Combining Sentences

Some writers create a series of short sentences that sound choppy and lack good connections. By varying the length and complexity of sentences, you will increase the reader's interest in your ideas.

Combining simple sentences

If you have written a series of simple sentences, try alternate methods of combining them to vary the pace of the paragraph.

Look at the following example.

Old‐growth forests are disappearing. Citizens should take action. For example, wood substitutes and recycled materials are becoming more available. People can ask their contractors to use these products.

These simple sentences can be combined to form compound and complex sentences that flow more smoothly.

Old‐growth forests are disappearing, and citizens should take action. For example, people can ask their contractors to use wood substitutes or recycled materials, which are becoming more available.

When you combine simple sentences, let meaning be your guide. For example, use a complex sentence if you want to make one idea subordinate to another and a compound sentence if you want to join ideas of equal weight. In the previous example, the first two clauses are of equal weight: the forests are disappearing, and people should do something about it. In the second sentence, the main idea is that people should ask their contractors to use wood substitutes and recycled materials. The subordinate point is that these products are becoming more available.

Review coordinating conjunctions and conjunctive adverbs, to see the relationships you can show when combining sentences.

Combining sentences using phrases

You can combine short sentences by using phrases as well as clauses. Look at the following example.

Scientists first identify the defective gene. Then they can create a screening test. Physicians can use this screening test to diagnose the condition early.
BETTER After identifying the defective gene, scientists can develop a screening test to help physicians diagnose the condition early.

Notice that in the second version the participial phrase After identifying the defective gene and the infinitive phrase to help physicians diagnose the condition early turn three choppy sentences into one smooth one.