5 ways good sentences go bad — and how to fix them


Have you ever read a sentence that just didn’t work but you couldn’t put your finger on what was wrong? Have you ever written one?

Reader-unfriendly sentences are everywhere. Many you can fix just by making sure the main clause contains a tangible subject and an action-oriented verb, like changing “It was the act of shooting the bandit that got the deputy a promotion to sheriff” to “The deputy shot the bandit. The mayor promoted him to sheriff.”

Other bad sentences are more complicated. Dangling participles, misplaced prepositional phrases, passive voice, nominalizations and vague words are common culprits. Here's my recent column on how to spot them and how to fix them.

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