#14 Teaching Writing – Avoid Choppy Sentences

Teaching Writing – Avoid Choppy Sentences

Main Idea

ESL students can improve their writing style by learning how to notice and fix choppy sentences with combined clauses that create smooth text with an elegant flow.

Choppy Sentences

Grammatically, there is nothing wrong with choppy sentences. Stylistically, they read poorly. Choppy sentences are commonly written by young children and older students who did not learn how to combine sentences with conjunctions. Here are some examples:

  • Choppy:  I like dogs. Dogs make good pets. Dogs are friendly and loyal.
  • Better:  I like dogs because they are friendly and loyal. That’s why they make good pets.

  • Choppy:  I went to the store. I wanted to buy a carton of milk. The store was closed.
  • Better:  I went to the store to buy a carton of milk but it was closed.

Combine Sentences #1: FANBOYS (aka coordinating conjunctions)

Learning how to combine sentences is a writing skill that can greatly improve composition style. One way to combine sentences is to use a coordinating conjunction. This is a small word that joins two sentences (or clauses). These conjunctions go in between two sentences; they usually don’t go at the beginning or end of a sentence.

There are seven conjunctions: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so. This group of conjunctions is sometimes called FANBOYS. Each FANBOYS word has a different purpose.

  • FOR – tells us the reason why. “We love kimchi, for it is salty and spicy.”
  • AND – means plus. “My mother likes to drink tea and read novels in the evening.”
  • NOR – shows two negatives. “John doesn’t do his math homework, nor does he want to study English.”
  • BUT – shows contrast or the opposite. “My son likes soccer but he doesn’t like baseball.”
  • YET – similar to BUT though it shows something special or unique. “The children complained about the cold temperatures yet they stayed outside playing road hockey until 7pm.”
  • OR – tells us about a choice. “You have two choices: go to school or get a job.”
  • SO – tells us the result or ending. “His family doesn’t have much money so Bill decided to quit school and get a job in a factory.”

Combine Sentences #2:  Subordinate Conjunctions

Subordinate conjunctions are a second way to join two sentences (or clauses). Subordinate conjunctions are similar to the coordinating conjunctions, but there are two differences.

  1. Subordinate conjunctions can go at the front of the sentence or in the middle.
  2. You have to change some words in one of the sentences after joining.

There are lots of words which can be used to join sentences with subordination. Here are some of them.

  • after, although, as, as if, because, before, even if, even though
  • for, if, if only, rather than, since, that, though, unless, until,
  • when, where, whereas, wherever, whether, which, while

Here are two examples of how sentences can be combined with a subordinate conjunction.

  • Choppy: The truck was making a loud noise. The motor had a problem.
  • Better:  The truck was making a loud noise because it had a motor problem.
  • Better:  Because the motor had a problem, the truck was making a loud noise.

Download Worksheets: Proofreading Exercises

Download the worksheets. The questions help ESL students improve writing and editing skills by learning how to combine sentences with coordinating conjunctions and subordinate conjunctions.


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