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.

(Video) 12 Ways to Write Better Sentences for Creative Writers

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.

(Video) How to Write Better Sentences

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.

(Video) How to Write Better Sentences and Paragraphs | The 2-3-1 Rule

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.

(Video) Improve your Writing: Show, Not Tell

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) How to write good sentences

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.


How can I improve my sentence writing? ›

There are many writing tips available for those looking to craft better sentences:
  1. Keep it simple. Long sentences or overly complex sentences don't necessarily make sophisticated sentence writing. ...
  2. Use concrete rhetoric. ...
  3. Employ parallelism. ...
  4. Mind your grammar. ...
  5. Properly punctuate. ...
  6. Practice writing.
Jan 28, 2022

How do you make a sentence more clear? ›

Writing Concisely
  1. Eliminate unnecessary phrases and redundancies. ...
  2. Use clear and straightforward language. ...
  3. Write in active voice. ...
  4. Shorten wordy phrases. ...
  5. Avoid starting sentences with "there is", "there are", or "it is". ...
  6. Eliminate extra nouns. ...
  7. Eliminate filler words such as "that", "of", or "up".

How do you practice sentence structure? ›

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 makes a great sentence? ›

Clearly written, complete sentences require key information: a subject, a verb and a complete idea. A sentence needs to make sense on its own. Sometimes, complete sentences are also called independent clauses. A clause is a group of words that may make up a sentence.

How can I write beautifully in a sentence? ›

They were all beautifully dressed. It was another beautifully sunny day. She sang beautifully. This is a beautifully written novel.

What's a good sentence starter? ›

Below is a list of possible sentence starters, transitional and other words that may be useful. This essay discusses … … is explored … … is defined … The definition of … will be given … is briefly outlined … … is explored … The issue focused on …. … is demonstrated ... … is included …

What are the 3 things that ensure clear writing? ›

There are 3 general things to look out for when editing for conciseness: cutting unnecessary words, cutting unnecessary repetition, and finally, simplifying sentences (when possible). You can find out more about these tips on the Writing Centre's Writing Concisely resource!

How can I improve my conciseness? ›

Identifying and addressing wordiness in sentences
  1. Eliminate redundant pairs. ...
  2. Delete unnecessary qualifiers. ...
  3. Identify and reduce prepositional phrases. ...
  4. Locate and delete unnecessary modifiers. ...
  5. Replace a phrase with a word. ...
  6. Identify negatives and change them to affirmatives.

How can I be less wordy in writing? ›

Together, these changes create a stronger, more concise sentence.
  1. Use the Key Noun. ...
  2. Use Active Voice Rather Than Passive Voice Verbs. ...
  3. Avoid Unnecessary Language. ...
  4. Use Nouns Rather Than Vague Pronouns as Subjects. ...
  5. Use Verbs Rather Than Nouns to Express Action. ...
  6. Avoid a String of Prepositional Phrases.

What are the 7 rules of writing? ›

Since then, I've learned a few tricks that work for me and may help you too, though everyone's writing experience is different.
The Seven Rules of Writing
  • Learn How to Write. ...
  • Be a Critical Reader. ...
  • Visit Cafes. ...
  • Beware the Naysayers. ...
  • Finish Your Piece and Put It Away. ...
  • Have Patience. ...
  • Follow Your Heart.
Aug 8, 2018

What are the 4 rules of writing? ›

Hemingway's 4 Rules for Writing Well
  • Image credit:
Dec 21, 2011

What are the 7 traits of good writing? ›

These standards focus on revising, editing, and publishing work using technology- all seven of the traits: ideas, organization, word choice, voice, sentence fluency, conventions, and presentation speak to these standards.

How do you fix awkward sentence structure? ›

A more methodical approach to fix an awkward sentence is to identify the main noun (subject) and verb (action), then cut the sentence down accordingly. Ask yourself, “What is this sentence about—what is the core subject?” (Choose a noun.) Then ask, “What is this subject doing?” (Choose a verb.)

