Back to Basics: Sentence Structure

Updated: Jul 7

For January, the Back to Basics skill challenge is sentence structure. Writing as a craft comes with so many different fundamentals that sometimes, it's easy to overlook a few. Sentence structure is often misunderstood but what does it mean? Walden University says sentence structure is “the physical nature of a sentence and how the elements of that sentence are presented”.

Sentence structure should consist of complete sentences. Complete sentences, as described in the University of Leicester’s Grammar Guide, are sentences that must always contain a verb, capable of existing on their own, and expressing a complete thought. Sources we use throughout the video will be linked in the description.

When we write, we also want to keep the audience’s attention, and sentence structure is a big part of that. We don’t want to fall into a pattern–a trap–of creating boring prose. Gary Provost does a great job of illustrating this problem when he says: ​​“This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.”

From this we can easily see the message and the importance of sentence structure. In this video, we will talk about how to improve your sentence structure.

Part 1: Create a rhythm/flow

With any sort of writing, it’s important to be able to keep readers engaged. Having a rhythm is a big part of that as it helps with immersion. You can create rhythm by playing around with the lengths of your sentences. Some sentences are short. Maybe some sentences are much longer with more information. You can have long sentences followed by short sentences and then more long sentences if you'd like. Regardless of what you decide, varying the lengths of sentences is a great way to help with flow. We see this in the example from Gary Provost’s musical sentences. Since we know a little more about creating rhythm, let’s try an exercise.

Exercise: Look at the following excerpt and see what you can do to give it some more rhythm. What additions or alterations can be done here?

Yesterday I went to the grocery store. At the grocery store I bought bread. I also bought some eggs. I wanted to buy some flour too but they didn’t have any more flour. I spent twenty minutes in the store. I bought everything on my shopping list. Well except for flour. I paid for my stuff. Then I drove back home.