this module students will learn to recognize and correct mixed constructions.

 

Identifying & Correcting Mixed Constructions...

Typically, when writers first put their ideas down on paper, they are still developing their thoughts and trying to capture ideas that are coming almost too quickly to get down.  First-draft sentences often reflect that rush to capture ideas: run-ons, fragments, dangling modifiers and mixed constructions are common in first drafts. Making sentence-level mistakes is a natural part of the writing process (even the most experienced writers make sentence mistakes in first drafts), and so a run-through to spot and correct potential trouble spots is imperative.

A common source of mixed constructions is an introductory phrase. The writer begins with one structure in an introductory phrase, but shifts to a different structure in the rest of the sentence.  In the example below, the writer begins with a prepositional phrase, but then treats that prepositional phrase as a subject (almost always a no-no):

mixed construction: In their effort to save time on the road caused them to get a speeding ticket.

The problem above probably arose because the writer simply forgot that the phrase began with a preposition; without the preposition, the phrase works as a subject:

corrected:  Their effort to save time on the road caused them to get a speeding ticket.

Here is another example:

mixed construction: By studying hard, partying less, and working less will give me better grades this semester.

The modifier at the beginning implies that the subject of the sentence will be a person, the person doing the studying. However, the author's attention drifts a bit to the things to be done to get better grades, and so these actions become the subject of the sentence in the end.

corrected: By studying hard, partying less, and working less, I will get better grades this semester.

or

Studying hard, partying less, and working less will give me better grades this semester.

The less certain a writer is about what she wants to say, the more the sentences become convoluted.  Consider the following sentence:

mixed construction: Those six pounds that a woman desperately wants to shed or a man wanting to fill out the arms of his shirts have become the latest trend in America.

Such sentences are not the sign of a bad writer, but they should be taken as a signal by the writer that she probably doesn't know yet what she really wants to argue in the essay, and that she needs to re-think her purpose.  The tangled  sentences themselves can even be a starting place for figuring out that purpose; often, somewhere inside the tangle, is what the writer meant to say, even if the sentence doesn't really say it well.

corrected: The woman who wants to shed six or seven pounds, and the man who wants to fill out the arms of his shirts have become typical in America.

 

Identifying and Correcting Predication Errors...

A predication error is a type of mixed construction. Faulty predication is the result when a linking verb (is/are, was/were, will be, would be) is used to link incompatible elements.

faulty predication: A compromise between Disneyland and Hawaii would be an ideal place to vacation.

Here, the problem is that the subject of the sentence cannot be what the sentence asserts it is; i.e., the "compromise" is not really a "place."

corrected: A place combining features of Disneyland and Hawaii would be an ideal place to vacation.

Use of the phrases "is when" and "is where" often results in predication errrors:

faulty predication: Her greatest accomplishment at the volleyball tournament was when she aced seven serves in a row.

An accomplishment is not a time; therefore, "when" is incorrectly used here.

corrected: Her greatest accomplishment at the volleyball tournament was acing seven serves in a row.

Another trouble spot is the reason/because combination:

faulty predication:  The reason she can't come with us is because she didn't get her math homework done.

Even though these words are related, they are not comparable. In a sentence with a linking verb, the subject must be linked to either a noun or an adjective (She is a doctor; She is crazy).  "Because" is neither a noun, nor an adjective; it is a subordinating conjunction.

corrected:  She can't come with us because she didn't get her math homework done.

 

 

 

Objectives

1. Identifying & correcting mixed constructions

2. Identifying & correcting predication errors

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