Compound Sentences

And Their Arch Nemesis, the Comma Splice

Have you ever had such a great idea that you just couldn’t stop raving about it? The words come pouring out of your mouth, with your voice barely able to keep up with your brain. The excitement bubbles up, and you couldn’t stop the verbal outpour even if you wanted to. Yeah, that’s a good feeling. That’s kind of how compound sentences work. You’ve got this one sentence that’s so great, and you know what would make it even better? Yes! A second sentence!

Okay, maybe there’s a little more to a compound sentence than just two sentences smashed together. Let’s explore these sentence structures a little more thoroughly. Here’s a fancy-shmancy definition of a compound sentence structure:

A compound sentence is a combination of two independent clauses, both of which focus on the same idea or topic. Each independent clause contains its own subject and predicate, and they’re usually joined by a coordinating conjunction. There are no dependent clauses within this sentence structure.

Whoa. That’s a lot of terminology. Don’t be intimidated, though! We can work through this together.

 

The Building Blocks of Compound Sentences

First, it’s important to know what an independent clause is. Basically, she’s a strong, independent clause who don’t need no man… Oh, wait. That’s not right. Let’s try that again.

An independent clause is a group of words that can stand alone as its own complete sentence. But, it’s not your average group of words. There’s a specific type of words that need to show up in every independent clause. That’s where the subject and predicate come in. A subject is the noun of the sentence (who, or what, the sentence is all about), and the predicate is what the subject does. At its most basic, a predicate is a verb.

What do these independent clauses look like, though? Here are some examples to help you better understand. Pay close attention to the subject and predicate of each:

  • Abby loves her new puppy.
  • The high school football team is undefeated.
  • Write from the Heart Classes has the best writing coaches ever. (*wink wink*)
  • Independent clauses stand alone as complete sentences.

In contrast, a dependent clause is a group of words containing a subject and a predicate, but it doesn’t make a complete sentence. It’s completely dependent on an independent clause to become a complete and grammatically-correct sentence. That’s a lesson for another day, though. Just know that if it’s not an independent clause, it doesn’t belong in a compound sentence.

 

Strategies for Structuring Compound Sentences

Using a Semi-Colon

To turn these independent clauses into a compound sentence, we can use something as simple as a semi-colon. It’s like sentence glue. By placing it between each independent clause, we’ll create a grammatically correct compound sentence. Check out some examples:

  • I perused the pages of my Bible; inspiration soon crept into my consciousness.
  • Soda has a lot of sugar; you should avoid consuming too much.
  • There’s nothing like a fresh notebook and new pen; having them makes me want to write something.
  • I’m getting so old; why can’t time slow down?

Notice that these sentences all have another element from our definition: each independent clause within the compound sentence focuses on the same topic or idea. You wouldn’t want a compound sentence where the clauses weren’t related; that’d be confusing. Keep that in mind as you write.

Using a Coordinating Conjunction and a Comma

Going back to our definition of a compound sentence, there’s also a little something called a coordinating conjunction. That’s a big ol’ name for a group of super small words. Seriously. Each coordinating conjunction is three letters long or less. And, there are only seven of them.

To remember all of our coordinating conjunctions, we can use the acronym, FANBOYS. They’re like fangirls, but they tend to keep their composure around famous singers and bands a little better. Maybe not…

They’re super handy for our compound sentences, though! Here’s a breakdown of our coordinating conjunctions:

F – For
A – And
N – Nor
B – But
O – Or
Y – Yet
S – So

Yep. That’s all of ’em.

But, how do these help us create compound sentences? Think of them like the zipper on a backpack, keeping everything from falling out behind you. And what is a zipper without that little tabby-thing to grab and pull? You’d never get that zipper opened or closed without it, just like you can’t have a compound sentence without a comma. When you write out your compound sentence, that comma needs to follow directly after the first independent clause. Then comes the coordinating conjunction, followed by the second independent clause. It’s like a sentence structure conga line (da-da, da-da, da-DA!)

