The simple, direct sentence is a key element of clear writing, but if you want to distinguish your prose from all the mediocrity, vary sentence structures. The ability to craft sentences for a purpose, such as to create variety or emphasis, is a hallmark of good writing.

Presenting the subject and verb reasonably close to the front of a sentence is important, but they don’t need to be the first two words in every sentence. Some people hear repeatedly, “Write short sentences” and “Use fewer words,” but the person giving the advice doesn’t put it into perspective, so the writer produces this:

“You should work on the proposal. You need to be mindful of time. You must finish it by 5 p.m. Thursday to allow time for review.”

Read it aloud and you hear a dull monotone. Three consecutive short, subject-verb sentences (You should work, You need, and You must finish) create a flat, almost childish cadence that is boring to read. So vary the pattern by recasting the last one:

“To allow time for review, you must finish it by 5 p.m. Thursday.”

By opening with a phrase, the sentence accents slightly the importance of reviewing, and it adds emphasis to the main idea because that central point is positioned at the end. Read the sentence aloud and you notice that as your voice falls, there is a natural emphasis, a little punch, delivered at the end.