Good basic sentence structure requires that you use appropriate punctuation, have clear sentence boundaries, and write in complete ideas. Therefore, when you are completing your independent and integrated writing tasks, you need to avoid comma splices, run-on sentences, and fragments, all of which are common sentence structure errors in writing for both native and nonnative speakers of English.
The TOEFL iBT human raters will grade your essay partly based on your grammar usage. If you use only basic grammar accurately, you will not get a high score; if you use advanced grammar with errors, you will also not receive the highest possible score. Therefore, having good control of your sentence structures, which means avoiding comma splices, run-on sentences, and fragments, will help you to score higher on TOEFL iBT writing.
Having problems with comma splices, run-ons, and fragments are common errors for both non-native and native speakers. A lack of experience writing and getting feedback from ESL/EFL specialists and differences in sentence structure rules from other languages and English cause English learners to have trouble with this type of grammar.
To improve in this area, you need to understand what these errors are, how you should correct them, and where you can get further practice with comma splices, run-ons, and fragments.
A comma splice is when you join two independent clauses together with a comma.
Comma splice: Jake is washing his car, he is getting ready for a long vacation.
Revised: Jake is washing his car because he is getting ready for a long vacation.
Jake is washing his car; he is getting ready for a long vacation.
Jake is washing his car. He is getting ready for a long vacation.
A run-on sentence is when you combine two independent clauses together with no punctuation.
Run-on sentence: Sociology is the study of social groups it teaches students about human nature.
Revised: Sociology, which teaches students about human nature, is the study of social groups.
Revised: Sociology is the study of social groups. It teaches students about human nature.
A fragment is when you have an incomplete idea (i.e., dependent clause or phrase) as its own sentence.
Fragment: Fighting against violence can be accomplished. If the government spends enough money in educating the public.
Revised: Fighting against violence can be accomplished if the government spends enough money in educating the public.
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