Sentence Variation

Sentence sameness is boring. If you have all your sentences the same length and structure, you have boring prose, no matter how exciting the topic. Good prose has good sentence variation. Look over your current work and make sure that you haven’t started too many sentences in the same way. I recently revised a piece of writing that contained eighty-five sentences, twenty-one of which started with the word “I”.  I wrote the piece in first person, singular which means that I need to use the word “I” a lot. A quarter of the sentences started with it. That’s too many. I cut it back to around ten sentences. That’s more acceptable.

Sentence variation covers a lot of things. It can mean changing sentence structure and length. John threw the ball. Suzi threw it back. That’s not much of a story is it? We can do better. John threw the red ball and hit Suzi on the shoulder. Angry, Suzi threw the ball at John’s face, blackening his eye. That’s more of a story. Of course, my two-sentence story isn’t a long one, but you know more about John and Suzi and their relationship now. You weren’t bored by the sameness either.

You can introduce sentence variation by alternating long and short sentences, adding clauses and modifiers. There’s also varying the sentence structures between simple, compound, and complex sentences.

Choppy sentences are hard to read. Combine a couple with related meanings into compound sentences to smooth those choppy sentences. Your readers will love you for it. You can also insert clauses into your sentences, as I did with the revised version of the story above. That’s an example of sentence variation. You don’t want all your sentences to be all simple or even all complex. You don’t want them all to be long or short. Start them differently as well. Unless you are writing for new readers, use a combination of complex, compound and simple sentences. It’ll make your writing more readable.

As writers, we string words together into sentences. Like bracelets or necklaces, you don’t want them all to be the same. Mix them up. Do this and your writing will improve. So look over your writing and check the rhythm of the piece. If you find, like I have, that you used too many sentences of a single kind, change a few of them, combine some, add clauses to others.

If you aren’t sure what to do, there’s more on this at Purdue Owl’s article on sentence variation. That’s just one of the site with advice on it that can be found using Google or your search engine of choice. Play with it. Your writing will be better for it.


I am not one who is comfortable talking about myself but here goes. I enjoy writing, family history, and reading. I decided to do this blog because I wanted to try something new. I decided to make it a weekly blog because I wasn't sure that I could keep up with a daily one, and monthly seemed like I was writing a magazine. I think I did ok with my choices. You'll notice that there are not a lot of graphics on my site. That's because there are graphics plastered everywhere on the Internet and those sites sometimes take forever to load. This blog is a place where you can kick back, relax and be ready to be amused. At least I hope I willbamuse you. This blog is on a variety of subjects from my ficitional cat agency, the FFL, which is monthly, to instructional blogs to editorials, which are my opinions only. I admit that I don't know everything and could be wrong -- I frequently am. Now, stop reading about me and read what I have to say!

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© Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den, 2010-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Lisa Hendrickson and Pebblepup's Writing Den with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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