Category Archives: Technical and Business Writing Lessons

Don’t write a run-on sentence you have to punctuate it.

"They bobbed on the waves and dreamed about what they would find at the end of the world." From Hopper & Wilson by Maria van Lieshout

“Don’t write a run-on sentence you have to punctuate it.”

Study this sentence carefully. Read it aloud. Do not pause until you reach the period/full stop. Does it communicate clearly without any help from you?

I’ll also be using this sentence as our Feature sentence for this post. We’ll come back to it.

Now, keep reading.

Sentence Structure 101

A Run-on sentence usually have two simple sentences or independent ideas that have been incorrectly combined. Ever met any one who talked so fast they ran words into each other? Like a fast speaker, a run-on sentence runs into another sentence. This can continue for an entire paragraph and essay or report. The writer rambles on and on, unaware that he or she is leaving sense behind.

Let’s quickly review some sentence structure basics.

The basic structure of a Simple Sentence has a Subject, a noun word or phrase that identifies for the reader the doer of an action in the sentence or the WHO or WHAT something is said about in the sentence.

Example 1: The cat sprang.

Subject =The cat

The sentence must also have a Verb for its subject. This either tells an action done by the Subject or asserts a claim or fact made about the SUBJECT.

Verb (expressing what subject does) = sprang.

Example 2: Marjorie seems unassuming.

Notice that the verb ‘seems’ is not expressing an action but is simply make an assertion about the Subject. Verbs have different roles.

A Sentence may or may not have other words called COMPLEMENTS (C), words that give additional information about the subject or verb.

Simple Sentence Patterns

Compare the following Simple sentence patterns:

1) S-V : The dogs barked. Subject =dog; Verb = barked

2) S-V-C: The dogs barked loudly all night. Subject = dog; Verb= barked; Complement = loudly all night

Both sentences, though differing in their sentence patterns, are what we call Clauses. (A clause is a group of words that has a subject and its own verb).

When clauses can stand on their own and make complete sense, we call them Independent Clauses or Simple Sentences.

Clauses that lean

Some clauses cannot stand on their own, however. 

For example:

  1. If we don’t leave now….
  2. because he lives abroad

In fact, the image I get of this kind of clause is that of a leaning plant that needs to be supported by something  stronger in order not to topple.

These, we call Dependent or Subordinate Clauses. They have all the trappings of a clause. But you can’t communicate using them alone.

Can you find the Subject and it’s verb in the examples above?

If you selected ‘ we’ as Subject and ‘don’t leave’ as the verb, you are right on track.

Note however that the n’t in the word don’t is a shortening of the word ‘not’ which is a negative adverb, NOT a verb.

Look out for these in contractions (words which are combined to form one word, such as I’ll = I will, can’t = can not, would’ve = would have etc). The apostrophe is usually an indicator that letters are missing from the newly contracted word. The apostrophe acts as a kind of placeholder for the omitted letters.

So, what is clear is that a group of words can be a clause, but it doesn’t mean all clauses can stand alone and communicate clearly. If ideas are incomplete, you’ll need to add an independent clause to complete the idea you want to convey.

Let’s see how that would work.

If we don’t leave now– Dependent/Subordinate Clause = IDEA INCOMPLETE

My response to you if you said this to me would be ‘Huh?’ What?

If we  don’t leave now, we will be late. Independent clause added = COMPLETE IDEA

Now, we can communicate. What  you are telling me now makes sense.

Punctuate please!

When we combine two independent clauses or simple sentences, we must use punctuation and/or conjunctions to signal that the ideas are independent of each other. When we don’t, we have a run-on sentence. Run-On Sentences Stop readers in their tracks. They confuse. They frustrate. They may turn away your reader. A Run-on sentence, my friend,  is a SENTENCE SIN you ought not to commit. Too many in your writing, and you run the risk of your reader giving up and moving on to writing that communicates. And where does that leave you? With the sound of crickets, cause everyone has left you for greener Sentences.

3 Ways to Fix Run-on Sentences

Here are three main ways to fix Run-on Sentence errors with the structure I’ve discussed above, the two clause sentence. I’m using these abbreviations: IC = Independent Clause, SS = Simple Sentence

1. Use a full stop at the end of the first IC/SS. (Remember to capitalize the initial letter of the word beginning the new sentence that comes after a full stop.)

Let’s practice this with our featured run-on sentence (Revisions are bolded):

  • Don’t write a run-on sentence you have to punctuate it. RUN ON SENTENCE
  • Don’t write a run-on sentence. You have to punctuate it. CORRECT SENTENCE-(RULE 1)

2. Use a semicolon between the two ICs/SS’s. (Do not capitalize the word after the semicolon unless it is ‘I’ or a Proper Noun).

