38Making Better Sentences
by Danny K. Howard, EAP Associate Director
Beginning writers always have the same problems writing paragraphs: they cannot write good sentences. I thought it would be a good idea to help students with this problem. Therefore, I decided to share this study tip.
There are 3 writing problems that I want to share with you today:
1) choppy writing
2) bad use of transition words
3) and bad ordering
To explain these problems, read this sample paragraph:
I visited Makuhari. I went there yesterday. I had a good time. I visited Makuhari Beach with my high school friends. They are my best friends. And I stayed there all day. I went to the beach there to go surfing. The waves were nice. So we had a good time. My day was very active. The weather was nice there. Also, I played with my friends at Inage Beach at night. I roasted marshmallows at Inage Beach at night. We sang songs. We wanted to stay all night. But it got a little cold. We went back home after midnight. I went shopping alone by the beach. It was at a shopping mall. It was huge. There were many people there. I bought clothes. I bought products. It was crowded. I enjoyed my time in Makuhari.
Can you see what is wrong with this paragraph? There are no grammar mistakes, but the sentences are not good. As you can see, there are many problems in this paper.
Problem #1: This paragraph has choppy writing.
Choppy writing means “short simple sentences”. In many cases, some of these sentences above should be connected with other ones. Choppy writing does not get a high grade at NIC.
Problem #2: This paragraph does not use good transition words.
At NIC and abroad, teachers don’t like the following:
1 Sentences that begin with “And”, “But”, “So” or “Also”
2 Too many sentences that begin with pronouns such as “I” “he,” “she,” or “it”.
Problem #3: The ordering of the sentences is not good.
First, the person writes that she went to Makuhari Beach→then to Inage Beach until midnight→ and then shopping. These events are not in order. Of course, the person probably went shopping before going to the Inage Beach at night.
Now, let’s look at how we can combine some sentences, use better transition words, and change the time order.
I visited Makuhari yesterday with some of my best friends from high school and had a good time. First, I visited Makuhari Beach with my friends and we stayed there all day. One thing I enjoyed when I went to the beach was surfing. The waves were very nice, so we had a good time. We spent a very active time at the beach because the weather was very pleasant there. Next, I went shopping alone by the beach at a huge shopping mall. There were many people there, and I bought lots of nice clothes and products. Later that night, I had fun with some friends at Inage Beach. We roasted marshmallows and sang songs. My friends and I wanted to stay all night, but it got a little cold. We went back home after midnight. In short, I enjoyed my time in Makuhari.
As you can see...
Problem #1 was improved because I connected some sentences to make them longer and better.
Problem #2 was changed. Sentences were combined to make them better. In general...at the beginning of sentences, use “However” instead of “But”. Instead of “And” or “Also” use “In addition” or “Moreover”.
Problem #3 was improved and I put the events in time order. Now the time spent at Inage Beach at night comes last in the time order.
When you write, think about avoiding these common problems. Good writing isn’t easy, but at NIC we give students a lot of practice to improve. Good luck on making your paragraphs better!