What Is Sentence Variety And Why You Need It
If you find yourself wondering how to amplify your writing or speech skills in a way that draws in the attention of anyone in your audience, then you could probably stand to learn a thing or two about sentence variety.
What exactly is sentence variation ?
According to Douglas E. Grudzina and Mary C. Beardsley, authors of Three Simple Truths and Six Essential Traits for Powerful Writing: Book One, sentence variety is “a means by which the writer helps the reader to understand which ideas are most important, which ideas support or explain other ideas, etc. Variety of sentence structure is also a part of style and voice.”
Understanding the Importance of Sentence Variety
At their very root, sentences carry out four rudimentary functions:
The declarative sentence is the first type of sentence that anyone learning the English language (either from birth or as a second language) will learn. This is the most common sentence used in every day conversations. It is comprised of a subject, a verb, and object and some form of statement of a fact.
Example: The cat scratched the girl.
Next is an interrogative sentence. These are most often referred to as questions, and can be used for determining facts or gathering opinions.
Example: Did the cat scratch the girl?
Exclamatory sentences are used when the speaker is overcome with feelings or needs to strongly emphasize their point. While these are common in fiction, they have no place in academic writing.
Example: The cat scratched me! Ouch!
Lastly, an imperative sentence – or a command – leaves the subject unspoken and directs that attention on the action. These types of sentences are useful for persuasion.
Example: Scratch her!
Sentences will vary based on their structure and also by function. The examples mentioned above were all examples of a simple sentence, meaning that they all had a single, independent clause. There are also compound, complex and compound-complex sentences.
A simple sentence is on that has only a single, independent clause.
Example: I like to listen to music.
A compound sentence, on the other hand, has multiple independent clauses, that are connected by the proper conjunction (but, for, or, so and, yet, nor.)
Example: I like to listen to music, and I also like to read.
A complex sentence is one that has a single, independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. (A dependent clause is unable to stand by itself) Dependent clauses are relative (I hit the girl who tripped me), adverb (I am going home now because I have to work) and noun (I do not know what to do after school.)
As lastly, compound-complex sentences take a bunch of multiple independent clauses and mix them together. Although it will take some work to write sentences like these properly, they can add significant meaning to your writing and are common place in academic writing.
Example: Despite my preference for watching suspense thrillers, I do enjoy a good drama, and I also like slapstick comedy.
Once you’ve developed a firm grasp of the different types of sentences and the functions that they serve, you should start to experiment with how to best combine them to strengthen the impact your writing has.
- Consider the type of writing you are doing. A term paper, for example, that is comprised only of straightforward declarative sentences is not likely to win over your teacher. In fact, it will read as beingtoo standard, immature and boorish. But, if you were writing a short email to your friend, concise sentences might deliver more of an impact than lengthy paragraphs.
- Consider your audience. If you are new to English language studies, your instructor might want to see you demonstrate how you will use dependent clauses in complex sentences. However, if you have been speaking English since birth, and you are at some sort of rally or event, you should tailor your speech to use imperative sentences or rhetorical questions.
- Read over your essay or term paper again. If you find that you have used the same sentence forms over and over again, read your paper out loud to make sure that it has proper flow or if it sounds too long winded. After a group of compound-complex sentences, end with a paragraph with a clear, declarative sentence that engages your audience.
Using Varying Sentence Beginnings
The key to improving your writing quickly and effectively is to start every sentence, in the same paragraph, with a different word. Sound easy, right? That’s because it is.
Here is an easy to follow, step by step guide to help you.
- Pay attention to transitions: Consider how each sentence in the paragraph is connected to each other. If you are comparing to concepts, then use something like ‘in comparison’ or if you are writing about a specific process, then use something like ‘adding to that concept.”
- Pay attention to transitions while you revise: You might find that it is easier to not worry about varying your sentence beginnings until after you’ve finished. This is especially true if you are new to writing. How would you do this?
- Review your initial draft and circle the start of every sentence
- If you find that you have used the same work to start a sentence more than once in a paragraph, than you need to pick another transition word and edit the sentence.
