Other Sentence-Combining Strategies

So far I have focused mainly on the use of conjunctions to combine sentences. Other devices are available to you as well — for example, the dreaded semicolon. Used sparingly, the semicolon can be quite effective, particularly when two ideas are closely related and stated in a similar fashion, as in:

He doesn't fix my spelling or grammar; he doesn't write on my paper.

In a previous example, we combined two sentences by changing the second one into a subordinate clause. But you can also subordinate the first one and turn it into an introductory clause:

Refusing to fix my spelling or grammar, he doesn't write on my paper.

Because he doesn't write on my paper, I don't know what he wants me to do.

Be careful, though, to avoid dangling participles. Consider this example:

Refusing to write on my paper, I don't know what he wants me to do.

This sentence muddles the original idea by placing "refusing to write on my paper," which refers to David, next to "I," which refers to the writer. As a result, the sentence seems to say that the writer of the paper is refusing to write on his own paper. This certainly happens — it's called procrastination — but it's not the issue here. I could offer myriad nonsensical examples of other dangling participles, but the point comes across fairly well here, I think.

Anyway, I hope that I have provided at least a few helpful pointers on how to improve sentence flow and structure by combining sentences.

Try One on Your Own!

How would you improve the flow of the following paragraph?

My roommate spilled cinnamon all over my apartment. My apartment now smells like breakfast rolls. This smell makes me sad. I always think there are cinnamon rolls cooking. There aren't. My roommate just spilled cinnamon all over the place.

Here is our suggestion:

My roommate spilled cinnamon all over my apartment, which now smells like breakfast rolls. This smell makes me sad, because I always think there are cinnamon rolls cooking, but there aren't; my roommate just spilled cinnamon all over the place.

Sentences

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