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Writing: Sentences & Paragraphs

The Four Kinds of Sentences


Today's Snack: Have snack in sets of four: four orange slices, four crackers, four cheese cubes, and drink a glass of orange juice in four gulps.




Print out the sheet at bottom,

and provide with a No. 2 pencil for each student


or project it on a big screen, and have each

student write four sentences on a sheet of lined paper



Good writing mixes up the length and complexity of the sentences within a piece of writing. Some sentences are short; some are long. Some are simple and straightforward. Some take a while to get around to the point, and others are longer still because they contain a lot of description of objects or action.


Writing needs to be clear and easy to understand. But a little variety and diversity is good. It's the same way that it's valuable to have all different kinds of friends . . . and music is pleasing when songs mix up different notes and melodies . . . and good golfers use different kinds of clubs to make different kinds of shots.


You shouldn't go out of your way to write in a fancy, complicated way. But you should be willing to try to make your writing somewhat varied, from sentence to sentence. That way, it isn't so much alike from start to finish that it gets boring or sing-song.


Here are the four basic kinds of sentences you should use, in order of how often you should use them:



1. Simple sentence:


One independent clause - one subject (usually a noun) and one predicate (usually a verb) - including modifying words for either, expressing a complete thought.


Sally sells seashells by the seashore.




2. Compound sentence:


Two or more independent clauses, usually held together by a conjunction (and, but, or) and a comma or semicolon.


Sally sells seashells by the seashore, and she buys baseballs by the bazillion.




3. Complex sentence:


One independent clause and one or more dependent clauses that work together to clarify the relationship between two different thoughts. A dependent clause isn't complete because it lacks either a subject or a predicate. See how the phrase that ends with "seashore" couldn't stand by itself as a sentence:


Because Sally sells seashells by the seashore, she has to shell out a lot of cash.




4. Compound-complex sentence:


Two or more independent clauses with one or more dependent clauses. See how the phrase that begins with "and" couldn't stand by itself? It's the dependent clause, and the other two are independent clauses:


Sally sells seashells by the seashore, and although she buys baseballs by the bazillion, she never runs out of cash or customers.



You must be pretty tired of reading about seashells by now. So pick something else - baseball? dogs? cars? your little sister? - and write four different sentences about that topic. Start with the simple sentence structure, and move on to the other three types:




My topic: ______________________________



  1. Simple sentence:






  1. Compound sentence:






  1. Complex sentence:






  1. Compound-complex sentence:



By Susan Darst Williams Writing 2010


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