There are three types of sentences: simple, compound, and complex.
Simple sentences express one idea. They have a noun or pronoun and a verb. A sentence is simple as long as it remains one clause, containing one predicate. “John laughed” is a complete two-word sentence. We could add modifiers or prepositions and the sentence would still be simple.
A compound sentence has two or more main clauses, each containing a subject and a predicate, each describing an action complete in itself. The clauses in the compound sentence are joined by a connective—and, but, or, nor, for, or so—or by a semi-colon or colon.
If however, one part of the sentence depends on the other (if the one is the cause of the other, for instance) we have a complex rather than a compound sentence.
Here are some examples:
- John hit the ball. (Simple)
- Little Johnny in the third grade hit the ball out of the park. (Still simple)
- Little Johnny in the third grade hit the ball out of the park and it broke the window in his grandmother’s house. (Compound)
- Little Johnny, who had been practicing all summer, hit the ball out of the park and it broke a window in his grandmother’s house, which was located directly behind the park. (Complex)
Keep most sentences short. There’s nothing wrong with having a long sentence every now and then, but work to keep the average length of your sentences to fewer than 17 words. Vary the length of your sentences to make your writing more interesting.
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