How to Write Better Sentences (2023)

​​After hundreds of thousands of years of linguistic evolution, the sentence is perhaps our strongest way to share a single thought. It’s the default tool for communicating when a lone word isn’t enough.

We all have a natural intuition when it comes to forming sentences, yet so few of us know the proper techniques and stylistic choices available. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about sentences (in English, at least), including different sentence types and constructions. Then we explain how to avoid common mistakes and take your sentence writing to the next level.

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

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What is a sentence?

At its core, a sentence is a string of words used to express a complete thought. There’s a lot of flexibility about what constitutes a sentence, but the central rule is that it must contain both a subject and a verb—and even that rule is bendable for imperative sentences, as you’ll see below.

(Video) 12 Ways to Write Better Sentences for Creative Writers

Let’s start with the four main types of sentences:

1Declarative (statement): This is a standard sentence that points out a fact.

Example: That dog won’t sit.

2Interrogative (question): This is a sentence asking a question.

Example: Why won’t that dog sit?

3Exclamatory (exclamation): This is a modified declarative sentence used to add emphasis or show emotion, urgency, or high volume.

Example: I’ve tried everything, but that dog still won’t sit!

4Imperative (command): This is a sentence telling someone or something to do an action. The subject is assumed, so you don’t need to include it.

Example: Please sit.

Notice that the end punctuation changes for the sentence types. Declarative sentences use periods, interrogative sentences use question marks, exclamatory sentences use exclamation points, and imperative sentences can use either periods or exclamation points.

Sentence rules and structures

Before we break down sentence structure, we have to discuss an element crucial to forming sentences: the clause.

(Video) How to Write Better Sentences

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb (except for some imperative clauses) and can be either independent or subordinate. An independent clause can exist as a complete sentence on its own, whereas a subordinate or “dependent” clause can not.

Why not? Sometimes a subordinate clause is missing either a subject or a verb, or sometimes it has both but still isn’t grammatically independent. In either case, subordinate clauses must be joined to an independent clause.

Subordinate clauses are almost always introduced by special linking words or phrases known as subordinating conjunctions: connectors like “while,” “because,” or “as long as,” plus certain prepositions like “before” and “after.” If you’d like, you can see our comprehensive list of subordinating conjunctions.

To build sentences, you can use an independent clause by itself or combine it with a subordinating clause, another independent clause, or both. We explain four sentence structures below.

Simple sentence structure

First is your basic sentence: a standalone independent clause with a subject and verb. Note that a simple sentence can contain two subjects or two verbs, but not two of each.

Example: King Kong and Godzilla destroyed the city.

Complex sentence structure

A complex sentence combines an independent clause with one or more subordinate clauses. Complex sentences always use subordinating conjunctions to connect the clauses.

Example: King Kong and Godzilla destroyed the city because they were fighting.

Compound sentence structure

A compound sentence combines two independent clauses using a coordinating conjunction like the FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) or using a semicolon. It’s essentially two simple sentences joined together.

Example: King Kong didn’t want to destroy the city, but Godzilla enjoyed it.

Compound-complex sentence structure

Lastly, a compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinate clause. Think of it as a compound sentence consisting of one or more complex sentences.

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Example: After King Kong mustered all this strength, he threw a final punch and Godzilla fell.

5 common sentence mistakes

To help improve your sentences, here are five of the most common sentence mistakes and expert advice on how to resolve them.

1 Run-ons

Also known as “fused sentences,” run-on sentences occur when clauses are mashed together without the proper connecting words.

To fix a run-on sentence, you can simply apply the right conjunctions. If the sentence still seems awkward or too long, try breaking it up into two or more sentences.

2 Sentence fragments

Sentence fragments occur when a sentence is incomplete—if it lacks a subject or a verb, or if it’s a subordinating clause by itself.

To fix a sentence fragment, just identify what’s left out and add the missing part. Make sure your sentence has both a subject and a verb (unless it’s an imperative sentence), and if it’s a subordinating clause, try hooking it to a related independent clause.

