Members in my Patreon program voted to focus on sentence structure and sentence variety. We first reviewed sentences according to their purpose. I explained how much of their writing will be made up of declarative sentences. However, the strategic use of interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative sentences can spice up a text. Seeing models hit this point home.
Next, we focused on how clauses join together to form sentences. I challenged them to identify simple, compound, complex, and even complex-compound sentences. How often do you see advanced students rely too heavily on complex sentences, using just one too many clauses? I like to emphasize how long sentences may work better if broken up so that a reader can more easily digest ideas. Usually 3-4 clauses is the limit. That’s my guideline.
The more challenging part of our studies has been syntax. Some are more familiar than others with grammar terms, and even I stumble over certain phrases as I debate whether they’re adverbials or complements. The main goal, in my opinions, is to have enough awareness of sentence patterns so that you can create variety and not rely too heavily on certain structures, words, or patterns.
To master sentence variety and word variety, the best form of practice is writing and revising. I like to work with students’ submissions and do live editing. I also feel it’s helpful to look at texts with clear weaknesses and make improvements together. If you’d like to work through a set of revisions as a class, please consider my handout. There are five short paragraphs. The final task is an optional writing assignment.
Sentence Variety (PDF) – Classroom Copy
Variety in Sentence Length (2010)