If your writing is dull, we'll help you to create a more compelling message
In the modern economy, written communication skills are more important than ever. That's especially true if your career is in a field where you're expected to write reports, communicate data to clients, or create presentations. Even the seemingly simple act of emailing colleagues, clients, and supervisors relies on your ability to effectively get your message across with the written - or typed - word. However, compelling writing requires an understanding of the four types of sentences in English communication.
In this post, we'll explain why sentence variety is so important, explore the four types of sentences, provide examples of each type, and offer some helpful tips that you can use to determine when to use each type of sentence to convey your message.
Why does sentence variety matter?
Written communication can be a powerful form of messaging - but it can also be extremely boring when it lacks variety. When you write a paragraph filled with sentences that all contain the same structure, length, and tone, readers can lose interest quickly and start to skim your message rather than reading each word and sentence. Repeatedly using the same types of sentences can prevent your writing from achieving the liveliness and rhythm needed to fully engage the reader.
Alternatively, writers who introduce variety into their work will have an easier time engaging their audience. But how do you achieve that variety? There are several ways to accomplish that goal:
Vary the length of your sentences. If each sentence in a paragraph has the same structure and similar word counts, the reader may find the writing dull and lifeless.
Try to start sentences with different words to provide a sense of freshness. If you often start sentences with words like “the,” “this,” or “I,” focus on alternative openings that add variety to your narrative.
Use a mix of different sentence types, to keep the message fresh and engaging and eliminate monotony.
What are the four types of sentences?
There are four primary types of sentence used in the English language, categorized by their purpose. These four sentence types are declarative, imperative, exclamative, and interrogative sentences. Chances are that you learned about them in school at some point, since they are part of the school curriculum across the US. However, it's not uncommon for those early life lessons to fade from memory as the years roll by. That's why it never hurts to refresh that knowledge!
Let's examine each of these sentence types, to see how they should be used in your writing:
The declarative sentence can best be understood as a statement. It's a declaration designed to impart knowledge to the reader. Most written communication consists of declarative sentences that deliver information to the reader. In fact, if you go back and read the early paragraphs in this post, you'll quickly realize that most of the sentences are declarative. You'll also notice that these types of sentences are usually constructed around one subject and one verb, in that order. They are also usually punctuated with a period at the end of the sentence.
Imperative sentences can be thought of as commands that tell you to perform a certain task or refrain from an activity. Unlike the declarative sentence, an imperative doesn't even need a subject in its structure. That's because most imperatives are directed at the reader. As a result, they often include just a verb or a verb with an object. For example, “Stop” or “Don't go there.” Those are simple imperative sentences that tell the reader or listener not to do something.
These sentences can be either positive or negative in tone and typically end with either a simple period or an exclamation point. However, don't assume that a sentence that ends with an exclamation point is always an imperative. If that sentence also contains a sense of surprise or other emotion, then it just might be an example of the exclamatory sentence instead - which just so happens to be the next sentence type we'll examine.
This is a type of sentence that everyone uses in text messages, usually to express a strong emotion or indicate that they're surprised. These sentences always end with an exclamation point, to drive home that emotional message. These sentences often use a common structure, beginning with pronouns like “what” or “how” and then including an adjective and noun or another object. It's also important to recognize that the exclamatory sentence is rarely used in formal business writing - for obvious reasons.
It's important to note, though, that these types of sentences don't need to begin with those words, since any sentence that is designed to express emotion can qualify as an exclamatory sentence. In the same manner, it's possible for sentences to end with an exclamation point and not be exclamatory. For example, an imperative that is delivered with an exclamation point continues to be an imperative.
The interrogative sentence should be familiar to you too. These sentences are always followed by a question mark, because they're asking for information. They also have a simple structure that you'll recognize instantly. They often begin with words like who, what, when, where, why, and how, and include at least a subject and verb. For example:
“Why did you punch out before the end of your shift?”
“Would you like fries with that?”
“Where did my desk go?”
Types of sentences: examples
Now that you understand the different types of sentences that you need to use in your writing, let's review some other examples to see how they can help you add variety to your prose.
“What a quarter! How many of you thought that we would end the fourth quarter with results that outpaced the first nine months of this year? Team, take a bow. You've earned it.”
Did you catch that? This example included all four of those sentence types. It began with an exclamatory sentence expressing surprise, before continuing with an interrogative, an imperative, and a declarative sentence, in that order. It's a short, sweet message that uses sentence variety to express pride in the team's achievement. Let's try one more.
“The entire management team is thrilled to name Jenna Smith as September's Employee of the Month. Be honest, who here didn't see that coming a mile away after the numbers she put on the board over the last few months? Be sure to offer your congratulations the next time you see her. Well done!”
Tips to help you know when to use different sentence types
Of course, we would be remiss if we failed to provide you with some simple and easy-to-remember tips on how to remember when to use these different types of sentences. Don't worry; there are only a few tricks to remember if you want to master their use, so we'll be brief.
Use declarative sentences whenever you need to convey information to others or make a simple statement. In other words, anytime you need to make a declaration, you need a declarative sentence.
The imperative sentence can be thought of as a command, or as instructions. Use these sentences any time you need to provide training, clear instructions, or other types of communication that require others to take specific actions.
Exclamatory sentences should be used sparingly, since they are not typically considered formal or professional ways to communicate. However, rules are made to be stretched when necessary, and that's true of this informal sentence type too. Even within a business setting, use of an exclamatory sentence can be highly effective. For example, if you're sending an urgent email that requires your colleagues' immediate attention, feel free to include an exclamatory subject line like “Urgent!”
Interrogatives are typically used when your sentence requires a response. These sentences can be useful for business communications with superiors, subordinates, and clients. If you need them to reply to you with information of any kind, use interrogative sentences. Just don't forget to include the question mark and some simple instructions they can follow to provide the information you need.
Add variety to your writing!
Effective communication requires not only efficient use of words, sentences, and paragraphs, but a creative approach that introduces variety into your writing style. By learning more about these different types of sentences, and experimenting with their usage in your written communication, you can develop your writing skills and enhance your value as an employee. So, the next time you sit down to write a memo, send out a letter to a client, or just touch base with a loved one, remember that variety truly is the spice of life - even when it comes to writing!
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