Examples:

  • Don’t write a run-on sentence you have to punctuate it. RUN ON SENTENCE
  • Don’t write a run-on sentence; you have to punctuate it. (CORRECT SENTENCE- RULE 2)

3. Use a FANBOY (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet) conjunction to join both sentences, but remember to put a comma before the conjunction.

The construction of the featured sentence would be awkward if we tried to apply this rule with it, so I’ll use a different pair of sentences  to demonstrate this rule.

  •  The Prime Minister was censored she refused to resign. RUN ON SENTENCE
  • The Prime Minister was censored, but she refused to resign. CORRECTED SENTENCE- RULE 3

One last thing,

Many people combine two independent clauses using a comma to punctuate their sentences, as seen in these examples.

  • Don’t write a run-on sentence, you have to punctuate it. WRONG
  • Marcus does not own an umbrella, he does not own a rain coat either.  WRONG

Wrong move! This is a SENTENCE SIN we call the COMMA SPLICE.

But we’ll discuss that one in a future post.

Run-on Sentence Challenge !

To check if a group of sentences have run-on sentence errors, try borrowing this useful trick recommended for writers who find it difficult to figure out where one sentence begins and another ends try reading each sentence in this paragraph backwards start reading the last sentence you have written then read the previous one and continue like this when you detect a run on sentence error, use one of the strategies above to fix it can you find the sentences in this run-on paragraph?

CALL TO ACTION

Edit and revise the run-on sentences in the Challenge paragraph above to find a proven trick that will help you to never write another run-on sentence again.

Paste your response in the Comments box, along with your comment indicating which part of this lesson is still muddy for you. What do you need more explanation about, or do you fully understand what was described?

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How to Write the NVQ-J Level 2 Accident Report (Welding Employee Injury Scenario)

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Incident and accident reports fall under a category of reports called informative, informal reports. They use the memorandum format because the writer is communicating internally — with his supervisor.

The report follows the basic outline:

1. Introduction

2. Body

3. Conclusion

Here are some content ideas that you can incorporate to help you develop your report.

Paragraph 1: Introduction

What to include

– state your purpose or reason for writing (can come at the end or beginning)

Examples of Purpose vocabulary

The purpose of this report is to explain the circumstances surrounding the injury received by John Brown ……

The purpose of this report is to provide an account of (WHAT HAPPENED)

The purpose of this report is the describe the accident that led to the death/ hand injury/chemical spill/fire/ etc . . .

Summarize the 4 W facts

  • WHAT happened (outcome of accident and/or nature of injury, if it is an injury report)
  • WHO was injured or nearly injured (Use correct name of person if you are writing as an eye-witness; use ‘I’ if writing about your own injury. Read the scenario/case study question to be sure you have understood the point of view you are writing from.)
  • WHERE (the site of the accident– if on the premises, state the building or space where it occurred and use the phrase ‘on the premises’; if the accident occurred outside of company grounds, state the accident site, (Highway 2000 Project site or Digicel Building Construction Site, 33 Dunmore Street, Kingston 10) as well as name of building or site and street address)
  • WHEN (state the exact time period if it happened within a 24 hour period (you would have written the date in the memo heading already. Also state the time of the accident/injury/death; E.g. at 9:15 this morning)

BODY

Description of Accident

Answer the question HOW here. How did this accident occur? Detail the chronology of the events as they happened in time, that is from beginning to end. You don’t have to mention every detail. Here’s a plan I ask my students to use to arrange this section, which by the way should be written in paragraphs.

Paragraph 2 : Set the context of the incident for the readers, your simulated reader (supervisor) and your instructor. State what time you arrived at work. What task you were assigned. Provide details. You may use technical jargon since you are writing to a supervisor. Mention any other members of your work team.(by name if it is less than five, by number if it is more)

Paragraph 3. BEFORE THE ACCIDENT: Devote this paragraph to a description of the events leading up to the accident time.

Paragraph 4: DURING THE ACCIDENT: Describe the moment when man encounters hazard. Use spatial description here to identify the location of the person at the time, the location of the hazardous condition; any hazardous behaviour/activity that preceded the accident. Name any  machine, tools, substances, and equipment involved. Describe what you see and how you observed it. Where were you and what were you doing when you were alerted ton the dangerous occurrence?

Paragraph 5  AFTER THE ACCIDENT: What was your first response to the injury? If it is an eye witness report state what first aid you rendered or sought for the injured person. What medical assistance did the person receive, if any? What medical facility was person transported to, time of arrival, his state of consciousness and body part, state

  • what first aid you rendered or sought for the injured person.
  • what medical assistance the person received, if any.
  • what medical facility the injured person was transported to
  • the time of arrival
  • his state of consciousness, and
  • body part injured.

