How to Write Better Sentences (2023)

​​After hundreds of thousands of years of linguistic evolution, the sentence is perhaps our strongest way to share a single thought. It’s the default tool for communicating when a lone word isn’t enough.

We all have a natural intuition when it comes to forming sentences, yet so few of us know the proper techniques and stylistic choices available. In this article, we explain everything you need to know about sentences (in English, at least), including different sentence types and constructions. Then we explain how to avoid common mistakes and take your sentence writing to the next level.

Here’s a tip: Want to make sure your writing shines? Grammarly can check your spelling and save you from grammar and punctuation mistakes. It even proofreads your text, so your work is extra polished wherever you write.

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What is a sentence?

At its core, a sentence is a string of words used to express a complete thought. There’s a lot of flexibility about what constitutes a sentence, but the central rule is that it must contain both a subject and a verb—and even that rule is bendable for imperative sentences, as you’ll see below.

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Let’s start with the four main types of sentences:

1Declarative (statement): This is a standard sentence that points out a fact.

Example: That dog won’t sit.

2Interrogative (question): This is a sentence asking a question.

Example: Why won’t that dog sit?

3Exclamatory (exclamation): This is a modified declarative sentence used to add emphasis or show emotion, urgency, or high volume.

Example: I’ve tried everything, but that dog still won’t sit!

4Imperative (command): This is a sentence telling someone or something to do an action. The subject is assumed, so you don’t need to include it.

Example: Please sit.

Notice that the end punctuation changes for the sentence types. Declarative sentences use periods, interrogative sentences use question marks, exclamatory sentences use exclamation points, and imperative sentences can use either periods or exclamation points.

Sentence rules and structures

Before we break down sentence structure, we have to discuss an element crucial to forming sentences: the clause.

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A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and verb (except for some imperative clauses) and can be either independent or subordinate. An independent clause can exist as a complete sentence on its own, whereas a subordinate or “dependent” clause can not.

Why not? Sometimes a subordinate clause is missing either a subject or a verb, or sometimes it has both but still isn’t grammatically independent. In either case, subordinate clauses must be joined to an independent clause.

Subordinate clauses are almost always introduced by special linking words or phrases known as subordinating conjunctions: connectors like “while,” “because,” or “as long as,” plus certain prepositions like “before” and “after.” If you’d like, you can see our comprehensive list of subordinating conjunctions.

To build sentences, you can use an independent clause by itself or combine it with a subordinating clause, another independent clause, or both. We explain four sentence structures below.

Simple sentence structure

First is your basic sentence: a standalone independent clause with a subject and verb. Note that a simple sentence can contain two subjects or two verbs, but not two of each.

Example: King Kong and Godzilla destroyed the city.

Complex sentence structure

A complex sentence combines an independent clause with one or more subordinate clauses. Complex sentences always use subordinating conjunctions to connect the clauses.

Example: King Kong and Godzilla destroyed the city because they were fighting.

Compound sentence structure

A compound sentence combines two independent clauses using a coordinating conjunction like the FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So) or using a semicolon. It’s essentially two simple sentences joined together.

Example: King Kong didn’t want to destroy the city, but Godzilla enjoyed it.

Compound-complex sentence structure

Lastly, a compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and at least one subordinate clause. Think of it as a compound sentence consisting of one or more complex sentences.

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Example: After King Kong mustered all this strength, he threw a final punch and Godzilla fell.

5 common sentence mistakes

To help improve your sentences, here are five of the most common sentence mistakes and expert advice on how to resolve them.

1 Run-ons

Also known as “fused sentences,” run-on sentences occur when clauses are mashed together without the proper connecting words.

To fix a run-on sentence, you can simply apply the right conjunctions. If the sentence still seems awkward or too long, try breaking it up into two or more sentences.

2 Sentence fragments

Sentence fragments occur when a sentence is incomplete—if it lacks a subject or a verb, or if it’s a subordinating clause by itself.

