Crafting Effective English Sentences

Writing effective sentences can be a challenge even for native English speakers. The language requires the use of many “helping” words and the inclusion of parts of speech (such as personal pronouns) that can be safely omitted in other languages. Because of this, English sentences can easily become excessively wordy. Today we’re going to offer some tips for creating effective, dynamic, and concise sentences.

Avoid Wandering Sentences

All parts of an English sentence should contribute to the point that you are trying to make. The following example has several ideas packed into one long sentence:

The precocious eight-year old, a gymnastic prodigy, adorned in mismatched clothing and dusted with glitter, grinned mischievously at the new teacher.

The implication here is that the child is going to do everything he or she can to make life difficult for the new teacher. We can cut this sentence down to something that expresses only that core idea:

The precocious eight-year old grinned mischievously at the new teacher.

Make Sentences More Emphatic

The most emphatic position for an idea is at the end of a sentence. Let’s say the main point of a sentence is that the English Island offers personalized language classes. Your first impulse might be to write something like this:

The English Island offers the most personalized classes in the English language of all the tutoring companies in Atlanta

This sentence more effectively emphasizes the “personalized classes” if you flip the clauses around:

Of all the tutoring companies in Atlanta, the English Island offers the most personalized classes.

Use Action Verbs and Avoid the Passive Voice

Use specific verbs that directly express the action that the subject is taking. Here’s a very obvious example of a sentence that needs a more precise verb:

I operated an automobile to reach the grocery store.

English has a specific word that means “operated an automobile”: drove.

I drove to the grocery store.

You should also strive to avoid using the passive voice whenever possible. As we said in one of our earliest lessons, passive voice makes it sound like actions are happening to people, rather than people taking the actions themselves:

The English Island in Atlanta was chosen by the company to teach its Chinese employees business English.

In this sentence the intuitive “subject” (company) is actually the object. Shifting the verb to active voice remedies this:

The company chose the English Island in Atlanta to teach its Chinese employees business English.

Break Up Long Sentences

Several lengthy sentences in a row are exhausting to read. If you have multiple compound and compound-complex sentences in the same paragraph, you should break them up into shorter simple and complex sentences:

Vary Sentence Length and Construction

On the other hand, you don’t want your writing to consist solely of simple sentences. Too many simple sentences can burn a reader out as easily as too many longer sentences can. If you’ve ever heard a young child tell a story using the same sentence structure over and over, you know exactly what we’re talking about. Vary your sentences among the four English sentence types: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex. Your writing will appear more sophisticated and will be more likely to keep your audience actively engaged.