A photograph of several tubes of paint with paint representing each squirted out on paper in front of the tube

Source: 182 - Paint squiggles, Marlon Bunday, Flickr

Using a variety of sentence structures means mixing the types of sentences you use in an expository essay, similar to how you might mix paint to create a beautiful, multicolored palette for a lush painting.

A painting of a sailboat, without sails, on a river near a bridge

Source: Monet - Straßenbrücke in Argenteuil, Claude Monet, Wikimedia

Three main types of sentence structures are simple, compound, and complex. Think of these as the primary colors of writing; these structures would be similar to red, yellow, and blue.

A photograph of a series of Lego blocks line up in rows. The ones closest to the camera are disordered

Source: 139.365 Coloring outside the Lines, Reilly Butler, Flickr

In the interactive activity below, read the explanation for each type of sentence structure. Then click the “Example” button to see an example of the structure. Independent clauses are highlighted in yellow, and dependent clauses are highlighted in pink.

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Expository essays can become repetitive or boring if sentence after sentence is the same type with no variation. Watch the following video to learn more:

Source: Compound Sentences, glassell5, YouTube

A photograph of an ice cream sundae with a cherry on top

Source: Ice cream sundae, Renee Comet, Flickr

Especially when writing a procedural text, you want to avoid writing multiple simple sentences in a row because they will sound choppy. In the next exercise, practice identifying the three main sentence types. Click on one choice (a, b, or c) for each question.

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A photograph of three identically built houses that are painted different primary colors

Source: IMGP3997a, Michael kooiman, Flickr

Varying your sentence structures makes your writing strong and interesting. Think of these three types of sentences as similar to the three primary colors, and remember to use a little of each—red, yellow, and blue.