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Sentence Variety and Emphasis

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March 2010
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In the previous post, I discussed the paragraph. In the next two posts, I will write about the sentence.

In creative writing,  your goal is to write creatively. Not only must you choose original ideas and words, you must also craft sentences that are authentic and creative. To do this, you can craft a variety of sentence patterns or types. If you don’t use sentence variety, your writing will be dull and monotonous—and lacking creativity.

In creative writing, you must also learn how to write emphatically, in order to make important points. If you don’t know how to emphasize important words or ideas, your readers will have difficulty understanding what is important, or what you are trying to tell them.

In this post, I will discuss how to use sentence variety in writing. I will also discuss how you can create emphasis within a sentence.

Creating Sentence Variety

You have several ways to create variety in your sentence patterns. These include:

  • By altering the sentence length
  • By using different sentence types
  • By expanding a sentence with modifiers
  • By deploying rhetorical patterns


Sentence Length

The easiest way is to create variety in your sentence is to alter the length of your sentences. For instance, you might write one short sentence to make a point, and one long sentence to describe something.


He was mad from the alcohol. After drinking 12 beers and three shots of rye, he stumbled to the exit, yelling obscenities and swinging at patrons who watched in disgust.

You can also write a series of short sentences:

He studied fiction. He wrote a novel. He edited his manuscript. He submitted it to a publisher, and then he quit writing for ten years.

Sentence Types

A common way to create sentence variety is to use different sentence types. These include:

  • Declarative sentence. Use it to make a statement of fact. Example: He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
  • Interrogative sentence. Use it to ask a question. Example: What tasks must you complete to become a published writer?
  • Imperative sentence. Use it to command or order someone to do something. Example: Read chapter two in your textbook.
  • Exclamatory sentence. Use it to make a statement with emotion. Example: I loathe your drunken behaviour!


Sentences can also be simple, compound, complex, or compound-complex. Here is a brief explanation of each:

  • Simple sentence. It has one independent clause. Example: Steve wrote poetry and fiction.
  • Compound sentence. It has two independent clauses, which are separated by a coordinating conjunction (and, but, for, nor, yet, so). Example: Steve composed a collection of poetry in fist year, and he read and wrote fiction in his second year of the Master’s program.
  • Complex sentence. It is composed of one independent clause and one or more dependent clauses. Example: When the snow fell, he stopped writing.
  • Compound-complex sentence. It contains two or more independent clauses and one or more dependent clauses. Example: When the winter months arrive, he wrote in his study, and he read the works of the great masters, including Shakespeare and Dickens.


Expand Sentences with Modifiers

Most books on writing suggest that you writer with nouns and verbs. (On Writing Well by William Zinsser) Nevertheless, you can use modifiers in your sentence to create sentence variety. The types of modifiers you can include are adjectives, adverbs, phrases, and clauses. Here is the common ways to create sentence variety using modifiers:

  • By adding an adjective. Example: He wrote creative nonfiction
  • By adding an adverb. Example: He wrote creative nonfiction regularly.
  • By adding a prepositional phrase. Example: In his study, the writer wrote creative nonfiction.
  • By adding a past participial or present participial phrase. Example: Listening to his iPod, Steve wrote out his notes and sipped a coffee.
  • By adding an adjective clause. Example: Steve, a writer who had never published poetry or a novel, decided to write articles for a local newspaper in his town.
  • By adding an adverbial clause. Example: When the snow storm ended, the old woman shovelled her driveway, and then dropped dead.


Rhetorical Sentence Patterns

Another way to create sentence variety is by using rhetorical patterns. Two common rhetorical patterns are:

  • Periodic sentence. This is also known as the climatic sentence. It is highly emphatic. The writer adds details, one after the other, and then finishes the sentence with the main idea. The key point to remember is to present the main idea at the end of the sentence. Example: After writing for twelve months, editing for another three months, and contacting various publishers for several weeks, he was final able to sell his first novel to a publisher.
  • Loose sentence or cumulative sentence. It is the most common sentence structure in English. The most important idea is placed at the beginning of the sentence, followed by a series of details. The key point to remember is that information accumulates after you present the main idea. Example: He published his novel after traveling to the destination and conducting research for two months, and after writing full-time for 2 years.


In the next post, I will discuss more about rhetorical patterns.

Emphasis in a Sentence

You can use emphasis to make an important point. Three ways to create emphasis are:

  • By repeating important words. Example: He wrote on weekends, he wrote during his lunch, he wrote after dinner. He wrote, and wrote, and wrote.
  • By placing the most important idea at the beginning of the sentence or the end of a sentence. Example: In 1990, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree.
  • By using periodic or cumulative sentence patterns. In the cumulative sentence, the most important idea is placed at the beginning of the sentence. In a periodic sentence, the most important idea is placed at the end of the sentence.


Whether you want to write fiction or creative nonfiction, you must use sentence variety to create interesting and meaningful prose.

You need to learn how to use different sentence types, how to use modifiers to expand the basic meaning of a sentence, and how to use rhetorical patterns, such as the periodic and loose sentence.

You must also learn how to emphasize important points. You can do this by placing the important idea at the beginning or end of your sentence. You can also use repetition.

In the next post, I will write further on “rhetorical sentence patterns.”

If you have any questions or comments, please post them to this blog.



  1. Ragtag says:

    Fantastic post. I always learn something new when i come to your page

  2. Mushtaque says:

    Fantastic, GR8

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