A series of
short, simple sentences without variation in word order or
sentence length can result in a choppy read (as in the last
few sentences of this paragraph). Readers quickly tire of
short sentences. They break up the reading with periods.
They separate ideas. They sound choppy.
The sun rose. Its rays dispersed. The city awoke to
startling light. No one persisted in sleep. Day had begun.
The people rose.
Ex.: The sun rose. Its rays dispersed, so the
city awoke to startling light. No one persisted in sleep
because the day had begun. The people rose.
revision allows the writer to keep the emphasis and
repetition of the sentence form “The…rose” at the
beginning and end of the passage, and combining the
sentences in the middle of the passage allows the writer to
show the relationship among the ideas more explicitly and
create a more fluid rhythm. The contrast between the
longer, more flowing sentences and the shorter sentences at
the beginning and end draws attention to the repeated form
of the short sentences, emphasizing their impact.
Scharton and Janice Neuleib recommend forming these
combinations with subordinating conjunctions, like
because, since, although, unless, where,
etc. (17). Subordinating conjunctions create complex
sentences. We use because in the example above to
show a causal relationship: "No one persisted in sleep
because the day had begun."
Coordinating conjunctions, on the other hand, create
compound sentences. Scharton and Neuleib suggest keeping
coordinating conjunctions, like so, and, but,
or, yet, etc., to a minimum. Coordinating
conjunctions, they say, sound too “listlike” and “even
juvenile.” However, both complex and compound sentences are
appropriate in different situations. Our example above
uses so: "Its rays dispersed, so the city
awoke to startling light."
our goal this week is consciousness-raising. It can be
extremely effective to break up a long, meandering sentence
into shorter ones for the sake of understanding, but unless
you are using short sentences in a series for rhetorical
effect, it can be equally effective to combine your short
sentences into complex or compound sentences and may help
your reader to understand connections between words and
ideas that would be more difficult to understand in a series
of choppy sentences (where readers may be distracted by the