To fix a sentence fragment, just identify what’s left out and add the missing part. Make sure your sentence has both a subject and a verb (unless it’s an imperative sentence), and if it’s a subordinating clause, try hooking it to a related independent clause.

3 Subject-verb agreement

In English, if the subject is singular, the verb must also be singular; if the subject is plural, the verb must also be plural.

In most cases, you can fix this and have subject-verb agreement just by adding or removing the plural s. The problem is that sometimes this error is hard to find. One common example of this is describing a singular subject with plural words.

Example: A mixture of blood, sweat, and tears leads to success.

The subject is mixture, which is singular, and the verb is leads, which is also singular. Don’t get fooled by “extra” words like blood, sweat, and tears—even though they are plural, they don’t make the subject plural.

4 Ending with prepositions

You often hear people telling you it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition, but that’s not entirely true. In formal writing like school papers it’s frowned upon, but usually, it’s perfectly acceptable—sometimes, even preferable.

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For starters, prepositions always need an object; if you end a sentence with an objectless preposition, you risk sounding unclear. For example, if you wrote, “The bird flew above,” your readers would wonder, “Above what?”

It’s also worth noting that phrasal verbs often incorporate prepositions.

Example: Five excited puppies are almost too many to put up with.

This sentence is fine because the phrase still has an object, even though the object comes first. Phrasal verbs are also frowned upon in formal writing, so you shouldn’t put them at the end—or the beginning—of a formal sentence anyway.

5 Passive voice

Although not technically a grammatical error, passive voice is a sign of unassertive writing. In passive voice, the subject of a clause receives the action. The main verb appears as a participle plus a form of “to be.”

Example: A touchdown pass was thrown by the quarterback.

Now, consider that same sentiment written in the active voice:

Example: The quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

It’s not only more succinct, but also more direct and easier to understand. Active voice also tends to sound better, creating more vigorous and lively prose. In most cases, replacing passive voice with active voice makes your writing more clear.

How Grammarly strengthens your sentences

Mastering the principles of writing clear and grammatical sentences takes practice: the more you do it, the better you get. But what about that paper due at the end of the week? Or, that important email you have to send at the last minute?

Luckily, the Grammarly Editor ensures your writing is readable, clear, and concise by offering sentence structure suggestions, plus clarity revisions as you write. Grammarly helps catch common mistakes with sentence structure—like run-on sentences, sentence fragments, passive voice, and more. The Grammarly browser extension can also improve your sentences in your emails.

(Video) Grammar Lesson #1 - Tips to Improve Your Sentence Structure

Here’s a tip: You don’t have to guess whether you’re using certain words correctly or breaking grammar rules in your writing. Just copy and paste your writing into our Grammar Checker and get instant feedback on whether your sentences have misspellings, punctuation errors, or any structural mistakes.

Wherever you write, Grammarly’s suggestions make your sentences clearer and engaging, so your writing is polished and professional.

FAQs

How can I improve my sentence writing? ›

How to Improve Sentence Structure
  1. Write in the active voice.
  2. Use a parallel structure for connected items.
  3. Watch out for misplaced or missing modifiers.
  4. Avoid overusing subordinate clauses.
  5. Vary the length and pattern of sentences.
Aug 8, 2022

What are 10 good sentences? ›

Good sentence example
  • It felt so good to be home. 1102. ...
  • You have a good family. 712. ...
  • She is such a good seamstress. 661. ...
  • It was a good thing they were going home tomorrow. ...
  • It was all just good clean fun. ...
  • It meant a good deal to him to secure a home like this. ...
  • It would do no good to ask him why. ...
  • He had done one good deed.

