We use the following types of sentences: simple, compound, complex, compound-complex and fragments.

Simple sentences
Simple sentences have one independent clause (main idea).

The workers stopped for lunch.

Compound sentences
Compound sentences have two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction. The coordinating conjunctions can be summarised by the acronym FANBOYS – for, and, nor, but, or, yet and so.

Use a comma to separate two independent clauses, unless the clauses are short and the meaning is clear without a comma.

Monday was a rainy day and the workers stayed home.
We were about to sign the contract, but the owners changed their minds.

Complex sentences
Complex sentences have an independent clause and one or more dependent clauses (cannot exist independently). They are useful for commenting on your main idea.

Although it rained on Monday (dependent clause), the work continued (independent clause).

Compound-complex sentences
Compound-complex sentences have more than one independent clause and at least one dependent clause.

At the meeting, which was held on Monday, the lawyers drafted the terms of the contract, but the client objected to them.

Sentence fragments
A sentence fragment is an incomplete sentence.

Yeah, right.

NB Independent clauses are also called main clauses, and dependent clauses are also called subordinate clauses.

An effective sentence structure is often SVC (subject, verb, complement, with ‘complement’ meaning the rest of the sentence). You can use a short phrase to introduce such sentences.

In 2015, the group (subject) met (verb) for the last time (complement).

At other times, you may wish to start a sentence with a dependent clause for emphasis. Such sentences often start with Although or While.

Although the lawyers went through every clause in the contract, the client still had objections.

You can improve your sentence structure by:

  • Having the main verb near the beginning of the sentence
  • Starting with a real subject, not a false subject (There is, It is)
  • Using which and while with caution

Processing payments for purchases that have been approved outside of the organisational delegation, or processing payments for invoices when the goods and services have not been received, increases the risk that the organisation pays for goods and services that are not officially approved or pays prior to the receipt of the goods and services. (the verb is too far away from the beginning of the sentence)

It is of utmost importance that… (false subject)

For example, the conversion of former US investment banking giants Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley into commercial banks (which have tougher capital requirements) had the unintended consequence of squeezing funding to hedge funds – which in turn has exacerbated their dumping of assets across world markets. (Australian Financial Review) (overuse of which)

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