If you are writing about a resulting fatality, do not state that the person has died, even if it appears so after the accident; you may describe how he looks using phrases like, ‘lying motionless,’ ‘unresponsive’, or ‘appeared unconscious’ ; report death only after the victim is pronounced dead by a medical practitioner authorized to do so. You can also quote sources such as an investigating officer from the Police or Fire Department.

Conclusion (See Note below) 

State the outcome of the accident and the direct cause of the injury/ accident.By direct cause, I mean the physical cause of accident.

Examples:

  • Mr. Jones’ accident was not intentional and resulted when he stepped on a loose rung of a defective ladder that had not been inspected before use.
  • Mr. Thomas suffered a head injury because he was not wearing a hard hat at the time.
  • According to the medical team at St Joseph’s Hospital, the cause of death was cardiac arrest, which he suffered when 2000 volts of electricity passed through his body when the metal ladder he was standing on came into contact with high voltage overhead power lines.

++  Note

Employees are generally not authorized to do accident investigations as this is the role of the supervisor or the company’s Safety Committee or accident investigation unit of your company. Once your supervisor or the person you report to receives an accident report such as the one below, he should conduct an investigation and analysis of the accident and compile a more detailed report. You may be taught to write these detailed accident investigation reports at NVQ-J Level 3, since you would be training for supervisory roles at work.

Despite this fact, however, the unit competency standard for both Basic and Advanced paper requires that writers write recommendations. Even though these section will not apply to reports made by entry-level workers in the workplace, during my time instructing in the Units, I trained learners to add a Conclusions and Recommendations section to the basic accident report, so as to meet the evidence requirements of the assessment.

Follow your tutor’s instruction as it relates to an approach to this section. Your tutor really has the final say, and will outline his/her expectations for the reports you do in class.

Now, here is an example of a basic accident report you’ll be asked to write in the Technical Report Writing (Basic) course. (Note that the Conclusion Section is missing)

 

SAMPLE REPORT

Memorandum

To:       Roland Troy – Supervisor

From:   Romaine Barnes – Welder/Fabricator

Date:   January 24, 2008

Subject: Team Member Injured in Workshop accident

The purpose of this report is to inform you of an accident involving a member of our work team in the Welding Shop yesterday which resulted in him receiving burn injuries.

On Monday, the 23rd of January, at about 1:15 p.m., Mr.  Alvin James, a member of our welding team, accidentally suffered burn injuries inside the shop while the team was undertaking a welding task.

Team member, Mr. Everald Jones had just begun welding a piece of metal, when Mr. James walked by and accidentally kicked a piece of scrap that had fallen to the ground.  Assuming that it was cold, Mr. Jones picked it up and made to throw it in the scrap bin when it scorched him. He was not wearing his safety gloves at the time.

Mrs. Stewart, the janitor, who was in the vicinity at the time, quickly fetched a basin of water and placed his hand in. I also retrieved and applied some first aid ointment to the wound. Mr. Jones and I took him to the Sick Bay, where Nurse Althea Thomas examined the wound and asked me to rush him to the Spanish Town Hospital.

On our arrival at the hospital, Mr. James was taken to the Emergency Department where he was treated and hospitalized in stable condition.

He suffered severe burns to his fingers and hand.

______________________________________________

 

We will look at writing the Conclusion and Recommendations section of the report in another post, along with other sample reports.

How does the report structure above resemble or differ from the reports you write at work? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment. Like this post, if you found it useful. Look to the top right of this page for the Follow button. Follow me to receive updates every time I post.

Report Writing Guide (PDF E-book)

If you wish to obtain a more detailed guide plus sample reports in my  Write Technical Reports (Basic): The Level 2 NVQ-J Student’s Assessment Prep Workbook and Guide, drop me an email at taylor-karen@hotmail.com or call (876) 949-2213/797-5997 to place an order. For $US3.85, I will send you a PDF resource filled with step-by-step writing tips and report examples.

Online Tutoring

Do you know other HEART-NTA trainees who failed the previous sitting of the Level 2 and 3 Technical Report

You can also get tutoring to help you prepare and pass your Technical Report Assessment by Skype and Whatsapp. Do you know other HEART-NTA trainees who failed the previous sitting of the Level 2 and 3 Technical Report assessments, and need help? Tell them about this post and these classes.

 

Also check out my Facebook page found at http://www.facebook.com/NVQCommunicationEducationalResources  to obtain contact details.