Improve your writing – How to write with sentence variety

Want to get a 7 or higher on your written IELTS exam? Improve your sentence variety! Have a look:

Financial education is important nowadays. Students need to  learn about money. It should be taught in school.  This will make them independent. I agree with this idea.

Is this good writing? Although the opinion is clear, the writing is very monotone and boring. Avoid this! Try not to write boring sentences that are too similar and sound like you’re repeating yourself. Try writing a variety of sentences:

Having sound financial knowledge is important nowadays as we need to know about budgeting, saving and investing to be independent. Unfortunately, these essential skills are not taught in school. Therefore, I agree with the proposal that schools should teach financial education as part of their curriculum.

What are the differences? The first example:

  • Has 5 short and choppy sentences that are all of the same type: Simple sentences (S-V).
  • Lacks good detail and vocabulary that can add more to the opinion.
  • Has no smooth linking/transitional expressions between the sentences (no cohesive devices).

The second example:

  •  Has 3 sentences of different sentence types, lengths and beginnings. (Complex, Simple, Complex – I’ll explain below).
  • Sentences have a different beginning: Noun (gerund) phrase, adverb, adverb.
  • The lengths are different (long, short, long).

By working on your sentence variety, you will engage your reader/examiner, who will mark you higher if the variety works well and flows.

Here’s a checklist for creating sentence variety:

1. Vary the sentence structures and clause connections.

  • Simple sentences – one independent clause

ex.  Students need to learn about money.

ex.  Students need to learn about money, but it isn’t taught in school.

{independent clause}, but {independent clause}.

ex. Schools do not teach financial education to our children; as a result,  many young graduates today are in a lot of credit card and school loan debt.

{independent clause}; as a result, {independent clause}.

  • Complex sentences – 1 independent clause with 1 or more dependent clauses (dependent clauses begin with subordinating conjunctions, e.g. although, even though, whereas, while,if, unless, because, as, since, so/such … that, now that, once ,etc.)

ex. If  we want our children to become independent, they need to learn about budgeting and saving money.

{dependent clause}, {independent clause}.

  • Compound-complex sentences – 2 or more independent clauses and at least 1 dependent clause.

ex. Because I feel nervous, I don’t know what to write when I look at the question, so I just start to write without planning my essay.

{dependent clause}, {independent clause + dependent clause}, so {independent clause}.

2. Vary the length of your sentences. Mix short and long sentences. Sometimes a short sentence that follows some long sentences can have a dramatic impact on the meaning you intend. Too many long sentences make it difficult for the reader to follow. And too many short sentences make it too choppy and therefore unpleasant to read.

3. Use different ways to begin a sentence:

  • Begin with a dependent clause:

Although some people feel parents should teach their children about money, I believe financial education should be taught in school.

Hoping to pass their final exam, the students studied all  night. (“Hoping to pass their final exam” is an -ing participle phrase that refers to “the students”)

Driven with determination, the students studied hard all  night. (“Driven with determination” is a past-participle phrase that refers to “the students”)

Optimistic about the exam, the students were able to have a good night’s rest the night before. (“Optimistic about the exam” is an adjective phrase that refers to “the students”)

  • Begin with a prepositional phrase:

With the help of government subsidies, many first-time small business owners can grow successful businesses.

  • Begin with an infinitive:

To become truly independent, people must have some financial knowledge. 

As you practice your writing, why not revise an old essay and do a check list of sentence variety?



I'm an English teacher specializing in IELTS preparation - especially writing and reading. If you have any questions, please ask! You can also sign up for weekly tips and lessons for IELTS and English!

Posted in Grammar, IELTS Writing, Uncategorized, Writing Task 1, Writing Task 2 Tagged with: , , ,
4 comments on “Improve your writing – How to write with sentence variety
  1. googlepo says:

    I am so impressed I had to save it so I continously go back and read things I may have skimmed

  2. Md Tariqul Islam says:

    Can I exercise my written English

  3. Jaimin Patel says:

    Hello. I’m finding it really hard to write the essay in task 2. I can not think about the topics n I don’t know how to write on a particular essay. How can I improve? Would be helpful if you reply! Thanks Jaimin!

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