Punctuation: Sentence Variety

I’ve written several blogs about ways to have sentence variety and clever sentence structures to use for emphasis and enhancement.  Sentence variety is easily achieved by shifting the subject to other places in the sentence.  (Here’s a practice.)  This one, however, gets to the rudiments of Sentence Variety.  Look for the others in the archives.

Sentence Variety

My concluding point in the last blog was that sentences should have a rhythm like the rhythm of waves on the shore.  Some sentences should be short, some should be long, and others should run between those extremes.

The rhythm of sentences is called Sentence Variety, and these varying sentences help readers build their understanding, impression, and opinions of our series of thoughts.

In the world of Grammar, we have four classifications of Sentence Variety.
  • Simple
  • Compound
  • Complex
  • Compound/Complex

All of the Einstein example sentences—short and long—are simple.  This designation has nothing to do with length.  When only one base noun with its one base verb occurs, that creates the designation of simple.

  • Einstein is primarily known for his theory of relativity and his equation for mass-energy equivalence.

Conjunctions create compound elements in a sentence.  In the above example, we have a simple sentence with a compound object of the preposition “for”.

A simple sentence can have two or more subjects or two-plus verbs or two-plus other parts yet still be simple.  A conjunction does not automatically prevent a simple sentence.

  • Many famous scientists and artists and other prominent people fled Germany during Adolf Hitlet’s dictatorship. (3 base nouns as the subject)
  • Many of these refugees sought asylum and later citizenship in the countries that sheltered them. (2 base verbs)
Then what makes a compound sentence?

Compound sentences require the joining of two complete sentences (each with its base noun and base verb).

“Jack and Jill went up a hill and fell down it” is still only a simple sentence, with a compound subject and a compound verb.

“Jack carried the bucket up the hill, and he fell down the hill” is a compound sentence.  Notice that each base noun has its own base verb > Jack carried and he fell.

The period for the opening sentence is replaced with a comma.  More information on sentence combining will occur in Function 3:  Links that Separate.

“Jill ran, and she laughed happily”, short as it is, is another compound sentence > Jill ran and she laughed.  Again, length does not determine designation.

Most compound sentences require only a comma before the conjunction, as in the separate Jack and Jill sentences above.
A Complex Sentence is the joining of two independent sentences, one of which has an opening subordinate conjunction to make it dependent on the stronger independent sentence.
  • It looked like rain.
  • I took my umbrella.
  • Because it looked like rain, I took my umbrella. Subordinate Conjunction = because
  • Einstein has many contributions to the field of science.
  • He is primarily known for his theory of relativity.
  • Einstein has many contributions to the field of science although he is primarily known for his theory of relativity. SubConj = although.

A subordinating conjunction is not always necessary for a complex sentence.  When joining two sentences, sometimes the base subject of the dependent sentence becomes a Relative Pronoun.  The most common Relative Pronouns are who, whom., that, which, whose, and who/whom/which/whatever.  Relative Pronouns are the subjects of their sentences (which have now become dependent).

  • Einstein is a famous scientist who developed the theory of relativity.

More details on the subordinate clause will occur in Function 3:  Links that Separate, as the placement of the subordinate clause often requires commas.

The last of the sentence variety types is the Compound-Complex Sentence, obviously a combination of Types 2 and 3.
  • Although he made many contributions to the field of science, Einstein is primarily known for two major theories, and he is still celebrated today as a creative genius who considered imagination more valuable to science than simple facts. > One subordinate conjunction, one coordinating conjunction, and one relative pronoun functioning as a subordinate conjunction & subject of the dependent sentence.

The other side of sentence variety is sentence length.  Come back on Monster Monday to tackle the old grammarian who wanted to dictate the number of words in a sentence.