How do you practice 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

How do you spice up sentence structure? ›

When you vary your sentence structures, readers will be more engaged. Beyond mixing up your sentence lengths, start your sentences differently. Begin some with gerunds or a subordinate conjunction. Be brave and start sentences with a past participle or an adverb.

What are the 3 qualities of a good sentence? ›

To be effective, a sentence should consist of the following qualities, that is, correctness, unity, clarity, coherence and emphasis (Wang, 2003). that is, correctness. In that case, they can avoid writing and making incomplete sentences and such grammatical errors. refer to the subject or the “my brother”.

What is the correct way of writing? ›

Use common, everyday words rather than obscure or complex words. Don't be pompous! It is tempting to try to impress the reader by your erudition. But the best writing speaks for itself; it gets the message across simply and effectively.

How do you write flawlessly? ›

Below are five ways to sharpen your writing and catch mistakes before hitting “send.”
  1. Learn from the best. Flawless editing starts with a solid understanding of the English language. ...
  2. Hear your writing. Listening to your writing will invariably improve it. ...
  3. Read backwards. ...
  4. Go word by word. ...
  5. Wait.

How do you write wonderfully? ›

Write as often as you can, paying attention to how you're writing and what muscles you're using.
  1. Practice writing on lined paper to learn spacing. Spacing between letters and between words (you want it to be pretty uniform) is incredibly important for creating beautiful handwriting.
  2. Doodle constantly.

How do you start an answer? ›

Begin each answer with one or two sentence thesis which summarizes your answer. If possible, phrase the statement so that it rephrases the question's essential terms into a statement (which therefore directly answers the essay question).

What are good transition words? ›

and, again, and then, besides, equally important, finally, further, furthermore, nor, too, next, lastly, what's more, moreover, in addition, first (second, etc.)

What not to start a sentence with? ›

Never begin a sentence—or a clause—with also. Teach the elimination of but, so, and, because, at the beginning of a sentence. A sentence should not commence with the conjunctions and, for, or however....

What are the six principles of good writing? ›

The Six Traits of Writing are rooted in more than 50 years of research. This research reveals that all “good” writing has six key ingredients—ideas, organization, voice, word choice, sentence fluency, and conventions.

What are the 3 C's when it comes to a writing question? ›

Writing well isn't that difficult if you follow the 3 Cs – Clarity, Conciseness and Consistency. Here are some tips for achieving the 3 Cs. Clarity – Put yourself in your readers' shoes. You know everything there is to know about your subject.

How do I stop being too concise? ›

How to Avoid Being Too Concise
  1. Indicators your writing might be too concise. If you ever hear these reactions from readers, it could indicate your writing is too concise: ...
  2. Provide context. ...
  3. Offer concrete examples. ...
  4. Use connective language. ...
  5. Try a conversational approach. ...
  6. Finding the right balance.
Dec 14, 2021

Why is it hard to be concise? ›

Concise Speaking in Professional Communication

Concise communication is a frequent challenge we see with clients and students. Concision is hard because professionals have lots of information to convey in a very limited time. Important decision-makers are usually very short on time, and have a limited attention span.

How can I improve my writing lacks clarity? ›

There are many strategies for improving the clarity of your sentences and your papers.
  1. Go from old to new information. ...
  2. Be careful about placement of subordinate clauses. ...
  3. Use active voice. ...
  4. Use parallel constructions. ...
  5. Avoid noun strings. ...
  6. Avoid overusing noun forms of verbs. ...
  7. Avoid multiple negatives.

What are unnecessary words in a sentence? ›

A word which adds nothing extra to a sentence is called a pleonasm. A word which merely repeats the meaning of another word in an expression is called a tautology. These are both cases of redundant words and can be omitted.

How do you write without being repetitive? ›

Below we listed some tips for avoiding the most common forms of repetition.
  1. Use a variety of different transition words.
  2. Vary the structure and length of your sentences.
  3. Don't use the same pronoun to reference more than one antecedent (e.g. “They asked whether they were ready for them”)
Mar 15, 2019

How do you clarify a sentence? ›

Clarify means 'make more clear'. In essence, look at your language choices, and also look at what you have not stated. If you are told to clarify a point, you could try to rewrite it in shorter sentences, as a starting point. Next, add more detail, even if it seems obvious to you.

