Sophisticated Sentences

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Growing Beyond the Simple Sentence

An effective way to improve your writing is to progress from a simple style to a sophisticated style.

You can do that by replacing short, simple sentences expressing only a single concept with longer, flowing sentences that address multiple concepts. Consequently, we want to move beyond that plain style with its simple sentences, and we can do that, in part, just by using the simple but powerful comma..

These sophisticated sentences that we are striving to write to break up the monotony of choppy sentences fall into three categories.

1.   Compound Sentences

The first category of sentences capable of expressing multiple concepts is the compound sentence.

A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses, but no dependent clauses.

Notice in the following examples of compound sentences how a comma and a coordinating conjunctionOpens in new window join the independent clauses.

A coordinating conjunction is a conjunction that joins pairs of a sentence that are grammatically equal, such as two or more independent clauses.

The coordinating conjunctionsOpens in new window are: and, but, or, nor, for, yet, and so.

Examples include:
  • I went to John’s house, but he was not home.
  • The student studied all night, yet he failed the test.
  • The band performed on Tuesday, but their Wednesday performance was canceled.

Compound sentences constitute the first step toward moving beyond simple sentences. By moving from the simple to compound sentence, we can compare or link events and ideas that were confined to separate sentences.

Moreover, because compound sentences are usually longer sentences, we can use them to help make the passage read smoothly.

Now, let’s look at the next category of sophisticated sentences, the complex sentence.

2.   Complex Sentences

A complex sentence is a sentence that includes one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses.

Notice how the comma separates the dependent clause (blacked underline) from the independent clause (colored underline) in the following complex sentences.

  • Because clear-cut forests hold less water, the vegetation suffers.
  • After leaving Pittsburgh, Katie moved to California.
  • If you enjoy writing, you should try to read books suggested by your teacher.

Complex sentences provide us with an even greater framework within which to express multiple concepts, and like compound sentences, including them in your writing makes the passage flow smoothly.

Now we move on to the most sophisticated of the sentences, the compound-complex sentence.

3.   Compound-Complex Sentences

The compound-complex sentence is constructed by using two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Notice how the powerful comma separates the dependent clause (blacked underline) from the independent clauses (colored underline).

  • While Matt was sleeping, his parents decorated the house for his birthday and his sister baked him a cake.
  • At the mayor’s request, the city council adjourned and the city controller resigned.
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