Good Sentence Structure: A Guide to Writing Good Sentences for Students and Teachers

Page content

Sentence Structure

There are four basic sentence structures:

  1. Simple: A simple sentence consists of a subject and a predicate. They are easy to write and understand. Too many simple sentences, however, produces choppy writing and simple thoughts and ideas.
    • Outdoor enthusiasts love the Dominican Republic.
  2. Compound: A compound sentence contains two simple sentences joined by a comma and a conjunction.
    • Outdoor enthusiast love the Dominican Republic, and indoor enthusiasts love Canada.
  3. Complex: A complex sentence contains a simple sentence with clauses attached.
    • Unlike the carnivorous snipe, the elusive South American strackalaka prefers leaves and grass–at least that’s what they want you to believe before devouring your children whole.
  4. Compound-Complex: As the name implies a compound-complex sentence combines a complex sentence with a simple sentence.
    • With the proliferation of cell phones, teenagers throughout the country can text fellow students instantly, and teachers can take the phone away instantly as well.

Important Tips

  1. Put the subject close to the beginning of the sentence: Writers often bury the subject behind a lengthy clause, rendering the subject punchless. Obviously, there are times when the writer intends to highlight something other than the subject. It should, however, be done sparingly.
    • Ineffective: Hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius, Caesar collapsed and died.
    • Effective: Caesar collapsed and died, hurt more by the betrayal of his noble friend Brutus than by the shaky knife thrusts of Casca, Cassius, and Decius.
  2. Use active voice, not passive voice.
    • Ineffective: Frank was very angry at Ted’s betrayal.
    • Effective: Ted’s betrayal angered Frank..
  3. Vary sentence length. Teach students how to combine sentences. Varying sentence lengths adds emphasis where the writer wants it. Experiment. You’ll discover a short sentence in between two long sentences makes more of an impact, for example.

Lesson Plans for Writing Good Sentences

Choose a paragraph to analyze. It could be from a published work or from something written in class.

  1. Copy the information above.
  2. Count the number of sentences.
  3. Write down the first 3 to 5 words of each paragraph.
  4. Note how many sentences bury the subject.
  5. Note how many sentences begin with the same grammatical structure or same words.
  6. Count the length of each sentence.
  7. Circle to be verbs (am, is , are, was, were, be, being, been). To be verbs indicate passive voice.
  8. If used for revision, rewrite the paragraph implementing the appropriate suggestions.
  9. If used with a published work, discuss why the author chose to use the sentence structure he did.
  10. Rewrite it (optional).

Click here for a complete standards based semester curriculum map with lesson plans and links.

This post is part of the series: Paragraphs and Sentences

Improving essays, articles, and research papers begins by improving sentences and paragraphs.

  1. Lesson Plan to Teach Paragraph Writing and Paragraph Structure
  2. Teaching the Methods of Paragraph Development
  3. Lesson Plan: Improve Writing with Good Sentence Structure
  4. Lesson Plan: Correct Word Usage
  5. A Lesson Plan on How to Evaluate an Essay for Organization?