How to Write Elegant Sentences for Academic Essays
Okay, let us begin with a definition of an elegant essay. It is an essay with proper sentence structure, decent word choice, and reasonable overall tone. We will begin with different types of sentences that make your text sound elegant.
Most people, who have to deal with writing, want to improve their skills. But before you start looking for different tips on how to do that, you first need to get to the core of what writing is. What kind of writing is good and what makes a written piece bad? Why does one text move us deeply but another one we can't even finish reading? The easiest and at the same time the most difficult definition of writing is "a combination of sentences." Your ability to compose good and elegant sentences defines your ability to write well.
One might say that the elegance of a sentence will never determine its effectiveness. Most people associate the word elegant with literary prose and poetry but never academic or professional writing. However, there is a strong correlation between an elegant and an effective sentences. Let us look closely into both.
Types of Elegant Sentences
Balanced sentences usually juxtapose two ideas or concepts in one sentence. Such sentences are most effective when two clauses have a similar meaning or represent fairly equal notions.
Example: A Republican sees the difficulty in every contingency; a Democratic sees the opportunity in every deadlock (unknown author).
Elegant writing means that you choose structures that deliver your message clearly yet have some poetic flair to them.
Periodic sentences create the structure that brings the focus from the least to the most important item.
Example: Canceling the social care programs, lobbying the gun rights, and diminishing women right, the 45th president bring chaos and destruction to our nation.
As you can see from the example above, elegant words can also deliver powerful messages.
Cumulative sentences present the main idea first, followed by facts and illustrations afterward.
Example: Rami Malek received the 76th Golden Globe as best drama actor, starring as Freddie Mercury in biopic Bohemian Rhapsody.
The main idea comes first, details and illustrating facts follow.
Semicolon + transition word. Sometimes, when writing a long sentence, one may need to break the sentences and present them as separates within the same sentence.
Example: Ellen DeGeneres who has won numerous nomination and wins including Emmy, Grammy, and Teen Choice Award; also is a host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show for over 15 years.
As you can see, elegant sentence structure depends on the information it has to present, as well as a generic message.
Elegant Sentences and Their Role
The purpose of effective sentences is hidden in the name itself - they need to have an effect on you. They aim to satisfy the reader's need for information, emotional response, or any reaction. As long as there is an effect present, the sentence has accomplished its mission.
Now let's look into the techniques of crafting an effective sentence. Contrary to the popular belief, longer sentences are more effective by their nature because they contain more information than the shorter ones. The assumption that shorter and more direct sentences are more productive for the reader has come to life in the guidebook The Elements of Style by Strunk and White. We are not trying to dispute the ideas discussed in the legendary book but instead offer to look deeper into what the authors say.
One of the main lessons that probably the majority of readers have carved into their memory is "omit all needless words." This might lead to the impression that the fewer words you use in a sentence, the better it is. However, this was not the author's conclusion in the end. Strunk says that it does not mean that the writer needs to avoid any details and focus only on the core of the subject, but it means that every word needs to have a mission. Writing without needless words does not require reducing a sentence to the minimal skeleton from which you can still grasp the meaning. It only means picking up words that play a role even when it results in a longer sentence.
Advice on How to Create a Sentence with Elegant Writing
If you are trying to write elegant sentences, here is the list of the most important things to keep in mind.
Begin every Sentence with a Different Word
Poor writing can often be identified by the use of same or similar words and structures at the beginning of every sentence. In order to avoid this, try practicing the following:
- Highlight every first word of every sentence;
- Check paragraphs separately, then check the paper in general;
- Rephrase or reword sentences that start with similar structures or patterns;
- If unable to rephrase, try changing the type of sentence (e.g. turn a general question into rhetoric).
Use Questions, Commands and Various Sentence Structures
Following the previous advice, try using different types of sentences and questions in your writing. You might have seen writing samples that begin with three to five similarly structured questions. While some people believe it to be an effective method to keep the attention of the reader, there is no need to get them bored with typical questions. If you are writing a persuasive piece, use versatile types of questions to address the one who is reading.
