Strategies for Variation
Adding sentence variety to prose can give it life and rhythm. Too many sentences with the same structure and length can grow monotonous for readers. Varying sentence style and structure can also reduce repetition and add emphasis. Long sentences work well for incorporating a lot of information, and short sentences can often maximize crucial points. These general tips may help add variety to similar sentences.
1. Vary the rhythm by alternating short and long sentences.
Several sentences of the same length can make for bland writing. To enliven paragraphs, write sentences of different lengths. This will also allow for effective emphasis.
2. Vary sentence openings.
If too many sentences start with the same word, especially The, It, This, or I, prose can grow tedious for readers, so changing opening words and phrases can be refreshing. Below are alternative openings for a fairly standard sentence. Notice that different beginnings can alter not only the structure but also the emphasis of the sentence. They may also require rephrasing in sentences before or after this one, meaning that one change could lead to an abundance of sentence variety.
Coincidentally, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
In an amazing coincidence, David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Sitting next to David at the Super Bowl was a tremendous coincidence.
But the biggest coincidence that day happened when David and I ended up sitting next to each other at the Super Bowl.
When I sat down at the Super Bowl, I realized that, by sheer coincidence, I was directly next to David.
By sheer coincidence, I ended up sitting directly next to David at the Super Bowl.
With over 50,000 fans at the Super Bowl, it took an incredible coincidence for me to end up sitting right next to David.
What are the odds that I would have ended up sitting right next to David at the Super Bowl?
David and I, without any prior planning, ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Without any prior planning, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
At the crowded Super Bowl, packed with 50,000 screaming fans, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other by sheer coincidence.
Though I hadn't made any advance arrangements with David, we ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Many amazing coincidences occurred that day, but nothing topped sitting right next to David at the Super Bowl.
Unbelievable, I know, but David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Guided by some bizarre coincidence, David and I ended up sitting right next to each other at the Super Bowl.
Structurally, English sentences can be classified four different ways, though there are endless constructions of each. The classifications are based on the number of independent and dependent clauses a sentence contains. An independent clause forms a complete sentence on its own, while a dependent clause needs another clause to make a complete sentence. By learning these types, writers can add complexity and variation to their sentences.
Simple sentence: A sentence with one independent clause and no dependent clauses.
My aunt enjoyed taking the hayride with you.
China's Han Dynasty marked an official recognition of Confucianism.
Compound Sentence: A sentence with multiple independent clauses but no dependent clauses.
The clown frightened the little girl, and she ran off screaming.
The Freedom Riders departed on May 4, 1961, and they were determined to travel through many southern states.
Complex Sentence: A sentence with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
After Mary added up all the sales, she discovered that the lemonade stand was 32 cents short.
While all of his paintings are fascinating, Hieronymus Bosch's triptychs, full of mayhem and madness, are the real highlight of his art.
Complex-Compound Sentence: A sentence with multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.
Catch-22 is widely regarded as Joseph Heller's best novel, and because Heller served in World War II, which the novel satirizes, the zany but savage wit of the novel packs an extra punch.
For Short, Choppy Sentences
If your writing contains lots of short sentences that give it a choppy rhythm, consider these tips.
1. Combine Sentences With Conjunctions:
Join complete sentences, clauses, and phrases with conjunctions:
2. Link Sentences Through Subordination:
Link two related sentences to each other so that one carries the main idea and the other is no longer a complete sentence (subordination). Use connectors such as the ones listed below to show the relationship.
Notice in these examples that the location of the clause beginning with the dependent marker (the connector word) is flexible. This flexibility can be useful in creating varied rhythmic patterns over the course of a paragraph.
For Repeated Subjects or Topics
Handling the same topic for several sentences can lead to repetitive sentences. When that happens, consider using these parts of speech to fix the problem.
1. Relative pronouns
Embed one sentence inside the other using a clause starting with one of the relative pronouns listed below.
Eliminate a be verb (am, is, was, were, are) and substitute a participle:
Turn a sentence into a prepositional phrase using one of the words below:
For Similar Sentence Patterns or Rhythms
When several sentences have similar patterns or rhythms, try using the following kinds of words to shake up the writing.
1. Dependent markers
Put clauses and phrases with the listed dependent markers at the beginning of some sentences instead of starting each sentence with the subject:
2. Transitional words and phrases
Vary the rhythm by adding transitional words at the beginning of some sentences: