Improving Sentence Structure – Guide & Examples

10.04.23 Language rules overview Time to read: 6min

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Improving sentence structure can help to augment the quality of your essays, exam answers, and theses and is a crucial skill in academic writing. By following established language rules, you can convey influential, clear, and coherent messages that express your ideas. Whether you are an aspiring author, a student, or a professional, Learning to create optimal sentence structures can not only enhance the quality of your writing, but also make it more memorable and persuasive.

Improving Sentence Structure – In a Nutshell

In overall, improving sentence structure will help to:

  • Make one sentence flow into the next more naturally.
  • Ensure there’s sufficient variation to avoid repetitive wording.
  • Make your points more strongly.
  • Get more marks for a submitted piece of work.
  • Ensure that the reader continues to the end of your text.

Definition: Improving sentence structure

To begin with, a sentence is defined as a group of words, usually including a verb and a subject, that together, convey a meaning when they’re put together coherently. Sentences can be statements, questions, or instructions in any tense. They typically start with a capital letter and end in a full stop (period), question mark, or, in the case of an imperative instruction, an exclamation point.

Sentences that don’t adhere to the above rules or that sound dull when read can be improved. This is what is meant by improving sentence structure.

Improving sentence structure: Parts of a sentence

Some sentences are very short or even constructed of just one word such as, ‘Why?’. However, in most cases, the sentence contains a subject-verb agreement, where the subject represents somaeone or something acting out the verb.

Example

  • The cat sat on the mat.

where

“The cat” is the subject.

“Sat” is the verb.

“The mat” is the object.

More complex sentences also contain adverbial structures and adjectives. Adverbs describe verbs, conversely, adjectives describe nouns, which can be in subjects or objects.

Examples

Adverbs:

  • Quickly
  • Quietly
  • With haste

Adjectives:

  • Blue
  • Small
  • European

These are all the building blocks or compounds constructing sentences. Writers can organise sentences in different ways, as depicted in the following examples:

Examples

  • The cat sat on the mat.
  • The mat was under the cat.
  • The old cat reclined on the dusty mat.

Sub-clauses can add extra information and detail to sentences such as shown in the following:

Examples

  • Feeling lazy, the cat sat on the mat for hours.
  • The cat, feeling lazy, sat on the mat for hours.
  • For many hours, the cat, which was feeling lazy, sat on the mat.

When sub-clauses are placed in the midst of a sentence – not in the beginning – they are known as brackets. Parenthetical clauses can be enclosed in commas, brackets, or dashes. Commas are the most frequently used punctuation to separate parenthetical clauses.

Note: Sub-clauses are dependent clauses, meaning they don’t form complete sentences. When they’re on their own, they are known as sentence fragments, i.e., incomplete sentences.

The following examples show how different types of brackets can help improving sentence structure.

Example

Types of parentheses Example
Commas You can, if you want, choose to stay at home.
Dashes You can - if you want - choose to stay at home.
Brackets You can choose to stay at home (if you want).
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Improving sentence structure: Different types of sentences

Sentences can be basic or complex. Improving sentence structure entails finding a balance between these two, as shown in the following examples:

Example

The girl skipped to school. She wore a blue dress. She arrived late.

In this example, all the sentences are short and rhythmically similar. While technically correct, they could be merged into a single, more complex sentence, such as:

Example

Wearing her blue dress, the girl skipped to school and arrived late.

However, overly complex sentences can become unreadable like in the example below:

Example

I went to the shops and bought; fish and chips, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, and apple and mango cordial, after which I had a big meal followed by a nap on the couch because it made me tyred, and I needed to get some rest anyway because I knew that tomorrow would be a big day plus I hadn’t slept well the night before.

In this sentence, there’s a list of shopping and some events that go back and forth in time. It’d be preferable to split up these ideas into new sentences, aiming for improving the sentence structure and more clarity.

Example

I hadn’t slept well the night before I went to the shops, so I was already tyred. After buying fish and chips, vanilla and strawberry ice cream, and apple and mango cordial, I had a big meal. I followed this with a nap on the couch. This was a good thing since I knew that tomorrow would be a big day.

Of course, there are multiple ways of improving sentence structure when simplifying one long, complex sentence. Therefore, there is always a degree of personal preference and style when it comes to improving sentence structure.

How to fix sentence structure problems

Improving a sentence structure often means fixing common problems like those outlined above. To be clear, improving sentence structure can be done in many ways. These are just some of the most common examples of improving sentence structure that academics and teachers face when marking the work of students.

Parallel structure

Sentences with a parallel structure use the same grammatical construction throughout and are best avoided. Improving the sentence structure of this example would mean altering it to an extent that the parallel uses of the verb forms ending in “-ing” are no longer present.

Example

You will like hiking up the hills, walking around the town, and strolling through the market. 

You will like hill hikes, a walk around the town, and a stroll through the market.

Wrong coordination

When incorrect prepositions are used to link two parts of a sentence together. Improving sentence structure in cases of wrong coordination typically means choosing the right, most relevant preposition.

Example

You should try and call me later.

You should try to call me later.

Run-on sentences

Run-on sentences describe two sentences that are fused or that have a comma separating two clauses without the correct conjunction.

Examples

✘ The cat sat on the mat was blue.

✓ The cat sat on the mat. The mat was blue.

 

✘ Not only was the cat on the mat, it sat there all day.

✓ Not only was the cat on the mat, but it sat there all day, as well.

FAQs

  • Proofread your writing, looking for common errors like wrong coordination.
  • Avoid repeating words where alternatives are available.
  • Change the lengths of sentences, so they’re not all the same.

Improving the sentence structure of written work is important because it will help to make your writing more engageing, helping you to make your points in a way that is more interesting and possibly gaining better marks.

Words like “however”, “moreover”, and “hence” can be used at the start of one sentence to better reflect the previous sentence, thereby improving the sentence structure of each.

Try to leave your writing for a few hours or overnight before reading it to find ways of improving sentence structure. If you’re in an exam and want to improve your sentence structure, then allow a few minutes to make some edits.

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