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One-Two Punch: Improving Sentence Variety

Revision is a word used to describe a process of improving writing, but students often wonder where to even begin. By
using the strategy I will call the One-Two Punch, you will be well on your way to identifying problems in your writing
and then rewriting for improvement.
The Process
1. Go through your paper and circle the first word of every sentence.
2. Go through your paper a second time and highlight the first five words of every sentence.

Take a Closer Look
Now that you have marked your paper, its time to take a closer look at what you have written. Lets begin by looking at
the first words of your sentences. What do you notice? Do a lot of your sentences begin with the same word? If so, this is
a clear indicator that you have little to no sentence variety. The rule of thumb is that only one to two sentences within a
paragraph should begin with the same word.

However, before you begin rewriting, you need to take a closer look at the first five words of each sentence. If you find
the subject and verb of the main independent clause within the first five words, you have fallen into the basic
subject/verb (SV) sentence pattern and again have little to no variety.

Review Sentence Patterns
Simple Sentences: One independent clause
Compound Sentences: Two or more independent clauses
Complex Sentence: One independent clause PLUS one or more dependent clauses.
Compound/Complex Sentences: Two or more independent clauses PLUS one or more dependent clauses.

For this sample I will bold the first letter of each sentence, highlight the first five words, and identify the main subject and
verb in Lucinda Handwriting font .

First Draft sample:
Two weeks ago I awoke to the sound of sizzle, crackle, and pop. I jumped out of bed at the sound and saw
a glow behind my bed. I was shocked to see that the surge protector by my bed was on fire and was
spreading to my carpet. I remember saying My house is on fire. Duh! I pushed the bed away from the
wall and reached to unplug the surge protector from the outlet. The surge protector moved in the process
of unplugging it and put out the fire on the carpet, but fire was still coming out of each of the eight outlets. I
ran to the bathroom and grabbed a damp washcloth. When I got back, I put the cloth on top of the flames and
extinguished the fire. I started shaking when I thought about what might have happened if I had slept even
another minute.

Analysis: 9 sentences; 6 sentences begin with the word I; 8 sentences have main subject and verb in the first five words.

Revised Draft sample:
Two weeks ago I awoke to the sound of sizzle, crackle, and pop. At the sight of a glowing light coming from
behind my head, I jumped from bed and discovered flames shooting from my surge protector and spreading to
the carpet. Frozen for just a moment, I heard myself say, My house is on fire. Duh! Rushing into action, I
pulled the bed away from the wall, reached for the plug and yanked it. Although unexpected, I was grateful
when this action moved the protector over the melting carpet and extinguished that fire, but I still needed to
contend with the flames coming from all eight outlets. With a glance at my pillow before I nixed that idea, I
ran to the bathroom to get a damp washcloth. Just seconds later, although it felt like much longer, I had the
fire out. My mind began racing with the what ifs; it was then that I started to shake.

Analysis: 8 sentences; no repeated words; 2 sentences have main subject and verb in the first five words.
Created by Cindy Heckenlaible June 2014