Here are some examples of compound sentences using those coordinating conjunctions:

  • I filled the blender with fruit, and I watched as the blade pulverized it into a smoothie.
  • I woke up late, but I still managed to catch my bus to school.
  • You can read a book, or you can work on your science homework.

Compound sentences… they’re a thing of beauty, aren’t they?

 

Comma Splices: One of Grammar’s Greatest Enemies

We love commas. They’re so handy! We can use them to separate clauses in complex sentence, to insert an appositive or an interjection, or even to indicate a natural pause where we can take a breath while we read. They’re like little superheroes of the sentence structure world. But, sometimes heroes fall. And they become not-so-hero-ish.

Imagine you’re writing a compound sentence, and you decide to split up those independent clauses using a comma. But, if you forget to add in a coordinating conjunction, you get something like this:

Commas are a great tool, you shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

In that sentence, we’ve got two independent clauses:

  1. Commas are a great tool.
  2. You shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

But, we don’t have a coordinating conjunction. We’re missing a major component of our sentence structure conga line!

To make that sentence correct, we’ve got to add in one of our FANBOYS:

Commas are a great tool, but you shouldn’t use them to separate two independent clauses.

Those coordinating conjunctions help Super Comma complete its task of separating those two independent clauses correctly; make sure you don’t leave it out.

 

Want to Practice Your Skills?

Here are a few sentences that contain commas, but some of them need a coordinating conjunction! Find the sentences with two independent clauses, and add in a coordinating conjunction to make them correct.

 

  1. Chocolate is my favorite, I’ll eat vanilla if that’s the only option.
  2. Before we went to the store, we ate a huge breakfast.
  3. I enjoy writing fictional stories, I’m good at academic essays.
  4. Watching too much TV will rot your brain, you should read a book instead.
  5. Although the hero was good at his job, he longed for a normal family.

 

Answers: #1, 3, and 4 all contained comma splices.

 

 

 

 

 Author: Stephanie Constantino

Mrs. Constantino - Compound SentencesMrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style. If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coaches, send an email to inquiry@writefromtheheartclasses.com.

Determining an Audience for your Essay

What is an Audience?

An audience is anyone who will read your essay. A target audience is the person or group of people you’d like to read your essay.

Why do I Need to Determine an Audience for my Essay?

You might think to yourself, “Only my parents will read this,” or “My teacher will be the only one who ever looks at this.” Why should you care about identifying an audience? Whether or not you’ve consciously thought about it, you’ve always been speaking and writing for a specific group of people.

Think about this: would you talk the same way in an interview as you would in a text message? Do you speak to your teachers differently from how you’d talk to your siblings? Are you going to speak differently when giving a public speech from just chatting with a neighbor? Chances are, the answer is “yes.” But, what’s the difference?

It’s the audience. Who you’re speaking to matters, as well as when you’re writing. However, not every piece of writing can be written for everyone. By nailing down a target audience, you can figure out what kind of purpose, format, and tone would be most appropriate.

Audience: Once Upon a Time...

Where Should I Start?

To narrow down your target audience, use the following questions to help you out:

 

Is this writing for…

  • … young children?
  • … peers?
  • … adults?
  • … males?
  • … females?

Am I creating an argument…

  • … for or against something?
  • … on the same side as my audience?
  • … on the opposing side of my audience?

Is this writing for…

  • … friends and family?
  • … experts?
  • … a person with authority?
  • … someone with no knowledge of the topic?

Do I need to start with an introduction?

  • Could I start with a personal story?
  • Does my opening need to be more formal?
  • Should my text be in first-person or third-person point of view?

What do my targeted readers have in common?

  • Do they have any common interests?
  • What political, social, or religious backgrounds might affect how they perceive my writing?
  • Do they have similar backgrounds?
  • What does my audience know of technical terms I plan to use?
  • Will the audience need explanation or definitions in order to understand my writing?

What kind of format should I use?

  • Essay?
  • Article?
  • Report?
  • Journal?
  • Letter?
  • Email?

Does my writing need…Audience: "Write Like it Matters and It Will."

