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Combining Sentences

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on February 26, 2009 .

Summary:
This resource provides guidelines and practice activities for effectively combining shorter, simpler sentences into longer ones.

Writing shorter sentences is an easy strategy for getting your thoughts down fast when you’re writing first drafts, and for avoiding grammar mistakes, but in the end it weakens the effectiveness of your writing.  If you can combine simpler sentences into longer and more complex ones, your writing will have a lot more variety.  It will also help you to communicate more content to your audiences—when you combine sentences, you can efficiently tell your readers about the relationships between different things.

The following will give you some basic information on how to combine sentences, and then you will have the chance to practice sentence combining yourself.

Conjunctions and Coordination

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on November 5, 2008 .

Summary:

This resource provides guidelines and practice activities for effectively combining shorter, simpler sentences into longer ones.

Combining Sentences

Writing shorter sentences is an easy strategy for getting your thoughts down fast when you’re writing first drafts, and for avoiding grammar mistakes, but in the end it weakens the effectiveness of your writing.  If you can combine simpler sentences into longer and more complex ones, your writing will have a lot more variety.  It will also help you to communicate more content to your audiences—when you combine sentences, you can efficiently tell your readers about the relationships between different things.

The following will give you some basic information on how to combine sentences, and then you will have the chance to practice sentence combining yourself.

Conjunctions

Conjunctions are simple words that allow you to connect two sentences without having to change any of the words in the original sentences:

and, but, nor, or, so, yet, for

Example:  Maria created a résumé.  She copied it on expensive, high-quality paper.  Her prospective employer was not accepting resumés.

Revision:  Maria created a résumé, and she copied it on expensive, high-quality paper, but her prospective employer was not accepting résumés.

Coordination

These words work in ways that parallel the simple conjunctions listed above, but they are more complex.  The definitions of these words can overlap, so you want to be careful about how and when you use them.
consequently, therefore:  Something happened or something is true because of something preceding it.

Example:  Jonathan read the company website and articles about the company before his interview.  He was able to ask very good questions during his interview.

Revision:  Jonathan read the company website and articles about the company before his interview; therefore, he was able to ask very good questions during his interview.

furthermore, in addition, moreover:  Similar to the word “and,” but with more of a relationship to the first part of the sentence.

Example:  Soo-yeon checked the grammar in her college application essay twice.  She asked her neighbor to check the grammar one more time.

Revision:  Soo-yeon checked the grammar in her college application essay twice; in addition, she asked her neighbor to check the grammar one more time.

however: Just like the word “but,” only for longer sentences.

Example:  Miguel’s car didn’t start this morning.  He got a jump start from his neighbor and was able to make it to his appointment on time.

Revision:
  Miguel’s car didn’t start this morning; however, he got a jump start from his neighbor and was able to make it to his appointment on time.

indeed, in fact:  Similar to the word “and,” but there is a closer relationship to the first part of the sentence, and it extends the information in the first part of the sentence.

Example:  Priya seems to be a workaholic.  She spent the holiday in her office finishing the report.

Revision:  Priya seems to be a workaholic; in fact, she spent the holiday in her office finishing the report.

nevertheless:  Very similar to the word “but,” but the truth of what comes before “nevertheless” is emphasized.

Example:  All his friends have been praising the high quality of service in the new coffee shop for months.  When he went there, the server was quite rude.

Revision:  All his friends have been praising the high quality of service in the new coffee shop for months; nevertheless, when he went there, the server was quite rude.

then:  Something happening in sequence, after a previous event.

Example:  Wenyu carefully reviewed the credit cards offers she had received this month.  She chose the one with the best terms and completed the application.

Revision:  Wenyu carefully reviewed the credit cards offers she had received this month; then, she chose the one with the best terms and completed the application.

Subordination, Exercises

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .

Summary:

This resource discusses how to link sentences through subordination.

Subordination

Unlike the conjunction and coordination examples above, subordination changes one of the two sentences so that it becomes dependent upon the other sentence—it is subordinated to the other sentence. Unlike the conjunctions and coordinators above, subordination words and clauses do not always go between sentences.

after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though, for, if, if only, rather than, since, that, though, unless, until, when, where, whereas, wherever, whether, which, while

Example: More students at the college are biking, walking, or carpooling. The price of gasoline is continuing to rise.

Revision 1: More students at the college are biking, walking, or carpooling because the price of gasoline is continuing to rise.

Revision 2: Because the price of gasoline is continuing to rise, more students at the college are biking, walking, or carpooling.

Combining Sentences Exercise

Use the material in the combining sentences pages to revise the sentences below.

Conjunctions

1. The president failed to explain the cause of the crisis. He did not offer any solutions.
2. Akira’s wife was due to give birth to their first child in the next several days. He still worked overtime.
3. Rekha had an intense headache all morning. She smiled and remained alert throughout the entire meeting.
4. The last storm to come through the area ripped some of the siding off George’s garage. He visited the hardware store and invested in storm-proofing materials.
5. Enrollment in the university has been dropping in recent years. Its facilites have been lacking proper maintenance.

Coordination

1. Plans for renovating downtown into an upscale shopping center were finalized. Discussions began on budgeting city funds for the project.
2. The nearest supermarket started to carry produce and spices that specifically matched the diets of many people in the community. Shoppers continued to be lured to the big-box store out on the highway.
3. The main office has cut our printing and copying budget. We will need to rely more heavily on e-mail, Skype, and instant messaging.
4. The professor suspected that the student was plagiarizing on the final paper. The student may have been plagiarizing since the beginning of the semester.
5. Please respond to this e-mail at your earliest convenience, so that I can get started here. Include your notes as an attachment.

