Complex Sentences

I hate reading work by Ernest Hemingway. I find his use of short, staccato sentences to be choppier than the water in The Old Man and the Sea, and I often find myself wondering, “Would it have killed this man to write a complex sentence?” Sure, the grammar rules would have been a little more tricky, but it would have made English class my sophomore year of high school much more bearable.


That being said, here are some tips for writing complex sentences:

1. Join less important sentences together.

This is usually done by joining different clauses together. There are two types of clauses that can serve this purpose: dependent and independent. A dependent clause, which does not include both a subject and a verb, does not need to be separated from the rest of the sentence with a comma. Contrastingly, an independent clause contains both a subject and a verb, so it has to be joined to the sentence with a comma or a semicolon.

“He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.” (Hemingway)

The phrase “of the lions on the beach” is not a complete sentence, so it does not need to be joined to the rest of the sentence by a comma.

“He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach. He never dreamed about the boy.” (Hemingway)

This block of text can be joined into a complex sentence because it consists of two independent clauses.

He dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach, yet he never dreamed about the boy.


2. Remember FANBOYS.








These coordinating conjunctions are easy tools for joining two independent clauses together. Below is an example of how complex sentences can give writing better flow.

Write drunk. Edit sober.

Authors should write drunk, but they should edit their work sober.

In the above sentence, the coordinating conjunction is bolded, and the subject and verb phrase of the independent clause are underlined.

**Please note that the writing tutors do not advocate doing your writing assignments while intoxicated. That is all Hemingway’s idea.**


3. Vary the structure of your sentences.

Not all sentences that consist of two independent clauses need to use a comma and a coordinating conjunction. Semicolons can also be useful.

“The fish moved steadily [as] they travelled slowly on the calm water. The other baits were still in the water but there was nothing to be done.” (Hemingway)

With a semicolon, the sentences above could look like this.

The fish moved steadily as they travelled slowly on the calm water; the other baits were still in the water, but there was nothing to be done.”

Writing that does not contain too many simple sentences is the easiest to read. Using different types of sentence structures can help a writer to achieve better flow, and make sure that a reader does not zone out while reading like I did in sophomore year English.

Michelle, peer tutor


Hacker, Diana, and Nancy Sommers. A Writer’s Reference. Boston: Bedford St. Martin’s, 2010. Print.

Hemingway, Ernest. The Old Man and the Sea. New York: Scribner, 1952. Print.


Writing Center tutors around campus

The start of the school year not only means that The Writing Center is opening for another wonderful year of working with McDaniel students on all types of writing assignments, it also means that there are many wonderful opportunities to get involved in different kinds of clubs all over campus. The Writing Center tutors are involved in a large variety of activities at McDaniel!

Students enjoying the involvement fair. Courtesy of McDaniel College’s flickr.

-Greek Life: Two of our tutors are involved in sororities on campus. Joining Greek Life is a great way to get involved in many things on campus, because, like the writing tutors, members of the Greek community are heavily involved in other activities outside of their Greek organizations. It also gives members an amazing group of sisters or brothers who are incredibly supportive.

@McDanielPhiMu | Phi Mu McDaniel College | @PhiAlphaMu

-Sports: Not only are writing tutors talented at grammar and flow, some of us are also amazing athletes! We have tutors on the swim team, the cross-country team, and the track team.

@McDanielSwim | @mcdanielsports | McDaniel Athletics

-Interest Clubs: There are many lesser-known clubs on campus that writing tutors are involved in, such as the Poe Club and the Belly Dancing Club. No matter what your interests are, there is probably a club at McDaniel for you. Can’t find one that you like? Start an interest club of your own by visiting the Office of Student Engagement!

@McD_Poe | McDaniel Poe Club

-Service Organizations: Writing Center tutors do a lot of community service both on and off campus, from participating in clubs such as Relay For Life of McDaniel College, the Puppy Club, the Animal Welfare Club, and working with the Boys and Girls Club. We are also involved in advocacy groups, such as Allies and McFem, which advocate for equal rights for minorities.

@RelayMcDaniel | Relay For Life of McDaniel College | Canine Companions for Independence Puppy Club at McDaniel | @McDanielAllies

-Honors Program & Honors Societies: Several writing tutors are members of the McDaniel College Honors Program, which requires that students take additional classes in fields of study that are not necessarily their own, and most of us are involved in at least one different academic honors society, depending on our various majors and minors.

@McDHonors | McDaniel Honors Program

-Performing Arts: McDaniel writing tutors are also involved in the performing arts. Tutors have both performed in and designed sound for the McDaniel College Theater. In addition to being involved in theater, we have tutors who are involved with the college’s radio station, WMCR, and who play musical instruments.

Screen Shot 2013-09-11 at 5.09.34 PM-Free Press and Contrast: Because writing tutors love to write (surprise!), a lot of us are involved in the McDaniel Free Press (the college’s newspaper), and Contrast Literary Magazine. Not only do the tutors write for both of these publications, a few are even editors. Interested in writing and editing? Stop by Hill 101!

@mcdfreepress | McDaniel Free Press | Contrast Literary Magazine

Being involved on the McDaniel campus has been a huge part of the college experience for all of our tutors. Not only do we spend a lot of time working in The Writing Center, we all make time to be involved in an organization that we find interesting or worthy of our time. If you’re not already, we recommend getting involved in an on campus organization!

