In the first activity, you will examine part of a humorous essay by the contemporary American author Dave Barry. In the second activity, you will practice combining sentences.

Dave Barry likes to make fun of serious subjects. This type of writing often uses exaggeration to get the point across. In the excerpt below from “Schools Not So Smart,” read what Barry has to say about schools and education, realizing that he is not really serious. While you are reading, highlight every simple sentence you see in yellow. (Hint: you should find 10.)

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It’s important to realize that simple sentences aren’t necessarily bad. They are helpful when you want to make a point particularly after a couple of longer sentences, or if you want to express quick thoughts. The problem comes when there are too many simple sentences strung together, and they begin to sound repetitive and boring. Dave Barry isn’t necessarily overusing simple sentences in the above excerpt. In his third paragraph, where he has a number of them in a row, they work because he is making an important point by listing his evidence.

A photograph of an indoor basketball hoop and net taken up close

Source: Basketball net, J smith, Wikimedia


take notes icon Often, simple sentences can be combined with the sentence before or after them. In the next activity, use your notes to combine and rewrite the simple sentences into compound, complex, or compound-complex sentences. When you’re finished, check your understanding to see possible responses.
  1. Jamil scored the winning basket. The crowd cheered wildly.
  2. The team was tired after the game. They were proud of their victory.
  3. Cheryl scored twenty points. Other players also contributed.
  4. People were surprised. We won by only two points.
  5. Basketball can be very exciting. The game is close.
  6. Rebounding is very important. A team will not win if it does not score.
  7. Making free throws is a necessity. They can help raise a team’s score.
  8. A player fouls out. He must leave the game at once.
  9. The regular season ends. We will advance to tournament play.
  10. We can win the championship. We play well.

Check Your Understanding

Sample Responses

  1. Jamil scored the winning basket, and the crowd cheered wildly.
  2. The team was tired after the game, but they were proud of their victory.
  3. Although Cheryl scored twenty points, other players also contributed.
  4. People were surprised when we won by only two points.
  5. Basketball can be very exciting if the game is close.
  6. Rebounding is very important, but a team will not win if it does not score.
  7. Making free throws is a necessity because they can help raise a team’s score.
  8. When a player fouls out, he must leave the game at once.
  9. When the regular season ends, we will advance to tournament play.
  10. We can win the championship if we play well.

When you look at the sentences below, you may realize that short sentences can be combined in several different ways and still be correct. For example, you may have written sentences like these:

  1. Cheryl scored twenty points, but other players also contributed.
  2. People were surprised; we won by only two points.
  1. Although rebounding is very important, a team will not win if it does not score.
Perhaps your conjunction was different, or maybe you turned the clauses around. The point is that by using a strategy to find your short sentences when you write a longer piece such as an essay, you can determine if short sentences should be joined to other sentences. One tip that may help is to read your writing aloud. Your ear will often hear what your eye does not see.