gmat online exam cheating

Five powerful sentence structures to use in your GMAT writing test

In this tutorial, you will learn:
1. How to break overly-complex sentences down.
2. Why you should put the main point at the beginning of a sentence.
3. How to create a satisfying rhythm in a persuasive sentence.

Informative sentences

1. Informative sentences can be extremely simple.
2. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that a sentence is better, the more complicated it is.
3. One useful tactic to employ is to see whether long and complicated sentences can be made better by breaking them down into a number of shorter sentences.

Here is an example of quite a complicated sentence:

“I lived in France for many years, after having been born in India, after which (following a short spell in Belgium) I eventually moved to live with my wife’s family in England, taking up a job as a receptionist.”

What is wrong with this sentence?
1. There is no need for all this information to be packed into one sentence.
2. It is confusingly organized.

Breaking down sentences

Can we break this sentence down? Let’s look at it again.

“I lived in France for many years, after having been born in India, after which (following a short spell in Belgium) I eventually moved to live with my wife’s family in England, taking up a job as a receptionist.”

Now let’s break it down. In order to do that, we need to put events in a more natural order.

“I was born in India. Then I lived in France for many years. I later moved briefly to Belgium. Finally, I moved to England. There I lived with my wife’s family, and took up a job as a receptionist.”

Here is an example of quite a complicated sentence:

“For example in France, nuclear power is widespread, furthermore practically all these power stations are situated along the northern coast, they were built in the 70s, also, if there was a melt down, it would undoubtedly impact the UK too, furthermore nuclear power stations are not an issue with the French public.”

Now let’s break it down. In order to do that, we need to put events in a more natural order.

“For example in France, nuclear power is widespread and welcomed by the public, furthermore practically all these power stations were built in the 70s along the northern coast, so if there were a melt down, it would undoubtedly impact the UK.”

So sometimes a long and complicated sentence is better when broken down into shorter, clearer sentences.

Are many shorter sentences always better than one longer one?

No. Let’s consider an example.

“Barry woke up. Then he got out of bed. Then he put on the television. Then he went to make himself a cup of tea. After that he read the paper. “

Here we have the opposite problem.

The sentence structure is repetitive and banal. It also makes a slow and leisurely process seem like a staccato series of events.

Obviously, we could make this into a single sentence simply by putting the short sentences together:

“Barry woke up, then he got out of bed, then he put on the television, then he went to make himself a cup of tea, and after that he read the paper.”

Does this help?

Not really.

We still have the same problems – repetition, staccato rhythm – but now in a single sentence.

Can we capture both the whole process and its individual aspects?

“Barry was getting up: he got out of bed, put on the television, went to make himself a cup of tea, and then he read the paper.”

In this version, all the individual events are gathered together as aspects or illustrations of one larger process.

A colon can mark out the first part of a statement as the general message of the sentence, followed by detailed examples.

Persuasive sentences

Not all sentences are intended to inform.

Some are meant to persuade the reader of an argument.

Remember our three main criteria for powerful sentences: they should be clear, precise, and concise.

This criteria also applies to persuasive sentences.

The ordering of persuasive sentences is important. Make sure your main point appears first.

Here is an example of a poorly ordered persuasive sentence.

“Taking into account a declining population, and also poor weather conditions, which have affected harvests, agricultural production in Britain has performed strongly in recent years.”

What is wrong with this sentence structure?

The main point is obscured.

It is preceded by the qualifications which should follow it.

Can we improve this sentence? Let’s try again.

What is the main point? Give it a sentence all to itself.

“Agricultural production in Britain has performed strongly in recent years, if one takes into account a declining population, and also poor weather conditions, which have affected harvests.”

Here is another example of a poorly ordered persuasive sentence.

“Even if some might point to biological differences or the authority of tradition, sexual equality is a human right, as has been increasingly, recognized across the world.”

Here the main point is buried in the middle of the sentence. So the reader has to hunt for it.

Can we reorganize this sentence?

Let’s try to find the main point, and put that first.

“Sexual equality is a human right. This has been increasingly recognized across the world, despite arguments against it based on biological differences or the authority of tradition.”

Now the main argument is clearly stated at the outset, and the qualifications follow it, rather than crowding it and obscuring it.

Rhythm in sentences

Sometimes the presence of a clear pattern or rhythm can help to make a sentence more persuasive.

Here is an example of a sentence which is trying to be persuasive, but which lacks any clear pattern or rhythm.

The free kick taken by Ronaldo, and also Zico’s brilliant dribbling, as well as the impressive headers of Pelé, all illustrate why Brazil has the world’s finest football team.

Here, the examples all appear as a rather miscellaneous list. Can they be given more pattern and structure?

Let’s pattern that more clearly and more rhythmically:

Ronaldo’s free kick, Zico’s brilliant dribbling, Pelé’s impressive headers: all illustrate Brazil’s world supremacy in football.

Why is the second sentence more powerful than the first?

Each of the sub-clauses in the first part of the sentence begins with a proper name, followed by the particular skill attributed to that player.

This gives the first part of the sentence a rhythm.

A rhythm is simply a repeated pattern.

Audio tutorial

Listen to the podcast here:

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