Mixed sentences begin with one topic or grammatical pattern, then shift to another. (Usually this happens when a writer gets a new idea in the middle of writing a sentence.) Sentences with confusing shifts mislead readers by undermining patterns they rely on as they read.
Mixed Sentence: Because of the rebellious atmosphere generated by protests against the Vietnam war helps explain the often outrageous fashions of the time. (When readers encounter a word like “because,” they expect it to be attached to some main statement and to add to (modify) the core statement in a sentence. But that doesn’t happen here. The sentence simply states the same thing twice: “because” and “helps explain.”)
Mixed Sentence: The new procedures for testing cosmetics, we designed them to avoid cruelty to laboratory animals. (The writer seems to start this sentence over again with the word “we.”)
Mixed Sentence: In 1872, Claude Monet exhibited the painting Impression, Sunrise was the source of the term Impressionism. (The writer uses the same term [Impression, Sunrise] as the end of one sentence, but then launches right into another sentence by re-using the same term. This is confusing for readers, who might not be able to follow the shift.)
Mixed Sentence: By designing the questionnaire carefully made Valerie’s psychology study a success. (The “By” structure used to begin this sentence cannot stand on its own as a subject in this sentence pattern.)
To correct a mixed sentence, first ask yourself what idea(s) you were trying to convey. Then, try the tips below to clarify your sentence.
Focus on the meaning of the sentence. Does the sentence provide all the needed information? If not, what’s missing? Does the sentence seem to start over? Does the sentence include a transitional word (like “because” or “therefore” or “so”) without following it up with an explanation?
Ask yourself, “What is the topic of this sentence, and how does the rest of the sentence comment on or rename the topic?” In other words, can you clearly follow the relationship between the main idea in the sentence and all the other information you offer about that main idea? If not, you might need to restructure the way you present the information or split the information into two separate sentences.
Make sure that the sentence clearly indicates who does what to whom. If any of those elements is missing, the sentence can be difficult to follow.