Resort to Common Sense
This may seem weird, but in their desire to impress those who are going to read the text, many writers tend to create sentences so long and elaborate, they almost make no sense. So in order to make any writing human-readable, try to make sense of every sentence. If possible, also someone to proofread your text and ask how they understand it (in other words, ask them to rephrase it).
Use Adjectives, Adverbs, and Appositives
Sometimes, formal and academic writing force you to name the subject multiple times within one sentence or paragraph. In order to make any text facile and polished, use appositives - other names for the same object/subject (e.g. Mr. President, President, Legislative Leader, President of the united states, Governor, Head of the state, POTUS). Also, adjectives and adverbs make any writing richer and more colorful.
Practice your Writing on the Daily Basis
A seemingly obvious tip, it is actually extremely powerful if practiced regularly. Here is how it works:
- Prepare your assignments earlier, giving yourself some extra time to edit.
- Make a thank-you note or card every once in a while.
- Try writing instructions to anything you know well (improves both writing and ability to structure information well).
- Aspire to write a short story or a novel.
- Strive to write down everything great that happened today.
Things to Avoid While Writing Elegant Sentences
Undoubtedly, every piece of writing can be bad, if it bears no idea or ill-advised message. However, you can easily improve any writing by avoiding:
- contractions. All those ‘Imma’, ‘gonna’ and ‘won’t’ are products of daily communication that should be omitted in essays of this type.
- informal, vague or colloquial language. Keep in mind that academic writing should be formal.
- clichés. Boring quotes and banal collocations kill any vibe your writing has.
An elegant essay is primarily defined by the sentences you use to write it. Keep your structure clear, choose formal words and avoid anything trivial.
Examples of a Sentence with Elegant Writing in World Literature: Faulkner vs. Hemingway
William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway are two prominent figures in literature, and there will not be many people who would try to argue the effectiveness of their sentences. Especially not Strunk and White who know better. So when we read "He disliked bars and bodegas." from Hemingway, it's hard to disagree that it's a very direct and up-to-the-point sentence that makes perfect sense without any additional words.
And yet, then we stumble upon Faulkner's
"The streets are paved now, and the telephone and electric companies are cutting down more and more of the shade trees - the water oaks, the maples and locusts and elms - to make room for iron poles bearing clusters of bloated and ghostly and bloodless grapes, and we have a city laundry which makes the rounds on Monday morning, gathering the bundles of clothes into bright-colored specially-made motor cars: the soiled wearing of a whole week now flees apparition-like behind alert and irritable electric horns, with a long diminishing noise of rubber and asphalt like tearing silk, and even the Negro women who still take in white people's washing after the old custom, fetch and deliver it in automobiles."
No one would call this sentence short and straightforward, but it is also not likely that many readers would prefer to cut it down and remove some words. With sentences like this, their length makes a perfect sense because they convey a complex picture and describe many things happening at once without tiring the reader. You won't say that this sentence is ineffective despite its length.
Nevertheless, Hemingway also cannot be called the writer who uses exclusively short and direct sentences. They prevail, but the writer also brings diversity with more lengthy sentences like
"He looked at the sky and saw the white cumulus built like friendly piles of ice cream and high above were the thin feathers of the cirrus against the high September sky."
Looking at this example, we can conclude that even a writer, whose style is famous for short and simple sentences, cannot base his writing on them only. Effective writing needs to be diverse and elegant. Here is where the second term enters the discussion.
At the end of the day, elegant writing and effective writing are not distinguished by any differences. In fact, they are often intertwined to create one good piece of writing, and the reader is not capable to say where elegance stops and effectiveness starts. Another way to see elegant writing is to regard it as one that is extraordinary effective meaning that result is achieved through the elegance of words. Both terms, however, deserve to exist separately despite the fact that in their core they are defined by the impact on the reader.
One thing that is important to comprehend is that once a sentence is called effective or elegant, it's not about the words that are used there or the way they are combined, but it's about what these words do. If a sentence does not fulfill the desired role, no exquisite words or metaphors can make it elegant or effective. Both Faulkner and Hemingway are masterful writers because they are able to convey the idea and affect the reader regardless of the number of words their sentences have. In the end, each of them has found his own elegant solution for his own literary problem.
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