5 Ways to Combine Sentences

By Mark Nichol

Writers and editors should be alert to opportunities to improve the flow of content by combining consecutive truncated sentences that refer to a single topic. Here are five approaches to folding one one sentence into a preceding related statement.

1. A gray Cadillac hearse pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m. The hearse came from the Alpine Memorial Funeral Home.

Often, as here, additional information about something introduced in one sentence is relegated to a subsequent sentence when it could easily be integrated as a modifying phrase into the first sentence: “A gray Cadillac hearse from the Alpine Memorial Funeral Home pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m.”

2. Bennett told a reporter, “I have a feeling of being used.” Bennett had helped instill stability in the burgeoning franchise and felt blindsided by the move.

Here, additional information is inserted parenthetically: “Bennett, who had helped instill stability in the burgeoning franchise and felt blindsided by the move, told a reporter, ‘I have a feeling of being used.’”

3. An NFL hat trick has been done only seven times in the history of the league. To achieve this feat, a player must pass, run, and catch a touchdown in the same game.

Here’s another example of two sentences that can be combined with a parenthetical insertion, with a more substantial revision of the second sentence’s beginning phrase to integrate smoothly into the main clause: “An NFL hat trick, in which a player passes, runs, and catches a touchdown in the same game, has been done only seven times in the history of the league.”

4. Atlanta’s quest to become a perennial power was stunted yet again in 1982, this time due to a 57-day-long players’ strike. The strike caused the regular season to be cut to just nine games.

Another option is to tack the additional information onto the end of the sentence as a modifying phrase: “Atlanta’s quest to become a perennial power was stunted yet again in 1982, this time due to a 57-day-long players’ strike that caused the regular season to be cut to just nine games.”

5. It is this solid foundation that prepares the firm for a transformation into agile risk management. Agile risk management focuses on how risk management building blocks can be embedded and designed within business processes.

In this sentence, as in the previous one, a term introduced at the end of a sentence is clumsily repeated immediately as the first part of the next sentence. To avoid awkward repetition, convert the second sentence into a subordinate clause of the first sentence by replacing the period after the first sentence with a comma and inserting which in place of the repeated word or phrase: “It is this solid foundation that prepares the firm for a transformation into agile risk management, which focuses on how risk management building blocks can be embedded and designed within business processes.”

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5 Responses to “5 Ways to Combine Sentences”

  • Joseph VanBuren

    I enjoyed this helpful article. However, in the last sentence, you need to insert the word “which” as you are describing to do in the example.

  • Agua Caliente

    I’m not sure that the one-sentence solution is always a formula for more effective writing.

    “A gray Cadillac hearse from the Alpine Memorial Funeral Home pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m.”

    As a reader, I now have all the facts, but not all that much interest in the proceedings. So…

    A gray Cadillac hearse pulled into the ranch Saturday afternoon and left about 5 p.m. It came from the Alpine Memorial Funeral Home.

    This is almost the same as the original two sentences—I just replaced “the hearse” with “it.” Now, though, I want to know, perhaps, who was in the hearse. What’s the significance of its leaving at 5? Is there something about the Alpine Funeral Home I should know? What’s going on at the ranch, anyway?

    I wish I had time for more today…very interesting subject.

  • Sean Ahern

    “It is this solid foundation that prepares the firm for a transformation into agile risk management, focuses on how risk management building blocks can be embedded and designed within business processes.”

    I think the all-important word “which” was left out!

  • Andy Knoedler

    It looks as though “which” has been accidentally omitted from the solution for #5. It should follow the comma. The mind works faster than the fingers sometimes!

  • Mark Nichol

    Thanks to several site visitors for the note about the missing word, which has been inserted.

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