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A sentence is any phrase or clause that ends with the sound of a period. Really. Most sentences have a subject and predicate, a noun followed by a verb. Not always.

  • Focus on the Message.

As soon as the words are noticed, the message is lost, so you want to avoid a literary style with fancy words and long sentences. Write like you talk. Then seek to improve both the way you talk and the way you write.

  • Focus on the Audience.

Your voice naturally shifts when your focus moved from a grandfather to the cute toddler walking beside him. Find a picture of someone who represents your audience and post it near your computer screen. By constantly visualizing your reader, you break the comfortable habit of talking to yourself as you write.

A great sentence is whatever communicates most effectively. As a rule, informal English is best because most people don’t regard reading as a formal, dress-up activity. Use easy-to-understand, familiar words because most readers aren’t inclined to use a dictionary.

  • Focus on the Flow.

A sentence should progress from left to write in logical sequence of time and thought. Push for active verbs in which the subject does something, rather than being the recipient of the action. You want to say, “Johnny climbed the big oak,” not, “The big oak was climbed by Johnny.”

  • Focus on Variety.

Sameness is boring, so we need to avoid redundancy in thoughts, words, or grammatical structure. Short sentences speed the pace. Long sentences slow it down. A little of both is nice, and one-word sentences are allowed. Absolutely.

Longer sentences should form a chain of modifying phrases and clauses that take the place of short, choppy sentences. For example: Jane got up early. Jane got dressed. Jane ate breakfast. Jane went to town. Jane bought new shoes. Instead, we might say: Up early, Jane got dressed, ate breakfast, and went to town, where she bought new shoes.