Introduction to Sentence Structure

a note book with lines representing sentences of different lenghts.Language is made up of words, which work together to form sentences, which work together to form paragraphs. In this section, we’ll be focusing on sentences: how they’re made and how they behave. Sentences help us to organize our ideas—to identify which items belong together and which should be separated.

So just what is a sentence? Sentence are simply collections of words. Each sentence has a subject, an action, and punctuation. These basic building blocks work together to create endless amounts and varieties of sentences.

It’s important to have variety in your sentence length and structure. This quote from Gary Provost illustrates why:

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.

So write with a combination of short, medium, and long sentences. Create a sound that pleases the reader’s ear. Don’t just write words. Write music.[1]

You can also listen to the difference in the video below:

In order to create this variety, you need to know how sentences work and how to create them. In this section we will identify the parts of sentences and learn how they fit together to create music in writing.

  1. Provost, Gary. 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing, Signet:1985, pp. 60–61.