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Capstone Multilingual Writing Tip of the Month Blog: Blog

March 2020: English Sentence Structures

by Paul Lai on 2020-03-01T08:00:00-06:00 | Comments

 

English sentence structures can be complicated. However, understanding the basic parts of a sentence and the possible variations is essential to write in a way that is clear to your readers. In addition, varying sentence structures helps create sentence variety in your writing. Understanding the sentence structure can also help with correct punctuation within a sentence. Sentences can be considered simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex.

 

  • A simple sentence consists of only one independent clause: a subject and a verb, often with an object and modifiers. For example,
    •  I used semistructured interviews.
  • Keep in mind, however, that simple sentences can have complex noun phrases, especially in academic writing. For example,
    • The continuing reliance on these measures to assess writing development reflects traditional notions of complexity and the widespread belief that academic written discourse is complex in that it relies heavily on elaborated structures (Biber et al., 2011).

 

  • A compound sentence contains at least two independent clauses. These two independent clauses can be combined using a comma with a coordinating conjunction or using a semicolon. For example,
    • Reading literacy is essential for academic success, so teachers must emphasize reading at the elementary level.
    • I employed a case study design; I also analyzed data from a variety of sources.

 

  • A complex sentence contains at least one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. If the sentence begins with a dependent clause, there is a comma before the independent clause (just like in this sentence here!). If the sentence begins with the independent clause, there is no comma before the dependent clause. For example,
    • Because reading literacy is essential for academic success, it is necessary for teachers to emphasize reading at the elementary level.
    • It is necessary for teachers to emphasize reading at the elementary level because reading literacy is essential for academic success.

 

  • A compound-complex sentence contains at least two independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. For example,
    • I conducted interviews with teachers, and I reached saturation after six interviews even though I had originally scheduled 10 interviews.

 

For more information and examples, please see the following:

 

Revision Tip: Look back through your most recent draft of your capstone document and check for sentence structure in a couple of paragraphs. Highlighting or bolding the independent and dependent clauses may help to better visualize the elements of the sentence. Check for correct punctuation in the sentences and make revisions as needed. Also, revise as needed to create more varied sentence structures.


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