-Michelle, peer tutor

Fifty Shades of Ethos

When writing a piece, particularly a piece of fiction, it is important to know who your character is, and how he or she should think, act, and feel. Most authors who find a wide audience do a pretty good job of this. For example, the characters in the Harry Potter series, while they grow and change, never do things that would make a reader think things like, “Wait, did Hermione REALLY just do that?” A recent example in popular literature of character ethos gone wrong is the increasingly popular Fifty Shades series by British author E.L. James.

Let me preface this rant by making it known that I did not in any way know that this horrendous book was born as Twilight fan fiction, written by a woman using the pseudonym “Snowqueen’s Icedragon.” The English major part of me was extremely offended that one of my friends recommended this, not because it is fan fiction (there is excellently crafted fan fiction out there), but because it is based on another popular series with little to no ethos. I still get a little offended every time my friend says, “Laters, Baby” to me. Even as I type this, Microsoft Word is angry and has thrown an epithet at me in the form of a red squiggly line beneath the made up word “laters.”


The first glaring problem with ethos comes right at the beginning of the book, when the main character, Anastasia (Ana) Steele, begins to describe her “dearest, dearest friend” Katherine Kavanaugh, A.K.A Kate. The second page of the book launches into a detailed description of Kate, who is “articulate, strong, persuasive, argumentative, [and] beautiful.” ALL of this could have been shown by simply fleshing out Kate’s character through her actions. It was a 500 page book. There was time for Kate to do things that would have shown these attributes. I am taking Creative Writing Fiction this semester, and authors are supposed to show, not tell. Also, strong /persuasive /argumentative are all pretty similar words, and we’ve already been told how gorgeous Kate is at this point. Apparently she is even stunningly gorgeous when she has the flu. I find this a little unbelievable. After this long-winded initial description of Kate, we learn that she is incredibly “tenacious.” She is so tenacious, in fact, that this is basically the only word the author uses to describe her for the rest of the novel.

Moving on to the main man, Fifty Shades himself, Christian Grey. Owner of a multi-billion dollar company–Grey Enterprises–at the tender age of 27, Christian has it all. He’s got a killer apartment, expensive cars, and according to the novel, he is absolutely gorgeous. Before I even delve into this character’s sordid past, I must point out how unrealistic his whole scenario is in the first place. I am not buying that this man has managed to become a mega-billionaire so fast. It’s just totally unrealistic no matter what kind of job he has. While his adoptive parents do have a lot of money to finance his business, I am still having a hard time believing that this man is on the same level as Bruce Wayne. My willing suspension of disbelief did not arrive quickly while reading this book.

I suppose I can’t really blog about this book without mentioning the sex. Christian Grey has a rather murky sexual past, having lost his virginity at the age of 15 to the friend of his adoptive mother. This friend, dubbed “Mrs. Robinson” by Ana, exposed Christian Grey to the world of BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism, Masochism), and he never went back. He spent a good six years as Mrs. Robinson’s submissive, and then continued to find other BDSM relationships until he met Anastasia Steele. I am really curious as to how his mother did not figure this out and voice concern. That is some less than satisfactory parenting right there. Apparently there is a better explanation as to why Christian Grey is “fifty shades of effed up,” as he puts it, in later books, but I did not read them so I cannot really say whether or not this is true.

Lastly, I have to write about Anastasia Steele, the sniveling, confused, insecure “heroine” of the novel. Ana is a rather strange individual as she is a senior in college and has not experienced owning a laptop or being drunk. I don’t how she has been doing her homework for the last four years, or how she has avoided the bar. She is 21, and her best friend Kate is cool. I have a hard time believing that a character like Kate would not take Ana out on her 21st birthday. Ana has a lot of insecurity issues that, try as she might, Kate cannot fix. At the beginning of the novel, Kate sends Ana on a journalism assignment to interview the CEO of Grey Enterprises, Mr. Christian Grey, a wealthy alumni of their school. She is immediately intimidated and barely gets through the meeting, not only tripping over her words, but her feet as well. Naturally, fate pushes Christian and Ana together through a variety of awkward encounters while he is staying in her town, and they eventually become partners. “Couple” just did not seem like the right word to use, because Christian has made it abundantly clear that they are not dating. He tells her that in order to be with him she must sign a contract expressing that she will not speak about their sexual relationship with anyone (what happens in the Red Room of Pain, stays in the Red Room of Pain). As Christian and Ana’s relationship explores the world of BDSM, Ana discovers that she likes a lot of things that she didn’t think she would. These actions release Ana’s “inner goddess,” revealing the most glaring ethos problem in the novel. This “inner goddess” comes out every time that Ana almost chickens out of doing something, and she eventually follows through on the actions in order to please the goddess.

Some people would probably say that Ana is a complex woman, learning to deal with a lot of new ideas, and her “inner goddess” shows her ability to try these activities.

I think she should see someone about it.

As you can see, ethos is a very important element to writing. With the wrong ethos, a character may become completely unbelievable, and his story less accessible to the reader.

Who knows? Readers might even find your writing to be nothing more than a regurgitation of popular teen vampire fiction.

Michelle, peer tutor