The Art of Compound Sentences -->

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The Art of Compound Sentences


By Laurel Walsh, Associate Director of Writing Services

Economy of expression should be easier for all of us in this era of text messages and tweets. All around us, people collapse major events into sound bites; short bursts of written communication have become a common part of our daily lives. Having a working understanding of parts of speech can accelerate our ability to distill information into informative and useful sentences.

Independent clauses (otherwise known as sentences) require both a subject and a verb. In academic writing, we rely primarily on declarative sentence patterns (a sentence that makes a statement). In order to create sentences that other people want to read, we need to learn how to build from that sentence plus verb structure to create sentences that provide the reader with information in a digestible and engaging manner. We cannot rely solely on short sentences to relay our information to the reader. Strong academic writing includes a variety of sentence lengths.

The vast majority of my students fall into one of two categories: commaholics or commaphobics. My commaholics tend to use commas excessively to create long and often confusing sentences. In the work of a commaholic, prepositional phrases are especially popular. It is not uncommon for a commaholic to have sentences that look quite like paragraphs. The others, the commaphobics, are fearful of comma usage, and these students avoid the comma at all cost. They’ll end a sentence after two words if it avoids employing a comma. Generally, this type of student draft feels like a police report: just the facts. There is a middle ground, but it requires that we become more comfortable with commas and semicolons. Using punctuation appropriately to create compound sentences is an essential scholastic composition skill.

There are two ways to create a compound sentence. The first way is to use a comma plus a conjunction. If you want an easy acronym to remember for the conjunctions, you can think of FANBOYS (For, And, Nor, But, Or, Yet, So). A comma plus a conjunction will allow you to join two related sentences.

I love teaching grammar and punctuation, but I know that some of my students find grammar and punctuation painful.

In the sentence above, I could have two full sentences. A comma plus a conjunction allows an author to create a longer sentence from two independent clauses. The other way to marry two related sentences is my punctuation boyfriend: the semicolon. The semicolon is a flirt (it winks at you), and it is a tool to show that two thoughts are connected without overtly saying so.

Scholarly writing depends on showing relationships between concepts; using semicolons is a wonderful tool in an academic writer’s toolkit.

Make sure to consider sentence length when you revise your drafts. Writing in a scholarly voice requires that we create effective and engaging sentences. These well-constructed sentences become persuasive paragraphs when we are able to vary our sentence length and use punctuation appropriately.


  1. Dembe et al. (2009) conducted an investigation that involved (n=12,686) that included men and women, 14 and 22 years old during this study there were 545 reported work related injuries by healthcare workers. There was no elevated risk of injury found among healthcare workers even in those who spent 12 or more hours per day or for those working night, evening or rotating shifts. The injury events that were observed among those employees engaged in OT and long-hour (>60 h per week) schedules at significant higher risk of injury at (HR 2.86). MOT predisposes one to injury that is not limited to psychiatric wards but to nonpsychiatric services in healthcare as well by spending time working longer hours (>40 hours per week) or more than 80 hours per two weeks
    (Golden, & Jorgensen, 2002)

  2. when? How long to I have to wait for my sentence to come back?

    1. Thanks for sharing your writing with us! In your first sentence, you're joining two complete ideas (one starting wtih "Dembe et al. (2009) conducted..." and the other with "There were 545 reported..." ). So, you'll need to add in one of the FANBOYS that Laurel discussed, along with a comma, to join those two ideas together.

      We'd be happy to give you some additional feedback on these sentences if you email us at using your email address. Or, if you want more immediate feedback on your punctuation, grammar, and mechanics, try using Grammarly, which is available from the big green button on