3 Subject-verb agreement

In English, if the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.

In most cases, you can fix this and have subject-verb agreement just by adding or removing the plural s. The problem is that sometimes this error is hard to find. One common example of this is describing a singular subject with plural words.

Example: A mixture of blood, sweat, and tears leads to success.

The subject is mixture, which is singular, and the verb is leads, which is also singular. Don’t get fooled by “extra” words like blood, sweat, and tears—even though they are plural, they don’t make the subject plural.

4 Ending with prepositions

You often hear people telling you it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s not entirely true. In formal writing like school papers it’s frowned upon, but usually, it’s perfectly acceptable—sometimes, even preferable.

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For starters, prepositions always need an object; if you end a sentence with an objectless preposition, you risk sounding unclear. For example, if you wrote, “The bird flew above,” your readers would wonder, “Above what?”

It’s also worth noting that phrasal verbs often incorporate prepositions.

Example: Five excited puppies are almost too many to put up with.

This sentence is fine because the phrase still has an object, even though the object comes first. Phrasal verbs are also frowned upon in formal writing, so you shouldn’t put them at the end—or the beginning—of a formal sentence anyway.

5 Passive voice

Although not technically a grammatical error, passive voice is a sign of unassertive writing. In passive voice, the subject of a clause receives the action. The main verb appears as a participle plus a form of “to be.”

Example: A touchdown pass was thrown by the quarterback.

Now, consider that same sentiment written in the active voice:

Example: The quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

It’s not only more succinct, but also more direct and easier to understand. Active voice also tends to sound better, creating more vigorous and lively prose. In most cases, replacing passive voice with active voice makes your writing more clear.

How Grammarly strengthens your sentences

Mastering the principles of writing clear and grammatical sentences takes practice: the more you do it, the better you get. But what about that paper due at the end of the week? Or, that important email you have to send at the last minute?

Luckily, the Grammarly Editor ensures your writing is readable, clear, and concise by offering sentence structure suggestions, plus clarity revisions as you write. Grammarly helps catch common mistakes with sentence structure—like run-on sentences, sentence fragments, passive voice, and more. The Grammarly browser extension can also improve your sentences in your emails.

(Video) Grammar Lesson #1 - Tips to Improve Your Sentence Structure

Here’s a tip: You don’t have to guess whether you’re using certain words correctly or breaking grammar rules in your writing. Just copy and paste your writing into our Grammar Checker and get instant feedback on whether your sentences have misspellings, punctuation errors, or any structural mistakes.

Wherever you write, Grammarly’s suggestions make your sentences clearer and engaging, so your writing is polished and professional.

FAQs

How can I improve my sentence writing? ›

How to Improve Sentence Structure
  1. Write in the active voice.
  2. Use a parallel structure for connected items.
  3. Watch out for misplaced or missing modifiers.
  4. Avoid overusing subordinate clauses.
  5. Vary the length and pattern of sentences.
Aug 8, 2022

What are 10 good sentences? ›

Good sentence example
  • It felt so good to be home. 1102. ...
  • You have a good family. 712. ...
  • She is such a good seamstress. 661. ...
  • It was a good thing they were going home tomorrow. ...
  • It was all just good clean fun. ...
  • It meant a good deal to him to secure a home like this. ...
  • It would do no good to ask him why. ...
  • He had done one good deed.

How can I write more powerfully? ›

Follow These Rules For Stronger Writing
  1. NEVER LET THE TRUTH GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR STORY. ...
  2. NEVER USE TWO WORDS WHEN ONE WILL DO. ...
  3. USE THE ACTIVE VOICE. ...
  4. USE PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION. ...
  5. KEEP RELATED WORDS TOGETHER. ...
  6. REPLACE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS WITH VIVID NOUNS AND ACTIVE VERBS. ...
  7. DON'T OVEREXPLAIN. ...
  8. WRITE CINEMATICALLY.
Apr 30, 2009

How can I help my child write better sentences? ›

Sentence stems can help children practising forming and writing sentences by giving them part of the sentence and only having to think about and write the end of the sentence. For children just beginning to write, you might have a sentence stem written out for the child such as 'I like ________' or 'I went _______'.

