Writing Effective Sentences in Your English Essay
1. Has interesting ideas.
2.Uses transition words to link ideas.
3. Convinces the reader with logic.
4. Uses interesting language.
5. Is carefully edited and proof-read.
6. Uses punctuation correctly.
How to Write Better Essays
Students often ask me how they can become better writers. In one word: practice. Writing effectively is an art and a discipline. When you play a sport, you become better the more you practice. The same is true about writing.
However, just as a coach can give you hints to make your practice more effective, a writing instructor can fill you in on the hints about how to write more effectively. There are some rules you can learn about how to make your sentences emphasize the ideas you think are most important. Here are a few of the best hints. If you memorize them and use these ideas as you revise the sentences in your essay, your writing will be more effective.
Can a Computer Program Help Writing?
1. Make Your Subjects and Verbs Interesting
Use Subjects and Verbs to state the key actors and actions
- Don't Say: The intention of the company was to expand its workforce.
- Instead say: The company intended to expand its workforce.
Use strong Verbs (avoid passive voice)
Try to get away from is, am, was were, made, been
- Don't Say: The company is now the leader …Its officers make speeches…
- Instead say: The company now leads in compliance…Its officers speak
- Don't say: The 1990 law is seen as fair….costs have been exaggerated
- Instead say: Businesses see the 1990 law as fair, opponents have exaggerated
2. Vary Sentence Types
Effective writers use a variety of types of sentences to keep the reader interested in what they are reading. Here are some of the different ways to write English sentences:
1. Use Transition Words to connect ideas in sentences. Pay attention to how you begin and end your sentences. Use sentence beginnings and endings to cue readers about your most important point
Readers expect what they already know to be at the beginning of a sentence and new information at the end. One way to put this is that the beginning of the sentence or paragraph should transition/show relationship of a new idea to what you've said previously.
Everyone knows that teachers earn low wages. In spite of meager salaries, most teachers report great satisfaction with their jobs; however, most teachers quit after five years. Is this high turnover rate caused by the fact that the profession is dominated by women? No one knows for sure but statistics indicate---
2. Use Cumulative sentences: start with the main idea and then add modifiers to amplify or illustrate it.
- Mary Morrison became a teacher because she wanted to open minds, instill values and create new opportunities for students who lived in poor, inner-city housing projects.
3. Use Periodic sentences: start with the modifiers and put the main idea at the end.
- Blowing roofs off buildings, knocking down many trees, and severing power lines, the storm caused extensive damage.
Use a variation of the periodic sentence which has: subject, modifiers, verb.
- Raul Martinez, who works in jeans and loafers and likes to let a question cure in the air before answering it, never fit in with the corporate environment.
4. Use Balanced Sentences: two main clauses which are parallel in their structure are put together. This often works is the two clauses have a contrasting meaning.
- The fickleness of the women I love is equaled only by the infernal constancy of the women who love me. (Shaw)
- If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. (George Orwell)
5. Use different lengths of sentences. Most English sentences are 1-2 times of printed type. Make your sentences more interesting by having some sentences which are very short, and a few that are longer.
6. Use Occasional Questions? Exclamations! or Commands. Don't overdo this one, but it can be very effective to occasionally use one of these sorts of sentences to speak more directly to your reader.
Avoid editing on a phone
3. Use Lists in Sentences Effectively
When you start to write longer sentences, you often run into the problem of how to write a long list of items. To make your sentences effective, you need to make sure you keep the items in the list in the same form. That is called "parallelism," like when two lines run next to each other without crossing. Here is what you need to remember:
1. A series of phrases linked by commas and “and,” “or” or “but” need to be written using the same format (examples: all start with an "ing" word; all start with “to—”; all start with a past tense verb).
- (ing)The horse was running across the meadow, jumping over the bridge and racing to the finish line.
- (to)To run across the meadow, jump over the bridge and race to the finish line was the horse’s task.
- (past tense verb)The horse ran across the meadow, jumped over the bridge and raced to the finish line.
2. The information is listed in either chronological order, like in the horse example, or in topical order, from least to most important.
- Don't Say: The storm severed power lines, killed two people and blew the roof off ten houses.
- Instead say: The storm blew the roof off ten houses, severed power lines and killed two people.
Easy English Sentence Structure
Which conjunction do you like to use the most?
4. Use the Right Conjunction
In English, we often put two ideas together in a sentence in this form:
main clause, conjunction main clause.
