Chapter 9-1: Why Sentence Structure Matters

Grammar > Building Sentences > Structure Matters

Although ordinary conversation, personal letters, and even some types of professional writing (such as newspaper stories) consist almost entirely of simple sentences, your university or college instructors will expect you to be able to use all types of sentences in your formal academic writing. Writers who use only simple sentences are like truck drivers who do not know how to shift out of first gear: they would be able to drive a load from Montréal to Calgary (eventually), but they would have a great deal of trouble getting there.

If you use phrases and clauses carefully, your sentences will become much more interesting and your ideas, much clearer. This complex sentence develops a major, central idea and provides structured background information:

Since it involves the death not only of the title character but of the entire royal court, Hamlet is the most extreme of the tragedies written by the Elizabethan playwrite William Shakespeare.

Just as a good driver uses different gears, a good writer uses different types of sentences in different situations:

    • a long complex sentence will show what information depends on what other information;

    • a compound sentence will emphasise balance and parallelism;

    • a short simple sentence will grab a reader's attention;

    • a loose sentence will tell the reader in advance how to interpret your information;

    • a periodic sentence will leave the reader in suspense until the very end;

    • a declarative sentence will avoid any special emotional impact;

    • an exclamatory sentence, used sparingly, will jolt the reader;

    • an interrogative sentence will force the reader to think about what you are writing; and

    • an imperative sentence will make it clear that you want the reader to act right away.

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