What is one way to improve sentence fluency? ›

4 Ways to Improve Sentence Fluency
  1. Read it aloud. The very first thing to do before revising essays for sentence fluency is to read the piece out loud. ...
  2. ABC the paragraphs. ...
  3. Combine simple sentences to form compound sentences. ...
  4. Use dependent clauses to start sentences.
Oct 16, 2017

Is a 26 word sentence too long? ›

When is a sentence too long? It is difficult to come up with a magic number or formula for determining when a sentence is too long. A 12-word sentence that minces words can be too long, while a crystal clear, beautifully-composed 22-word sentence is sometimes just perfect. In general, though, never go beyond 30 words.

What is the 5 sentence rule? ›

If you want to write emails that people actually read, make them no longer than five sentences. Anything more than that, and you need some other form of communication – an old-fashioned call perhaps, or a meeting. People are so overwhelmed by email that they don't even scroll down to read the lower paragraphs anymore.

Is a 25 word sentence too long? ›

Fairly difficult (Medium long sentence length): 21-25 words. Difficult (Long sentence length) : 25-30 words.

Why do I struggle to write so much? ›

These are often deeper issues, arising from our life beyond the page. They might include illness (our own or someone else's), exhaustion, stress, fear or other unresolved emotions, burnout, or any other number of things. Sometimes the cause seems to be something as simple (and vague) as a mood.

How do I stop being tired of writing? ›

Here's a few tips to power through:
  1. 1) Take Stock. Every few years, I re-read Stephen R. ...
  2. 2) Plan. Following along these lines, write down a specific goal for this writing session. ...
  3. 3) Eliminate Distractions. ...
  4. 4) Get Out of the House. ...
  5. 5) Create a Creative Environment. ...
  6. 6) Change it Up. ...
  7. 7) Take a Break. ...
  8. 8) Sleep.
Nov 9, 2015

Can writing increase IQ? ›

Some studies even show that writing by hand increases cognitive activity and can actually make you more intelligent—as long as you put the keyboard aside and write by hand. As Dr. William Klemm says in this Psychology Today article: There is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing.

How can I help my 12 year old write better? ›

Before getting started
  1. Provide a place. ...
  2. Provide the materials. ...
  3. Brainstorm. ...
  4. Encourage the child to draw and to discuss her drawings. ...
  5. Ask your child to tell you simple stories as you write them down. ...
  6. Encourage your child to write her name. ...
  7. Use games. ...
  8. Turn your child's writing into books.

How do you overcome grammatical mistakes? ›

7 Tips to Improve Your Grammar Skills
  1. Read. Reading may be the number one way you can improve your grammar skills. ...
  2. Get a grammar manual. It is useful to have a thorough reference book nearby that you can consult when writing. ...
  3. Review the basics. ...
  4. Practice. ...
  5. Listen to others. ...
  6. Proofread…out loud. ...
  7. Write.
Oct 23, 2014

How can I improve my English knowledge? ›

7 Ways to Quickly Improve Your English Language Skills
  1. Watch movies in English. ...
  2. Immerse yourself in English language news. ...
  3. Start a vocabulary book of useful words. ...
  4. Have conversations in English. ...
  5. Practice, practice, practice. ...
  6. Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. ...
  7. Don't forget to have fun while you learn.

What is 120 rules of grammar? ›

“120 Rules of Grammar” is a unique or one of a kind approach to bring all the important concepts and practice questions under one umbrella to assist all the readers in clearing their slightest of doubts regarding this subject.

What are the 6 1 traits of writing? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency. It creates a common vocabulary and guidelines for teachers to use with students so that they become familiar with the terms used in writing.