Subordination

1. I had to hand the project over to Max. You didn’t respond to any of my e-mails.
2. Another candidate with more qualifications applies in the next forty-eight hours. You should get the position without any difficulties.
3. Viktor had prepared and practiced for the presentation thoroughly. The projector died and the presentation was not successful.
4. Keep calling our customers from last year. You make your sales quota.
5. The instructor copies his lesson directly from the textbook. The students lose interest and doze off.

Click here for exercise answers.

Suggested OWL Resources

 

Discourse Connectors

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on December 7, 2008 .

Summary:

This resource provides guidelines and practice activities for using discourse connectors in your texts: words and phrases for transitions, and writing topic sentences.

Creating longer texts such as job application letters, college application essays, and reports requires you to string together many small and separate ideas into a larger, unified whole.  However, if you do not have discourse connectors, words and phrases and sentences to tie those separate ideas together, all you will have is fragments.

By using discourse connectors, you show your readers how everything relates to everything else—something that is absolutely essential if you are going to get your readers to completely understand your ideas.  The following will give you some basic information on discourse connectors, and then you will have the chance to practice the concepts yourself.

Words and Phrases

These words and phrases can simply be inserted at the beginning of a sentence that you want to more clearly associate with a previous sentence (or sentences). Here is a list of some discourse connectors:

consequently, despite this, therefore, furthermore, in addition, moreover, however, indeed, in fact, nevertheless, then

Example:  Miguel worked in sales for five years, and he worked another three in accounting.  He is eligible for a management position.

Revision 1:  Miguel worked in sales for five years, and he worked another three in accounting.  Therefore, he is eligible for a management position.

A number of these (consequently, therefore, however, in fact, nevertheless, then) can also be used in other positions in the sentence.   

Revision 2:  Miguel worked in sales for five years, and he worked another three in accounting.  He is therefore eligible for a management position.

Revision 3:  Miguel worked in sales for five years, and he worked another three in accounting.  He therefore is eligible for a management position.

Regardless of the arrangement, using these words and phrases makes the associations between sentences much clearer.  Consequently, they make your sentences less “choppy.”

Topic Sentences, Exercises

This resource was written by Tony Cimasko.
Last edited by Allen Brizee on August 7, 2009 .

Summary:

This resource explains how to compose topic sentences as discourse connectors.

Topic Sentences

Linking individual sentences together is important, but the words and phrases discussed above generally work only within a single paragraph.  In order to give your mulit-paragraph texts greater coherence, longer stretches of ideas need to be connected.  This is where topic sentences come in.

On the most basic level, topic sentences are the first sentence of a paragraph, representing the entirety of that paragraph, as in this example: 

A post-secondary education can have very positive effects on income and employment.  Numerous studies conducted in the United States over the past ten years have demonstrated that earnings for anyone with a post-secondary education are on average twenty percent higher than the earnings of those whose education stopped with a high school diploma.  Incomes are higher still for those with four-year degrees, and even higher at the master’s and doctoral levels.  Regardless of the post-secondary degree level, graduates are fifteen percent less likely to be laid off in difficult economic times.

When they are used to their fullest potential, topic sentences also become a bridge between the previous paragraph and the next one.  Assume that a paragraph about the cultural benefits of a post-secondary degree comes after the example paragraph above.  A topic sentence linking the new paragraph with the previous might go like this:

In addition to the economic benefits, a post-secondary education can provide very clear cultural benefits.  People with post-secondary degrees...

Discourse Connectors Exercise

Practice combining the following pairs of sentences with the words and phrases in part one.  When you are finished, check your work with another student or with a teacher.

1. Taking English classes from native speakers is not a guarantee of successful learning.  Many schools continue to hire unqualified native speakers only because of their language background.
2. Living in on-campus housing is an easy way to cut down on costs.  Most colleges and universities offer free utilities.
3. Construction on the new apartment complex will be finished in October.  Advertisements for tenants will be published in early November.
4. Donny’s biology grades were much higher than the grades he received in his computer science classes.  He officially changed his major to biology.
5. The final paper is not due for another three whole weeks.  The professor has given us the option of taking an additional three days beyond the deadline.
6. The supervisor wants the report done on the same day that the final exam is being administered.  Lihua will drink more Red Bull over the next few weeks.

For answers, check your work with another student or with a teacher.

In the following section you will find pairs of paragraph topics—the main ideas for paragraphs.  Come up with a topic sentence for each pair that links the two main ideas.  A topic sentence for the first pair is provided as an example.

Example:  Increasing sales to increase profits — Cutting costs to increase profits

Answer:
  Once sales are increased to the maximum, a manager needs to cut costs to increase profits.

1. Providing supervision and guidance for new employees — Reviewing the performance of new employees
2. Managing a full-time college course schedule — Finding time for social activities
3. Talking to your children every day about their homework — Meeting with your children’s teachers every semester
4. Buying organic foods for better health — Finding ways to cut your grocery bills
5. Many immigrants to the US have found economic and social success — Many immigrants have encountered discrimination

Click here for exercise answers.

Suggested OWL Resources

Writing Transitions and Transitional Devices