The worst nightmare of every essay writer is creating a work where sentences are choppy, repetitive, and difficult to understand. I have written numerous articles and essays which seemed excellent during the process, but their final versions were all bad. This is why thoroughly reading every work you write and making necessary edits is essential. During proofreading and editing, you can implement some sentence variety strategy (in case you haven’t done so while you were writing) and make your work easy to understand. Sentence variety strategies are important for establishing your writing style and voice which represent your identity. Throughout this post I’m going to provide a useful insight into sentence variety strategies that you can use to improve your works.
Evaluating sentence variety
When you’re writing essay, article or any other type of work you usually do not pay too much attention to sentence style mostly because it disrupts creative flow. The best thing to do is to implement a strategy to review variety of sentences into editing process. This strategy should be focused on sentence beginnings, lengths, and types.
Take a blank piece of paper and create three columns:
Column #1 – opening words in all sentences
Column #2 – number of words in each sentence
Column #3 – types of sentences you used (exclamatory, interrogative, affirmative etc.).
TIP: Instead of counting words yourself, select sentences one by one and use Miscrosoft Word’s Word Count option.
These columns will help you identify the problem i.e. sentences too long, repetitive content, wrong types of sentences. Then, implement sentence variety strategies below to edit your work.
Alternate short and long sentences to vary the rhythm
Writing several sentences of the same length can make your work (or that particular paragraph) seem monotonous and difficult to follow. To bring back liveliness into your work alternate short and long sentences which improve rhythm.
Example: Jane became a member of her friend’s book club to discuss great literary works. She assumed they would read War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and other great books. But, she was disappointed when she realized that nobody read the book and other women just gossiped. She went home without getting to discuss things she read and sad for having high expectations.
Revision: Jane became a member of her friend’s book club to discuss great literary works such as War and Peace, Crime and Punishment and other great books. She realized that nobody discussed books there. Jane discovered that other women didn’t read book and they just gossiped which is why she had to go home without getting to discuss what she read. High expectations usually disappoint.
Sentence openings variety
When multiple sentences start with the same word e.g. This, It, The, I etc. some particular work can turn out to be quite boring to an average reader. You can prevent this from happening by varying sentence openings.
Example: George tripped over the step.
Revision: First thing in the morning, George tripped over the step.
Clumsily, George tripped over the step.
On the way to work, George tripped over the step.
When he was heading to his office, George tripped over the step.
Read more College essay tips articles:
Sentences in English language can be categorized in four different ways. These categories are based on number of dependent and independent clauses within a specific sentence. Learning to differentiate different types of sentences helps you add variation and complexity to your work.
Simple sentence (one independent clause/no dependent clauses) – I love reading fiction.
Compound sentence (multiple independent clauses/no dependent clauses) – The snake hissed and frightened helpless woman, and she ran off screaming.
Complex sentence (one independent clause/at least one dependent clause) – John left when his sister arrived.
Complex-compound sentence (multiple independent clauses/at least one dependent clause) – We decided that the movie was too violent, but our children, who like to watch horror movies, thought that we were wrong.
Fix short, choppy sentences
While we assume that short sentences make it easier for readers to understand the text, that’s not always the cases. Multiple short sentences create a choppy rhythm and disturb the “reading flow”. Below, you can see a few tips to fix that:
Use conjunctions – join complete sentences with but, and, or, nor, for, so, yet.
Example: David is a thrill seeker. He takes every opportunity to go bungee-jumping.
Revision: David is a thrill seeker so he takes every opportunity to go bungee-jumping.
Use subordination – link two short, related sentences too each other with connectors such as although, after, as (if), before, because, if, even though, since, that, rather than, while, which, whether, whereas, until, unless.
Example: Sheila likes movies. She goes to cinema every weekend.
Revision: Sheila likes movies which is why she goes to cinema every weekend.
When you’re writing a work in which you discuss some particular topic, you might accidentally create repetitive sentences. These sentences, as many other mistakes, contribute to monotonous effect of the work and make reader lose interest. To tackle this problem use techniques listed below:
Include relative pronouns – embed one sentence inside the other with who, whoever, which, that, whose.
Example: Our experiment failed due to Murphy’s law. According to this law, if something can go wrong, it will.
Revision: Our experiment failed due to Murphy’s law which states that if something can go wrong, it will.
Use participles – instead of forms of the verb to be (am, are, is, was, were) include participles (present and past).
Example: Kenny was shocked to see burglars outside his house. He immediately called police.
Revision: Shocked to see burglars outside his house, Kenny immediately called police.
Use prepositions – turn a sentence into a prepositional phrase using about, across, above, after, along, against, behind, beneath, below, by, down, despite, except, for, from, inside, in, off, of, over, past, to, under, up, with.
Example: Lily used her mother’s laptop to play games. This was against her mom’s rules.
Revision: Against mom’s rules, Lily used laptop to play games.
Want more essay writing advice?
Read an Ebook created by Edusson.com
Click below to find it out :
"Essay Survival Guide"
Solving similar sentence patterns and rhythms
Sentences that have similar rhythms and patterns can make a great work seem dull. Luckily, you can easily fix this problem. For Example:
Use dependent markers – instead of starting each sentence with a subject, use clauses and phrases such as although, after, whether, while, when, whenever, whatever, until, unless, since, though, in order to, if, even though, even if, because, before.