What makes writing fluent? ›

Writing fluency refers to a writer's ability to quickly and easily express themselves in a way that's also easy for their audience to comprehend. A fluent writer has thorough knowledge of spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar rules.

Is the longest sentence ever? ›

Often cited for being the longest sentence ever written is one by author James Joyce. In his novel Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom has a monologue that goes on for 36 pages and has a total of 3,687 words. The only reason that a sentence this long works is because it is a monologue.

What is the longest English sentence ever? ›

This is generally considered to be the longest sentence in English literature. One of Molly Bloom's soliloquies in James Joyce's epic novel 'Ulysses' features a sentence of 4,491 words. The Guinness Book of Records lists the longest proper sentence as one from William Faulkner's novel 'Absalom, Absalom!' (1,287 words).

What is the longest criminal sentence? ›

In 1981, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, USA, Dudley Wayne Kyzer received the longest single sentence of 10,000 years for murdering his wife. He then received a further two life sentences for murdering his mother-in-law and a college student.

What are the three rules of writing a sentence? ›

Sentence structure grammar rules

Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence. End a sentence with a period, question mark, exclamation point, or quotation marks. Most of the time, the subject of the sentence comes first, the verb comes second, and the objects come last. (Subject -> Verb -> Object)

Does a sentence have 10? ›

[M] [T] He has plenty of money in the bank. [M] [T] She has never sung a song with him. [M] [T] She has nothing in common with him. [M] [T] She has the large house to herself.

Is 800 words a lot? ›

Just slightly longer than a more common word count of 750 words, 800 words is about one and three-fifths of a page single spaced, and a little over 3 pages double spaced.

How many years is the longest sentence? ›

Prisoners sentenced to 1,000 years or more in prison
NameSentence startSentence term
Jamal Zougam200742,922 years
Emilio Suárez Trashorras34,715 years
Charles Scott Robinson199430,000 years
Allan Wayne McLaurin199420,750 years
54 more rows

Is a 500 word essay too long? ›

In most cases, a 500-word paragraph is too long, but paragraph size differs based on essay type and required length. 🎡 Can a 500 word essay be 3 paragraphs? Yes. A 500-word essay could have 3 substantial paragraphs, but most will have around 4-6 paragraphs.

Why am I getting worse at writing? ›

The two most common reasons for a change in handwriting are essential tremor and Parkinson's disease, she says. An essential tremor is a neurological condition that causes a rhythmic, involuntary, trembling of the hands, head, voice, legs or body.

Does ADHD make writing hard? ›

Students with ADHD often have difficulties with writing, especially in terms of spelling. The most common issues are reversing or omitting letters, words, or phrases. Students may spell the same word differently within the same essay.

What causes writing anxiety? ›

Here are just a few: Inexperience with the type of writing task. Previous negative experiences with writing (e.g. someone, maybe a teacher, has given you negative feedback or said negative things about your writing) Negative feelings bout writing (e.g. “I'm not a good writer”; “I hate writing.”)

Why have I lost my writing ability? ›

Sometimes called “pure” agraphia, apraxic agraphia is the loss of writing ability when you can still read and speak. This disorder sometimes happens when there's a lesion or hemorrhage in the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, or temporal lobe of the brain or in the thalamus.

What does writing burnout feel like? ›

Writer's burnout is a state of exhaustion that makes you unwilling and unable to do what you love best and can lead to you questioning your entire identity as a creative. This is not the same as writer's block, which is characterised as an inability to write.

How do I stop being a boring writer? ›

Follow these tips to avoid sounding like a dusty, detached headmaster:
  1. Choose a topic you're passionate about.
  2. Write as if you're talking to one friend.
  3. Show your readers the ways in which you're like them.
  4. Add vivid details to your stories.
  5. Use metaphors.
  6. Don't be afraid of strong opinions.
  7. Avoid the passive tense.
Jun 18, 2012

Is writing talent genetic? ›

Substantial genetic influence was found on two of the writing measures, Writing Samples and Handwriting Copy, and all of the language and reading measures.

