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Stringing Sentences Together in English Posted by on Feb 3, 2022 in English Grammar, English Language

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Every good writer in English knows how to string sentences together. But sometimes, it can be overdone. Let’s take a look at the fine art of stringing sentences together.

Breaking Up Is Easy, Staying Together is Hard

When we write a sentence in English, we all understand that it must have a subject and a predicate and it must be either a statement, a question, an exclamation, or a command. Using just the words, Go home, gives you a sentence, or an independent clause, that could be any one of those four types. We know by the punctuation that Go home! is an exclamation and Go home? is a question. But how do you make the distinction between a statement and a command? They both end in periods. The context, or the circumstances under which the two words are spoken, will determine which type of sentence it is. For example:

“I know what I need to do. Go home.”

“I’m not sure what to do now. Go home?”

“Amina, you sound and look awfully sick. Go home!”

“What are you waiting for? Go home.”

Still, even with context and the proper punctuation, the sentences above lack variety and energy. You can write a very short, complete sentence in English, yet even a complete sentence can look incomplete. This is especially true if it’s followed by another short sentence. However, if you connect, or string, the sentences together, they look and sound more natural.

To accomplish this, you merely need to add another couple of words or even just some additional punctuation.

“I know what I need to do, and that’s to go home.”

“I’m not sure what to do now – maybe go home?”

“Amina, you sound and look awfully sick, go home!”

“What are you waiting for, Luke, go home.”

Note that each sentence is still one of the four types of sentences – a statement, a question, an exclamation, and a command. Now, however, they have a more natural ease and flow. A comma, a conjunction, and two small words gave additional meaning to the first statement. With the addition of the em dash, what began as a simple sentence became a rhetorical question. A comma made the exclamation sound more natural. And adding a name between two commas transformed a question and a command into a one-sentence command.

When Stringing Sentences Goes Horribly Wrong

Okay, so now you know the basics of stringing sentences together. What you also need to know is that you can overdo it. Sentences can be too long and contain too many thoughts that just seem to run together. We call these run-on sentences.

Connie and Helen spent a lot of time together, going to clubs, movies, cooking classes, never thinking of calling their husbands, Raphael and Luke, who always worried about them and never knew where they were, never mind not realizing the amount of money that the two women were charging on their credit cards every night.  

Technically speaking, that’s one complete sentence. It’s also a complete mess.

Beware of the comma splice, in which you have multiple independent clauses strung together with commas, but without conjunctions. Comma splices are excusable when writing dialogue, like those Go home sentences above. Comma splices are also fine in informal essays for rhetorical emphasis. And, of course, in poetry where the rules are always more relaxed. However, formal writing, such as in a composition for work or school, calls for a more discreet and practiced approach towards stringing sentences together.

There is a literary device, used successfully by some authors, called stream of consciousness. This is when a character is expressing feelings, thoughts, and reactions in a continuous flow. It mimics the way our minds work, as we take in what we see, hear, feel, and think. It also lacks a cohesive, or understandable, structure. Stringing sentences together with little regard for punctuation, context, conjunctions, and other joiners is how these authors express a stream of consciousness. Take it from me, this is probably not how you want anyone to read your words.

Join your sentences together. Make them flow. But remember to convey your thoughts clearly.

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About the Author: Gary Locke

Gary is a semi-professional hyphenate.