How can I write more powerfully? ›

Follow These Rules For Stronger Writing
  1. NEVER LET THE TRUTH GET IN THE WAY OF YOUR STORY. ...
  2. NEVER USE TWO WORDS WHEN ONE WILL DO. ...
  3. USE THE ACTIVE VOICE. ...
  4. USE PARALLEL CONSTRUCTION. ...
  5. KEEP RELATED WORDS TOGETHER. ...
  6. REPLACE ADJECTIVES AND ADVERBS WITH VIVID NOUNS AND ACTIVE VERBS. ...
  7. DON'T OVEREXPLAIN. ...
  8. WRITE CINEMATICALLY.
Apr 30, 2009

How can I help my child write better sentences? ›

Sentence stems can help children practising forming and writing sentences by giving them part of the sentence and only having to think about and write the end of the sentence. For children just beginning to write, you might have a sentence stem written out for the child such as 'I like ________' or 'I went _______'.

What is one way to improve sentence fluency? ›

4 Ways to Improve Sentence Fluency
  1. Read it aloud. The very first thing to do before revising essays for sentence fluency is to read the piece out loud. ...
  2. ABC the paragraphs. ...
  3. Combine simple sentences to form compound sentences. ...
  4. Use dependent clauses to start sentences.
Oct 16, 2017

What is the 5 sentence rule? ›

If you want to write emails that people actually read, make them no longer than five sentences. Anything more than that, and you need some other form of communication – an old-fashioned call perhaps, or a meeting. People are so overwhelmed by email that they don't even scroll down to read the lower paragraphs anymore.

Is a 26 word sentence too long? ›

When is a sentence too long? It is difficult to come up with a magic number or formula for determining when a sentence is too long. A 12-word sentence that minces words can be too long, while a crystal clear, beautifully-composed 22-word sentence is sometimes just perfect. In general, though, never go beyond 30 words.

Is a 25 word sentence too long? ›

Fairly difficult (Medium long sentence length): 21-25 words. Difficult (Long sentence length) : 25-30 words.

Why do I struggle to write so much? ›

These are often deeper issues, arising from our life beyond the page. They might include illness (our own or someone else's), exhaustion, stress, fear or other unresolved emotions, burnout, or any other number of things. Sometimes the cause seems to be something as simple (and vague) as a mood.

How do I stop being tired of writing? ›

Here's a few tips to power through:
  1. 1) Take Stock. Every few years, I re-read Stephen R. ...
  2. 2) Plan. Following along these lines, write down a specific goal for this writing session. ...
  3. 3) Eliminate Distractions. ...
  4. 4) Get Out of the House. ...
  5. 5) Create a Creative Environment. ...
  6. 6) Change it Up. ...
  7. 7) Take a Break. ...
  8. 8) Sleep.
Nov 9, 2015

Can writing increase IQ? ›

Some studies even show that writing by hand increases cognitive activity and can actually make you more intelligent—as long as you put the keyboard aside and write by hand. As Dr. William Klemm says in this Psychology Today article: There is a spill-over benefit for thinking skills used in reading and writing.

How can I help my 12 year old write better? ›

Before getting started
  1. Provide a place. ...
  2. Provide the materials. ...
  3. Brainstorm. ...
  4. Encourage the child to draw and to discuss her drawings. ...
  5. Ask your child to tell you simple stories as you write them down. ...
  6. Encourage your child to write her name. ...
  7. Use games. ...
  8. Turn your child's writing into books.

How do you overcome grammatical mistakes? ›

7 Tips to Improve Your Grammar Skills
  1. Read. Reading may be the number one way you can improve your grammar skills. ...
  2. Get a grammar manual. It is useful to have a thorough reference book nearby that you can consult when writing. ...
  3. Review the basics. ...
  4. Practice. ...
  5. Listen to others. ...
  6. Proofread…out loud. ...
  7. Write.
Oct 23, 2014

How can I improve my English knowledge? ›

7 Ways to Quickly Improve Your English Language Skills
  1. Watch movies in English. ...
  2. Immerse yourself in English language news. ...
  3. Start a vocabulary book of useful words. ...
  4. Have conversations in English. ...
  5. Practice, practice, practice. ...
  6. Curiosity doesn't always kill the cat. ...
  7. Don't forget to have fun while you learn.

