Practical English Usage
English grammar and vocabulary exercises
How to vary and improve your sentences
Variety of sentence length and patterns can work wonders. It is true that readers of the twenty-first century prefer terse sentences. Many writers, too, prefer short and simple sentences because writing a really long sentence in a grammatically correct way is not always easy.
Unfortunately, this over emphasis on simple sentences makes the text dull and uninteresting. Of course, by writing short sentences you can reduce the number of grammatical mistakes. But if your prose is made up entirely of short sentences, it will drive the reader crazy after a short while.
Before you start writing long sentences, here are a few things to remember.
Avoid sentence fragments at any cost
A complete sentence must make sense by itself. A fragment is a sentence that is not complete. In most cases a fragment is a phrase or clause that should be a part of the sentence that comes before it.
Study the paragraph given below. It contains several sentence fragments.
We were lucky to see the kangaroo. Hiking through the scrub. It was sitting quietly. With only its ears moving. Peter signaled me to keep still. While he focused his camera. Suddenly the animal hopped away. An example of the shy nature of the kangaroo.
This paragraph could be rewritten as:
Hiking through the scrub we were lucky to see the kangaroo. It was sitting quietly with only its ears moving. Peter signaled me to keep still while he focused his camera. Suddenly the animal hopped away - an example of the shy nature of the kangaroo.
The run-on sentence is a common fault. It is really two separate sentences that have been joined with a comma instead of a colon, a full stop or a conjunction.
The following sentence is an example of a run-on sentence.
The camel is an ungainly animal, it has a huge hump on its back.
This could be written as:
The camel is an ungainly animal; it has a huge hump on its back.
The camel is an ungainly animal. It has a huge hump on its back.
The camel is an ungainly animal which has a huge hump on its back.
The camel is an ungainly animal in that it has a huge hump on its back.
Reference: Parts of the text taken from 'Perfect Your Sentences' published by Orient Longman
See alsoHow to vary and improve your sentences - part I
How to vary and improve your sentences - part II
Cardinal and ordinal numbers
Fractions and decimals
Numbers: differences between American and British usage
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Last updated on August 4, 2007|
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