Revising for Style: Sentence Variety

Learning Objectives

  • Identify strategies for revising for style
  • Evaluate strategies for revising for style

Have you ever ordered a dish in a restaurant and been not happy with its taste, even though it contained most of your favorite ingredients? Just as a meal might lack the finishing touches needed to spice it up, so too might a paragraph contain all the basic components but still lack the stylistic finesse required to engage a reader. Sometimes writers have a tendency to reuse the same sentence pattern throughout their writing. Like any repetitive task, reading text that contains too many sentences with the same length and structure can become monotonous and boring. Experienced writers mix it up by using an assortment of sentence patterns, rhythms, and lengths. Using a mixture of different sentence structures reduces repetition and adds emphasis to important points in the text.

Example

In this extract from an election campaign, the writer uses short, simple sentences of a similar length and style. Notice that five of the seven sentences begin with the same word! This style that emphasizes repetition could be useful in the rhetorical context of a speech, but for a written text, the result is a choppy, unsophisticated paragraph that does not grab the audience’s attention.

During my time in office, I have achieved several goals. I have helped increase funding for local schools. I have reduced crime rates in the neighborhood. I have encouraged young people to get involved in their community. My competitor argues that she is the better choice in the upcoming election. I argue that it is ridiculous to fix something that isn’t broken. I promise to continue to serve this community if you reelect me this year.

 

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