Example: The entire room became silent when the breaking news revealed that devastating tsunami killed thousands.
Revision: When the breaking news revealed that devastating tsunami killed thousands, the entire room became silent.
Include transitional verbs and phrases – improve the rhythm with transitional verbs or phrases at beginning of some sentences e.g. accordingly, after all, also, although, meanwhile, afterward, consequently, but, despite, however, for instance, on the contrary, regardless, otherwise etc.
Example: Pharmaceutical companies are focused on producing highly dependent sleep aids that present temporary solution to insomnia. The American population faces growing problems with addiction.
Revision: Pharmaceutical companies are focused on producing highly dependent sleep aids that present temporary solution to insomnia. Meanwhile, the American population faces growing problems with addiction.
When you’re done with writing your article, book or novel etc. read it thoroughly and start editing your work. Implement sentence variety strategies from this article to enhance the quality.
(noun): a group of words that expresses a thought and is complete in itself (starting with a capital letter and ending with a full stop or question/exclamation mark)
(noun): the quality of being different; not having uniformity or sameness
Do you read your sentences out loud after you write them? It is a good idea to do this. Writing that reads easily and sounds conversational is easier to understand. When we talk, we vary the length of our sentences. Some of our sentences are long and exciting and seem to go on forever until it is time for us to finally stop and take a breath. Some are short and sweet. A wise English poet once said, "Variety is the spice of life." Remember this advice as you write your stories, essays and letters.
How to add Sentence Variety
There are a number of ways to add variety to your writing. Imagine yourself cutting up a sentence into individual words and placing them in a paper bag. Now shake it up! Did you do a little dance? Great. Now lay out your sentence and experiment. Can you make two sentences out of one? Can you put your sentence back to front? Try turning your sentence into a question. Or, if you think your sentence is too short, you may want to add another sentence to it. If you have a really important point, perhaps a famous person has said something similar. In other words, there may be a quote you can use to strengthen your writing.
Sentence TypesBefore we look at sentence variety, let's review the 4 main types of simple sentences. Simple sentences contain one clause.:
- Declarative sentence (most common): The sky is blue.
- Interrogative sentence: Why is the sky blue?
- Exclamatory sentence: The sky is blue now! (It was black just a minute ago.)
- Imperative sentence: Don't go outside! (It's pouring rain.)
More advanced types of sentences are "compound" (combining two sentences with a conjunction) and "complex" (using at least one dependent clause and one independent clause). To create these sentences you need to know how to use conjunctions, adverbial phrases, prespositional phrases, conditionals and noun phrases.
Simple sentences: The boy wanted to go outside. He had to eat his pizza first.
Compound: The boy wanted to go outside but he had to eat his pizza first.
Complex: Although the boy wanted to go outside, he had to eat his pizza first.
The most common sentence pattern that writers use is subject-verb-object (SVO). This is how beginners write. For example:
- The boy ate pizza.
- I play soccer.
- Homework is boring.
There are many ways to rewrite SVO sentences. Let's play with this sentence:
- Turn it into a question:
Do you know what the boy ate? Pizza.
- Turn it into a passive sentence:
The pizza was devoured by the boy. (You could use "eaten" but here "devoured" gives a better reason for placing the pizza first.)
- Turn it into an exclamatory sentence:
The boy ate pizza again!
- Combine it with your next sentence:
The boy wolfed down the pizza and then ran outside to play.
- Use a transitional phrase:
Even though the boy ate the pizza, you could tell that he wanted to be outside playing.
- Start with a participle:
Eating the pizza, the boy watched his friends playing outside.
- Place modifiers in different places:
The pizza, which was a huge pepperoni slice, was devoured by the boy.
Wolfing down his pizza, the boy barely noticed the pepperoni on it.
The boy ate the large pepperoni pizza as quickly as possible.
Although he wanted to keep playing, the boy rushed in and wolfed down his pizza lunch.
As fast as he could, the boy ate the pizza.
Avoid using sentences that are all the same length. Short sentences are powerful. Combine short sentences with long sentences to make your writing flow more naturally. Your most important sentences should be clear and concise. Keep them short. Descriptive sentences can have more length, but you should read them out loud to make sure that they flow naturally.
Example of a paragraph with poor sentence length:
The boy's mother called him inside for dinner. The boy ate his pizza. He was very hungry. He didn't want to eat, though. He wanted to play outside with his friends.
The boy's mother called him inside for dinner. It was pizza. Even though the boy was hungry and pizza was his favourite meal, he wanted to stay outside and play. He wolfed the pizza down and ran back outside.
- It was hot. It was humid. It was the last day of summer.
Sentence Variety Writing Challenge:How many ways can you rewrite, expand, reorder, reword these ten boring sentences?
- The sky is blue.
Blue skies like these make my day.
There isn't a cloud in the sky.
It's a clear day.
You won't get a finer day than today.
The sky is as blue as the sea.
Have you ever seen such a blue sky?
What a fine day!
- I am sick.
- I have school tomorrow.
- My room is small.
- Andrea is busy.
- There's nothing to do.
- It's cold in this house.
- I don't want to be late.
- I'm hungry.
- It's Wednesday.