If you are looking to spice up your writing or public speaking and hold other people's attention, use the following sentence variety examples as a model. Adding variety to your speech or writing keeps people interested and can keep the emphasis where you want it.
The sentence, that is, a statement or question consisting of a subject, verb and object, is the basic building block of written English. The various types of English sentence can be usefully divided in two ways.
There are four basic types of sentences in English: declarative, interrogative, exclamatory, and imperative. Each of these kinds of sentences perform a different function and allow us to express ourselves clearly.
Sentences vary by structure as well as by function. Sentence structure is determined by the organization of dependent and independent clauses. The standard structures are simple, compound, complex, and compound-complex.
Now that you know the different functions and structures that a sentence can have, you need to know how to combine them to have the impact you are looking for. For maximum impact, it is important to recognize the different effects that sentence structures can have.
It is not true that simple sentences lack the depth of complex sentences, nor that complex sentences are too complicated and simple sentences more impactful. For proof, see the combination of sentence structures in one of the greatest pieces of American oratory:
"And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.
I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.'
I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.
I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.
I have a dream today!"
In his iconic "I Have a Dream" speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. begins with a complex sentence, joining the dependent clause "And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow," with the independent clause "I still have a dream." He continues with complex and compound-complex sentences expressing powerful sentiments, but sums up with a potent, simple exclamatory: "I have a dream today!" In doing so, he unites the textual depth of complex sentence structure with the straightforward impact of a simple declaration.
Interrogative sentences and rhetorical questions feature prominently in good speaking and writing. A skilled writer will balance the questions they wish to ask the reader with clear statements about the foundation and stakes of those questions. In his Nobel Prize address, the novelist William Faulkner used this combination to make his audience consider nuclear war:
"Our tragedy today is a general and universal physical fear so long sustained by now that we can even bear it. There are no longer problems of the spirit. There is only the question. When will I be blown up?"
In Faulkner's speech, we see that interrogative sentences are not 'weaker' or less certain than declaratory ones. Rather, he begins by declaring the stakes of the sentence - the universal fear of nuclear Armageddon - then uses a rhetorical question to make it personal.
Imperative and exclamatory sentences are similar in the sense that both state urgent and intense action. Using them together can lead to even greater intensity, particularly when contrasted with a declaratory indicating the failure of the stated action. Take this excerpt from George Orwell's "The Lion and the Unicorn"
"After eight months of vaguely wondering what the war was about, the people suddenly knew what they had got to do: first, to get the army away from Dunkirk, and secondly to prevent invasion. It was like the awakening of a giant. Quick! Danger! The Philistines be upon thee, Samson! And then the swift unanimous action - and, then, alas, the prompt relapse into sleep."
In "It was like the awakening of a giant," Orwell uses a simple declaratory to set the stage for what follows. The imperatives and exclamations which follow increase the reader's attention and engagement, then, just as the author intended, the reader falls into disappointment in the final dependent clause.
Not every use of English prose is a Nobel Prize speech or wartime essay. The combination of multiple sentence structures is a fundamental part of day to day communication. Follow these three rules to make sure all your daily speaking and writing is making full use of the variety of English sentences.
There are many ways to vary your sentences; play with variation until you are happy with your speech or writing.