Skip main navigation

Writing complete sentences

Writing complex sentences
© University of Reading

Effective academic writing combines short sentences, and longer, more complex ones. Accurate sentence structure helps the reader to break down sentences, particularly long ones, into units of meaning, and to correctly interpret the relationships between ideas. In this Step you will learn the basic rules for creating complete sentences.

We know that:

  • each sentence must have at least a subject and a verb

  • some sentences comprise one clause, and others two or more clauses

  • each clause must include at least a verb

  • clauses are linked with conjunctions.

In many sentences one clause is also the main clause. In this sentence the main clause is in bold.

“Although food waste at the retail stage may be considered small in comparison with the amount of food waste overall, it is still an issue which can lead to significant economic loss as well as environmental and social problems.”

So the main idea in this sentence is that food waste at the retail stage is still a big problem. In general, main clauses can stand alone, but dependent clauses (clauses which depend on the main clause for their meaning) must be linked to a main clause.

© University of Reading
This article is from the free online

An Intermediate Guide to Writing in English for University Study

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education