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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.

From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

The Grammar Grind: Sentence Types

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

When I was first asked to do an article on sentence structure, I wasn't positive how I wanted to approach it. Sentence structure is a rather broad topic that covers many techniques and rules for writing sentences. However, I settled on splitting the topic into several articles rather than one large one. This particular post will cover sentence types and how to incorporate sentence variation into your writing. There are four main types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Each one contains different parts of speech and can be somewhat manipulated to give you a wide variety of sentence structure. As I discussed in a previous post, sentence variation is one of the key elements of good writing. Without it, the writing can by dry and monotonous, so it's important to include each of these throughout your pieces, particularly with longer pieces of fiction.

Simple Sentences Simple sentences have one independent clause with no dependent ones. They usually contain little more than a subject and a verb but can vary in length.

Example A: The dog barked. Example B: Christopher walked to the store. Example C: Michael fed the chickens in the yard.

Compound Sentences Compound sentences contain more than one independent clause and no dependent ones. The clauses are typically joined with a coordinating conjunction. Each clause in a compound sentence must be able to stand on its own.

Example A: Jill turned left, and Tommy turned right. Example B: I remembered to pack my lunch, but I forgot to grab my umbrella. Example C: My aunt is coming to visit, so I need to clean my room.

Complex Sentences Complex sentences only have one independent clause, but they contain at least one dependent clause. In other words, they contain a clause that relies on the rest of the sentence to make it a complete thought. Dependent clauses used at the beginning of a sentence require a comma after them.

Example A: After I brushed my teeth, I was ready for bed. Example B: Samantha gets nervous whenever she has to speak in front of a large group. Example C: As per Miss Haley's instructions, we continued writing our papers until the end of class.

Compound-Complex Sentences Compound-complex sentences utilize more than one type of sentence. They contain multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

Example A: The stormy weather knocked out our power last night, and because of the outage, our alarm clocks never sounded. Example B: When one of our tires suddenly went flat, we pulled over, and Dad retrieved the spare from the trunk.

As you can see from the above examples, there are many ways to construct each sentence type just by adding or a removing adjectives, adverbs, and phrases. Use the different types to strengthen your writing and flow prose.

For further information about sentence types and independent/dependent clauses, you can check out the following resources: