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Sentence Variety and Elegant Sentences

Page history last edited by Don Pogreba 12 years ago


A Variety of Sentence Structures

One way to improve writing is to use a variety of sentence structures.

A simple sentence is one independent or main clause with no subordinate clauses.

Without music, life would be a mistake.

A compound sentence is composed of two or more independent clauses with no subordinate clauses.

One arrow is easily broken, but you cannot break a bundle of ten.

A complex sentence contains one independent clause and one or more subordinate clauses. 

          People often make wise statements like age is a state of mind.

A compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and one or more subordinate clause.

Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.


Length and Openings

Make your writing more effective by using a variety of other strategies.

Vary the length of your sentences to suit the tone and topic of your writing. A short sentence increases tension. A longer sentence structure slows down the action and soothes the reader. Avoid predictability and monotony with a variety of sentence lengths.

Vary your sentence beginnings, using modifiers, phrases, and clauses.


Arrangement of Ideas

Vary the arrangement of the ideas within your sentences (Writer's Inc. 308-309).

A loose sentence expresses the main thought near the beginning and adds explanatory material as needed.

We bashed the piñata for 15 minutes without denting it, although we at least avoided one another's heads and, with masks raised, finally pried out the candy with a screwdriver.

A balanced sentence is constructed so that it emphasizes a similarity or contrast between two or more of its parts, including words, phrases, and clauses.

Joe's unusual security system invited burglars and scared off friends.

A periodic sentence postpones the crucial or most surprising idea until the end.

Following my mother's repeated threats of a lifetime grounding, I decided it was time to propose a compromise.

A cumulative sentence places the general idea in the main clause and gives it greater precision by adding modifying words, phrases, and clauses before it, after it, or in the middle of it.

Eyes squinting, puffy, always on alert, he showed the effects of a week in the forest, a brutal week of staggering in circles driven by the baying of wolves.


Sentence Combining Strategies

Use sentence-combining strategies to add variety to your sentence structures.

Use a series to combine three or more similar ideas.

The unexpected tornado struck the small town, causing much damage, numerous injuries, and several deaths.

Use a relative pronoun (who, which, that, whose) to introduce the subordinate or less important ideas.

The tornado, which was completely unexpected, swept through the small town, causing much damage, numerous injuries, and several deaths.

Use an introductory phrase or clause for the less important ideas.

Because the tornado was completely unexpected, it caused a great deal of damage, numerous injuries, and several deaths.

Use a participial phrase (-ing, -ed) at the beginning or end of a sentence.

The tornado swept through the small town without warning, leaving behind a trail of death and destruction.

Use a semicolon to connect two related ideas.

The tornado swept through the small town without warning; as a result, it caused a great deal of damage, numerous injuries, and several deaths.

Repeat a key word or phrase to emphasize an idea.

The tornado left a permanent scar on the small town, a scar of destruction, injury, and death.

Use a dash to set off a key word(s) or phrase at the beginning or end of a sentence.

The tornado, which unexpectedly struck the small town, left behind a grim calling card death and destruction.

Use a correlative conjunction (either, or; not only, but also) to compare or contrast two ideas in a sentence.

The tornado not only inflicted much property damage, but also much human suffering.

Use a colon to emphasize an important idea.

The destruction caused by the tornado was unusually high for one reason: it came without warning.

Use an appositive (a word or phrase which renames) to emphasize an idea.

One event, the tornado which came without warning, changed the face of the small town forever.

Use parallelism, a repetition of structures like parts of speech, phrases, and clauses.

That monster storm descended on the unsuspecting town, caused horrific suffering and damage, and left without a glance.

The tornado struck swiftly, relentlessly, and loudly. 




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