LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Combining Sentences for Variety and Clarity


A paper containing sentences of one short pattern bores both the writer and the reader for two reasons:

  1. Repetition of a single, simple sentence pattern draws attention to itself, not to the ideas in the paper.

  2. Simple, short sentences cannot show the reader the many relationships that exist among ideas of different importance.
If you read through a paper you've written and notice that you've written sentences in a single, short pattern, ask yourself the following questions. Your answers can help you revise the sentences to express your ideas more clearly and to add variety to your paper.

  • Do adjacent sentences contain ideas of unequal importance?

    If so, you can join them by subordination, making one or more ideas in a sentence depend on the idea that is most important to you.

    • Join a statement that expresses a complete thought and can stand on its own (an independent clause) with a statement that cannot stand on its own (a dependent clause) and that depends on the independent clause to complete its meaning.

    An Aside: Use the following punctuation rule when combining dependent and independent clauses. You can use a subordinator to make one clause dependent upon another.

    If you place the dependent clause before the independent clause, use a comma.

    or

    Do not use a comma if you place the dependent clause after the independent clause.

    Subordinators can be used to signal one of the following relationships between two ideas:

    • when, until, after, as soon as, before, ever since, as, and while show a relation that indicates time

    • because, since show a relation that indicates causality

    • though, although, even though, and while express concession and contrast of ideas

    • of, as if, provided that, unless, as though show condition

    • where indicates place

    • so that shows result

    • whichever, whenever, wherever, whoever indicate general possibility

    • more or less than shows comparison of ideas

    OriginalThe two countries reached an agreement on trade policies. They then were able to complete their peace treaty.
    RevisionAfter the two countries reached an agreement on trade policies, they were able to complete their peace treaty.

    OriginalThe statistics in the proposal were inaccurate. It was this that made the proposal fail.
    RevisionThe proposal failed because its statistics were inaccurate.

    OriginalEquipment failures and labor strikes delayed the submarine's completion. Naval engineers continued the project.
    RevisionAlthough equipment failures and labor strikes delayed the submarine's completion, naval engineers continued the project.

    OriginalVideo game manufacturers plan to impose a rating system to indicate violence. The ratings system will be ineffectual without an accompanying plan for reinforcement.
    RevisionUnless video game manufacturers issue an accompanying plan for enforcement, their ratings system will be ineffectual.

    OriginalThe author wanted people of all income levels to be able to read her book. To achieve this, she stipulated that the book be sold for under five dollars.
    RevisionSo that people of all income levels would be able to read her book, the author stipulated that the book be sold for under five dollars.

    OriginalThe male hornbill builds a nest for his mate. He chooses a nest site that will protect her and her chicks from predators.
    RevisionThe male hornbill builds a nest for his mate where she and her chicks will be protected from predators.

    Original The program's format allows individual users to make changes. This can be done each time users encounter problems in implementing the program.
    RevisionThe program's format allows individual users to make changes whenever they encounter problems implementing the program.

    OriginalThe beginner's manual contains few technical terms. However, the advanced manual contains several.
    RevisionThe advanced manual contains more technical terms than the beginner's manual.

    • Use which, that, who, whom, where, and when to subordinate one set of facts to another set or to add information about a person, place, thing, or concept in your sentence.

    • who, whom, whose, and that are used for one or more persons

    • that and which are used for one or more things

    • which is used to introduce an entire explanatory clause

    • where and when are used for a place or time respectively

    OriginalPeter Tchaikowsky, a Russian composer, lived from 1840 to 1893. He composed Peter and the Wolf.
    RevisionPeter Tchaikowsky, a Russian composer who lived from 1840 to 1893, composed Peter and the Wolf.

    OriginalPeter and the Wolf is often performed for audiences of children. The composition uses different instruments to represent different characters.
    RevisionPeter and the Wolf, which uses different instruments to represent different characters, is often performed for audiences of children.

    OriginalThe judges scored the performances using a new set of standards. This different method of scoring resulted in unanticipated victories for several new competitors.
    RevisionThe judges scored the performance using a new set of standards, which resulted in unanticipated victories for several new competitors.

    OriginalA press conference is an ideal place to find out information. Many journalists meet, discuss, and question current political issues at a press conference.
    RevisedA press conference, where many journalists meet, discuss, and question current issues, is an ideal place to find out information.


    For more information about recognizing and punctuating independent and dependent clauses, see Write Place handouts "Punctuation Pattern Sheet" and "Punctuating ICs and DCs ." For more information about transitional words, see "Transitions: Common Cues for the Reader."


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    LEO: Literacy Education Online
    The print handout was revised and then redesigned for the Web by Maggie Escalas for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

    Last update: 5 October 1999

    URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/style/sentencev.html