Type 2 – Complex sentences
A support unit is a group of words supporting the meaning of the control unit by adding more meanings to it. In the following examples, the control unit is highlighted in orange to emphasise the fact that it carries the main meaning of the sentence.
Support units cannot stand on their own: they need a control unit to complete the sentence.
In these examples, the meaning is incomplete because there is no control unit. The control unit carries the essential action of the sentence.
Note that these support units begin with a word (called a “subordinator”) that tells the reader that the phrase ahead does not stand alone but is subordinate to or dependent upon the control unit for its meaning. Some common subordinators are:
Support units may also begin with the “ing” form of verbs (verb participles).
As a general rule, keep a control unit and a support unit apart by using a comma or a pair of commas.
Note that support units may be placed at the beginning, in the middle, or at the end of a sentence.
(When support units are placed last, a comma may not always be necessary.)
Reading is a linear, forward-moving process in which readers tend to move quickly over the first part of a sentence, momentarily slowing down over the end of the sentence as they register the period (full stop).
The periodic sentence exploits this psychological phenomenon by placing all or part of the control unit at the end of the sentence, thus creating a moment of suspense for the reader before delivering or completing the main statement at the end of the sentence, where it impresses itself more forcefully on the reader’s mind.
Periodic sentence as thesis statement
A periodic sentence is particularly useful for writing essay or journal article thesis statements, because it focuses the reader’s interest on the control unit, which carries the main statement.
Imagine you have been asked to write an essay or journal article about the complexities of learning Tai Chi. An effective thesis statement might be:
Both sentences are grammatically correct and contain the same information: Tai Chi requires years of practice and Tai Chi seem simple. However, the periodic sentence focuses the reader’s attention on the complexity, rather than on the simplicity, and in this way addresses the essay’s topic.
Sentences may also have added to them phrases that connect them to other sentences within a paragraph or between paragraphs. These phrases are called transition markers. They are particularly useful in academic writing, because they allow you to communicate relationships between ideas or development of an argument, and in this way give coherence to your writing.
Here are some examples of transition markers:
|Adding||also, in addition, moreover, furthermore|
|Comparing||similarly, also, in the same way|
|Contrasting||however, nevertheless, nonetheless, on the contrary, on the other hand, in contrast|
|Stating an effect||therefore, thus, accordingly, as a result, consequently, as a consequence|
|Clarifying||in other words, that is, in effect, put simply|
|Exemplifying||for example, for instance, in particular, to illustrate|
|Conceding a point||although true, even though, although, in spite of this|
|Summing up||to summarise, to conclude, in conclusion, clearly then|
|Ordering points||firstly, secondly, first of all, then, after that, next, last, finally|
Punctuating transition markers
Simple sentences that have transition markers added to them are punctuated in exactly the same way as complex sentences. In the examples below, the control unit is highlighted in orange and the transition marker is underlined.
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