No one expects business correspondence to sound like a stanza from Maya Angelou, but workplace writing can have rhythm and flow.
If your writing sounds choppy or repetitive, try combining sentences through coordination and subordination. These combining strategies smooth out strings of short, halting sentences and emphasize the relationship between the ideas they connect.
What is coordination?
Coordination shows that ideas are equal in importance. You can use a coordinating conjunction to combine two or more choppy sentences.
and, but, or, nor, so, yet, for
Halting: Building a savings account is important. Don’t neglect payments on your high-interest loans.
Smooth: Building a savings account is important, but don’t neglect payments on your high-interest loans.
Repetitive: A savings account protects against emergencies. It can fund down-payments on homes and cars. It comes with minimal risk.
Smooth: A savings account protects against emergencies, funds down-payments on homes and cars, and comes with minimal risk.
Different coordinating conjunctions signal different relationships.
- And signals that two ideas are connected or have equal value.
- But signals a shift in thinking or an unexpected twist.
- Or signals a choice between options.
- Nor signals that neither idea is applicable.
- So signals that the next idea is the result of the first idea.
- Yet signals an even stronger surprise than but.
- For signals that the next idea caused the first idea.
What is subordination?
Subordination shows that one idea is less important than another. Use a subordinating conjunction to connect a less important idea to another sentence.
after, although, as, as if, as long as, because, before, if, in order that, provided that, since, so that, that, though, unless, until, when, where, whereas, while
Don't Say: Social Security provides retirement income. Social Security likely won't cover all your expenses for a comfortable lifestyle.
Do Say: While Social Security provides retirement income, it likely won't cover all your expenses for a comfortable lifestyle.
(Do you notice how the "Do Say" example not only focuses the attention on the more important idea but also demonstrates the relationship between the ideas?)
Don't Say: Social Security’s future is uncertain. You should set aside money for retirement.
Do Say: Because Social Security’s future is uncertain, you should set aside money for retirement.
You should set aside money for retirement because social security’s future is uncertain.
What punctuation should I use?
If you connect two sentences using a coordinating conjunction, place a comma before the conjunction. If you connect two sentences with a subordinating conjunction, place a comma after the clause with the conjunction (unless the clause comes last).