Sentence Variety The Basics What is it? Good writing offers the reader a mixture of sentence types and sentence constructions. This is called sentence variety. How do you do it? First, you need to be sure that you can identify the basic sentence types (and some of the errors that often accompany these sentence types). Type 1: This kind of sentence has only one subject and one verb. The formal name of this sentence is… A simple sentence- I did my homework last night. has one subject. has one verb. There may (or may not) be other decoration in the sentence: objects, adjectives, adverbs, prepositional phrases, etc. There can not be a subordinating conjunction in a simple sentence (after, when, although, etc.). Important! If you are missing the subject or if you are missing the verb, you have a fragment. Fragments are common errors, especially in early drafts, because your brain is going faster than your hand. Examples of fragments: Wrote the sentence. Listening to the ocean. When I got there. Because she wants to. Learn to proofread your paper for fragments. Type 2: A Compound Sentence - is made of two independent clauses (it has two subjects and two verbs). must always have a coordinating conjunction in the middle. must always have a comma before the coordinating conjunction. Coordinating Conjunctions An easy way to remember these is FANBOYS (handout coming later): F : for A: and N: nor B: but O: or Y: yet S: so Examples: She only wrote one draft, yet she got an A. He’s allergic to dogs, but he bought the puppy anyway. Careful! If you forget the coordinating conjunction, you have a comma splice. OK: In The Jacket, Soto uses metaphors, and he uses similes. NOT OK (comma splice): In The Jacket, Soto uses metaphors, he uses similes. Type 3: A Complex Sentence has two subjects and two verbs. must have a subordinating conjunction. is similar to a compound sentence in that is has two clauses. However, one is a dependent clause and one is an independent clause. Subordinating Conjunctions? You know these… words like: When While Before After As soon as If Although Since Where As long as As As long as So that In order to As if Now that Though Unless Until Whenever For example: When I got to the classroom, I realized the students had left. We went to the computer lab after we had met in the classroom. If you proofread your paper, you will probably get a better grade. When do I use the comma? If your subordinating conjunction begins the sentence, use the comma between clauses. (… notice the comma in that sentence…) Why isn’t this a comma splice? Don’t use the comma if the subordinating conjunction comes in the middle. Another type of fragment… If you use the dependent clause without the independent clause, you have a different kind of fragment. You saw some of these earlier. We speak like this all the time, but you can’t write it! Examples: If Helene had fallen in love with him, too. Because description helps the reader see what the writer is saying. Although she didn’t buy him the leather jacket. One more error… … is the run-on sentence (our book calls this a fused sentence). A run-on sentence has too many clauses together. For example: He asked for the jacket she bought him the jacket but he didn’t like it. It was on a Thursday I was sitting in the back of the room, in a seat with a chalk circle drawn around it. Back to sentence variety! When you write your paper, you want a mixture of simple, compound and complex sentences. One sentence type alone becomes tedious and uninteresting for a reader. Your job as a writer is to try to use all three types - and to learn how to correct these common mistakes!