Guilford College Writing Manual

This is the official Guilford College Writing Manual. A collaboration between the English Department and the Hege Library.

What Kinds of Sentences to Use

Despite what the study shows, we needn't conclude that the mature style must consist of densely constructed sentences.

What we need to recognize is that different types of sentences, different types of syntax, have different potentialities. Then we can choose accordingly.

Take simple sentences. Simple sentences (e.g., "Aluminum is a metal"). Are sentences of unclouded perspective. They're like a sunny day. Usually no mystery, no complexity. Typically, they make a single proposition and do so without qualification.

Compound sentences, on the other hand, communicate something different. A sentence like "Aluminum is a metal and it is abundant" suggests a balanced, ordered perspective. No wonder this sentence was a favorite of the 18th century, the Age of Reason. What a wonderful way to express a concept of the universe as being composed of an equilibrium of forces.

The complex sentence, on the other hand, has a different potentiality. Sentences like, "The aluminum factory should be shut down because it is exploiting its work force" demonstrate a reflective mind at work. It is not simply describing an observable perception but establishing a relationship and drawing a conclusion.

The complex sentence also suggests a different writer/reader relationship, which the following comparison may make clear.