Sentence complexity

Writing Tips >> Sentence Complexity

Scientific writers should avoid writing in a succession of short simple sentences as this results in a piece of writing that reads like a list and lacks logical flow. This is because simple sentences do not effectively show the relationship between ideas as there is a lack transitional phrases to connect them and only a limited amount of information can be included in each one. Further, writing simple sentences may result in repetition of words and information to make the sentences grammatically correct. However, to increase interest and efficiency, the writer should combine short sentences to create more complex structures.

Example

The first example shows a series of short, simple sentences which involve repetition of key words and structures.

Optical fibres are made of silica glass. Optical fibres are a channel for transmitting light and are widely used in communication systems. Optical fibres allow long distance transmission at high bandwidth. Signals travel along optical fibres with a small amount of loss. Signals travel along metal wires slowly with more loss. Optical fibres have become essential to high-speed communication.

 

The example below shows the same information written using complex structures with subordinate clauses to increase readability. The key words that help to connect the ideas have been highlighted.

Optical fibres, which are made of silica glass are widely used in communication systems. This is due to their ability to transmit signals at high speed over long distances with less loss than metal wires. Because of their superior performance, optical fibres have been crucial in the development of high-speed communication, such as broadband internet services.

Note: There are other possible ways of joining these sentences.

However, too many subordinate structures in a sentence may be difficult to read as the main subject may become unclear.  The writer should therefore, avoid including too much information and focus on one idea per sentence. To enhance readability, the writer should aim to include a variety of sentence structures (Simple, Complex, Compound, Complex-Compound) and lengths. A further strategy to add interest is to avoid beginning each sentence in a similar way and vary between using connecting words, articles and pronouns.

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