Complex Sentences Simplified
Academics and scientists tend to write about difficult problems and complex research. No wonder, then, if they often need to express complex ideas and arguments with the utmost clarity. Doing so in English can be challenging, however, even for native speakers and especially for early-career scholars who are just beginning to write up the results of their research projects. For authors who are not native speakers of English, producing complex sentences can be an almost overwhelming task, but not, in the final analysis, an impossible one.
Rereading your simple sentences and reshaping them into more sophisticated and complex structures once you have laid out your basic content and argument in a first draft can be a highly effective way of improving your writing style and keeping your readers interested. After all, no one – neither writer nor reader – enjoys a text that consists of nothing but simple sentence after simple sentence, each one with the same basic structure. The following notes aim to clarify the structure of complex sentences in the hope that authors uncertain of their skills will be encouraged to try their hands at constructing such sentences. Do note, however, that I do not mean compound sentences, which, in the English language, are something quite different. Compound sentences consist of linked independent clauses, with an independent clause being a clause that can stand on its own as a complete sentence. A complex sentence, on the other hand, consists of an independent clause and at least one dependent clause, with a dependent clause being a clause that cannot stand on its own because it is not a complete thought.
There are two basic patterns for complex sentences. In one, the dependent clause follows the independent clause. For example, ‘Publishers are facing a flurry of changes in book production and distribution, although many remain positive that they will weather the storm’ is a classic structure for a complex sentence. The first (independent) clause could obviously stand on its own, but the second clause (from ‘although’ on), despite the fact that it contains a subject and a verb, is dependent on the first clause and cannot stand on its own as a complete thought. The dependency lies in the word ‘although,’ which qualifies and therefore renders dependent the idea in the clause that follows it. Such words are sometimes called dependency markers because of this role in dependent clauses, and they are often preceded by a comma when they follow an independent clause, but not always. ‘Because,’ for instance, is often used in this position without the comma: ‘I ride my bicycle to the library because I can take the river route and miss all the traffic.’
The second basic pattern for complex sentences places a dependent clause before the independent clause. The dependent clause begins with a dependency marker, and a comma separates the two clauses. The clauses in the examples above can simply be inverted to produce this sentence structure: ‘Although many remain positive that they will weather the storm, publishers are facing a flurry of changes in book production and distribution’ and ‘Because I can take the river route and miss all the traffic, I ride my bicycle to the library.’ However, a little rewording may be appropriate or create greater precision, so ‘Although many publishers remain positive that they will weather the storm, there is no doubt the industry is facing a flurry of changes in book production and distribution’ might be better. Remember that this type of structure means that whatever is mentioned in the dependent clause qualifies what is said in the independent clause, so if an author writes ‘Before I conducted the trial, I checked all of the equipment and then immediately tabulated the results,’ he or she may well be in error because that dependency marker ‘before’ qualifies not only ‘I checked all of the equipment,’ but also ‘and then immediately tabulated the results.’ It is more likely that the author meant that the checking of equipment took place before the trial, and the tabulation of results after the trial, so a separate structure would be better for describing the after-trial activities: ‘Immediately after the trial was over, I tabulated the results.’
Why Our Editing and Proofreading Services?
At Proof-Reading-Service.com we offer the highest quality journal article editing, phd thesis editing and proofreading services via our large and extremely dedicated team of academic and scientific professionals. All of our proofreaders and editors are native speakers of English who have earned their own postgraduate degrees, and their areas of specialisation cover such a wide range of disciplines that we are able to help our international clientele with research editing to improve and perfect all kinds of academic manuscripts for successful publication. Many of the carefully trained members of our expert editing and proofreading team work predominantly on articles intended for publication in scholarly journals, applying painstaking journal editing standards to ensure that the references and formatting used in each paper are in conformity with the journal’s instructions for authors and to correct any grammar, spelling, punctuation or simple typing errors. In this way, we enable our clients to report their research in the clear and accurate ways required to impress acquisitions editors and achieve publication.
Our scientific editing services for the authors of a wide variety of scientific journal papers are especially popular, but we also offer manuscript editing services and have the experience and expertise to proofread and edit manuscripts in all scholarly disciplines, as well as beyond them. We have team members who specialise in medical editing services, and some of our experts dedicate their time exclusively to PhD proofreading and master’s proofreading, offering research students the opportunity to improve their use of formatting and language through the most exacting PhD thesis editing and dissertation proofreading practices. Whether you are preparing a conference paper for presentation, polishing a progress report to share with colleagues, or facing the daunting task of editing and perfecting any kind of scholarly document for publication, a qualified member of our professional team can provide invaluable assistance and give you greater confidence in your written work.
If you are in the process of preparing an article for an academic or scientific journal, or planning one for the near future, you may well be interested in a new book, Guide to Journal Publication, which is available on our Tips and Advice on Publishing Research in Journals website.