Skip to main content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Writers' Center

Eastern Washington University

Grammar, Punctuation, and Sentences

Overview

Writing is a lot like good music. Sometimes you need to mix it up. While short, concise sentences can pack a staccato punch, sometimes you need to add a little variety to the rhythm of your writing with compound and complex sentences.

Compound Sentences

A writer creates a compound sentence by joining two complete thoughts (meaning each thought has a subject and verb, and the thoughts could stand all on their own—otherwise known as “independent clauses”).

There are several ways to correctly punctuate a compound sentence (in order to avoid a comma splice or run-on sentence).

Option #1:

Complete Thought       + Comma        + FANBOYS          + Complete Thought
He came to pick her up               ,            but           she wasn't ready yet.

Side Note: The acronym FANBOYS stands for those short connecting words (technical term: coordinating conjunctions) that you use frequently: for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so.

Option #2:

Complete Thought + Semicolon + Complete Thought
He came to pick her up ; she wasn't ready yet.

Option #3:

Complete Thought + Semicolon + Conjunctive Adverb + Comma + Complete Thought
He came to pick her up ; however , she wasn't ready yet.

Side Note: Some other examples of conjunctive adverbs are however, moreover, therefore, thus, consequently, furthermore, and unfortunately.

Option #4:

You could also use a dash (which shows emphasis) or a colon in place of the semicolon as well.

Click HERE for a refresher on how to correctly use different punctuation marks like semicolons, dashes, and colons.

Complex Sentences

A writer creates a complex sentence by joining an independent clause (or “complete thought”) and a dependent clause (a.k.a. subordinate clause).

First, let’s define “dependent clause.” It cannot stand alone as a complete sentence (even though it may contain a subject and a verb), and it begins with a subordinating conjunction (because, when, while, after… and many more).

Side Note: If a dependent clause comes first, a comma should follow it. No comma needed if the independent clause comes first (unless you’re trying to show contrast between the two clauses).

For example...

Dependent Clause + Comma + Independent Clause
While I checked my text messages , she proofread our group project.
Independent Clause + NO Comma + Dependent Clause
She proofread our group project   while I checked my text messages.