Sentence Structure

Sooner or later in your writing, someone will criticize your sentence structure. Most often, they’re not remarking about a single sentence but concerning the use of various structures to add variety to your prose. Most of us learned a long time ago that a sentence contains a subject, verb, and object:

“Bob threw a ball.”
“Suzie jumped rope.”
“Rover chased a cat.”

Those sentences are descriptive and full of action, but an entire book written in simple declarative sentences couldn’t go anywhere and would become tiresome immediately. We could tie the sentences together and give a composite picture:

“Bob threw a ball while Suzie jumped rope and Rover chased a cat.”

This is a compound sentence and adds some variety over a number of simple declarative sentences. It’s still subject, verb, object and that will get old quickly. Also, it is a way to vary sentence length, but be sure to avoid comma-splicing, which is just adding commas to put together two or more stand-alone sentences.

We can add variety by inserting prepositional phrases or dependent clauses:

“While throwing a ball, Bob watched Suzie jumping rope and saw Rover chasing a cat.”
“Bob, who was throwing a ball, watched Suzie jumping rope and saw Rover chase a cat.”

We have added a point of view (Bob’s).

It’s easy to fall into the pronoun (or name), verb, object trap where your sentences repeat the same structure and have the same length. Review your entire manuscript to ensure that you vary both.

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