Effective sentences are careful to use the right conjunction to show whether you mean to add an idea (and), contrast an idea (but, or, yet), or show cause or comparison (so, for, as). Here is a list of the most common conjunctions and their meanings:
- AND—adds one to the other (both—and, not only---but also)
- BUT, YET—substitutes one idea for the other; contrasts ideas (not---but)
- OR---shows two alternatives (either—or,)
- SO, FOR----makes one cause the other
- Jeremy writes books for St. Martins, so he doesn't have time to help you on your novel.
- What happened to Emily was a mystery, and no one ever saw her in Stockton again.
- Will Jeremy take English again to improve his grade, or will he be happy with a "C" ?
- Helga completed the paper ahead of time, yet she still did an excellent job of revising all of her grammar errors.
Add: also, furthermore,
Emphasis: indeed, in fact, undoubtedly
Compare and contrast: however, instead, nevertheless, otherwise, similarly
Cause and effect: accordingly, as a result, consequently
Time: next, meanwhile, thereafter
5. Use Semicolons and Transition Words
A semi-colon combines to separate sentences into one. Using a semicolon emphasizes the importance of that sentence, so use a semi-colon sentence sparingly because it makes a sentence seem more important. I often suggest my students use a semi-colon sentence in their thesis.
Many students don't know how to use a semi-colon correctly, but it is actually very easy. Here are the two main ways to use it:
1. main clause; main clause (don’t overdo this one): In this sort of sentence, you just take out the period and put in a semicolon:
- Helping people is my job; I don’t ask for gratitude.
- Never underestimate the power of a baby; they can make the most solemn people look like idiots.
2. Semicolon using a transition word. The advantage of using this form of the semi-colon sentence is that the transition word explains the relationship between the two parts of the sentence:
Main clause; transition (conjunctive adverb), main clause
- Whenever Jason looked in the mirror he had his doubts; however, he still pretended he believed Melissa’s comment that he was the best-looking man she’d ever met.
- His parents and friends tried to dissuade him from dating her; consequently, he was all the more determined not to break up.
Peer Edit for Effective Writing
6. Emphasize Important Ideas
Along with showing how ideas relate, you also need to show which ideas are the most important. That is where "subordination" comes in. Subordination shows:
- One idea is less important than another (hey, not everyone can be top dog). Not that the information isn't needed but that it isn't the main idea. Subordination helps you keep the main ideas clear. It also helps you to show how other ideas relate to the main point (Were they the cause? The result? Do they tell the time? The place? The purpose? Do they describe or identify?).
- No rules tell you which idea should be the main clause and which the subordinate one: the decision depends on upon your meaning. Usually details of time, cause, condition, purpose, and identification are subordinate to action.
Kinds of subordinate parts of sentences:
Subordinate clauses may be a main clause which starts with a word which turns it into an incomplete phrase. They might also start with a relative pronoun (which, that, what, whatever, who, whoever) Subordinate clauses are longer and more important than the other types.
- Although the horse looked gentle, it proved hard to manage.
- Whenever forecasters predict a mild winter, farmers hope for an early spring.
- Even though she wrote voraciously, she never published.
- Because she spoke haltingly, she could never face speaking in front of a crowd.
Subordinate phrases include appositives which rename a noun (her son, Frank,) prepositional phrases such as “in” or “on.” or verbal phrases (either ing or “to” form of a verb (walking into the room, to walk into the room,).
- My brother, Gerald, is a lawyer who works for First American, a title insurance company.
- Having been jobless for six months, Jones could not pay his bills.
- To pay the rent, he borrowed from his father.
- Jumping over the fence, the horse fell into the water.
- To jump over a fence, the horse must be strong.
- Groomed, stabled and rested, the horse felt better.
- In the morning, we like to fish by the lake.
- Sitting by the lake, we fish every morning.
Avoid these common problems with Subordination:
1. The less important idea is made into the main clause:
- Don't Write: Mrs. Angelo was in her first year of teaching, although she was a better instructor than others with more experience.
- Instead, Say: Although Mrs. Angelo was in her first year of teaching, she was a better instructor than others with more experience.
2. Ideas are not logically linked; wrong subordinating word is used.
- Don't say: Because the horse looked gentle, it was hard to manage.
- Instead, say: Although the horse looked gentle, it was hard to manage.
- Don't Say: As the experiment was occurring, the laboratory was sealed.
- Instead, Say: When the experiment (time) or Because the experiment (cause)
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Virginia Kearney