How To Write Correct Sentences: Part 4-Compound-Complex Sentences

Have you ever read a sentence that seems to go on for pages and pages, yet it is entirely grammatically correct? Writers who understand how parts of sentences fit together gain the freedom to be able to construct ridiculous syntactical wonders like that. Of course, you don’t want to write like that all the time–Simple Sentences can be just as impressive if used correctly–but it’s nice to know how to do it when you need it.

Once you know how to create Simple Sentences, Compound Sentences, and Complex Sentences, you can combine the elements in these sentences to create longer, more intricate and elaborate sentences.  These are the types of sentences that can really wow your reader if you use them right–we’re talkin’ A+, college level writing that makes a person sound all smart and fancy.

Because Compound-Complex sentences are pretty much just pieces of other types of sentences that have been combined in different ways, there is practically an infinite number of ways to make them, so we’ll just show you a couple of examples.

1. Subordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause(,) Independent Clause(,) Coordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause(.)

Because I need an example here, I will fill in the blanks with random stuff, and then I will go back and put in real information.

Since I missed most of the movie, I decided to see it again, but this time I didn’t get the extra large soda.

2.  Independent Clause(,) Coordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause+ Subordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause(.)

The dog in the movie signed a million dollar contract, but the deal was worth it since the negotiations were rough.

I’ve been too lazy to get my learner’s permit, so I won’t be getting my license until I have more drive.

There are many ways to make sentences (besides just making bad jokes), but don’t get too worried about it; as long as you follow the basic rules for Simple, Compound, and Complex Sentences, then the Compound-Complex Sentences you write should turn out fine.  However, if you still have some questions, feel free to send us a comment or email.  We’ll try to post the question and any answers we can provide.

Until next time.

-The SDA Writing Lab

How to Write Correct Sentences: Part 3-Complex Sentences

If you haven’t noticed yet, all these different sentence types are just building off of the ‘simple sentence’ form.  Simple sentences are made up of independent clauses (subject+verb (someone/something doing an action). New types of sentences are made when you join one independent clause up with another…and another…and another…etc.  There are different ways of joining these independent clauses together, but every sentence is essentially just independent clauses joined together in different ways.  There are also things called dependent clauses that attach to independent clauses.  We’ll get to those soon enough.

Complex sentences have something called a subordinating conjunction.  These conjunctions (words that join or connect parts of sentences) create a relationship between two independent clauses, making one independent clause the ‘subordinate’ of another, so to speak.  That means that the subordinating conjunction is telling you how one part of the sentence is related to the other.  Subordinating conjunctions include words like the following: after, although, as, because, before, if, since, though, unless, until, when, while…etc.

Ready for examples?

1.  Subordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause(,) Independent Clause(.)

Because I ate a whole pizza, I have a stomach ache.

After I use the internet all day, my eyes cry out for rest.

Until it is daylight, we won’t drive through Vampireville.

Master of True Awesomeness

2.  Independent Clause+ Subordinating Conjunction+ Independent Clause(.)

We will leave the show after the dog jumps through the ring of hot dogs.

I like to jog because jogging makes me a better ninja.

I’ve canceled my gym membership since I had to walk there.

Growing Pains of Scientific Progress

To summarize, Complex Sentences are created when two or more Independent Clauses(someone/something doing something) are joined by a Subordinating Conjunction (word making one independent clause related to the other).  Any questions?

-the SDA Writing Lab

On Choosing Topics:

Quite often, students come into the Writing Lab to get help on scholarship papers–or college essays if it’s fall or winter.  Some of the essays are good, or have a lot of potential.  But others feel very uninspired.  When asked why they chose their topics, many students can’t really say.  A lot mention that they didn’t really care about the topic, or that they just wanted to get the assignment done.  This happens a lot with research papers, too.

We’re always left wondering, Why would you chose a topic that you’re not even interested in? Having to write an essay when you don’t want to is bad enough, but why decide to make it twice as bad by choosing a topic that doesn’t excite you at all?  You’re punishing yourself that way.

Many times, students will tell us that they really wanted to write on something else, but that they didn’t think the people reading the essay would like the choice of topic.  We suppose this is a reasonable assumption.  After all, a large number of the organizations sponsoring these events usually choose prompts that are so flat, cliche, or hollow that it’s natural to assume they want responses that are just as bad.

We’re putting our reputation on the line here, but many of us at the Writing Lab would rather read a paper that is actually interesting and different, about a topic that is unique or surprising–and we’re betting other people would rather read that kind of paper too.  One student said he’d rather write about rappers, like Tupac or Biggie Smalls, and how they can be leaders through their music.  Is that topic probably going to be controversial? Yes, but that will catch people’s attention, and isn’t that what you want to do with a scholarship essay?  With any essay?  Separate yourself from the crowd?

