Using Simple and Compound Sentences


Simple sentences express complete, independent thoughts. 


  • Dogs are cute.
  • Dogs bark.
  • Dogs want attention.
  • Dogs make messes.

Use a simple sentence when you wish to express a single thought, to create emphasis, and to avoid being too wordy. Trying to say too much in a single sentence may confuse your reader. However, avoid using too many consecutive simple sentences, as this can make your writing sound choppy. 


Compound sentences join two ideas to show that they share an equal relationship. This is known as coordination. 


  • Dogs bark, for they want attention.
  • Dogs want attention, so they bark. 
  • Dogs make messes, but I don’t want a cat.
  • I’m allergic to cats; thus, I avoid them. 

Use a compound sentence to show that two ideas are related. Be sure to only connect ideas that are of equal importance and relevance. (NOT: W.S. Merwin is my favorite poet, and my mother is tired today. These are not parallel, related ideas.)


Complex sentences join an independent clause with one or more dependent clauses that cannot stand alone. 

Examples: (Independent clauses are underlined.)

  • As the clock struck noon, my father breathed his last.
  • Although I hate to miss your class, I will not be there Friday.   
  • As soon as my stomach started growling, I knew I was done editing for the day.
  • Squirrels, though they may look adorable, are riley and unfriendly.

Use a complex sentence whenever you want to show that two ideas are related, but also that one is more important than the other. Use these sparingly. Too many complex sentences can confuse the reader.