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Learn the meaning of sentence structure and the importance of varying sentence structure in writing in this lesson. Four strategies to help you vary your sentence structure will also be described.

What Is Sentence Structure?

The written word is an essential form of communication in the world today.

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In order to be effective, all writing must follow sentence structure rules. Sentence structure is defined exactly as it sounds: the structure of written sentences. In other words, sentence structure is how you build sentences.Sentence structure is vital in writing for several reasons.

First, writing needs to be clear so that others can understand it. There is no point in writing if no one can decipher your words. Sentence structure gives clear expectations for how sentences must be formed so that others can easily read and understand your writing.A second reason sentence structure is important deals with the effect of writing. Writing can truly be an art form, with writers as the artists. In the same way artists can elicit different emotions from people with paintings, writers can do so with written works.

Certain sentence structure can create different effects and intrigue the reader.Varied sentence structure, which is changing how you build your sentences, can give the reader the right perception or create interesting thoughts and ideas. On the other hand, repeated sentence structure can make writing monotonous, confusing or just plain boring.

Let’s look at strategies to help your writing have varied sentence structure.

Switch it Up

One way you can make sure you have varied sentence structure is to switch phrases in your sentences. Sometimes moving a phrase to another part of a sentence can be enough of a change to keep your reader on his toes. Just like anything else, if the same thing occurs over and over again, you get used to it and adapt to it. If your reader is adapting to your writing, eventually they will be reading without even thinking, which is the opposite of what you want as a writer. Let’s look at an example in these sentences:

  • ‘I realize every student needs individual attention in order to learn.’ ‘I intend to continue the long line of dedication it takes to maximize student potential with a diversified method of teaching.

You should have noticed how each sentence begins with ‘I.’ Switch up some phrases in your sentences to escape from this repetition. For example, in the second sentence you can say, ‘In order to maximize student potential, I will use a diversified method of teaching and continue the long line of dedication to education.’ The revision was simply moving one phrase while keeping the same meaning. This change prevents repeating sentence structure.

Use of Pronouns

Another way to ensure that you have varied your sentence structure is to pay attention to your pronouns. Pronouns are very useful in all kinds of writing. A pronoun is a word that replaces a noun. For example, look at these two sentences:

  • ‘The boy was afraid of the large dog.’ ‘He ran away from it.

The second sentence has the pronouns ‘he’ and ‘it.’ What does ‘he’ stand for? What about ‘it?’ ‘He’ replaced ‘the boy’ and ‘it’ replaced ‘the large dog.’ Hopefully, you can already see the usefulness of using pronouns to help reduce repetitiveness.Imagine you are writing an essay on a group of students who did an experiment on velocity. Do not use the phrase ‘the group’ over and over again to refer to the group of students – that would be repetitive and boring. You should use the pronouns ‘they’ or ‘them’ interchangeably with the term ‘the group.

‘ You can also even rephrase it with another noun and use ‘the students’ or ‘the experimenters.’ The key is balancing when you use each term and making sure it is clear you are referring to the group doing the experiment.One thing to be aware of when using pronouns is to be clear what you are referring to. If you use ‘he’ or ‘they’ over and over again, your reader may forget who those pronouns refer to; then, understanding and comprehension will be in danger. Vary when you use pronouns and when you use nouns in order to maintain clarity.

Vary Transitions

A third strategy to achieve varied sentence structure is to alternate your transitional words and phrases. A transition is any word that moves the focus from one idea to another. It is important that you use a variety of transitions throughout your writing. Again, this will help reduce repetition and monotony.One important aspect of transitions is to maintain the intended meaning. For example, there are many transitional words that indicate an addition of thought: furthermore, in addition, moreover, secondly, and even more so are all transitional words or phrases that indicate an addition of thought.

You can usually use these phrases interchangeably with one another. This way you will not be using ‘furthermore,’ over and over again in your writing.Another group of transitions are words or phrases that show contrasting ideas. These include however, nonetheless, otherwise, on the other hand, and in contrast. If you notice you are using the word ‘however’ a lot, try out some other phrases or words that can give the same meaning of contrast in your work.These are just some examples of transitional words you can use throughout your writing.

There are many more groups with a variety of expressions available to use in writing. The key is to be sure to use interchangeable transitions when appropriate.

Sentence Length

A final method to achieving varied sentence structure is to vary your sentence length. If you notice you are using many short sentences, combine ideas to create more complex sentences. You can combine sentences together using a comma and a conjunction, which is any connecting word like ‘and’ and ‘but.’ For example, ‘Jessica loves skiing during the winter season, and she tried to get me to learn to ski.’ You can also use a semicolon to connect complete sentences: ‘Jessica loves skiing during the winter season; she tried to get me to learn to ski.

‘You can change the wording of your sentences to combine them into one. Let’s look at these two sentences from earlier:

  • ‘I realize every student needs individual attention in order to learn.’ ‘I intend to continue the long line of dedication it takes to maximize student potential with a diversified method of teaching.’

How can you combine those sentences into one? How about ‘I intend to use a diversified method of teaching in order to meet the individual needs for each student so he can achieve his maximum potential.

‘ All the same ideas are in there, but the two sentences have become one.The other side to this strategy is to shorten your sentences if you notice many of them are rather long. You can try to break sentences up into shorter ones or even cut out certain phrases or words. All this can help to vary your sentence structure within your writing.

Lesson Summary

To review, you can use several strategies in order to achieve a varied sentence structure, which is changing how you build your sentences:

  • One way is to move around the phrases in your sentences. Certain phrases can be moved to different areas of the sentence without losing meaning. This could help you reduce repetition.
  • A second method involves using pronouns, which are words that stand in for nouns. This also diminishes repetition and can keep your reader thinking about your writing.
  • A third method is to use a variety of transitional words and phrases, which can indicate a change of ideas.

    Many transitions have similar meanings, so if you can use a different word, but maintain the same meaning, you should.

  • A final strategy to achieve varied sentenced structure is to pay attention to the length of your sentences. Ideally, you should have a balance of long, complex sentences and short, simple sentences.

    Too many long sentences can confuse your reader, while too many short sentences can bore him.

Overall, sentences can be built in a variety of ways. These four strategies can help you vary your sentence structure in order to keep your writing relevant and interesting.

Learning Outcomes

This video on sentence composition will help you to:

  • Recognize the importance of sentence structure
  • Describe what it means to vary sentence structure
  • Demonstrate how the use of pronouns can help you vary sentence structure
  • Acknowledge how transition words and phrases can aid in varying sentence structure
  • Recall the importance of changing up the sentence length

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