How to write better sentences (2023)

After hundreds of thousands of years of linguistic evolution, the sentence is perhaps our strongest way of sharing a single thought. It is the default tool to communicate when a single word is not enough.

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

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What is a sentence?

In essence, a sentence is a string of words used to express a complete thought. There is a lot of flexibility about what constitutes a sentence, but the central rule is that it must contain both asubjectand averb—and even that rule is flexible for imperative sentences, as you'll see below.

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

1declarative (statement): This is a standard sentence stating a fact.

Example:That dog does not sit.

2interrogative (question): This is a sentence that asks a question.

Example:Why doesn't that dog sit down?

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

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

4Imperative (command): This is a sentence that tells someone or something to perform an action. The subject is assumed, so it is not necessary to include it.

Example:Please sit down.

Notice that the final punctuation changes depending on the types of sentences. Use of declarative sentencesperiods, use of interrogative sentencesquestion marks, use of exclamatory sentencesexclamation points, and imperative sentences can use periods or exclamation marks.

Rules and sentence structures.

Before we break down sentence structure, we need to discuss a crucial element in forming sentences: the clause.

A clause is a group of words that contains a subject and a verb (except some imperative clauses) and can be independent orsubordinate. An independent clause can exist as a complete sentence on its own, while a subordinate or "dependent" clause cannot.

Why not? Sometimes a subordinate clause is missing either a subject or a verb, or sometimes it has both but is not yet grammatically independent. In any case, the subordinate clauses must be attached to an independent clause.

Subordinate clauses are almost always introduced by special linking words or phrases known assubordinating conjunctions: connectors such as "while", "because" or "while", in addition to certain prepositions such as "before" and "after". If you wish, you can see ourcomplete listof subordinating conjunctions.

To build sentences, you can use an independent clause on its own or combine it with a subordinating clause, another independent clause, or both. Below we explain four sentence structures.

Simple sentence structure

First is your basic sentence: an independent clause with a subject and a verb. Please note that a simple sentence can contain two subjects.otwo 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 acoordination conjunctionlike the FANBOYS (For,Y,In,But,O,Still,So) or using onesemicolon. It's basically two simple sentences joined together.

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

Compound-Complex Sentence Structure

Finally, 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.

Example:After King Kong gathered all this strength, he delivered a final blow and Godzilla fell.

5 common mistakes in sentences

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


Also known as “fused sentences”.continuous sentencesthey occur when clauses are mixed without the proper connecting words.

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

2sentence fragments

Sentence fragments occur when a sentence is incomplete: if it lacks a subject or verb, or if it is a subordinating clause itself.

to fix asentence fragment, just identify what is left 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 linking it to a related independent clause.

3Verb Agreement Topic

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 problem and haveverb agreement topicsimply adding or removing the plurals. The problem is that sometimes this error is hard to find. A common example of this is describing a singular topic with plural words.

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

the subject ismix, which is singular, and the verb isdirects, which is also singular. Don't be fooled by "extra" words likeblood, sweat and tears—Although they are plural, they do not make the subject plural.

4ending with prepositions

You often hear people tell you that it's wrongend a sentence with a preposition, But that's not entirely true. In formal writing, such as school papers, it's frowned upon, but it's usually perfectly acceptable, and sometimes even preferable.

To begin with, prepositions always need a complement; If you end a sentence with a preposition without an object, you run the risk of making it sound unclear. For example, if you wrote "The bird flew up," your readers would ask, "Over what?"

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

Example:Five excited pups is too many to bear.

This sentence is fine because the sentence 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 beginning) of a formal sentence anyway.

5Passive voice

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

Example:The quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

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

Example:The quarterback threw a touchdown pass.

It is not only more concise, but also more direct and easier to understand. The active voice also tends tosoundbetter, creating a more vigorous and lively prose. In most cases, replacing the passive voice with the active voice makes your writing clearer.

How Grammarly strengthens your sentences

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

Fortunately, Grammarly Editor ensures that your writing is readable, clear, and concise by offering sentence structure suggestions, plusclarity reviewswhile you write. Grammarly helps catch common mistakes in sentence structure, such as continuous sentences, sentence fragments, passive voice, and more. The Grammarly browser extension can also enhance the sentences of your emails.

Here's a tip:You don't have to guess if you are using certain words correctly or if you are breakingGramatical rulesin your writing. Simply copy and paste your writing into ourgrammar checkerand get instant feedback on whether your sentences have misspellings, punctuation, or structural errors.

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


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