Are people who read more intelligent? ›

It increases intelligence.

Exposure to vocabulary through reading (particularly reading children's books) not only leads to higher score on reading tests, but also higher scores on general tests of intelligence for children. Plus, stronger early reading skills may mean higher intelligence later in life.

Does writing in cursive make you smarter? ›

An article from Psychology Today states that learning to write in cursive is an important tool for cognitive development. Specifically, cursive writing trains the brain to learn functional specialization, which is the capacity for optimal efficiency.

What are good sentences? ›

A great sentence verbalizes ideas clearly and efficiently, establishing effective communication through writing. The content of a sentence and how it's structured determines if it's good—but a complex sentence doesn't necessarily mean it's well-written, and a short sentence can say just as much as a long one.

What is a 100 word sentence? ›

How Many Sentences Is 100 Words? 100 words is about 5-7 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.

What are the 7 types of sentences? ›

Q5: What are the 8-types of sentences? Answer: There are 8-types of sentences on the basis of function and structure are Declarative Sentence, Interrogative Sentence, Exclamatory Sentence, Imperative Sentence, Simple sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex sentence, and Compound -Complex sentence.

What is the correct way of writing? ›

Use common, everyday words rather than obscure or complex words. Don't be pompous! It is tempting to try to impress the reader by your erudition. But the best writing speaks for itself; it gets the message across simply and effectively.

How can you get rid of cluttered writing? ›

  1. Avoid little-word pile-ups and eliminate redundancies. ...
  2. Don't drown your readers in details. ...
  3. Take out empty, “filler” words. ...
  4. Take out the word “that” wherever it's not needed. ...
  5. Delete words or phrases that unnecessarily reinforce what's already been said. ...
  6. Don't tell after you've shown. ...
  7. Condense any long-winded dialogue.
Sep 15, 2014

What's a good sentence starter? ›

Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

How long is 3 paragraphs? ›

3 paragraphs is 300 – 600 words for essays, 150 – 300 words for easy writing. 4 paragraphs is 400 – 800 words for essays, 200 – 400 words for easy writing. 5 paragraphs is 500 – 1,000 words for essays, 250 – 500 words for easy writing.

What are 5 examples complex sentences? ›

Examples of Complex Sentences
  • Because he was late again, he would be docked a day's pay.
  • While I am a passionate basketball fan, I prefer football.
  • Although she was considered smart, she failed all her exams.
  • Whenever it rains, I like to wear my blue coat.
Nov 25, 2019

What is sentence A to Z? ›

The Answer:

A sentence using all the letters in the alphabet is called a pangram (from the Greek for "every letter"). "The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog" is the most famous pangram, but there are many others.

What is the longest sentence word? ›

Molly Bloom's soliloquy in the James Joyce novel Ulysses (1922) contains a sentence of 3,687 words.

What is the longest word sentence ever? ›

Often cited for being the longest sentence ever written is one by author James Joyce. In his novel Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom has a monologue that goes on for 36 pages and has a total of 3,687 words. The only reason that a sentence this long works is because it is a monologue.

Is a 750 word essay? ›

Answer: 750 words is 1½ pages single spaced or 3 pages double spaced.

What is a very short sentence called? ›

Truncated sentences are often referred to as short sentences, but there is a difference between short sentences and truncated sentences. A truncated sentence has to have been cut short – there need to be words missing. For example: “I like reading” “I like reading more than Diane [does]”

What are the 3 basic sentence structures? ›

Simple, compound, and complex sentence structures

There are three types of sentences: simple, compound, and complex. The type of sentence is determined by how many clauses, or subject–verb groups, are included in the sentence.

How is a sentence complete? ›

Answer: It must have a subject and a predicate. An example of a simple, complete sentence is “She sleeps.” She is the subject; sleeps is the predicate. In this instance, the complete predicate is the verb sleeps.

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