  • a table of contents?
  • a references page?
  • a title page?
  • page numbers?
  • headings?
  • graphs, charts, or illustrations?

Is this writing for a grade?

  • Have I reviewed the rubric to ensure I know the requirements?
  • Do I completely understand the prompt? Or do I need clarifications on anything?
  • Are any phrases or words too conversational for an academic tone?

Can I have More than One Audience?

It’s completely possible to have more than one audience for the same piece of writing. As you identify them, keep a running list. That way, they are always in front of you as write.

The Finished Product

Once you’ve finished your essay, you may worry that it’s not tailored perfectly for your audience. To check, reread your essay as a reader, not a writer. That way, you can get a little better insight into how effective your essay is. But, how can you read something as someone other than yourself, though?

  1. Try taking a break. By getting some space and time between you and your essay, you can come back to it with a fresh eye for things.
  2. Create a reverse outline. To start, look over your essay, and create an outline based on what you’ve written. Next, ask yourself if the pieces of your essay give the message you were hoping for and if everything is in a logical order.
  3. Read it out loud. That’s right! Don’t be afraid to sound foolish. Reading your essay out loud will let you hear all those awkward phrases, incomplete thoughts, and places where the word choice just isn’t right.

These techniques can help you craft your essay and writing style perfectly to just about any audience you can think of. Think about it this way: the more work you do, the less your audience will have to. That means you’ll have one happy professor on your hands!

 

 

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino

Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.

 

 

 

Expository Essay Thesis Builder

A thesis is perhaps the most important sentence in an entire essay. It introduces the topic, gives your stance, and briefly previews the main topics in an essay. Using the following checklist, you can create the perfect thesis every time:

  • Does it answer the question posed by the writing prompt?
  • Does it introduce your topic?
  • Does it preview your three main points?
  • Does the point preview match the order of the body paragraphs?
  • If you looked at it by itself (with no other writing around it), does it still make sense?

Be sure to ask yourself these questions as you write your thesis. Here is a guide to help you create a perfect thesis for your expository paper:

 

Prompt: Everyone, at some point in life, will experience stress. Stress can actually have a negative effect on your health, so it’s important to manage it effectively. What are three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life?

Topic: Reducing Stress in Your Life

Time to build our thesis! But, where do we start?

First, introduce the topic in a way that answers the prompt: Three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life are…

 

Next, create your three main points.

This is where your brainstorming skills will come in handy. Come up with a number of ideas, and choose your best three!

  1. Meditating
  2. Reading
  3. Exercising
  4. Going on vacation
  5. Playing a game
  6. Talking about the problem
  7. Listening to music.
  8. Asking someone for help.

 

Finally, we’ll connect the dots between the response to the prompt and your top three ideas. To do this, combine it all into one sentence:

Three ways to reduce stress in a person’s life are meditating, exercising, and talking about the problem.

 

Let’s double-check our list of questions to make sure we’re on track with this thesis.

  • Does the thesis answer the question in the prompt? Yes!
  • Does it introduce the topic? Yes!
  • Does it preview the three main points? Yes!
  • When writing the essay, the first paragraph will be about meditating, the second will be about exercising, and the third will be about talking about the problem.
  • Does it make sense by itself? Yes!

Excellent! Our thesis is right on target.

 

It’s Your Turn to Create a Thesis!

Use this blank template to help create the perfect thesis for your next essay.

 

Prompt:

Topic:

First, introduce the topic in a way that answers the prompt:

 

Next, create your three main points:

Finally, combine it all into one sentence:

 

Does it answer the question in the prompt?

Does it introduce the topic?

Does it preview the three main points?

When writing the essay, the first body paragraph will be about ______________, the second paragraph will be about _____________, and the third will be about ___________________.

Does it make sense by itself?

 

 

 

 

Written by Stephanie Constantino
Mrs. C is a teacher, writer, and stay-at-home mommy extraordinaire. She loves pushing students to the boundaries of their writing potential through using a fun and encouraging teaching style.  If you’d like the opportunity to work with Mrs. Constantino, or any of the amazing Write from the Heart coachescheck out our classes here, or contact us.