It often happens that the overflow of inspiration makes you write fast, and you think that your writing is also understandable and of high quality. However, once you read it after finishing, you may find out that the sentences are repetitive, awkward and hard to understand. That is why it is essential to proofread your work after completing it. If you found out that you often face the problem of monotonous sentences, here is a guide on how to avoid it in the future.
Simply Proofread and Edit
In case there are just a few errors, you can divide one long sentence into two, or add some information to the sentences when needed. If the style allows you, you can add some questions, and a few exclamation marks in the end of the most emotional sentences to make the text appeal to the feelings of the reader. If you have constant problems with how to compose, you can do the following:
Evaluate the Variety of Your Sentences
It is natural, that in the flow of writing one does not want to be distracted by the word choice and sentence complexity. This is the reason why you might need to proofread after you have finished. Take a blank sheet of paper and divide it into three columns:
- types of sentences (notice the conjunctions you use for the same-type sentences as well);
- length of each sentence (you can count the number of words in each sentence);
- opening words in each sentence.
Open the document with the text and read slowly, making notes about all the writing techniques you used. Once you are done, take a look at the notes and define the problem. The only thing left is to pay attention to the mistakes and avoid making them again.
Play with the Rhythm of the Text
There are two main problems with the rhythm the author can face. The first is the same intonations due to the same types of sentences. It is important to avoid the passages consisting of exclamatory, affirmative or indicative sentences only if there is a chance to change them. The second, but even more important thing, is to combine shorter and longer sentences to prevent your writing from being monotonous and boring. One more point to remember: varying simple, complex and compound sentences will be of a great help when you need to make the text more vivid, also they will come in handy in case you need to highlight specific details.
Fix Sentence Openings
When all the sentences start with “when”, “the”, “if” or the name of the person mentioned, it becomes hard to concentrate. Adding some opening words will make it look brighter. You can use the variety of ways to open your sentence: starting from “however”, “as a matter of the fact”, “moreover”, “it is worth noticing” and finishing with the description of the situation, like “jokingly”, “clumsily”, “as a result of an old habit” and so on.
Start Your Sentences with Different Parts of Speech
Linguists claim that all languages in the world can be classified according to their prevalent sentence structures. To put it simply, the sequence of words in a normal English sentence would somehow differ from the sequence of words in a normal Korean sentence. Usually, in the English language the sentence is built according to the conventional formula: subject – verb – object. That is to say, when speaking English, we mostly provide the information in the following order:
- we say who or what does the action, or, if in the passive voice constructions, who or what receives the particular action;
- we mention the action itself;
- finally, we add the rest of facts, such as place or time.
However, if all sentences of your text were structured in this way, the text would be really hard to read, as, again, it would appear too monotonous. And this is when the so-called inversion comes to its rescue. Mostly, it refers to the situation when you put the verb or the predicate (that is the action) if front of the subject (who/which does this action or who/which receives this action).
Example: Had you told her about it earlier, she could have postponed her trip.
Besides, you can try to “play” with other parts of speech, placing them in the beginning of the sentence and therefore highlighting some particular details to which you want the readers to pay their attention. Yet there is one thing you need to remember: you should not use too many inverted sentences, because they can overload the text and make it difficult to read.
So, the parts of speech with which you can begin sentences are:
- adjectives: So cold and pitiless, the wind penetrated his thin coat causing another cough attack.
- adverbs: Noiselessly, she entered the room, approached the baby’s cradle and gave her long prophetic look.
- prepositional phrases: Until that day she did not believe anything he told her about his past.
- verbal phrases: Holding my tears back, I waved to dad from the window as cheerfully as I could.
Fragments are group of words which are grammatically incomplete. It means that they are not independent sentences. These are word combinations which are always connected with and related to the thoughts expressed in the next or previous sentences. The main feature of fragments is that they start with capital letters, just like a normal sentence, but still have periods, exclamation points or question marks in their ends. It is quite easy to find a fragment in the passage because it would not contain a predicate.
You should remember that fragments are mostly used in the so-called fiction style which allows to provide descriptions or additional details with their help. So, if your next home task is a narrative or a descriptive essay, you can easily insert a few fragments in your text as in the example below. However, it is better to avoid them in your research paper, as they are not implied by scientific style.
Example: Warm and dry fall evening. Smelling of dry leaves, honey and well-aged wine. He was back home. After all these years.
The first, second and fourth sentences here that do not have predicates are fragments.
Do Not Hesitate to Interrupt Yourself
An interruption or an interrupting phrase is also considered to be a figure of speech that, as the name suggests, interrupts the sentence. It can be a group of words, a phrase or a clause which is inserted into the sentence and usually provides either some additional information or the author’s attitude to what is meant in this sentence. To some extent, interruptions are rather short digressions applied to achieve a certain stylistic effect.
Note that the interruption would extend your sentence significantly. So, if the initial sentence is rather long, you should be careful with “interrupting” it by a different idea though expressed in a few words. Also, you should watch the punctuation: interruptions are set off by commas and parentheses, but mostly by dashes.
Example: I hoped that at least a thousandth part of his soul – if that man ever even had a soul – would be missing me when I was gone.
Link Short Sentences If Possible
In some cases, you can write several short sentences one after another, without extending them by any stylistic devices. This will help you to highlight abruptness and momentariness of the action or phenomenon.
On the other hand, if you do not need such an effect in your text, then you should better link a few short simple sentences into one with the help of conjunctions (and/but/or/for), subordination (before/after; if/because; that/which; whether) or prepositions.
- He told me the truth about the inheritance. It was after he took a look at grandfather’s letters.
- After taking a look at grandfather’s letters, he told me the truth about the inheritance.
Do Not Forget About Semicolon
Of course, you can manage with a simple period. However, if you have two sentences that are related to each other so closely that they need to be joined together, but under the condition that they both keep their initial ideas, semicolon is the best option. A comma would not suit in this case, because it rather links several different aspects of one and the same idea or situation, depending on the connections between them.
Example: His defeat meant the end of his career; his disciple had to continue the fight for primacy of their clan.