Once you've completed global revisions to align the text of a document with its intended purpose, message, and audience, it'll be time to focus more locally on a smaller but still vital concern: the sentences that establish your meaning and your tone.


First, review the text for sentence variety. Using a variety will make the text more interesting and compelling for your audience. But the kinds of sentences you use will also establish a cadence, a rhythm that influences understanding. A series of short, simple sentences may produce the staccato of disconnection. A series of longer sentences may create a lulling or soporific effect.

Ensure that you've used a mixture of the following three sentence types to prevent monotony, bolster attention, and facilitate comprehension:

  • The simple sentence, a.k.a. the independent clause, contains a subject and a verb and expresses a complete thought. It may contain modifying words or phrases.
  • The compound sentence contains two independent clauses linked by a coordinator (for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so).
  • The complex sentence contains an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. The difference between clauses? An independent clause can be a simple sentence if it's capitalized and punctuated like one. But a dependent clause cannot. Although it will contain a subject and a verb, it will begin with a subordinator such as after, although, because, since, that, until, when, which, while, or who.


The qualities of each sentence type allow you to structure the relationship among ideas in a way that readers or listeners can more readily grasp.

The brevity of a simple sentence calls attention to itself. That makes it an ideal structure for an idea or point you want to stress.

A compound sentence, though, puts two ideas into equal balance, and the coordinating word shows how they are related. The ideas may be similar or different, elaborations or contradictions, causal or consequent, so use a coordinator that best expresses their connection.

While the complex sentence also shows how two ideas relate, the ideas are not of equal importance. One will be subordinated to or dependent upon the other for its meaning. And for that reason, a spoken complex sentence can be treacherous. Listeners may not immediately be able to locate the independent clause.and so may get lost in the sentence. To guard against this possibility, use your voice and well-placed pauses to provide emphasis. In addition, don't use several complex sentences in a row; a series of them may present too many relationships for listeners to sort out. Instead, intersperse some simple sentences to aid listener comprehension.

Of the sentences below, the simple sentence duo is most emphatic:

  • The presentation script is ready for review. Teams must submit revision recommendations on Friday.
  • The presentation script is ready for review, and teams must submit revision recommendations on Friday.
  • Since the presentation script is ready for review, teams must submit revision recommendations on Friday.


Making improvements in sentence variety and emphatic power will increase the clarity of the text. But spend just a little more revision time on a handful of other sentence-level concerns.

Check the beginnings of sentences for ineffective repetition; use sentence types and synonyms to manage them. Consider, too, stylistic ways of making repetition work well in the text.

If sentences contain the words "It is," "There is," or equivalent filler-like phrases, rewrite them by substituting content. When "There is improvement in the response rate" becomes "The response rate has improved," the sentence gains authority. Subjects and verbs rule the sentence, so keep them in power positions.

Writing demands rewriting, no matter how skilled or talented the writer. Review. Revise. Then rejoice.