The EFC Writer – Complex and Compound Sentences


Welcome to the EFC Writer—a series of quick, easily digestible writing tips based on some stuff EFC Services editor Melissa Ruiz is seriously annoyed you’re still doing (or not doing, as the case may be).


TODAY’S TOPIC: Complex and Compound Sentences

We’ve already established that good writing utilizes more than just simple sentences (check out my post HERE to learn more). Now let’s chat a bit about how to polish your prose. First up, compound sentences:

COMPOUND SENTENCES are just two simple sentences stuck together. Use either a semicolon or a conjunction (and, or, nor, but, yet, for, so), and voila! Instant sentence upgrade! Let’s try it!

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.”  COMPOUND: “Clara is cool, but I like Rose better.” COMPOUND: “Clara is cool; I like Rose better.”  Still totally easy! Be careful, though—hooking too many simple sentences together will make your prose sound like it was written by a three-year-old.

COMPLEX SENTENCES hook a simple sentence (an independent clause) to at least one dependent clause (a dependent clause is a group of words that doesn’t form a sentence on its own). Use words like although, while, that, who, or because to link your clauses. Ready to give it a go?

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.” COMPLEX: “Although Clara is cool, I like Rose better.”

SIMPLE: “Clara is cool. I like Rose better.” COMPLEX: “I like Rose better because the Bad Wolf story arc is awesome.”

Can you identify the different clauses? In the first example, “I like Rose better” is the simple sentence and “although Clara is cool” is the dependent clause. The comma is just another added bonus to help you figure things out. Nice, right? In the second sentence the word “because” links the two clauses to form a complex sentence.

So. Take some deep breaths. You’ve probably been writing sentences like these forever . . . all I’ve done is given you some fancy grammar lingo so you can impress your friends at parties (because everybody’s impressed by grammar, right? RIGHT?!). Ahem. Anyway. Take a look at some of your own writing; see if you can level up your simple sentences!

FOR BONUS POINTS: Can you figure out how to write a compound/complex sentence?


According to Lara M. Robbins, “The most effective way to use a compound sentence is to juxtapose your thoughts to show contrast or to equate your thoughts to show balance.”

The words you’ll be using to hook those complex sentences together are either subordinate conjunctions (although, while, because) or relative pronouns (that, who), and officially you ought to be calling those dependent clauses “restrictive clauses.”

Complex sentences are awesome for showing which clause or idea is more important, so keep that in mind when you’re writing.



noun sen·tence \ˈsen-təns\

Definition of SENTENCE

1:  a group of words that makes a statement, asks a question, or expresses a command, wish, or exclamation

Full Definition of CLAUSE

1:  a group of words containing a subject and predicate and functioning as a member of a complex or compound sentence

Resources/Further reading: Grammar & Style at Your Fingertips by Lara M. Robbins

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