Upgrade Your Writing with these 4 Great Sentence Styles –
When you need to make a great impression in your writing, basic sentence structures aren’t always enough. The solution? Do what the professionals do: Upgrade your writing skills with dynamic new sentence patterns.
Whether you’re writing for business, school, or any other purpose, these 4 great sentence styles will be sure to keep your audience coming back for more.
1) Use a semicolon to join shorter sentences
Using short, simple sentences is fine, but it doesn’t really help your writing stand out from the crowd. Try this method: When you have two short sentences that are thematically related, join them together with a semi colon. This is a simple, creative way of forming memorable compound sentences.
He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened. -Lao Tzu
Some people dream of doing something important; others stay awake and actually do it.
To err is human; to forgive, divine. -Alexander Pope
Joining sentences with a semicolon instantly creates a stronger impact. Be sure both sides of the sentence are independent clauses that make sense on their own. In addition, the clauses must be closely related by theme; if not, the combination will confuse your readers.
2) Use a colon to give further information about your topic
When you have a person, place, or thing that requires additional information, a colon is a great way to bring energy into your sentence. Here’s how it works: end the main clause with a colon, and then add a phrase or clause that describes, explains, or defines something in the first clause.
Done properly, the first part of the sentence creates a feeling of curiosity that will be resolved by the second part. This anticipation is what makes this form effective.
Remember the number one rule of real estate: location, location, location.
The researchers found something completely unexpected: participants showed a dramatic improvement in their short-term memory.
I cringed as my teacher said those dreaded words: summer school.
To use this style correctly, you must have a noun in the independent clause that is described, explained, or defined after the colon. In these sentences, the nouns being expanded upon are ‘rule,’ ‘something,’ and ‘words’.
3) A phrase placed in the middle of a sentence
This style is similar to style 2, except now the phrase that explains or renames a noun comes in the middle of the sentence, splitting it into two parts.
The phrase is dependent, containing neither subject nor verb, and is set apart either with “em dashes” (long dashes that look like this: – ) or parenthesis. The parts outside of the parenthesis or dashes must always be a complete sentence.
Take a look at these examples:
My goal was to sample all their ice cream varieties—28 in total—before the end of the summer.
Taking a driving tour along scenic Highway 101 (visiting Washington, Oregon, and California along the way) should certainly be on your must-do list.
The new kid at school—smart, stylish, and sociable—was going to be trouble.
Chicago Style (as in the above examples) does not place spaces around em dashes. However, AP Style, which is used in many news publications, requires spaces unless the dash introduces items in a vertical list.
Here’s the previous example in AP Style:
My goal was to sample all their ice cream varieties — 28 in total — before the end of the summer.
Use dashes if the extra information is especially important to the topic, or parenthesis if the information is more of a “by the way” idea.
4) A list of terms followed by a summary noun
The fourth of our great sentence styles begins with a short list of terms. The terms must be parallel; in other words, all the same form, such as all nouns, all adjectives, or all verbs. Follow the list with an “en dash” (which is a medium-length dash, shorter than the em dash, that looks like this: – ). After the en dash comes an independent clause that includes a noun that summarizes your list.
It sounds complicated, but with some practice it becomes easier. Here are some examples:
The dampness, the discomfort, the shivering – these are the things I remember most about family camping trips.
Embrace, create, include – such imperatives challenge a community towards genuine love and compassion.
Assassin, thief, international spy – I was none of these.
In the first and third sentences, the parallel terms are all nouns; in the second, they are verbs. This form also works very well for summarizing ideas, but it commands a lot of attention, so should be used sparingly.
Thanks for taking a look at this Grammar Guide for upgrading your writing with great sentence styles!
For some helpful practice with dynamic sentence styles, you will love The Art of Styling Sentences by Ann Longknife (Available on Amazon)
Finally, you can also see some of my other posts here.
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