Now that youíve figured out the basic parts of the sentence, itís time to work on finesse. Once you identify the subject of the sentence and the verb, you can mess around with all the elements that modify them.
Options for modifying a noun/verb sentence include adding prepositional or participial phrases or adverbial clauses, increasing the level of detail with adjectives and participles, and adding optional information offset by conjunctions and punctuation. There are more toys in this toy box, but Iím trying to keep this particular blog short. Wish me luck. :-)
A preposition provides information about when the subject of the sentence happened, or provides some other sort of direction. Prepositions include words like after, before, above, beyond, below, over, under, in, toward, and because (of). In a prepositional phrase beginning, the rest of the sentence makes complete grammatical and logical sense by itself: the prepositional phrase only provides useful or interesting details. All prepositional beginnings must be set off by commas. The British arenít consistent with this comma thing, but American English requires it.
You can read more about Prepositional phrases in my earlier blog, Preposition Proposition. It was published in April 2004, I believe.
Adjectives provide color; they are the descriptive words that tell us which thing is under discussion by naming specifics about the subject. You can use an adjective just prior to a noun, or you can use it as if it were a noun by making it the focus of the predicate. You can read more about adjectives in my recent blog, Adjective Agitation, published in January, 2005.
As I covered in two previous blogs (Participle Particulars, Parts 1 and 2, published in January 2005), participles are verbs that act like adjectives. Both adjectives and participles have nouns right near by that they modify, so you can treat them pretty much the same.
As you might remember from a previous blog (Home for an Adverb, published in June 2004), adverbs provide a description of the manner in which something happened. They belong at the end of the sentence, after the verb/gerund they modify. Occasionally, youíll find them at the beginning of sentences (like this one), but try to avoid this construction in your more serious work because itís controversial.
Conjunctions link one half of a sentence to the other. They coordinate, joining related or similar words to each other; they correlate, joining words by acting in pairs (like either/or); and they subordinate, providing information about what the important parts of the sentence are. You can read more about them in my scintillating blog called Conjunctions, published in November, 2004.
As Iíve lectured, er, blogged many times, punctuation is more than a way to separate one sentence from another. You can use punctuation to focus the readerís attention, to isolate essential from non-essential information, to allow the reader to catch a breath, and to convey excitement or confusion. I have written loads of blogs on punctuation; surf my Web site because things are organized by topic there, rather than by publication date as they are in this blog.
As always, Iíll be happy to answer questions on specific sentences. Your questions give me the best motivation and topics for writing this blog, and I thank you for your persistence in wading through all this stuff.