Posted by: wordsmithsuk | May 3, 2013

Writing effective sentences


woman-keyboard-shutterstock_12392455Research into reading and comprehension tells us that sentences should be, on average, 20 words long. However, it’s also important to vary sentence length, as this adds impact to your writing. Short sentences punch your message home. However, too many simple sentences sound choppy and immature.

You can make your writing more powerful and engaging by using a mixture of simple, compound and complex sentences.

Simple sentences

These contain a subject and a verb. They express a complete thought.

For example:

  • This section discusses the main research findings.
  • Climate change affects us all.
  • The problem is growing.

Compound sentences

These contain two simple sentences joined by a conjunction (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). It often helps to put a comma in front of the conjunction, like this:

  • This section discusses the main research findings, and also offers recommendations.
  • Climate change affects us all, yet many people fail to take responsibility.
  • The problem is growing, but there are some signs that people are taking it more seriously.

Complex sentences

These have one main statement and at least one dependent clause introduced by the words when, although, while, after, because and so on.

For example:

  • Although climate change affects us all, many people fail to take responsibility.
  • When he had finished the report, he sent it to the team.
  • Because none of our ingredients derive from animals, all our foodstuffs are suitable for vegetarians.

You know that a clause is dependent because it does not make sense on its own. You can always take it out and the remaining sentence makes complete sense.

Some complex sentences use a simple statement and a dependent clause starting with that, who or which. For example:

  • The project, which is funded by sponsors in America, started in March 2013.
  • They read the newspapers that were piled on the table in the corner.

Again you can remove the dependent clauses ‘which is funded by sponsors in America and that were piled on the table in the corner’ and the remaining simple sentences make sense.

Compound-complex sentences

These contain two simple sentences and at least one dependent clause.

  • This section, which was written by John Parks, discusses the main research findings, and it also offers recommendations.
  • Climate change affects us all, yet people who don’t understand it properly fail to take responsibility.
  • The problem that has been identified is growing, but there are some signs that people are taking it more seriously.

As before, you can remove the dependent clauses and remaining simple sentences stand alone.

If you want to know more about business writing, have a look at our website http://www.word-smiths.co.uk for details of our audio book9780954886035 ‘Effective Business Writing for Success’.

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