Sentence and Paragraph Writing Tips




Sentence formation

Keep your sentences as clear and simple as possible. Vary them in length and structure to keep the interest of your readers alive.

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Sentence fragments

Do not write sentence fragments (incomplete sentences), unless they are part of a dialogue. For example: I need a new book. Because the old one is torn. (fragments) Revised: I need a new book because the old one is torn.

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Parallel structure

Use the same pattern of words (parallel structure) to show two or more ideas in a sentence. For example: I like reading, writing, and to paint. (Incorrect).                   I like reading, writing, and painting. (Correct)

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Main point of sentence

When writing a sentence, the main point you are trying to put across should preferably be in the beginning. The rest should come later. This makes your readers understand your sentence better.

For example: It was a beautiful garden with well-kept flower beds, immaculately trimmed hedges, and plenty of trees.

“It was a beautiful garden” is the main idea of your sentence, the rest is extra information. Immediately upon reading the sentence, the reader knows what you are saying.

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Write concise sentences

Write concise sentences. A sentence should not contain unnecessary words.

For example: “He wrote the biography of his life” should be written as “He wrote his biography”. “Of his life” are unnecessary words and can easily be removed.

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Vary sentence openings

Vary your sentence openings. Too many similar openings in your prose make reading tedious. Besides freshness, variety brings emphasis to the sentence.

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Compound or complex sentence

Do not confuse a compound sentence with a complex sentence. A compound sentence consists of two independent clauses joined by a coordinator. This coordinator may either be a coordinating conjunction (e.g. and, but, or, for, yet, so), a conjunctive adverb (e.g. therefore, however, moreover, furthermore, nevertheless), or a semicolon. For example:

I like reading books, but my friend likes painting.
I like reading books; however, my friend likes painting.
I like reading books; my friend likes painting.

A complex sentence consists of an independent clause joined by one or more dependent clauses. The dependent clause is always headed by a subordinating conjunction (e.g. because, although, since, if, though) or a relative pronoun (e.g. who, which, that). For example:

Although I like reading books, my friend likes painting.
It is my friend who likes painting.

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Omit unnecessary phrases

Avoid writing phrases that add nothing to the meaning of a sentence. Either reduce them to single words, or omit them altogether. For example:

He has no sense of responsibility.
may be written as
He is irresponsible.


If you ask me, there is no need for any further discussion on the topic.
may be written as
Further discussion on the topic is not needed.

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Topic sentence

The first sentence of a paragraph should be a topic sentence, introducing the main idea of the paragraph.

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Supporting sentences

The supporting sentences of a paragraph (the second sentence onwards) should explain or “support” the idea expressed in the topic sentence (first sentence).

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Support your paragraph

Add  details and explanations of supporting ideas in your paragraph. With no support or examples, your ideas have no strength. To help you remember to add details, remember ‘RENNS’ – which stands for Reasons, Examples, Names, Numbers, Senses … all types of support:

Reason: Say why your idea is good or bad
Examples: Give proof of your ideas
Names: Use specific names, titles, etc.
Numbers: Give provable numbers
Senses: Give details that refer to our senses (sight, touch, smell, sound, taste)

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Movement of supporting sentences

The supporting sentences of a paragraph should gradually move from the general to specific qualification of the idea.

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Digressions and deviations

Keep the sentences of a paragraph focused and unified in the discussion of the topic. Avoid digressions (irrelevant details) and deviations (shifts in focus).

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Paragraph length

Try to keep your paragraphs about no more than 10 sentences, or 14 lines. Long paragraphs tend to decrease comprehension.

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Transitional paragraphs

Write transitional paragraphs when switching between two closely related topics, beginning with the old topic and ending with the new.

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Closing sentence

The closing sentence is the last sentence in a paragraph. It should restate the main idea of the paragraph. But remember – do not repeat the topic sentence; if the idea is the same, then rephrase it. Try and make your closing sentence a ‘clincher’, leaving your reader thinking about it.

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Keep to one idea

A good paragraph is one that keeps to one idea. Discuss only one idea or topic of the subject in a paragraph. When moving on to a new idea, start a new paragraph.

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Coherent paragraph

Bring coherence to your paragraph in order to make it easily understandable to the reader. Do this by:

1. Arranging sentences in a logical order.
2. Relating all sentences to each other.
3. Forming parallel grammatical structure.

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