What is 120 rules of grammar? ›

“120 Rules of Grammar” is a unique or one of a kind approach to bring all the important concepts and practice questions under one umbrella to assist all the readers in clearing their slightest of doubts regarding this subject.

What are the 6 1 traits of writing? ›

The Six Traits of writing are Voice, Ideas, Presentation, Conventions, Organization, Word Choice, and Sentence Fluency. It creates a common vocabulary and guidelines for teachers to use with students so that they become familiar with the terms used in writing.

What makes writing fluent? ›

Writing fluency refers to a writer's ability to quickly and easily express themselves in a way that's also easy for their audience to comprehend. A fluent writer has thorough knowledge of spelling, vocabulary, punctuation, and grammar rules.

How do you write a smooth sentence? ›

Visually Smooth Out Your Writing
  1. Be consistent with your sentence spacing. ...
  2. Use one period at the end of a sentence (or three if you're using the ellipsis mark), not two or four or five.
  3. Be careful about breaking words into syllables at the end of a line. ...
  4. Limit your use of italics, which look fussy when there's too much.
Jul 21, 2019

What are the three rules of writing a sentence? ›

Sentence structure grammar rules

Capitalize the first letter of the first word in a sentence. End a sentence with a period, question mark, exclamation point, or quotation marks. Most of the time, the subject of the sentence comes first, the verb comes second, and the objects come last. (Subject -> Verb -> Object)

Does a sentence have 10? ›

[M] [T] He has plenty of money in the bank. [M] [T] She has never sung a song with him. [M] [T] She has nothing in common with him. [M] [T] She has the large house to herself.

What is the rule of making sentence? ›

A sentence follows Subject + Verb + Object word order. He (subject) obtained (verb) his degree (object).

Is the longest sentence ever? ›

Often cited for being the longest sentence ever written is one by author James Joyce. In his novel Ulysses, the character Molly Bloom has a monologue that goes on for 36 pages and has a total of 3,687 words. The only reason that a sentence this long works is because it is a monologue.

How long is the longest sentence ever? ›

The Guinness Book of Records lists the longest proper sentence as one from William Faulkner's novel 'Absalom, Absalom!' (1,287 words). Some ancient languages, such as Sanskrit and Greek, did not have any punctuation.

What is the longest paragraph ever? ›

The huge run-on sentence consists of 1,288 words and countless clauses. It takes patience to read, but once you get into the rhythm, it's like delving into Faulkner's stream of consciousness. The experimental writer's sentence style inspired hundreds of writers since, including Samuel Beckett, Virginia Woolf, F.

Is 800 words a lot? ›

Just slightly longer than a more common word count of 750 words, 800 words is about one and three-fifths of a page single spaced, and a little over 3 pages double spaced.

Is a 500 word essay too long? ›

In most cases, a 500-word paragraph is too long, but paragraph size differs based on essay type and required length. 🎡 Can a 500 word essay be 3 paragraphs? Yes. A 500-word essay could have 3 substantial paragraphs, but most will have around 4-6 paragraphs.

How long is a 25000 word essay? ›

A typical manuscript page (8.5×11 paper, 1-inch margins, standard 11- or 12-point font, doublespaced—like you would type in Word) is considered to be 250 words. So a 25,000-word manuscript is about 100 pages. A 50,000-word manuscript is 200 pages.

What are good sentences? ›

A great sentence verbalizes ideas clearly and efficiently, establishing effective communication through writing. The content of a sentence and how it's structured determines if it's good—but a complex sentence doesn't necessarily mean it's well-written, and a short sentence can say just as much as a long one.

What is a 100 word sentence? ›

How Many Sentences Is 100 Words? 100 words is about 5-7 sentences. A sentence typically has 15–20 words.

What are the 7 types of sentences? ›

Q5: What are the 8-types of sentences? Answer: There are 8-types of sentences on the basis of function and structure are Declarative Sentence, Interrogative Sentence, Exclamatory Sentence, Imperative Sentence, Simple sentence, Compound Sentence, Complex sentence, and Compound -Complex sentence.

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