As a teacher, I have seen my fair share of essays, stories, and papers. Some are good, some are bad, and some are very, very ugly. But there is one type of paper I find painfully frustrating: the B paper.
The B Paper
The B paper is easy to spot: very limited punctuation mistakes, adequate information and organization, but still not great. So what’s so bad about it?
Simple put: dry, boring writing. Most often, it’s a lack of sentence variety. I’ve seen more students hand me papers full of simple sentences. Simple sentences are fine, but if that’s all you use, they are BORING. A snooze fest. A paper that takes all my effort to finish reading.
How do you fix this? If you want to get better as a writer, what do you do?
The Four Types of Sentences
The first key is to review the four types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.
A simple sentence is a sentence containing one independent clause.
Example: The sun rose in the sky like a ball of red fire.
A compound sentence contains two or more independent clauses.
Example: We can go to the store together, or you can throw a tantrum in your room.
A complex sentence is a sentence with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.
Example: Although I’d like to marry you, my father will not allow it.
A compound-complex sentence has at least two independent clauses and one dependent clause.
Example: Laura forgot her mother’s birthday, but she sent her a card when she finally remembered.
Combing your sentences will improve over tone and flow of your peace. Simple sentences are abrupt and great for punctuating a thought, but the other three can be used to keep the reader’s thoughts moving, improving pace, and simply sounding better.
So how do you do it?
Step one: figure out which sentence ideas can be paired together in a way that makes sense:
Billy liked to play football and croquet. Billy did not like to play badminton.
Can turn into:
Billy liked to play football and croquet, but he didn’t like badminton.
Step two: Decide what the best way to combine your sentences: compound, complex, or compound-complex.
(Hint: similar ideas can be put together in compound sentences with the conjunction AND, conflicting ideas can be put together in a compound sentence with BUT or OR, or in complex sentences with a subordinating conjunction.)
Sarah needed to run to the store. She needed to buy milk, eggs, and toilet paper.
Can turn into:
Sarah needed to run to the store and buy milk, eggs, and toilet paper.
Sherman marched through Georgia. He destroyed houses and farmland when he went through.
Can turn into:
When Sherman marched through Georgia, he destroyed houses and farmland.
Combining sentences is an important skill to develop in your writing. With enough practice, you will eventually find yourself naturally writing in a variety of sentences.
More Resources on Combining Sentences
I have a great slide presentation on combining sentences available for purchase at my teacherpayteachers store. You can find it here!
For more information on how to improve your writing, check out my Free Writer’s Workshop!