Nobody likes to read monotonous texts full of abstruse sentences. Overcomplicated constructions can discourage and irritate readers. It is like ordering a fancy salad and realizing that something is not right, though the ingredients are your absolute favorites.
There are many ways to improve your writing, add life and rhythm to the prose. Sentence variety is one of them. It means including sentences of different lengths and structure in your text. Sentence variety helps to properly emphasize what is the most important while keeping the text reader-friendly.
After you write or type something, try reading it out loud. Is your text easy to read and comprehend? Does it sound conversational enough? You see, when we talk, the length of the sentences we use is varied. Some sentences seem endless, while others consist of a few words. Your articles, essays, and stories should also follow this pattern.
Why You Need to Simplify Your Writing
Beginner writers often think that using lengthy, complex sentences is a sign of intelligence and professionalism. That is a big mistake. Experienced writers know that the best way to make their point strong and clear is to use concise and direct structures. While your writing will certainly benefit from adding sentence variety, remember that sometimes simplicity can do wonders. Of course, to convey complicated ideas, you may sometimes need complex sentences. However, if your thought is simple, there is no need to perplex the readers.
It does not mean good writers use only simple sentences. The point is that sometimes beginners use overly complex sentences without any necessity. There is a simple explanation for that: in our heads, thoughts are often chaotic. Some people may find it difficult to formulate them into clear and concise structures. To improve the quality of your writing, avoid repetition, and aim for steady variation when it comes to sentence length.
Main Types of Sentences
Before we explain how to add sentence variety, let’s talk about the major types of sentences. First of all, how do we define a sentence? Well, a sentence is a group of words that form an integral whole and convey some meaning. There are 4 types of simple sentences, and all of them contain only one clause:
- Declarative sentence: The girl is sad.
- Interrogative sentence: Why is the girl sad?
- Exclamatory sentence: How sad this girl is!
- Imperative sentence: Don’t be sad!
Advanced types of sentences are called “compound” and “complex”. Compound ones combine two sentences into one with the help of conjunction. Complex sentences are composed of one independent clause and at least one dependent (also called subordinate) clause. While constructing such sentences, you need to know how to properly use conjunctions, conditionals, and noun phrases, etc. Compare these types of sentences:
- Simple sentences: The girl wanted to buy candy. She had no money.
- Compound: The girl wanted to buy candy but had no money.
- Complex: Although the girl wanted to buy candy, she had no money.
Adding Sentence Variety to Your Texts
The most common sentence structure looks like this: subject-verb-subject. Such sentences are common for beginners:
The girl found a kitten.
I like reading.
This movie is boring.
You can play with these sentences and turn them into something more interesting. Let’s modify the first sentence, for example:
The girl found a kitten.
How about turning it into a question:
Do you see what the girl found? A kitten.
Now let’s make a passive sentence:
The kitten was found by the girl.
And here is an exclamatory sentence:
What a kitten the girl found!
Take one more sentence and combine them:
The girl found a kitten but looked very sad.
Use a transitional phrase:
Although the girl found the kitten, I could see that she was still very sad.
How about a sentence where we place modifiers in different places:
The kitten, which looked like a ball of fur, was found by the sad girl.
Variety in Sentence Length
If you want to add variety, don’t use the same-length structures. Surely, sometimes, short sentences can be more powerful than long ones. Try to combine long and short sentences by adding natural flow to your writing. Make the essential sentences as clear as possible for the readers. Do not create overly complex and long structures. They can be difficult to understand, and the readers may miss the main point. If you describe something, the sentences can be lengthier. However, it is recommended to read them out loud and make sure that they sound natural and clear.
Here is an example of a not very good text where all the sentences have almost the same length and structure:
It was a gloomy day. The girl was very sad. She has lost her kitten. It was raining outside. She wanted to find her kitten.
Well, this chunk of text can easily be modified to add more flow:
It was a gloomy day. The girl was vas very sad because of losing her kitten. Although it was raining outside, she was determined to go find the kitten.
However, you can use a similar sentence structure as a stylistic trick to emphasize something:
It was cold. It was raining. It was late November.
Simple Ways to Add Sentence Variety
- Create a compound sentence out of two short ones:
I had just come home, and my sister noticed that I am sad.
- Include prepositional phrases and change their position:
With fifty dollars left in my pocket, I knew there was nothing I could do.
I knew there was nothing I could do, with only fifty dollars left in my pocket.
- Use conjunctions: because, however, though, although, since, and so on. For maximum variety, put them in different positions:
We were not tired, although the day was full of events.
Since I am a beginner, my writing skills need constant polishing.
- Use rhetorical questions. They do not only add sentence variety to your writing; they can also help to emphasize something or spark off a discussion. Rhetorical questions keep the reader’s attention. In some cases, it is worth putting them at the very beginning of a paragraph.
There is no point in blaming yourself, is there?
- Make your opening varied. When all your sentences start the same way or with the same word, especially he, It, This, or I, the text becomes monotonous and boring. Try something other than beginning with a subject and verb. Consider an adverbial clause, a connective, etc. Note that different openings can change the emphasis.
- Include interruptions. Interruption – putting a modifier or another sentence in the middle – is a nice way to add variety to your text.
How to Evaluate Sentence Variety
If you want to check your writing for a variety, here is the strategy that may help you:
- Take a piece of paper and divide it into three columns. In the first column, write down the opening words from your sentences.
- Next, count the number of words in each of your sentences and write put this information into the second column.
- In the third one, identify what types of sentences you have: declarative, interrogative, and so on.
After filling in all the columns, you can see if your text needs some modifications in terms of variety.
Writing Exercise that Helps to Improve Sentence Variety
To start writing more interesting and varied texts, try this simple exercise: modify one simple sentence as many times as possible. For instance:
The weather is good.
There are many ways to convey the same meaning:
What good weather we have today!
Today’s weather is so good it makes me smile.
Have you noticed how good the weather is today?
The weather hasn’t been so good since the last month.
Isn’t the weather today perfect?
Though it was raining yesterday, today’s weather is perfect.
The weather is surprisingly good for this time of year.
It is a beautiful and clear day.
It is sunny and warm outside.
There is always room for improvement, right? Experiment with simple sentences and see how your articles, stories, or essays become more fascinating to read.
You can also learn from the writing of others. When you read books, pay attention to how professional writers form sentences to make each one sound fresh and unique. The more you read – the easier it will be for you to create varied texts that are as good as those from your favorite books.
With these simple tools, you can achieve a new level in writing. Want to engage the readers? Add sentence variety to reduce repetitions and emphasize important points. Down with monotony and overcomplicated sentences. Keep modifying and sometimes simplifying while occasionally inserting questions or exclamations.
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