As long as you can back up your claims and convince your reader to believe what you believe, your essay will be doing what it’s supposed to do.  Will someone reject your essay because they just don’t like your topic, rather than actually read it and keep an open mind?  Maybe.  It happens.  But something that’s original still has a better chance of getting noticed than something that’s cliche.  And wouldn’t you rather spend your time working on something that’s fun for you?

So maybe you agree, but you’re not sure how to choose a topic that both interests you and fits the prompt.  Try taking the essence of the prompt (the general theme that the essay is really about, like ‘perseverance’ or ‘community’ or even a topic for a science paper) and looking for that thing in all the stuff you love.  Many actors, rock stars, athletes, and others have had to overcome as much adversity as some historical figures, and a research paper about how energy drinks affect video gaming performance can be just as interesting as one about global warming (if not more so).

So use your energy to find a topic that you actually care about that fits a prompt, rather than using that energy to try and keep your eyes open while you work on a boring one.

Quick Tips #3: More On Research Papers

This is a continuation of Quick Tips #2:

–As with most writing projects, starting early is usually the best policy.  Many of us like to write our essays the night before they’re due; often, we still get good grades and only lose a few hours of sleep in return (many of us in the Writing Lab are just as guilty of doing this as the students we help).  But you don’t really gain anything from this, other than cheating fate for one more day.  Writing a paper and not learning anything from it is a waste of your time.  That’s part of your life that you purposely threw away to write junk, my friend.  You don’t get that time back.

And more importantly, cramming just sucks.  It’s nerve-racking, and it’s not fun, and wouldn’t you rather be playing Xbox instead?  So what do you do?  Start early.  Work on the paper 20-30 minutes each day for several weeks, rather than 5-10 hours the night before.

Have you ever seen those super students who are always prepared, always do their work, always get good grades, and always look so rested and on top of things?  Don’t you just hate them?  But it’s not hard to be like that.  You just have to be consistent with it.  Start papers early, and you’ll be less stressed when the deadlines get closer.  Review class materials for 15-20 minutes each day and you won’t have to cram before tests; you’ll even remember more years later, when you’re trying to explain it to your kids or someone else’s kids or to survivors who are trying to rebuild humankind’s vast body of knowledge after some future apocalypse (hypothetically speaking, of course).  I did this daily review thing for two weeks in college; those were the best, least stressful two weeks of my college career, and I still remember information about 8th century British literature (it haunts my dreams!).  Too bad I didn’t keep up the routine for the other four years of college  : (   Otherwise, I could have been working on a PhD by now.

Quick Tips #2: On Cutting Excess and Writing Research Papers

Whoa!  We just remembered a bunch of tips and suggestions, so here is a short list.  Write back if you have any questions.  If you do, then we’ll know what to explain in more detail.

–If 50% of writing is coming up with ideas and putting them down on the page, the other 50% is cutting things out.  What you take out of your writing is often just as important as what you put in.  Since we now have the magic of word processor programs, try saving your paper as a different version, and then experiment with taking things out.  That way you can see how your paper will change after cutting, all without losing any of the work that you like.  Often, after cutting sentences out, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find your paper is actually a lot stronger.

–Write a lot, and then cut.  Many students spend a lot of their time trying to get sentences perfect in their heads before writing them down.  This eats up a lot of time because you end up with very little to work with and often can’t see what the ideas look like together until your paper is all done, and then it will take more drafts to refine your paper if it isn’t perfect.  Rather than trying to get things perfect before writing a sentence, try the opposite:  write down EVERYTHING that comes to mind, and don’t go back and edit any of it until all your ideas are out on the paper.  For many, it’s a lot easier to select the best ideas from a full brainstorming sheet than it is to start with the first draft first.  You might even find a better idea after brainstorming than you had to begin with.

–Not only is it helpful to have lots of ideas to choose from, but research papers are easier to write when you have a lot of information to work with.  If you’re researching a topic, try printing out anything that is even remotely related.  Once you have all of that information printed out, you can scan through the information and use a highlighter to select the best stuff.  That way, you can come back to the highlighted parts later instead of having to re-read the whole article.    And it’s always easier to have more information to analyze than you need rather than to try to wring more writing out of information you’ve already used up.  Trust me; teachers can tell when a student is trying to stretch their information to avoid more research.  It makes papers boring.  REALLY boring.  And no one likes that.

–With that being said, what do you do when you need more writing to reach a page limit, but you have used up all the information you’ve gathered and are having trouble finding more?  Try expanding the scope of your paper.  If you are writing about the foot, try switching to the leg.  If you’re writing about what makes a planet a planet, try writing about what makes something not a planet.  You can almost always look at the opposite of a scenario to compare and get more information.  Try asking, “What would happen if it wasn’t this way?”  Or look to the future.  “What will things be like in fifty years?  In 100?”  Or the past.  “How have things changed over the past few decades or centuries?”  And if you can’t find any information, perhaps it’s time to change topics (although, sometimes writing a paper on why there’s no information about a certain subject can reveal just as much about that subject–maybe even enough for a paper).

This is getting long, so we’ll end this post and continue this discussion with another one.