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Constructing Sentences: Effective Sentence Construction

Avoid excessive coordination

Be sparing in the number of coordinating conjunctions you use within one sentence or series of sentences. A passage containing many and's or but's is not easy to read. Revise passages like the following:

  Faulty    I grew up in a large family, and we lived on a small farm in a poor area of Iran, and every day I had to get up early and do farm work and spend a lot of time cleaning out the animals' stables, and then I would be exhausted in the evening and would go to bed very early, and I never had time to read.
 
  Revised    Because I grew up in a large family on a small farm in a poor area of Iran, every day I had to get up early to do farm work, mostly cleaning out the animals' stables. I would be so exhausted in the evening that I would go to bed very early, without ever having time to read.

Use coordinate structures for coordinate ideas.

Connect ideas of equal importance with coordinating conjunctions.

  Example Every morning Dad makes pancakes, and Mom reads the paper.

To highlight one idea over another, put important information in the independent clause and subordinate less important information.

  Faulty    He lived in a hotel, and he never had to do anything for himself.
[The second clause is the point that the writer wants to emphasize; the first clause provides explanatory information.]
 
  Revised    When he lived in a hotel, he never had to do anything for himself.

Avoid excessive subordination.

Avoid writing sentences with many dependent clauses. Even if the sentences are accurately constructed, they become difficult for the reader to unravel.

  Faulty    Because the report was weak and poorly written, the boss, who wanted to impress the company president by showing her how efficient his division was, to gain more prestige in the company, decided, despite the fact that he was under pressure of an imminent deadline, that he would rewrite the report over the weekend.
 
  Revised    Because the report was weak and poorly written, the boss decided to rewrite it over the weekend, despite the pressure of an imminent deadline. He wanted to impress the company president by showing her how efficient his division was so that he could gain more prestige.

Vary your sentence connections.

Vary the way you connect ideas in your writing so that you also vary your sentence structure and place emphasis where it best serves your ideas.

  Example The guitarist had grown up with seven sisters. As a result, he really knew about women.

The guitarist had grown up with seven sisters, so he really knew about women.
[In these two examples, both ideas — growing up with seven sisters and knowing about women — receive equal weight and are given equal importance.]

Because the guitarist had grown up with seven sisters, he really knew about women.
[In this example, the sentence emphasis is placed on knowing about women; growing up with seven sisters is made subordinate in a dependent clause.]

Options for Connecting Clauses

Coordinating
Conjunction
Transitional
Expression
Subordinating
Conjunction
and (addition) also, further,
furthermore, moreover,
in addition
(none)
but, yet (contrast) however, nevertheless,
on the other hand
although, even though,
whereas, while
or, nor (alternative) instead, otherwise,
alternatively
unless
so, for (result) therefore, as a result,
hence, consequently,
thus, accordingly, then
because, as,
since, so/such . . . that,
now that, once


[seealso.bmp]
See also
Parts of Speech
Basic Sentence Patterns
Phrases
Clauses
Connections with Transitions
Sentence Variety