How to Write Like a Pro: Sentence Length (Coordinating Conjunctions & Compound Sentences)

What is it that sets basic writing apart from writing that sounds natural? You can improve your English writing. You can do it easily. Sentence length changes the impression. Use different lengths. Then your writing will sound more confident. Can you tell how simplistic these sentences seem? They’re so short. It makes the ideas feel broken. They don’t have good flow….

So, what can you do to master sentence length?

It’s easy to fall into writing short sentences when you’re trying to be very clear, but without connecting words, the reader won’t be sure how one idea relates to the next. Using sentences of different length will make your writing seem more advanced in no time at all.

Conjunctions are words that connect one idea to another, and there are two main types: coordinating conjunctions and subordinating conjunctions. These can be used to easily join two or more simple sentences together. This article will cover coordinating conjunctions and the next will address subordinating conjunctions.

Coordinating Conjunctions

Coordinating conjunctions are the basic ones that simply tie two ideas together. They can tell the reader that the two simple sentences agree or that they oppose each other. A sentence that uses a coordinating conjunction is a compound sentence. The most common way to remember these is with the FANBOYS acrostic.

For
And
Nor
But
Or
Yet
So

See how the first letter of each word forms the word “fanboys”? You can use this as a memory trick to recall the coordinating conjunctions. Each one of these little words can help you join two of your simple sentences together, but both simple sentences must express a complete idea. In other words, the two sentences must be independent clauses, like we explained in the previous article.

Let’s try it on the first paragraph:

You can improve your English writing. You can do it easily.
You can improve your English writing, and you can do it easily.

When you use a coordinating conjunction, simply place a comma at the end of the first sentence, and then the conjunction before the second sentence. Notice how the two sentences above express ideas that go together. Choose the right conjunction based on the meaning of your sentences.

• For indicates that the second sentence explains the first (with a meaning similar to “because”)

• So indicates that the first sentence explains the second

• And expresses two ideas that happen together

• Nor and or express two ideas when only one of them happens
 (nor connects two negative ideas; or connects two positive ones)

• But and yet connect two ideas that contrast with each other

Ok, so how about some examples?

In FANBOYS order…

She called her friends, for even normal chats can be English practice!
I found a useful editing website, and I shared it with my friends.
I didn’t want to go, nor did I want to stay.
It’s sunny, but it’s not too hot.
You can make a presentation, or you can write term paper.
The trip sounded like fun, yet I had so much homework.
Connecting your sentences is easy, so go forth and write!

Notice that the structure of each independent clause stays the same except when using nor. If you broke that sentence into simple sentences, you would write “I didn’t want to go. I didn’t want to stay.” Both are negative, which is a big hint that you should use nor. However, when joining them, follow these steps:

1. Remove the negative from the second simple sentence.
   I didn’t want to stay -> I did want to stay

2. Put the helping verb first.
   did I want to stay

3. Add nor to the beginning.
   nor did I want to stay

4. Join this to the first simple sentence as you would with any other coordinating conjunction, placing a comma before nor.
   I didn’t want to go, nor did I want to stay.

Now, take the simple sentence pairs below, choose the best coordinating conjunction to connect them, and make some compound sentences! Check your answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. I want to write. I’m not sure what to write about.
  2. Even the kids were happy. There were so many activities.
  3. I want to study abroad. It seems very complicated.
  4. I’m studying English. I’m also studying Spanish.
  5. It’s not good to procrastinate. It is not good to skip class.
  6. I’m applying to a company. I need to write a resume.
  7. I might pass. I might fail.

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(Answers: 1.yet 2.for 3.but 4.and 5.nor 6.so 7.or)

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