- To choose a transition word, simply think about how the sentence is connected to the one before it. If the sentence adds information, you could choose to use ‘furthermore’ or if it is in contrast to the sentence before it, you might add “on the other hand”
- Select the correct word. Choosing the correct word for every sentence requires using transitions to explain the connection between thoughts and ideas.
To do this, ask:
- What is being stated in the previous sentence?
- How are these sentences related?
- If the sentence adds information, use: moreover, additionally, furthermore
- If the sentence contradicts or contrasts, use: on the other hand, however, in contrast
- If the sentence describes something that will happen, use: then, next, second, finally
- If the sentence adds evidence, use: for example, for this reason, evidentially
Things to remember for sentence variation at the start of a sentence:
- Try to use a variety of transition words instead of the same one over and over
- Add a comma after the transition word
- Add the subject after the comma
A good example of transition words:
Words that convey contrast:
- In contrast
- In comparison
- On the other hand
- On the contrary
Words that convey or add to an idea
- As well as
- Coupled with
- In addition to
Words that express a consequence
- \as a result of
- Because of
- Due to
- For this reason
- For this purpose
Words that emphasize
- Above all
- As usual
- Generally speaking
- For the most part
- In this situation
Word variations for referencing examples
- For one thing
- In particular
- In this instance
- Such as
Word variations for summarizing something
- After all
- All things considered
- By and large
- In any case
- In conclusion
- In essence
- On the whole
- In summation
- In the long run
- To summarize
Sentence Variety Definition
By definition, a sentence is a collection of words, used to express thought. It is complete in itself, meaning that it starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop.
Variety refers to the act or quality of being different.
There are a number of ways that someone might choose to add variety to their written work. Pretend for a minute that you are dissecting a sentence into individual words and then mixing those words up. It is likely that with the words of that sentence, you can form two or more sentences, maybe even a question, or if the sentence is too short, you might want to add something more to it – this is sentence variety.
The Use of Varied Sentence Structure
Varied sentence structure is also often referred to a sentence patterns. The most common sentence pattern that we see used in the English language is subject-verb-object.
- The girl ate salad .
- I play hockey.
- Math is boring.
There are multiple ways that these types of sentences could be re-written.
Let’s use the following example: The girl ate salad
- Change it into a question: Do you know what the girl ate? Salad.
- Change it into a passive sentence: The salad was consumed by the girl.
- Change it into an exclamatory sentence: The girl ate salad again!
- Connect it to the next sentence: The girl devoured the salad and then went to the mall.
- Use a transition: Even though the girl ate the salad, you could tell that she wanted to be at the mall shopping.
- Begin with a participle: Eating the salad, the girl watched her sister get ready to go to the mall.
- Add modified in various places: The salad, which had apples and pecans, was enjoyed by the girl; Devouring her salad, the girl hardly noticed the croutons; The girl at the small salad as fast as possible; Although she wanted to go to the mall, the girl ate her salad.
The next thing to be mindful of is sentence length. You should, wherever possible, avoid using sentences (in a paragraph) that are all the same length. Shorter sentence can have a big impact. Try to mix long and short sentences to add to the flow of your writing. The sentences that are the most important should be concise and to the point. Your descriptive sentences can have more length to them, but they should still only be as long as necessary to flow naturally.
Example of a paragraph with uneven sentence length: The girl’s father called her inside for lunch. The girl ate a salad. She was extremely hungry. She didn’t want to eat. She would rather go to the mall with her sister.
Example of a paragraph with proper sentence length: The girl’s father called her inside for lunch. It was salad. Even though the girl was hungry, and she loved salad, she wanted to go to the mall with her sister. She ate her salad, and then they took the bus to the mall.
A Few Sentence Variety Examples
Here are a few sentence variety examples. Challenge yourself to see how many different ways you can expand upon, rewrite, reword or reorder them to make them sound more engaging, more interesting, more concise, etc.
- The water is blue.
- I have a cold.
- I have to work tomorrow.
- My room is messy.
- Sally is going to the store.
- I am bored.
- It is hot outside.
- I don’t want to be late.
- I’m thirsty.
- It’s Friday.
Check out online resource about complex sentence structures.