SAT Essay Help: Sentence Complexity Part Two


Simple Sentences

Simple sentences have a subject and a predicate. They are a single independent clause.

Compound Sentences

Compound sentences are two simple sentences combined with some connector and punctuation. They have two independent clauses.

Complex Sentences

Complex sentences have a dependent clause as well as an independent clause. The dependent clause can be removed and still leave a grammatically correct simple sentence, but the independent clause cannot be removed.

Compound-Complex Sentences

These incorporate dependent clauses (one or more) into a compound sentence. So, the sentence has at least two independent (compound) and at least one dependent (complex).


Simple Punctuation Sentences

These include sentences that utilize only periods “.” and commas “,”. This should be most sentences in your essay.

Complex Punctuation Sentences

These sentences can also fall into the categories above but are categorized by their use of less common punctuation such as the semicolon “;”, colon “:”, em dash “—”, and parentheses “()”.

Now that we know the sentence types, we want to try to incorporate them all into our SAT essays so that the readers see them and improve our writing score. After writing an essay, look at each of your paragraphs and make sure you did not use only one sentence type in each paragraph.

You should not have sentences of only one length in a paragraph. You should also avoid having sentences of only one structure in a paragraph. Finally, you should try to use one or two sentences with complex punctuation (correctly) in your essay as a whole.

Doing this will not necessarily improve your writing and make your essay “good.” You could also ignore varied sentence structure entirely and still be a “good” writer. Forcing yourself to use a semicolon does not make your writing better.

However, it can make your SAT essay score go up. These essays are standardized and objective. If you add more correctly used sentence variety to your essay, the reader will see it, and it can improve your writing grade.

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Michael C. is currently a private math, science, and standardized test tutor with TutorNerd in Irvine and Anaheim.