Snap Language

Getting Smarter through Language

Writing Well Built Sentences | Advanced Writing

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In this lesson:

Level

 intermediate

 advanced

Writing is not just about using good vocabulary and grammar. As they put their paragraphs together, writers need to build effective sentences that give readers the right amount of information.

In this lesson, you will learn how to combine multiple ideas into well built, effective sentences.

The Problem

Consider the following paragraph carefully.

Writing short sentences is fine. They provide small amounts of information. Short sentences are also easy to understand. A paragraph with only short sentences becomes monotonous, though. It is actually more difficult to understand. Readers want dynamic paragraphs. Readers also want the information to flow.

Although paragraph as choppy as this may be a bit of an exaggeration, you do not want your writing to sound anything like it. Here is one way you could revise it while using a variety of sentence lengths.

Writing short sentences providing small, easy-to-understand amounts of information is fine. However, a paragraph made up only of short sentences becomes monotonous. In fact, it is more difficult to understand. Readers want dynamic paragraphs in which the information flows.

How do you accomplish that?

Writing Better Sentences | The Solution

When you write your first draft, you should prioritize putting your ideas in writing quickly. As a result, you often end up with poorly built sentences. That is not a problem. As a part of the writing process, you should always revise your drafts. You can then work on having elegant, well built sentences.

Below are some tips on how to combine ideas from multiple short sentences into a more effective sentence.

  • How to write well built sentences | Example 1
  • 1. Examine the following short, choppy sentences:

    J. Eldridge was an American writer.

    He was a fiction writer.

    He wrote 15 novels.

    They were excellent novels.

    He wrote them in the early 1900s.

    He became famous only after he died.

  • 2. Notice the ideas being expressed:

    The person: J. Eldrige

    Descriptions of the person: American, fiction, writer

    When he did something: in the early 1900s.

    What he did: wrote 15 novels

    Description of the novels: excellent

    Ideas that can be connected: wrote novels; died; then he became famous

  • 3. Connect these ideas to write a better sentence

    In the early 1900s, American fiction writer J. Eldridge wrote 15 excellent novels, but he became famous only after he died.

    This is only one way to write a sentence using these ideas. The point is that you can convey a great deal of information in a simple and effective sentence.

    Here is another way you could combine the same ideas.

    Although American fiction writer J. Eldridge wrote 15 excellent novels in the early 1900s, he became famous only after his death.

Your main goal as a writer should not be to pack ideas into sentences but to write well built sentences that convey the message the most effectively.

  • How to write well built sentences | Example 2
  • 1. Notice the ideas being expressed in this sequence of short sentences:

    Nina Johnson has decided to retire.

    She is an Olympic medalist.

    She has won a gold medal.

    She has retired due to a recent injury.

  • 2. Notice the ideas being expressed:

    The person: Nina Johnson

    Descriptions of the person: medalist

    Description of the medal: Olympic, gold

    What she did: decided to retire

    Ideas that can be connected: decided to retire; reason: a recent injury

  • 3. Putting those ideas together, you could write,

    Olympic gold medalist Nina Johnson has decided to retire due to a recent injury.

    Another way to connect the same ideas could be,

    As a result of a recent injury, Olympic medalist Nina Johnson has decided to retire.

  • How to write well built sentences | Example 3
  • Examine the ideas expressed in these short sentences:

    Social media allows you to see how people live.

    Social media allows you to see how people from different cultures live.

    Instagram is an example of social media that lets you do that.

    Some social media users have stereotypes about people from different cultures.

    These users use what they see to validate their stereotypes.

    These are negative stereotypes.

  • Putting those ideas together, you could write,

    Although social media such as Instagram allows you to see how people from different cultures live, some people use what they see to validate their negative stereotypes.

    The original short sentences are not connected, so it is difficult to tell what the writer’s intended message is. Perhaps this is the message:

    Social media such as Instagram should help users dispel negative stereotypes about people from different cultures as you can see how they live; nonetheless, some people use what they see only to validate their existing stereotypes.

    By allowing you to see how others live, social media such as Instagram should help users dispel negative cultural stereotypes; nonetheless, some users use what they see only to validate their existing stereotypes.

    Is the above sentence too long? No problem. Break it up.

    On social media such as Instagram, you can see how people from different cultures live, which should help you dispel negative stereotypes. Unfortunately, some people use what they see only to validate their existing stereotypes.

Summary

You can use one or multiple ways to combine ideas into a more complex sentence. Just make sure you preserve the original intended meaning.

Possible Ways to Combine Sentences
  1. Start with the time of the action.
  2. Find key nouns.
  3. Find key adjectives or nouns that can modify key nouns.
  4. Create phrases (e.g., American fiction writer, Olympic gold medalist).
  5. Use coordinating conjunctions (for, and, but, or, yet, so) to connect related ideas.
  6. Use subordinating conjunctions (e.g., who, after, because, whereas, although, etc.) to connect related ideas.
  7. Use conjunctive adverbs (e.g., in addition, moreover, however, nevertheless, etc.
  8. Use any other devices to combine ideas into the sentence.
Fair Warning

Do not take this lesson to mean that you should pack as much information into a single sentence as possible! Doing so can make your writing unnecessarily difficult to read.

You should find a balance between too much and too little information in each sentence. Moreover, good writers use a variety of sentence lengths in their writing. For example, sometimes a short, simple sentence creates emphasis because that idea stands alone in the text. Other times, combining multiple ideas is an effective way to communicate many ideas all at once, which keeps the information flowing.

Your main goal as a writer should not be to pack ideas into sentences but to write well built sentences that convey the message the most effectively.

Practice

Complete Practice 1 to practice building better sentences.

Complete Practice 2 for a bit more challenging academic sentences.

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