Simple sentence: One independent clause
o Windows rattled.
Compound sentence: Independent clause + independent clause
o Windows rattled and doors shook.
Complex sentence: Dependent clause(s) + one independent clause
o As the storm blew, windows rattled.
Compound-complex sentence: Dependent clause(s) + two or more independent clauses
o As the storm blew, windows rattled and doors shook.
“What is an independent clause?”
An independent clause can function by itself. Like an independent person, the independent clause needs no one else. (It is not co-dependent.)
“What is a dependent clause?”
A dependent clause is not a complete sentence or a complete thought. A dependent clause needs an independent clause to make a complete sentence. (Think of a dependent child. He/she cannot function completely without the help of a parent.)
“Your sentences are short and choppy.”
If someone tells you this, look at one paragraph. Are your sentences all structured in the same way (perhaps following one sentence formula)? Do you have some sentences that relate to one another? If so, consider joining the sentences by using and, but, or, nor, yet, for, or so.
o Carmen is my cousin. She is also my friend. I enjoy her company.
o Carmen is my cousin and my friend, and I enjoy her company.
o Now you try: __________________________________________________ .
Subordinating conjunctions link dependent clauses to independent clauses by using relative pronouns (that, what, whatever, which, who, whom, whomever, and whose) or subordinating conjunctions (after, although, as, as if, as though, because, before, even if, even though, if, if only, in order that, now that, once, provided, rather than, since, so that, than, that, though, till, unless, until, when, whenever, where, whereas, wherever, whether, which, and while). Look for these words and highlight them in your rough drafts to help look for areas that need commas.
Remember to look for key words when you write. “That” is an essential clause; “which” is nonessential. So you know that the information in a “that clause” gives us necessary information. As a result, do not use commas. In a nonessential clause, on the other hand, you do use commas. The comma before the word “which” indicates that the “which clause” is extra information, but the sentence makes sense without it.
Semicolons (;) are used to join independent clauses that are closely related in meaning.
o All eyes were on # 52; he could win the game with one free throw.
Colons (:) imply that the next independent clause explains, exemplifies, or expands on the first.
o He learned a lesson from the indictment: even small acts have consequences.
What does the word “compound” mean?
Compound subjects: Two subjects attached to the same verb are usually connected by the conjunction and or or.
o Deanne and Jason work all day.
o Employees and employers attended the picnic for free food.
Compound verb: Single subjects can perform more than one action. When they do, the verbs attached to them are compound.
o Sheila sang, danced, and slept last night.
o Her brother perturbed the neighbors, confused her parents, and amused her.
Compound objects: A verb can have more than one object.
o The couple visited France, Spain, and Portugal on their honeymoon.
o John ate pizza, tacos, and spaghetti.
In order to lengthen sentences, we can add prepositional phrases. Sometimes adding adjectives, adverbs, and prepositional phrases allows readers to visualize what you are describing.
Note: Adjectives modify nouns and pronouns. Adverbs modify verbs, adjectives, and other adverbs. Many of them end in –ly.
*Much of the information in this handout is taken from SF Writer. You may consider consulting Keys for Writers for more information.