What makes a topic sentence clear? ›

A good topic sentence is specific enough to give a clear sense of what to expect from the paragraph, but general enough that it doesn't give everything away. You can think of it like a signpost: it should tell the reader which direction your argument is going in.

How do you write faster and clearer? ›

13 Tips for Becoming a Faster Writer
  1. Write every single day. Writing is like a muscle—the more you exercise your craft, the stronger, leaner, and more efficient it will be. ...
  2. Give yourself a topic. ...
  3. Create an outline. ...
  4. Gather information. ...
  5. Get rid of distractions. ...
  6. Set a challenge. ...
  7. Start a timer. ...
  8. Revise later.
Nov 19, 2021

How do you write a good clear paragraph? ›

A clear paragraph should contain the following:
  1. the topic sentence, which introduces your point.
  2. the supporting sentences, which develop the point by providing evidence, explanation or examples.
  3. the concluding sentence (optional) which helps connect your point to your overall argument.

How do you clarify text? ›

There are four main ways to clarify:
  1. DISCARD—You sense the writing doesn't work, it hasn't gone anywhere. ...
  2. RECONCEIVE—You've got a first draft; now you need to go back and recollect, refocus and/or reorder. ...
  3. REWRITE—There are two aspects of rewriting:

What are some examples of clarifying questions? ›

Examples of Clarifying Questions: Is this what you said…? What resources were used for the project? Did I hear you say…?

How do you clarify words in an essay? ›

Place brackets around any words you add to clarify. The brackets might replace unclear words (e.g. it, them, this, they) or add context to the quote. Brackets tell the reader that you have added your own words, but have not changed the meaning of the original quote.

What is a clear concise sentence? ›

What does writing clearly and concisely mean? Writing clearly and concisely means choosing your words deliberately, constructing your sentences carefully, and using grammar properly. By writing clearly and concisely, you will get straight to your point in a way your audience can easily comprehend.

What 3 things must a topic sentence include? ›

3 Things Your Topic Sentence Needs:
  • Main idea of the essay.
  • Main idea of the paragraph.
  • Simple, direct communication.
Nov 10, 2017

Why am I so slow at writing? ›

If you're not writing quickly, your expectations could be too high. You could be setting your expectations too high if you are: Trying to make your writing perfect the first time. Trying to come up with an original thought for every piece of writing.

Why do I write fast and sloppy? ›

It could indicate a neurological or muscular problem. “When someone's handwriting changes and becomes messy, sloppy, illegible or shaky, that might be a sign of an essential tremor, Parkinson's disease, writer's cramp or ataxia,” says neurologist Camilla Kilbane, MD.

How do I get more flow in writing? ›

Consider these tips to improve the flow of a piece of writing:
  1. Ensure that paragraphs have a clear organizational structure. Solid paragraph structure is crucial in academic writing. ...
  2. Link sentences with pronouns. ...
  3. Use transition words. ...
  4. Use varied sentence lengths. ...
  5. Use varied sentence structures.
Jul 15, 2022

How do you write a good paragraph paragraph? ›

Good paragraphs begin with a topic sentence that briefly explains what the paragraph is about. Next come a few sentences for development and support, elaborating on the topic with more detail. Paragraphs end with a conclusion sentence that summarizes the topic or presents one final piece of support to wrap up.

What are the seven tips for better clarity in writing? ›

With that in mind, here are 7 tips to help improve the clarity of our writing.
  • Reduce the story to a tag line. What are we trying to say? ...
  • Keep it to one thought per sentence. ...
  • Keep it to one thought per paragraph. ...
  • Write descriptive subheads. ...
  • Skip the jargon. ...
  • Use short sentences. ...
  • Make it look easy to read.
Oct 22, 2014

What are the main 3 keys of writing a paragraph? ›

Elements of a Paragraph A paragraph is made up of a topic sentence, the developing details, and a concluding sentence. It is important to fully develop and discuss the topic of your paragraph. If your paragraph is only 2-3 sentences, there is a good chance that you have not developed it enough.


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