Multiple Thoughts In A Sentence

Multiple Thoughts In A Sentence

A Lesson by Laura Maidah

The rule of putting a period behind every sentence might be simpler, but we often put more than one thought in a sentence.


A sentence should contain a complete thought. Once you finish your thought, you can finish your sentence, usually with a period. That makes your sentence more readable too. Yes, it’s legal in English to use conjunctions to put several thoughts into one sentence. But it takes a special kind of mind to follow the train of thought in a sentence that has two or three thoughts.

Maybe some writers don’t know when their thought ended, so they don’t know when to put the period. They go on and on and make more and more statements and even change the subject, but they don’t ever put the sentence to rest and keep on going and going.

Technically speaking, to understand a complex sentence, the reader has to parse or diagram the sentence in his or her head. Okay, suppose I’m reading a sentence in Rolling Stone. Was that sentence talking about actors, and what are the actors doing anyway, and what the subject of the sentence, and what is the subject doing, and does that word shot mean that somebody got shot or somebody took a shot, and does it refer to the policeman or the actor or the photographer?

Pretty confusing, isn’t it? So make your sentences simple. Put a period at the end of the thought and leave it there.

Clauses can be independent or subordinate. For example, that last sentence has two independent clauses, separated by a comma and the word and.

With independent clauses, both thoughts don’t have to be included in the same sentence. In the previous paragraph, I could have said, “These thoughts are expressed in clauses. They can be either independent or dependent.” Do you see how independent they really are? They make sense even when they’re separated.

Putting a period between two independent clauses usually doesn’t make them any harder to understand. The rhythm or flow of the writing is a little choppier, but that is it. Most of the time, long sentences are overused and short sentences are underused. Pay attention to your writing. Are you jamming multiple thoughts in one sentence? Are you doing that over and over again? Perhaps you should use the period more often!

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Laura Maidah
Laura Maidah

Arcadia, CA