Varying Sentences

You are here

Varying Sentences

You should adapt the length of your sentences to fit the subject youare describing.

Long sentences can be used to slow a description down to create a sense of relaxation or time dragging. Short sentences are more punchy, quick and dynamic, and are good for describing dramatic events or action.

By varying the length of your sentences you will be able to show the examiner that you are thinking carefully about your writing, and that you are consciously creating effects for the reader.

For example: "The English lesson seemed, to Kevin, to be dragging on forever, as Mr Drake's voice droned on and on,in its weary, low monotone, about the apparently fascinating poetry of somelong-dead writer, who seemed to Kevin at least, to be unhealthily and unnaturally interested in scenes of empty countryside and quiet decay".

For Example "The waves crashed. The moon shone brightly. All else was silent on the deserted beach. From the distance came the sound of thunder."

Repeated use of short sentences will create a choppy, staccato rhythm. Longer sentences will create a more fluid, fluent rhythm.

    The key idea is to try to fit the right rhythm to the right subject.

So to summarise:

Long sentences:
Slow, descriptive or explanatory.
Can create a sense of relaxation, flow, or time dragging.
Using long sentences can create a fluent style and rhythm.

Short sentences:
Good for action, and dramatic lines. For example, 'a shot rang out.'
Short sentences can create a punchy choppy rhythm.

As well as varying the length of your sentences you should try to vary their construction.

If you look back to your work in Year 7, you will probably find that in yourstories you had sections like the following:

"He walked carefully into the narrow room. Then he saw a picture above the fireplace. He wondered who was in the picture. He walked over toit. He was sure he had seen that face before. Then he looked at the grey hair and the cruel eyes. He didn't know where he had seen them. Then he remembered that he had once met a friend of his father's..."

Try listing the elements of this story that make it repetitive.

How would you re-write it, to make it more fluent and less repetitive?

Copyright S-cool
Varying Sentences
    The important thing is to create variety.

Getting rid of 'he did this and did this and he did that' can also erase purposeless repetition, and turning a sentence around can create variation. So 'he saw a picture above the fireplace' becomes, 'above the fireplace hung a picture.'

Sentences in which the subject is kept to the end are sometimes called 'suspenseful', because the reader has to wait to see who or what the subject is. These suspenseful sentences can be used to create effects.

For example: "Claire ran through the long crowded corridors, where her school mates stopped to stare at her, out through the big double doors at the front of the school and down the main road that led to her home."

This conventionally structured sentence can be made more effective by putting the subject (Claire) and her verb (ran) at the end: .

"Through the long-crowded corridors, where her schoolmates stopped to stare at her, out through the big double doors at the front of the school, and down the main road that led to her home Claire ran"

In what ways do you think the second version is superior?

Subject: Object:
the sunshone hazily through the low grey clouds.
Object: Subject:
through the low grey clouds the sun shone hazily

Copyright S-cool
Varying Sentences

Now have a go at turning these sentences around:

"Macbeth is a play about many things including murder and betrayal, guilt and love, evil and power."

"The clouds drifted gently across the long stretch of the horizon."

"The house looked very small, with only three windows facing the busy road and a narrow strip of overgrown lawn leading up to a battered front door."

S-cool exclusive!!