In Topic 4 of Unit 7, you learned about how words, phrases, and clauses contribute to an argument. In this guide, we’ll expand on that. We’ll go from looking at parts of sentences to looking at sentences as a whole.
First, let’s look at what “sentence development” even means. Before attempting to incorporate it into argument writing and development, it is important to have a good understanding of the concept. You’ve most likely used it in your writing before, but haven’t called it “sentence development.” As you read further, you will see familiar concepts that will aid you in thoroughly understanding and learning from this guide.
Clauses and sentences can be structured in a variety of ways. Here are the main four ways, with examples of each.
Simple sentence: contains only one independent clause, or complete thought.
Compound sentence: contains two or more independent clauses joined by a coordinating conjunction (like for, and, nor, but, or, yet, so). The independent clauses can be related or unrelated in meaning and express two different ideas.
Example: I went to the store, but I didn't buy anything.
AP Lang-related example: The protagonist's journey illustrates the struggles of growing up, and serves as an exploration of self-discovery.
Complex sentence: contains one independent clause and at least one dependent clause. The dependent clause(s) provide additional information to the independent clause, adding detail and nuance to the sentence.
Example: Although I was exhausted, I stayed up late to finish the project.
AP Lang-related example: Though Hamlet is often seen as indecisive and procrastinating, his actions ultimately reveal a determined and strategic character.
Compound-complex sentence: contains two or more independent clauses and at least one dependent clause. The independent clauses are joined by a coordinating conjunction, while the dependent clauses provide additional information to the sentence.
Example: I went to the store, but I didn't buy anything because I had no money.
AP Lang-related example: Though Gatsby had achieved the American Dream, his material wealth and success could not bring him the love and acceptance he yearned for, ultimately leading to his tragic downfall.
You’ve probably written sentences that follow all four of these structures. Have you ever actively paid attention to how they impact the tone of your writing though? For example, shorter sentences can create a more direct and urgent tone while longer sentences can create a more contemplative and poetic tone. You’ll read more on how this impacts your argument in the next section.
Sentences can also be structured in other ways, such as with active and passive voice, parallel structures, and rhetorical questions. Let’s define and look at examples of these development methods.
Active voice: a sentence structure in which the subject of the sentence performs the action stated in the verb.
Passive voice: a sentence structure in which the subject of the sentence does not perform the action stated in the verb
Parallel structures: sentences or phrases that use the same pattern of words to express similar ideas.
Anaphora is a method of parallelism that involves the repetition of a phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences.
Rhetorical questions: questions asked to make a point, rather than to get an answer. They are used to emphasize a point or to make the reader think.
Additionally, sentences can be structured to emphasize a specific idea. For example, a sentence can be structured to emphasize a particular word or phrase by placing it at the beginning or end of the sentence, or by using italics, bold letters, or quotation marks ("").
Sentence development is an important part of any argument. Sentences that are well-structured and use the right words and phrases can help to explain an idea and make it more persuasive. On the other hand, sentences that are poorly structured or contain irrelevant words can make an argument confusing and difficult to understand. Take a look at the following example.
Say your argument is about the burden of wealth illustrated in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.
Poor sentence development may look like “Gatsby pursues wealth and status. It doesn't work out. He fails and is disillusioned.”
Good sentence development, on the other hand, may look like “The Great Gatsby illustrates how wealth can be a double-edged sword. While it provides access to the luxuries of life, it can also create a sense of isolation, as Jay Gatsby is painfully aware.”
Overall, sentence development is an important part of any argument, as it can make an idea easier to understand and more convincing.
You’ve learned what sentence development is and saw just how much of an impact it can make on your writing quality. Now, how exactly do you implement good sentence development to improve your essay writing?
To observe sentence development, take a look at your writing and try to find any patterns in the sentences. You could look at old essays you’ve written in your AP English Lang class, practice FRQs, etc. If your writing is on paper, grab highlighters/pens to annotate. If typed, make a copy of the essay and go into commenting/suggesting mode (depending on what software you use) to read through your writing and annotate. You can even ask someone else to read through your writing and provide feedback to help identify areas where sentence development could be improved.
Think about how each sentence connects to the one before and after it. See if there is an equal balance between parallelism and repetition, and check out if there are any transitions missing that could throw off the flow of the piece. Make sure the length and order of the sentences makes sense for the topic. Also, keep an eye out for changes in verb tense or point of view - this will help you understand how each sentence affects the whole.
In summary, here are questions to ask yourself
Are there any patterns in the sentences in terms of structure or length?
How do each of the individual sentences connect to one another?
Is there an equal balance between parallelism and repetition?
Are there any transitions missing that could disrupt the flow of your writing?
Does the length and order of the sentences make sense for the topic?
Are there any shifts in verb tense or point of view?
Once you've identified sentences to work on, move on to the actual editing process. Remember the methods of sentence development discussed earlier and see if you can use any of them while revising sentences that need improvement. You can even challenge yourself to use all of them, to make sure you fully understand the definitions and uses of each method.
When you've finished editing, take a moment to look at the revised writing. See how much better it flows and how well it conveys your argument. Notice any changes in sentence structure or clarity and pay attention to any shifts in verb tense or point of view that contribute to the overall effect of the piece. Taking a few minutes to observe the changes made in the editing process can help you understand how each sentence fits into the larger writing.
Now that you can use advanced sentence development techniques, keep them in mind while writing future essays. As you write, be active in implementing these techniques. Be mindful of whether each sentence is the best possible thing you can think of to express your idea.
Using strong, precise language means choosing words that are most effective and appropriate to convey the intended meaning. Avoiding repetition or irrelevant information helps to keep the writing focused and prevents it from becoming too verbose. Varying sentence lengths and structures can help to keep the writing interesting and engaging by adding rhythm and interest to the text. Finally, using transition words or phrases such as “however,” “in addition,” or “consequently” can help to connect ideas and build bridges between thoughts in the essay, making the essay flow better and easier to understand.
Sentence development is an important part of argument writing, as it can help to develop an idea and make it more persuasive. There are various aspects of sentence development, such as active and passive voice, parallel structures, and rhetorical questions. To implement this in your own writing, observe and analyze your sentences for any patterns or shifts, brainstorm edits using the sentence development methods, and finally, be mindful of the techniques while you write future essays.
This is the final part of Unit 7. Hopefully, by now, you have gone through each of our guides and have a good understanding of how to craft a successful argument. See you in Unit 8!