Varying Sentence Types and Avoiding Clichés

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Pay attention to the rhythm of your sentences. Control the flow of your sentences and the use of academic tone by varying your sentence types from one to the next. Too many simple sentences in succession (one after the other) results in an abrupt, mechanical, even juvenile tone.


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    • Cliché types:
      • Simile ("cool as a cucumber"; "like a kid in a candy store");
      • Foreign ("cause célèbre", "terra firma");
      • Proverb ("dont' judge a book by its cover");
      • Allusion ("birds of a feather") - partial quotations or proverbs and sayings;
      • Quotation: full excerpts from literature ("for better or worse");
      • Doublet ("leaps and bounds");
      • Euphemistic ("economical with the truth", "kick the bucket");
      • Idiomatic expressions and metaphors ("light at the end of the tunnel", "make waves");
      • Catchphrase - from media, ads, movies, TV (YOLO, "all that you can be");

Sentence Types (from OWL at Purdue)

Summary: This resource presents methods for adding sentence variety and complexity to writing that may sound repetitive or boring. Sections are divided into general tips for varying structure, a discussion of sentence types, and specific parts of speech which can aid in sentence variety.
Contributors:Ryan Weber, Allen Brizee

Structurally, English sentences can be classified four different ways, though there are endless constructions of each. The classifications are based on the number of independent and dependent clauses a sentence contains. An independent clause forms a complete sentence on its own, while a dependent clause needs another clause to make a complete sentence. By learning these types, writers can add complexity and variation to their sentences.

Simple sentence: A sentence with one independent clause and no dependent clauses.

  • My aunt enjoyed taking the hayride with you.
  • China's Han Dynasty marked an official recognition of Confucianism.

Compound Sentence: A sentence with multiple independent clauses but no dependent clauses.

  • The clown frightened the little girl, and she ran off screaming.
  • The Freedom Riders departed on May 4, 1961, and they were determined to travel through many southern states.

Complex Sentence: A sentence with one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

  • After Mary added up all the sales, she discovered that the lemonade stand was 32 cents short
  • While all of his paintings are fascinating, Hieronymus Bosch's triptychs, full of mayhem and madness, are the real highlight of his art.

Complex-Compound Sentence: A sentence with multiple independent clauses and at least one dependent clause.

  • Catch-22 is widely regarded as Joseph Heller's best novel, and because Heller served in World War II, which the novel satirizes, the zany but savage wit of the novel packs an extra punch.