Hello! I'm Fadorin, a first year English Composition student at the University of South Florida, and for my final assignment I've created this presentation to better help you with varying your sentence length for writing assignments.
Varying your sentence length can be really helpful in the overall style and language of your writing. Do you notice that your sentences tend to be a little too long or too short all of the time? It is my hope that I will be able to help you improve your writing in this regard through this presentation.
Reviewing your writing Go ahead and take a moment to review your writing as a whole, either physically or mentally. Do you notice any trends in it? We tend to use the same old bags of tricks as students all of the time, and this even transcends into our writing. You can usually see this in your transitions, and in some cases, your vocabulary.
My experience with sentence length In our English Composition class we had peer reviews, and while we were doing these for our final paper something interesting happened: Someone commented that my sentences seemed to go on forever and that I even had a few comma splices here and there. When I saw this I said to myself “What are comma splices?” And, being as clueless as I was, I turned to Google and found not only what they are but also how to fix them.
Comma splices This phenomenon happens when you try to join two independent clauses together into a single sentence. Basically an independent clause is an idea that could normally stand alone on its own in a single sentence, and so an example of this is the following one: “ I went to bed late last night, I didn't get a lot of sleep.” As you can see, the focal point of a comma splice lies with the comma itself.
Comma splices Not all comma splices are wrong of course, but when you use a ton of them like I did they can make for a really boring research paper. And so it's my experience that this is the primary reason for why our sentences tend to be really long and compounded at times. If you struggle with this problem like I did, never fear – for the solution is simple. Basically all you have to do is replace the comma with another punctuation mark.
Comma splices Let's take a look at the previous example: “I went to bed late last night, I didn't get a lot of sleep.” There's quite a few ways to fix this. You can either throw in a period, a semicolon, or even a conjunction. On the next slide is the same example, this time with each of the various fixes applied.
Comma splices “I went to bed late last night. I didn't get a lot of sleep.” “I went to bed late last night; I didn't get a lot of sleep.” “I went to bed late last night, so I didn't get a lot of sleep.” Really simple, huh? And best of all, even if you don't have this problem you can still use its solution to vary your sentence length in general.
Short sentences Do you tend to use a lot of short sentences in your writing? Perhaps things like “Fadorin's presentation was really boring. It made me fall asleep.” If so this is easily fixable by using the same solutions. To better help you see how this works I've applied these solutions to this same sentence on the next slide.
Short sentences “Fadorin's presentation was really boring, so It made me fall asleep.” “Fadorin's presentation was really boring; It made me fall asleep.” In addition to this there is one other fix for these kinds of problems that I haven't mentioned yet, and it works by connecting two sentences through subordination. But, what exactly is subordination?
Subordination The way subordination works is that instead of changing the punctuation mark or adding a conjunction, you make one sentence contain the main idea while making the other sentence a supporting (or subordinate) sentence. This can be accomplished through using phrases like “and so”, “although”, and “because”. In the next slide I've again applied this to the example from before: “Fadorin's presentation was really boring. It made me fall asleep.”
Subordination “I fell asleep because Fadorin's presentation was really boring.” See how that works? I took the second sentence “It made me fall asleep” and made it the main idea while making the first sentence “Fadorin's presentation was really boring” the supporting (or subordinate) idea.
Subordination Best of all, this can be applied to comma splices as well. Let's take a look at how our earlier example changes through using this tool: “I went to bed late last night, I didn't get a lot of sleep.” to “Because I went to bed late last night, I didn't get a lot of sleep.”
Sentence variation Pretty neat, huh? You can use all of these methods to make particular sentences longer or shorter, and this is the foundation of sentence variation. If you notice that your sentences tend to be really short, try making a few of them long; If you see that your sentences seem to go on forever, try making a few of them shorter.
In closing Overall, sentence variation will go a long way towards keeping your audience attentive to what you have to say while nabbing yourself a better grade on that paper. If you struggle with sentence variation I hope that I've helped you find a way to get through that a little easier. Either way, good luck in all of your writing!
Blue, Tina. "What Is a Comma Splice, and How Do I Fix It?". Grammar and Usage for the Non-Expert. 11 Aug 2000. Tina Blue. 24 Apr 2009 <http://grammartips.homestead.com/splice.html>.
Weber, Ryan. "Sentence Variety: For Short, Choppy Sentences – The OWL at Purdue". Welcome to the Purdue University Online Writing Lab (OWL). 27 Mar 2008. The Writing Lab & The OWL at Purdue and Purdue University. 24 Apr 2009 <http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/573/03/>.