Microsoft Word Sentence Variety handout 7-20-07. doc

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                                                                        Created for Owens Community College Writing Center 





Sentence Variety



Adding sentence variety to your writing will do three things: enhance the flow of ideas, intensify points, 

and sustain the interest of your reader. Varying the length, rhythm and structure of sentences are three 

ways to create variety and interest in your writing. 


A.Vary the length of sentences within the body of a paragraph.


Short Sentences 

Short sentences present one idea clearly, but too many of them in succession can make writing seem awkward and 

simplistic.  However, a few well-placed short sentences can add emphasis. 



Our senator maintains two elaborate houses, one in our state and one in Washington.  Although I understand the 

reasons for having two homes, owning two $300,000 residences seems needlessly extravagant.  In short, I 



Remember, if you have a series of short, repetitive sentences, you can connect sentences together with 

conjunctions or semicolons. Example: He came; he saw; he conquered. 



Medium Sentences 

Medium-length sentences allow space to connect ideas and add details, while remaining clear and easy to read.  

Medium-length sentences are the most versatile and should form the core of your writing. 



Although I enjoy televised boxing, I am often dissatisfied with network commentaries.  All too often 

sportscasters’ comments are superficial, pointing out the obvious—like who is winning—rather than helping me 

to understand the sport. 


Long Sentences 

Long sentences establish complex interrelationships and include substantial amounts of amplification and 

clarification. Use them sparingly to emphasize relationships and to incorporate significant details. 



For over a century, the Statue of Liberty, in all its majesty, has stood at the entrance to New York Harbor, 

welcoming immigrants, travelers, and returning Americans and symbolizing the freedoms we value. 




Use front loaded, end loaded and balanced sentences to vary rhythm and create 






                                                                        Created for Owens Community College Writing Center 



Front loaded sentences 

Present the subject and the verb in the initial position, followed by a variety of modifying phrases.  



Dr. Zhivago is a typical David Lean film

, with panoramic scenes, larger-than-life characters, and universal 




End loaded sentences 

Create suspense and emphasis by placing the main idea or some part of it at the end of the sentence



After having spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours renovating the townhouse, 

the Petersons sold it. 


Balanced sentences 

Balanced sentences use parallel elements—words, phrases, and sometimes whole clauses—to create interest and 




 Freud examined dreams, collected narratives, analyzed the accounts, and found patterns of meaning. 


Some dreams contained flying, running, and floating, while others contained drowning, restricting, or 



C. Vary sentence beginnings using different parts of speech.



Begin with adverbs 

The ornithologist cautiously approached the eagle’s nest. 


Change to: 

Cautiously, the ornithologist approached the eagle’s nest. 


Begin with adjectives 

Jason, exhausted and dirty, collapsed in the armchair. 


Change to: 

Exhausted and dirty, Jason collapsed in the armchair. 



Begin with prepositional phrases 

The pope did not restrict his travel after the attempt on his life. 


Change to: 

After the attempt on his life, the pope did not restrict his travel. 


Begin with verbal phrases 

The monks, worried that the manuscript might be stolen, placed it in a secret vault. 


Change to: 

Worried that the manuscript might be stolen, the monks placed it in a secret vault.  


                                                                        Created for Owens Community College Writing Center 



Adding introductory phrases and/or using passive voice, in which the subject is not the one performing the action 

of the sentence, can create the problem called DANGLING MODIFIERS. 


Example: Worried that it might be stolen, the manuscript was placed in a secret vault.  

(Who was worried??)  Be sure that your sentence subject matches the introductory phrase. 


Sentence Variety Worksheet 




Give examples of short, medium and long sentences. 


Short: _____________________________________________ 


Medium: ___________________________________________________________________ 


Long: ______________________________________________________________________ 




II. Give examples of front loaded, end loaded and balanced sentences to vary rhythm and create 



Front loaded: __________________________________________________________ 




End loaded: ___________________________________________________________________ 




Balanced: ___________________________________________________________________ 




III. Change the sentences below to use introductory words or phrases. 


I fortunately had begun my work on Thursday because the power failure on Friday kept me from 

working on my paper. ____________________________________________________ 




The three puppies were wet and dirty when they traipsed onto the porch. 




Sharon wanted to go to the store before she made the pizza. 




                                                                        Created for Owens Community College Writing Center 



I grasped the armrest, sick with fear that we would be thrown from the car, as we hurtled around 

hairpin curves. 






IV. Correcting Dangling Modifiers 


Without a thought about tomorrow, the garage door closed behind us. 




Afraid that the fireworks would wake the baby, all loud noises were banned. 




When in doubt, the judge told the young man to stop and think. 




V. Using your knowledge of sentence length, rhythms, and structure, rewrite these sentences. 


a. Combine these short sentences into a complex-compound sentence. 


I was eating an apple. Dad told me to take out the trash. I asked him to wait a minute. 






b. Separate this run-on sentence into a compound sentence, a short sentence, and a complex 

sentence. You may want to change a few words. 


We had been on the boat for two hours it had been a rough time with high waves causing all of us to 

be seasick because of the rough sea it ended when we hit the reef. 













                                                                        Created for Owens Community College Writing Center 




c. Tell the writer of these sentences how to improve their order and structure. 


Fish eat plants. They also eat other fish. Some like light and stay close to the top of lakes or oceans, 

but not all because some swim at the bottom of the sea looking for something to eat in the sand or 

hide behind rocks. Fish have eyes that can see above them and all around, just not straight on as we 

look at the world, especially other people when we want to have an important conversation like the 

one that I had with my Uncle John when he told me all about the fish he has kept in terrariums. I like 

to study fish. 










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